Some brides look for the hottest new places for their wedding ceremonies and receptions. Others are interested in staging their nuptials at L.A. mainstays. There are places, however, that offer the best of both worlds — locations that are definitively part of the local DNA, yet have undergone renovations or added new spaces that make them modern and more relevant than ever for today’s brides.
Skirball Cultural Center
The most recent addition to the area’s venerable venues is in the Sepulveda Pass at the Skirball Cultural Center. That’s where bride-to-be Danielle Cohn expects to be the first bride to marry at the Skirball’s new Herscher Hall and Guerin Pavilion this December.
“I was looking for something unique, something that would have sentimental meaning for me as a Jew,” said Cohn of Los Angeles. “I looked at a ton of places, and they all looked the same to me. When I saw the plans [for the new hall], I loved the idea of doing something completely new but in a place so associated with L.A.’s diverse Jewish community.
“I love its colors, which remind me a little bit of Israel. When it was built and I saw it, I loved it, because it looked exactly as it appeared in the plans.”
Marilyn Delanoeye, vice president of hospitality and private events at the Skirball (skirball.org), is just as enthusiastic about how the expansive, 17,500-square-foot event facility conceived by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie will expand ceremony and reception options. One of the most stunning features of the project is a fully retractable window-wall that gives a dramatic view of a cascading terraced garden, providing an Impressionistic mural-like feel. The entrance plaza, meanwhile, is accented with coral trees, enamel art panels and a monumental fountain.
“The Skirball is deeply rooted in both Jewish tradition and the local Jewish community,” Delanoeye said. “We are proud of our history as a gathering place for Jewish families of diverse ancestries. Based on the way the concept of a chuppah has been built into the architecture [an effect achieved with arched ceiling appointments and tiered gardens in full view], for example, wedding ceremonies can take place indoors or outdoors.”
Guerin Pavilion interior at dusk. Photo by Elon Schoenholz
The facilities also include a bridal suite, rooms that can be used as a private space for the groom and his groomsmen, a room for the yichud following the ceremony just for the newly wedded couple and a family room for gatherings of the immediate family. While there is one caveat — the 4,000-square-foot kitchen is not equipped for glatt kosher events — award-winning chef Sean Sheridan and his team are able to plan menus tailored to the tastes and preferences of the couple using kosher products or kosher-style service.
“We really look at the total needs of the family and the extended community as well as the couple getting married,” Delanoeye added.
The Skirball’s Herscher Hall and Guerin Pavilion accepts listings and bookings for up to 18 months in advance, though Delanoeye said that there is a greater demand for wedding bookings between the months of March and October.
Sure, the five-star prestige hotels dotting L.A. County have name recognition. But when it comes to historic name-dropping, it’s hard to top Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, which opened in the 1880s and later evolved into a popular “rural” hangout for Hollywood legends such as Clark Gable, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Although Los Angeles’ urban sprawl has since spilled over into the San Fernando Valley, it is still a popular place for Hollywood productions, including the television series “Parks & Recreation.”
Throughout its history, Sportsmen’s Lodge Event Center (sportsmenslodge.com) has also been a reliable go-to venue for Jewish weddings and b’nai mitzvah. While it closed for a $6 million remodel in 2009 and re-opened in 2010, it continues to undergo improvements and upgrades that have transformed it from a dated Western setting to a bright look that is both contemporary and recalls the venue’s glory days. The look that is emerging is clean and white, down to the marble floors, winged-back leather chairs, grand entrance and more. There’s a garden room with a wall of windows trimmed in white as well.
The Sportsmen’s Lodge has a country charm that makes it attractive for weddings. Photo courtesy of the Sportsmen’s Lodge
Meanwhile, the landscaping and country charm are still major selling points for Jewish couples, down to a gazebo that can be adapted into a chuppah on the north end of the property, said director of sales Angie Groves.
“It is a unique venue in the Valley, as not too many other places in the area have lush ponds, waterfalls, bridges and century-old trees,” Groves said. “While we don’t have a kitchen, what makes Sportsmen’s Lodge appealing to the many Valley Jewish communities is that we do allow outside kosher catering.
“While some families love the Hollywood history behind it, others come for one of our two unique ballrooms. We have the 9,550-square-foot Empire Ballroom that features a built-in stage and can accommodate up to 600 guests, while our Starlight Ballroom has windows on two sides of the ballroom that overlook our gardens. The spaces are certainly not the typical four-wall banquet room.”
Other features and amenities include portable dance floors, bars, high-tech audio/visual capabilities, individualized décor and assistance in booking all sorts of live entertainment. While the event page on their Web site promises, “We’ll help you plan an old-Hollywood soiree for the ages,” the staff is also sensitive to the needs and concerns specific to Jewish weddings. Weddings need to be booked up to 18 months in advance.
The Olympic Collection
Although the Olympic Collection (ocbanquet.com) has provided Jewish Angelenos with an appealing alternative to traditional hotel wedding venues since 1991 — as well as space for many Jewish singles events and holiday observances through the years — continuing upgrades have transformed the 35,000-square-foot space consisting of six ballrooms, a large open-air terrace and three meeting rooms (which can be used as dressing rooms or for ketubah signings) into a venue that combines function, fashion and flexibility, according to Darien Morea, senior catering and conference services sales manager
Although Morea says that the cost of the renovation is being kept under wraps, opulent upgrades in the public areas of the West Los Angeles venue include new carpeting, charcoal granite flooring, Venetian glass chandeliers, hand-painted wall frescoes, modernized bars with chocolate granite tops, higher quality fine linen for tables and buffets, marble moldings throughout all of the ballrooms, new champagne and cream color banquet chairs, a new granite stairway for the main ballroom, and modernized upholstery for the third-floor Regency Ballroom walls.
The Olympic Collection has six ballrooms and a large, open-air terrace. Photo courtesy of the Olympic Collection
As a chuppah is traditionally connected to the outdoors, according to Morea, the large Regency Ballroom includes a garden terrace with a built-in gazebo that can be customized with florals and greenery. For the winter months, the ballroom includes a skylight at the top of a beautiful curved marble stage that opens fully to the sky. The smaller Atrium Ballroom, accommodating up to 150 people, features windows and sliding glass doors for clients desiring natural light during their events.
The Olympic Collection’s executive chefs hail from Spain, France, Iran, Armenia and Central and South America, and can fully integrate the client couple’s desired culinary style with the dietary requirements of the family and guests. Behind the scenes Morea said there is a separate on-site kosher kitchen under supervision from the Rabbinical Council of California.
The Olympic Collection accepts listings and bookings for up to 36 months in advance, and its staff of wedding planners can assist couples with the items necessary to fully customize their wedding and reception, including dance floors (with a mechitzah, or divider, if desired), bars, tables, chairs, custom linens, lounge furniture and specialty lighting and even the wedding cake itself.