Frequently Asked Questions

General Wedding Questions

What dates are available?

Great Lakes Aquarium is able to host your wedding almost every day of the year except: January 1st, July 3rd – 5th, the weekend of Grandma’s Marathon (annually rotating in June), Bayfront Bluesfest weekend (annually rotating in August), November 26th and December 25th.

When you book your event, it is important to have in mind your preferred season, day of the week, and a range of dates to help the Event Coordinator assist in planning.

How many people can Great Lakes Aquarium accommodate?

The Aquarium can host up to 160 seated guests or up to 200+ strolling guests in our largest space (a full facility rental), or up to 100 guests in the Discovery Center Banquet Hall.

What does it cost, and what is included in that price?

Rental fees vary by season and day of the week but also by guest head counts. Please refer to the Complete Wedding Guide for more information. All rentals include tables and chairs, on-site assistance from Great Lakes Aquarium staff, and guest parking in our lot (while available).

Are there any discounted times or seasons?

There is a discounted rate for an off-season date and for events on Sundays – Thursdays.

How much is the deposit, and when is it due?

The deposit is 50% of the total rental cost, and it is due at the same time as the signed contract.

If I cancel the event, will you refund my deposit?

In the event that the contract is cancelled more than 180 days prior to the scheduled event, your deposit will be refunded. If a contract is cancelled between 180 and 120 days prior to the scheduled event, 50% of your facility deposit will be refunded. If a contract is cancelled fewer than 120 days prior to the scheduled event, your deposit will not be refunded. All cancellations will be effective from the date the Aquarium receives clear written notice from the booking party.

What’s the payment plan?

The remaining balance of the rental fee is due by 6 p.m. the day of the event.

Any invoice after that date (bar service, last-minute additional rentals, etc.) will be due 10 business days after the invoice is received.

How long will I have use of the space(s) I reserve?

Rental times vary by package selection and seasonality. Full facility events may end no later than 12:00 a.m. (midnight). Last call for bar service is 11:00 p.m., and the last dance is 11:30 p.m. All guests, event hosts, and vendors must be cleaned up and out of the building by 12:00 a.m.

What happens if my event goes over the time allotted?

A $500 per hour fee will be assessed for events with guests in the building after that time.

Can I hold my ceremony at the Aquarium in addition to a reception?

Yes, we do ceremonies!

You have the option to host a ceremony and only a ceremony at Great Lakes Aquarium for a minimal rental rate. Wedding ceremony-only packages provide a three-hour rental for one of a variety of spaces as well as unlimited time for guest exploration of the Aquarium following the main event.

You also have the option to include a ceremony along with your reception rental at no added cost (for full facility rentals) or an additional fee (for Discovery Center rentals).

Which of your ceremony locations are close to reception locations?

No matter what part of the building and grounds you select for your ceremony and reception, they will both be on-site at Great Lakes Aquarium, making for easy transition between the two.

All locations share the same parking lot and coat room.

Are there changing areas for the bridal party?

We have limited changing and staging areas for the bride and groom but are willing to work to find the best way to make the space comfortable and suited to your needs!

How much time is allocated for rehearsal?

Ceremony rehearsals can be schedule prior to the event with no additional cost for up to two hours.

For a rehearsal dinner, a separate event space reservation is required.

What’s your weather contingency plan for outdoor spaces?

Outdoor ceremonies caught in bad weather have the option to use the indoor Discovery Center overlooking the harbor and Bayfront Park for groups with up to 100 guests. For groups of up to 160, ceremonies will be relocated to the lobby water wall and rescheduled for 6:30 p.m. or later.

Can I hire my own vendors (caterer, coordinator, DJ, etc.), or do I have to select from a preferred vendor list?

You may hire your own vendors with prior written approval from the Great Lakes Aquarium Event Coordinator. We have two preferred caterers:

These vendors have detailed knowledge of our spaces and have proven themselves to work smoothly and efficiently with Aquarium staff. Bar service is an exception – Great Lakes Aquarium provides exclusive bar service for on-site events.

Site-Specific Amenities and Setup:

Are there decoration guidelines and restrictions?

We ask that you discuss decoration plans with the event coordinator prior to making arrangements.

Acceptable decorations include:

  • Small candles in glass containers high enough to protect the flame
  • Floral arrangements
  • Decorative linens

Decorations not permitted:

  • Tapered or other tall, unprotected candles
  • The use of live animals – including fish – in centerpieces
  • Confetti or glitter as table scatter
  • Water bead vase filler
  • Balloons
  • Tape or tacks on the walls or ceiling of any Aquarium space

Our space is already naturally appealing and provides many ‘decorations,’ so you will not need to bring much more than table centerpieces and small additions.

Please note: some exhibits close at sunset due to animal sensitivities. The sturgeon touch tank in the Unsalted Seas gallery closes at 10:30 p.m.

All additional lighting must be approved by the Great Lakes Aquarium event coordinator.

What time can I begin setting up and have vendors begin deliveries?

Timing depends on the reserved space:

Full Facility Rental: To respect the experiences of our daily guests and to ensure that everyone in your party has the best possible experience, set up may begin at 6:00 p.m. Your guests are welcome to arrive at 7:00 p.m. Once setup is complete, your guests are welcome to explore the main exhibit hall. Events must end no later than midnight.

Deliveries can be made to the Aquarium during normal business hours with prior knowledge and approval by Aquarium staff.

Equipment can be set up at 6:00 p.m. unless prior arrangements have been made with Aquarium staff.

Discovery Center Rental: Deliveries can be made to the Aquarium during normal business hours with prior knowledge and approval by Aquarium staff. Access to the Discovery Center may be made available after 10:00 a.m. on the day of your event for drop off and decorating. Please check with the event coordinator to schedule a setup time.

Does the Aquarium provide assistance transporting gifts or decorations to and from the building?

The Aquarium is not responsible for gifts or decorations provided by the event hosts. Hosts are responsible for gifts and decorations, which should be taken down and removed no later than 12:00 a.m. (midnight). Arrangements can be made with the event coordinator for storing gifts/decorations until the following day.

Is complimentary parking available on-site?

Parking is included in your rental fee while spaces are available. The Aquarium parking lot has space for approximately 120 vehicles. Keep in mind, some spaces may be filled by Aquarium guests. Once the lot fills, the DECC and City of Duluth have parking lots nearby. Additional parking is not coordinated by Great Lakes Aquarium. Guests or hosts assume any fees and liabilities at other parking lots.

Great Lakes Aquarium does not offer valet services.

Do you offer on-site coordination, decoration assistance, or day-of coordination?

Great Lakes Aquarium staff will assist with table and chair set up and can place centerpieces on tables for the day of your event. Either the Great Lakes Aquarium Event Coordinator or other event staff will be present during the entire event to help with any questions or issues that arise.

However, Great Lakes Aquarium can not provide a wedding coordinator to help with further logistics and decoration planning or setup. We have worked extensively with Northland Special Events and can recommend their services for everything from flowers to event staging to full wedding-day coordination.

Hanging decorations (i.e. floating lanterns for the lobby) can be dropped off up to 2 weeks prior to the event for Aquarium staff to hang up.

Catering and Bar Service:

Do you have an in-house caterer or a list of preferred caterers? Do I have the option to choose my caterer?

Great Lakes Aquarium does not have in-house catering.

We do have a list of preferred caterers, but you may select from any vendor licensed in the state of Minnesota, provided that you approve the vendor with Aquarium staff prior to booking their services. Our preferred caterers are:

Catering staff are responsible for all food service, cleanup, and removal of food and food service items (including but not limited to table service, garbage, recycling, compost, and serving items). A fee will be assessed to the host for any additional cleanup services provided by Great Lakes Aquarium staff.

Great Lakes Aquarium provides exclusive bar service for on-site events.

If I hire my own caterer, are kitchen facilities available to them?

No; caterers will need to provide their own heating and refrigeration.

Are tables, linens, chairs, plates, silverware and glassware provided?

Great Lakes Aquarium does provide tables and chairs:

  • Up to 20 round tables (seating 6-8 people at each)
  • Up to 120 basic black chairs
  • A limited number of 6′ and 8′ rectangular tables for catering, bar, DJ, cake, gifts, and a head table.

The Aquarium does not provide specialty tables (i.e. cocktail high-tops), linens, plates, silverware, or glassware. Be sure to ask your catering company about providing service items, and check with a local company if you would prefer a different style of tables or chairs.

Can I bring my own alcohol? Is the Aquarium licensed to provide bar service?

The Aquarium provides exclusive bar service for all on-site events. That means you may not bring in your own alcohol or hire bar service from another vendor.

Music and Dancing

Are there restrictions on music?

For the protection of the exhibits and animals, the Aquarium reserves the right to monitor all events and to limit volume levels when necessary. The maximum volume allowed is 98 decibels.

The Aquarium can accommodate both DJs and live bands (as long as they have the ability to limit their volume levels).

How late can music play?

Last dance must begin no later than 30 minutes prior to the scheduled end of the event (For events running until midnight, the last dance is at 11:30 p.m.).

More questions? Contact our Event Manager at or (218) 740 – 2014.