A bride and groom smile at each other in front of a river with Connecticut wedding photographer Terrence Irving.

Wedding Venue Feature: Connecticut River Museum

Vibe and FeaturesOutdoor ceremonies, tented receptions, intimate indoor space, walkable downtown vibe
Guest Capacity150
Location67 Main St.
Essex, CT 06426
Similar VenuesBranford House, Inn at Mystic, OceanCliff, Webb Barn

The bustling downtown area is definitely the highlight of Essex, “the perfect small American town.” There, you’ll find shopping, dining, and a public town dock. Right next to the latter is a picturesque museum that doubles as an event venue. Enter the Connecticut River Museum wedding, an awesome concept for history and river lovers alike.

History of CT River Museum

It was 1974 when a volunteer organization, the CT River Foundation at Steamboat Dock, was founded. The group’s goal was (and still is) to highlight the importance of the Connecticut River and the citizens who used it. They eventually purchased the Steamboat Warehouse, the museum’s home, and some surrounding docks.

The organization acquired the Samuel Lay house, next door to the museum, in 2012. RiverQuest, which is a terrific CT activity, made the museum’s docks its permanent home in 2022. For several years, various Connecticut River Museum events have been a staple of the museums offerings.

This is one of the state’s handful of maritime museums. With all of this history, as well as the prime location, CT River Museum weddings offer you such an amazing experience.

CT River Museum Event Venue Vibe and Features

Layout

Connecticut River Museum is a the end of Main Street, the one-way main drag in downtown Essex. The property is next to the cul-de-sac, but parking is primarily next door at the Samuel Lay house.

This venue is mostly known for its outdoor weddings. There’s a beautiful lawn and an impressive dock. Your CT River Museum wedding will literally take place right next to the water. Note, however, that there is a small public space abutting the property.

The Museum

A tent's interior is prepared by caterers before a Connecticut River Museum wedding.

The museum building itself is the center of attention. Inside, the Boathouse Room can accommodate 55 people (there are also restrooms inside). Outside, the large lawn offers access to the docks and perfect views of the Connecticut River. There’s plenty or room for a large tent during a Connecticut River Museum event.

And before you ask, the upstairs portions of the museum are unfortunately off limits.

The Connecticut River

A bride poses on the dock during her Connecticut River Museum wedding.

One of the main reasons to have a Connecticut River Museum wedding is to enjoy views of its namesake. The venue is on the western side of the river, surrounded to the north and south by coves. They’ll even help you pull up in your own boat, if you choose to make a grand entrance by water.

Downtown Essex

A couple walks in the street of downtown Essex during their Connecticut River Museum wedding.

Getting to downtown Essex from the venue is easy. Shopping, dining, and other walkable sights and sounds are only a few steps away. When planning your wedding, be sure to budget exploration time for your portraits.

CT River Museum Wedding Cost Considerations

There are various sources out there about Connecticut River Museum wedding costs. Speaking with their staff, I have some factors here for you to consider:

  • This is an exclusive venue, offering only about five weddings per year
  • Depending on which spaces of the museum you book, pricing starts at $1350 for three hours; 50% is due at booking with the remaining balance due 10 days prior to your wedding day
  • The wooden docks (and the museum itself) probably mean that sparklers and portable fire pits are prohibited
  • Your caterer will need to do all of their prep and cooking off site, leaving only setup and serving to the staff who attend your wedding
  • On site, there is room for 25 cars; more parking is available next door at the Lay House on a case-by-case basis

Hotels Close to CT River Museum

Hotels for yourselves and your guests are always important. Here are some good options near the Connecticut River Museum:

  1. The Griswold Inn (Essex, CT): Located about a three-minute walk from the museum, this is the country’s oldest continuously-in-business inn. The proximity comes at a cost though; there likely won’t be enough rooms for all of your guests.
  2. The Copper Beech Inn (Ivoryton, CT): Another boutique option located in Essex, this time in the village of Ivoryton.
  3. Quality Inn Old Saybrook-Westbrook (Old Saybrook, CT): Probably the most well-rounded option for accommodations near this venue.
  4. Airbnb and VRBO are great options in this area

Connecticut River Museum Wedding Photos

Here are some more wedding photos from the Connecticut River Museum.

Learn More

Here’s an Essex CT wedding I photographed at Connecticut River Museum. If you’re thinking that this might be the venue for you, then reach out to Michelle Porter and start the conversation.

For more info about my work as a wedding photographer, just use the links below.

Citations

I used the following references at different points in this post:

  1. “Downtown Essex,” Visit CT
  2. “About,” Connecticut River Museum
  3. “RiverQuest makes CT River Museum its permanent home for Connecticut River cruises,” Susan Braden, CT Insider
  4. “Category:Maritime museums in Connecticut,” Wikipedia

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