Venue Review: Weddings at the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) – Hobart, Australia

12 June, 2012

Planning a destination wedding can be a bit of a leap of faith.  Even if you have visited your chosen location before, it’s almost certain that you’ve never attended a wedding there.  The payoff of course is that you get to marry against an amazing back drop, and that you and your guests get to experience a totally memorable and unique destination.

In our search for amazing wedding destinations, we recently came across the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).  And while we’ve seen some pretty incredible venues, if it’s a truly unique venue that you’re seeking, MONA takes it up a notch.

Destination Weddings at the Museum of Old and New ART MONA - Hobart, TasmaniaLocated on the beautiful wilderness isle of Tasmania, Australia, MONA has become a destination in itself.  Commissioned by David Walsh, a mathematical genius who amassed his vast fortune via gambling, the museum was originally constructed simply to house his own art collection, the largest private collection in the southern hemisphere.  And while the word ‘museum’ may have certain connotations; old, stuffy, formal, ancient; MONA is in fact, the complete opposite; modern, minimalist, cool, classy, individual, unpretentious, and more than a little bit risqué.

They like to do things a little differently here.  After descending three levels underground via a glass lift, visitors are welcomed to the museum not by a series of stark white rooms, but a cocktail bar!  There are no plaques on the walls, rather an iPod like device called the ‘O’ that locates nearby artworks as you meander through the museum, and gives you background information on the art and the artist.  Attractions include; a waterfall that rains words, a wall of television sets that form a karaoke choir singing Madonna songs, a scattering of bean bags on the floor inviting you to kick back and take in various short films projected onto the ceiling, a small forest of hanging plants that growl when you touch them, not to mention the crimson velvet lined gallery featuring gilded walls and a content warning to “keep the kiddies clear”.  And while many museums offer lifetime membership, AUD$75,000 will buy you MONA’s ‘Eternity Membership’, offering “parties, catalogues, annoying pamphlets, being sucked up to. Then – when you die, we have you cremated and put in a fancy jar in the museum”.  Honest.

The property also features onsite accommodation, a function centre, restaurant, wine bar, cafe, winery and a brewery.  Couples planning their wedding at MONA can choose from a large range, or even a combination of different function spaces.  Their motto?  “Let us know what you like and we’ll make it happen”.

Destination Weddings at the Museum of Old and New ART MONA - Hobart, TasmaniaYour guests can arrive via ferry, red double decker bus or helicopter, and wedding ceremonies can be held onsite at various indoor and outdoor locations.  MONA’s function centre is divided into two rooms, ‘Thanatos’ and ‘Eros’, with each able to accommodate 120 guests, or a maximum of 300 if the spaces are combined.  The rooms overlook the surrounding landscape via floor to ceiling windows along one wall and ‘Eros’ sits adjacent to the concert lawn, a popular choice for wedding ceremonies.  Upstairs is the renowned ‘Source Restaurant’, serving French inspired cuisine prepared by Michelin starred chef, Philippe Leban.  The restaurant can accommodate 150 guests for a cocktail reception or 80 for a sit down dinner and pre dinner drinks can be served at the cellar door bar, just next to the restaurant.  Another popular choice for pre dinner drinks is the Wine Bar, located a short distance from the restaurant, and sitting above an underground Barrel Room featuring oak barrels and a distinctive timber and glass wall.  The Barrel Room is another option for pre dinner drinks or even an indoor ceremony, and also houses the intimate Private Tasting Room, which can accommodate 20 guests cocktail style, or 10 seated.

Not surprisingly however, some of the most stunning and unique function spaces can be found within the museum itself.  The Organ Room is owner David Walsh’s preferred spot for many of his own private soirees, and was also our favourite.  Accessed via private goods lift which opens onto a living wall of greenery, the Organ Room features polished cement floors and ‘waffle’ like square windows cut into its cement walls to frame views of the Derwent River.  It is furnished with a large organ (of course!), white furniture, funky ceiling lamps, a distinctive octopus shaped couch, and can accommodate 35 guests for a sit down meal or 80 cocktail style.

Destination Weddings at the Museum of Old and New ART MONA - Hobart, TasmaniaAlso located within the museum is the Nolan Gallery, featuring artist Sir Sidney Nolan’s “Snake”; 1600 individual images combining to form a single 46 metre long artwork.  The gallery is available for cocktail style functions for 50 to 200 guests, but if you’re able to rustle up 200 to 500 friends, the stunning ‘Void’ is another option.  Located on the lowest floor of the museum and housing the cocktail bar, the Void features a 17 meter high sandstone wall to one side, and a selection of artworks to the other.

Onsite accommodation is offered in the form of ‘The Pavilions’, 8 architecturally designed one and two bedroom self contained suites overlooking the Derwent River.  As expected, these are no ordinary hotel rooms and features include; designer furniture and original artworks from the MONA collection, king sized beds and 400 thread-count linen, integrated espresso machines, private wine bars, high definition televisions in each room, wireless touch panels to control temperature, information services and audiovisual, and personal security camera systems to each Pavilion.

In summing up, I’m trying to find a word to describe this place.  ‘Unique’ doesn’t seem to cut it.  Amazing, clever, original, naughty, fascinating?  All true, but not the full story.  In the end there is really only one word to describe it; ‘MONA’.  And that’s about as unique as it gets.

MONA  is located in Berriedale, Tasmania, Australia.  The closest airport is Hobart International, located approximately 26km’s away.

Museum of Old and New Art – 655 Main Road, Berriedale, Tasmania, Australia.

Take a sneak peek at this modern, elegant MONA wedding by Jonathan Wherrett.