Venue Review Part 1: National Arts Centre (NAC) - A Downtown Ottawa Wedding Gem

You’ve said “Yes”! Now it’s time for the challenging part – saying yes to the perfect venue. Choosing the right venue is no small feat; it determines the look and feel of your wedding and is a memory you and your guests will cherish for years to come. As your trusted Ottawa Wedding Planner and downtown wedding venue expert, I’m here to guide you through the best options Ottawa has to offer and save you from the overwhelm that is seeping in. I’ll delve into the pros and cons of the National Arts Centre (NAC), helping you decide if it’s the perfect fit for your special day!

The pros

First, the NAC is located right in the heart of downtown Ottawa. Its proximity to Parliament Hill, the canal, and our beautiful hotels makes it a true downtown wedding venue. They offer two ceremony spaces: the Lantern Room and Rossy Pavilion, both surrounded by windows, flooding the area with bright natural light and featuring light wood floors. This provides a gorgeous canvas to design a beautiful ceremony area.

National Arts Centre Lantern Room - Rubicon Photography | Erica Irwin Weddings and Events

There are a few different reception spaces, but I personally love the O’Born room – a showstopping space with high ceilings, light-coloured wooden floors, and an abundance of natural light from floor-to-ceiling windows. Your backdrop is the iconic Chateau Laurier, and at night, the downtown lights. No overwhelming hotel carpets to work around. This versatile room offers a neutral colour palette, allowing you to bring any vision to life.

Venture outside, and you’ll find a terrace with gorgeous golden-hour views of downtown Ottawa and the Chateau Laurier, providing the perfect backdrop for fairytale-like wedding photos. It’s also a great spot for your guests to escape to for some fresh air.

National Arts Centre - Palm Tree Studio | Erica Irwin Weddings and Events

Now, let’s talk about food and bar, because the NAC does not disappoint in this department! The quality of the food is top-notch, ensuring all your guests will leave thoroughly satisfied with their experience. Not only that, but the banquet team’s service is nothing short of exceptional!

The cons

There are some things you need to consider before booking this space. One is to keep in mind is the overall level of staff support. Unfortunately, the NAC can be lacking in this department. Unlike other venues, you do not have a venue coordinator but do have a banquet manager once the cocktail hour is underway. There is often limited support during the crucial setup and ceremony phases. This is where having a dedicated Wedding Planner becomes an invaluable asset in managing all the moving parts of your unforgettable day.

National Arts Centre O’Born Room - Palm Tree Studio | Erica Irwin Weddings and Events

Navigating the NAC can also pose a bit of a challenge for your guests due to multiple entrances and its unique interior layout. Whether they Uber, park, or walk – it can all get a little confusing, especially when there are public events going on in the building. Clear signage and additional personnel are highly recommended to direct your guests and ensure they have a seamless experience.

When my team and I are onsite, we make sure we are greeting guests and assigning groomsmen to entrances so guests know they are at the right location. It’s happened to me before where guests have gone to the information desk and have been sent to the reception room instead of the ceremony area so it’s best to be prepared.

Here are some considerations for the ceremony rooms:

The Lantern Room has extremely high ceilings but does have screens on the outside of the windows which have a projection on them. They turn off the projection for just the length of your ceremony so make sure you are on schedule or you will start to see the lights coming through from the screens outside.

Rossy Pavilion has a beautiful view of the war memorial but the ceilings are much lower and often couples aren’t fans of the light rigging on the ceiling. So it’s good to know this when looking at the spaces.

From my personal experience, the Lantern Room ceremony space can accommodate a maximum of 115 guests, while the Rossy Pavilion can host a ceremony for up to 150 guests, though it can be quite tight.

This next one is the most controversial downside of the NAC. They have a strict vendor list policy for DJ services, décor, rentals and florals. It’s widely discussed that to be on this list, the vendors offer a commission back to the NAC. If you do not want to use these vendors, there is a user charge ranging from $500 to $1,500 to bring in your own outside vendors. If you are working with a preferred planner and we bring you to the NAC, the fee can be reduced though. This is another reason to reach out sooner than later if you are considering this venue.

Being a public space adds another layer of complexity to hosting a private event. This is another reason to work with a Planner who is experienced with the NAC. We have dealt with people from the public coming into the ceremony space, attempting to steal items or getting in the way of the processional before, so now we are prepared for all situations. 

The NAC has added signage though saying “private event” but when my team and I are onsite, we are constantly monitoring since there is no security assigned to the event spaces like other venues.

Though they do include a room for the newlyweds at the Lord Elgin, it’s good to note that there are no accommodations onsite so you will need transportation for yourselves and your wedding party if the weather doesn’t cooperate for walking from your hotel. Also, if you are considering an outfit change, please know you will be doing this in a public washroom since getting back to your guest room will take too long.

Recap

R  Stunning light-filled rooms
R  Fantastic views of Ottawa
R  Amazing culinary experience
R  Neutral colour palette
Q  Lack of staffing
Q  Guest navigation
Q  Public space

As a Planner with experience in this space, let me be your secret weapon in navigating these pitfalls and ensuring your day is nothing short of phenomenal.

Please feel free to ask questions in the comments.

Your exceptional wedding and planning experience starts here

Up Next!

Stay tuned for the next blog post featuring Ottawa Westin’s Venue TwentyTwo!

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Check out my Instagram and be inspired by this creative re-purposing of Mandy and Ken’s gorgeous ceremony set up as well as a their room reveal walk through at the NAC.

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