New York is kinda like an egg.
Ask 5 people for their favourite way to consume it, and you’ll get 4 different answers, and one who’d prefer a nut-based alternative. From the lush heritage upstate venues, to the impossibly enormous barns, to the Manhattan dives and industrial warehouse spaces closer to what we more commonly identify with the city, greater New York has variety of feels wider than it’s ever given credit for.
Yet no matter what type of personal experience you’ve had in New York, when you step into a venue that contains some of the vibe-language of the greatest city in the world, the feeling is unmistakeable.
Here’s seven slices of New York, right here in our own Melbourne, that double as some of the most unique, alternative wedding venues in town.
What do an obscure German electronic artist, experiential-theatre zombie-apocalypse, and majestic high-end wedding all have in common? They all found a home at the towering Substation in Newport – in no small way thanks to a philanthropic strategy of intertwinement with the local & international arts community.
The Substation has this classic “we’re just casually repurposed an industrial Brooklyn warehouse” written all over it, with staggering floor-to-ceiling windows (this criteria would be less staggering if, for example, the windows were in a hobbit-sized home but we’re talking a less vertically-challenged structure here), red statement curtains, and one end lined with more secret little rooms than you can poke a stick at.
With plenty of space to spare both in the main atrium and the rooms below, Melbournes alternative wedding venue queen Newport Substation can be mapped to nearly any configuration, including any furniture layout you can imagine, and an on-site burrito stand for guests to tuck into. Set up a band in one corner, hire a leading progressive florist like Good Grace & Humour or Georgie Boy to dress up one end with an impossibly wild installation (or leave it in all it’s all bare glory), and you’ve got a space that’ll be on the tips of the guests tongues for weeks. After they recover from their hangovers.
Check out Nicole and Dan’s incredible wedding at Newport Substation.
Newport Substation website: www.thesubstation.org.au
Newport Substation wedding gallery: Nicole & Dan
New York vibe: Majestic Manhattan. Have we just stumbled into an historic slice of midtown?
Venue size: Enormous. 250 seated, 300 cocktail
Rupert on Rupert
Rupert is kinda like the Tesla flying in outer space with an astronaut next to it and David Bowie blaring from the stereo as it flies towards Jupiter: it probably shouldn’t exist at all, much less where it does, but – it does.
And thankful for it existing, we are. Separated into a Main Dining Hall, Conservatory, and Cocktail Lounge, alternative wedding venue in Melbourne king Rupert on Rupert takes the crown for classic modern New York bar vibes in Melbourne, and wouldn’t be out of place in any of the more recently gentrified areas of inner-Brooklyn: which is also code-word for gorgeously designed, thoughtfully laid out, with a level of subtle considered genius by husband and wife team Ric and Mali Corinaldi that makes the space grow on you like the third album from that previously favourite artist of yours.
Geographically tucked neatly away into the “local knowledge” category, pop into Rupert on Rupert on a weekend, and it’s jam-packed with folks who know what’s good.
Rupert on Rupert has three main areas, each of which can be repurposed as you need, and the menu is headed by (x) and a crack-team of friendly maestros who can cater incredibly for vegetarians and vegans alike.
I’m not saying to just get Aunt Jenny on her iPad taking the photos for the day, but I will say that with every inch of the interior so thoughtfully considered, you could probably point your 2002 Nokia at the urinal and still get an incredible image pretty much anywhere inside Rupert on Rupert.
But don’t do that, because it’s extraordinarily weird that you’re still using that phone.
For more inspiration check out Alix and Tim’s reception at Rupert on Rupert here.
Rupert on Rupert website: www.rupertonrupert.com.au
Rupert on Rupert wedding gallery: Alix & Tim’s wedding at Rupert on Rupert
New York vibe: Designer Brooklyn. The sweet smell of a green-thumb in design.
Venue size: Cosy & compartmentalised. (85 seated, 220 cocktail)
Panama Dining Room
The grand-master of alternative wedding venues in Melbourne. Beer-soaked carpets, wistful homages to Dave the hot bassist etched into the bathroom walls, and the shady corner where your insouciant friend got lucky.
These are a few things that you definitely won’t find at Panama Dining room anymore.
When stepping into this cavernous room filled with giant arch windows you might be forgiven that in it’s past-life as a music venue in the heartland of the pub-scene, the majestic gateways of Panama Dining Room looking into and around the city were completely covered up.
Since being exposed in all their glory, Panama Dining Room has staked its claim as one of Melbournes best open-bar, dining-hybrid venues, and if you gently squint, it’s easy to imagine yourself in the warehouse-loft of a pre-crash Wall St tycoon in the 80s.
So squint, dear friend, bring that cigar to the lips, and inhale that sweet, sweet smell of pre-2007 venue tobacco laws, while you imagine yourself in that steamy machine of systemic exploitation known as wall st.
Fortunately for those of the stamina variety, Panama did carry one little thing over from it’s days as a live music venue: a 1am liquor license.
So party on, dear aspirational Gordon Gecko.
The Panama Dining Room is located in the heart of Smith St, which places it in beautiful proximity to some of the most iconic and historical parts of Melbournes oldest suburb, Fitzroy. That puts it at arms length away from an incredible lot of great portrait opportunities that can be had even with just a quick little sprint away from the Panama.
As far as alternative wedding venues in Melbourne go, Panama is at the unique intersection of ticking every alternative box, while also being placed at the centre of the action.
Panama Dining Room website: www.thepanama.com.au
New-York vibe: Classic giant New York loft. Wall St cash money, baby.
Venue size: Let’s run with “Sprawling”. 160 guests seated, 220 standing
State Library of Victoria
Location: Melbourne CBD
Bookworms by day, dancefloor worms by night: State Library Victoria is the poster-child for a venues ability to play Jekyll, Hyde, and all their far-removed cousins, and might just be our cities most slumbering giant gem.
There’s much to be said for nostalgia. It is after all, the reason why we fought tooth and nail for an (ill-fated, but I digress) Hey Hey it’s Saturday revival wayback when, and why the the whiff of a can of Lynx can suddenly remove two decades of time and space for those in the mid-30’s bracket.
The savvy folk at Showtime events and caretakers of State Library Victoria know the value of nostalgia, and so they know that once the lukewarm memories of higher education and it’s study pressures have faded into memory, there’s nothing more appealing than inhaling an Espresso Martini and double-stack of canapes in one of the worlds most extravagantly beautiful study halls.
Enter, State Library Victoria.
Thankfully to the mad hatters at SLV, there are a total of five separate, incredibly distinct spaces in which to host your wedding, that can cater from the intimate to over 500 guests. So whether you’ve spent your days as a cave dwelling misanthrope or have as many friends as Tom from Myspace, you’re probably covered.
The lay of the land at State Library Victoria starts at the obviously decadent La Trobe Reading Room, throws a curveball of art via the Cowen Gallery, and ends at the recently revitalised Ian Potter Queens Hall, with the glorious North Rotunda and Isabelle Fraser room in between.
The State Library of Victoria, as well as having a variety of rooms that would be the envy of a Labrynth-trotting Bowie, is smack in the heart of the CBD – lending itself to plenty of beautiful portrait opportunities, classic Melbourne laneways and beyond.
State Library of Victoria website: https://venues.slv.vic.gov.au/wedding/
New York vibe: When majesty met grandeur and took it to slicksville.
Isabelle Fraser Room: 156 Banquet 220 Cocktail
Ian Potter Queens Hall: 290 Banquet 500 Cocktail
La Trobe Reading Room: 520 Cocktail
North Rotunda: 60 Banquet 90 Cocktail
Cowen Gallery: 220 Banquet 350 Cocktail
Location: Melbourne CBD
Longsong is what happens when a collective of design-centred mavens pair with culinary master David Moyle, and point their magic towards an historic old Melbourne horse stable in the middle of chinatown.
Gather & Tailor
Location: West Melbourne
Gather and Tailor takes an old inner-city warehouse, and puts it in the hands of the team of polymaths behind Pot and Pan Culinary Tailoring: Celeste & Sam Gant.
5km out of the CBD, smack-against a bunch of shipping containers and an old-school automotive garage, it initially feels like you aren’t quite allowed to have all that room and calm all to yourself – but then you lean into it, and in return are gifted with one of the most unassumingly mighty warehouse experiences in Melbourne.
With the seasoned hands of Sam & Celeste and their hospitality empire at your fingertips, Gather and Tailor is a modular set of spaces, and the perfect blank canvas where you can call in as much or as little of the in-house styling as you need.
Check out Ash and Karan’s glorious Gather and Tailor wedding here.
Gather & Tailor website: www.gatherandtailor.com.au
Gather & Tailor wedding gallery:
New York vibe: Gutted out of town warehouse
Venue size: Pretty damn big, mate. 300 seated, 450 standing (Across two physical spaces).
If you’ve spent any time at all at venues in upstate New York or New Jersey, you know the sheer majesty and scale of some of the incredible heritage venue houses out there.
Quat Quatta contains some of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful interiors and exteriors around, and the breadth of portrait opportunities on-site both inside and outside are unbeatable. A festooned outdoor area makes for a glorious intimate ceremony space, before the party is carried inside.
But, let’s just hold off on all the adjectives and hyperbole for a hot damn minute, though: because something about this venue in particular isn’t talked about nearly enough: the bridal suites.
These old heritage rooms at the wings of Quat Quatta, apart from being a pretty splendid place to get all that bridal-suite stuff done (application of bandaids, eating of cupcakes, necking of champagne, and whatever else goes on in there), are totally gorgeous and a way under-appreciated part of the venues makeup, and one of my favourite areas of the building to take portraits on the day.
Quat Quatta is a place of wild charm and a more traditional-looking outpost that holds more than it’s own with plenty of variety.
Quat Quatta website: www.quatquatta.com.au
Quat Quatta wedding gallery:
New-York-ness: 6/10 (only because it’s more of an upstate-New York vibe)
New York vibe: Gutted out of town warehouse
Venue size: Pretty big, mate. 300 seated, 450 standing (Across two physical spaces)
There you have it. Six of the best alternative wedding venues in Melbourne, that while well-set in their own charms, would make anyone lusting after a little slice of those New York vibes feel right at home.
Author: Oli Sansom
Oli finds magic in the small things, and is hired to do this all over the world documenting humans and ritual, from America to Antarctica.