Tampa River Center

A Guide to Getting Married at the Tampa River Center

Nestled along the picturesque banks of the Hillsborough River, the Tampa River Center offers panoramic views of the downtown skyline and waterfront. With its expansive, floor-to-ceiling windows, second-floor balcony, and indoor/outdoor options, the event space is one of the most sought-after wedding venues in the area.

“Tampa River Center is one of my favorite venues because of the views and our gorgeous waterfront, making it a highly sought-after venue. You really can’t beat it anywhere. I love that you can open an entire side of the space to have an indoor/outdoor feel and enjoy the views from the second-floor balcony. This space rents out easily a year in advance, if not more, so the sooner you can book, the better.” -Karen Cerboni, EventFull Weddings

“Our businesses catered the very first event at this venue, and we loved it so much that we got married there ourselves, so I can honestly say that it is my favorite venue in all of Tampa Bay!” -John Meyer, Elite Events Catering

“Beyond the exceptional service provided by the venue staff, its floor-to-ceiling windows offer breathtaking views of the city skyline and waterfront. These windows can be opened to seamlessly blend the indoor and outdoor spaces, providing a unique experience for guests. Additionally, the venue boasts a thoughtful rain backup plan, ensuring that the event can proceed smoothly while still enjoying the stunning city views.” -Ashley Johnson, B Eventful

How Far Out Should I Book My Wedding?

“The Tampa River Center books 18 months ahead, so on May 1, 2024, it will begin booking November 2025 dates. As one of Tampa's most popular venues, Saturdays are booked almost immediately. If you are set on booking a Saturday, go ahead and do your walkthrough, get all of the paperwork completed, and be ready to book on the first weekday of the 18th month ahead. We have also been doing more Friday and Sunday weddings there, which tend to be easier to book.” -John Meyer, Elite Events Catering

“The Tampa River Center stands as a highly coveted wedding venue for good reason. Given its popularity as a premier Tampa wedding destination, we strongly advise couples to initiate the booking process between 12 to 18 months prior to their desired wedding date to secure their dream celebration. Due to its popularity, weekends are booked very quickly. We highly suggest you remain open to weekday dates, but make sure you consider the time of day and your guests' transportation.” -Ashley Johnson, B Eventful

How Much Does it Cost to Get Married at Tampa River Center?

“The venue rental fee is $3,000 for a Saturday, $2,500 for a Friday or Sunday, and $2,000 for weekdays. Those rates are for a 4-hour event window, plus two hours to set up and one hour to break down. In addition to the rental rate, there is a staffing fee of $450 (for four hours) plus security, which is typically around $50/hour. The venue rental rate does include tables and silver chiavari chairs. For catering, our wedding clients typically spend between $150 to $180 per guest for food, beverage, catering staff, basic rentals (linens, china, flatware, etc), our commission back to the River Center, and sales tax.” -John Meyer, Elite Events Catering

Can I Bring In My Own Vendors?

“The Tampa River Center requires booking with one of their approved caterers, ensuring both the venue and the couple collaborate with seasoned professionals. This requirement guarantees confidence in your catering team's ability to navigate the venue's dynamics and execute your wedding vision. While couples are granted the freedom to select additional vendors of their choice, it is strongly advised to consider their familiarity with the venue's protocols and regulations, thereby ensuring seamless adherence to the City of Tampa guidelines and minimizing the risk of violation fees. All vendors must supply proof of a Certificate of Insurance.” -Ashley Johnson, B Eventful

“All vendors are required to provide certificates of insurance to the city. For catering (including bar and beverage), you must select one of the eight caterers contracted to operate there. These caterers pay a 15% commission back to the city for operating here, so you will probably see a line item on your proposal/invoice.” -John Meyer, Elite Events Catering

“The Tampa River Center does require you to use a caterer from their preferred vendor list for all food and beverage, but there are plenty to choose from, so you should not have any issues finding one you like. Otherwise, you can choose your vendors as long as they are insured.” -Karen Cerboni, EventFull Weddings

What Should Couples Know about Photography/Videography at this Venue?

“Couples should consider a few different things when booking the Tampa River Center. The first would be the ‘getting ready area.' It is more of a holding area for the bride, if needed, so plan on booking a local hotel or Airbnb nearby to get some natural light photos to begin your day when getting ready. Another thing to think about for photography is the lighting and time of day for ceremony and photos. The water does reflect sunlight so contingent on your location of the ceremony, you might want to consider how harsh the lighting could be. There also isn't an extreme amount of places that are shaded or covered by indirect light, which also can make locations for photos a little challenging depending on the timeline of photography events. Tampa River Center gets some warm, golden-hour glow vibes, and it is perfect for that style of photos.” -Amber McWhorter, Amber McWhorter Photography

“We love the photo backdrop options at Tampa River Center.  One that stands out the most is the dock behind the building that showcases the Hillsborough River and downtown Tampa's cityscape as the background of your photo. Other locations include the back of the building with the Tampa River Center sign, trees/greenery that surround the venue, and even the second-floor deck, which is a great place to escape the sun.  It's important for any venue to have not only a variety of photo spots but also options for varying weather conditions. Our favorite part is the selection of locations for your exit at the end of the night! You can exit from the back of the building with the lit-up ‘Tampa River Center' as the backdrop.  Another option, and our personal favorite, is exiting by boat; an advantage of choosing a venue on the river.” -Jennifer Reed, J&S Media

“Tampa River Center is an amazing location for those iconic views of downtown Tampa. About an hour before sunset is the best time to get photos on the rowing docks that go out into the river. Also, being adjacent to Julian B. Lane Park, you can get amazing photos any time of day there because there are plenty of shaded spots as well. There's a gorgeous tree canopy and lots of the fluffy grass that gives you that outdoor look and feel.” -Carrie Wildes, Carrie Wildes Photography

“As a wedding photographer who has had the pleasure of capturing the unique charm of the Tampa River Center, there's so much to love about this versatile venue. One standout feature that continually steals my lens's affection is the midcentury architecture paired with those enormous windows. The design not only adds a touch of timeless elegance but also serves as a frame for stunning views – a double delight for both day and night affairs. The windows are nothing short of magical. By day, they invite the breathtaking river view, and as the sun sets, they seamlessly transition to showcase the dazzling city lights. What I find particularly enchanting is that these windows create an illusion of being outdoors, bringing a natural and airy feel to the indoor spaces. As a photographer, this variety is a dream come true. It means that no two weddings look the same, and each event offers a plethora of opportunities to capture unforgettable moments. From exchanging vows on the river's edge to embracing the lush palms and greenery of the park, or even atop the expansive balcony overlooking the city, the possibilities are as diverse as the visions of the couples who choose this venue.” -Buffy Feldman, Lifelong Photography Studio

“Your vendors, including photographers and videographers, must have business insurance. The Tampa River Center asks for coverage from all vendors prior to working at this venue. It's also helpful to have a photographer or video team who has worked a wedding or at least visited the space in the past. It is a large venue with multiple options for great photos. However, it would be tough to navigate in a pinch if you only had a limited amount of time to get your shots. We tell our couples to get the best use of the space, plan to have their portrait session, and then, if there is time, another mini-portrait session during sunset or at night to get the beautiful city lights glowing on the water in the background.” -Joy Hmielewski, Joyelan Photography

What Logistics Do I Need to Know About this Venue?

“The management of the Tampa River Center falls under the authority of the City of Tampa, thus requiring meticulous logistical planning and preparation. When scheduling your rental time at the venue, it is imperative to factor in the time required for both setup and breakdown. Additionally, when engaging vendors, it is essential to determine their setup and breakdown timelines to ensure sufficient allocation of time. The city requires adherence to a structured 30-60-90-day checklist, emphasizing the importance of timely communication of wedding day details. Key pre-established considerations include the selection of security personnel, outlining of the rental timeframe, and purchase of requirement insurance coverage for both the couple and vendors. The Tampa River Center imposes minimal restrictions on décor. One frequently asked question pertains to the use of open flames. Open flames are indeed allowed, provided they are contained within a glass receptacle with a minimum clearance of two inches between the flame and the container's top. All floral arrangements, do-it-yourself (DIY) decorations, and centerpieces must be assembled and arranged outside of the Tampa River Center premises.” -Ashley Johnson, B Eventful

“The Tampa River Center is a beautiful venue. At first glance, it may seem like the perfect spot for your once-in-a-lifetime celebration. However, there are some things that are very important to keep in mind when considering this as your venue. It is a city-run facility, which means there are a lot of rules. If you love the venue and imagine yourself getting married on the dock, ask if it's a time of year that dock ceremonies are allowed. If it's during rowing season, that location for the ceremony may not be an option. What else is happening in the city during that time frame? Is it St Patrick's Day? If so, the river may be green. Is that the look you want in your outdoor photos? Maybe you're Irish, and that's a selling point, but maybe you aren't, and that is not what you want in your wedding album. Is there a parade scheduled to happen that day that will make it difficult for guests to get to the venue on time because of all the additional car and pedestrian traffic? Be sure to read through the rules and regulations. No glass is allowed at the bar. Some people have an issue drinking their wine from a plastic cup. You want to be able to make the best-informed decision when choosing a venue. Different things are important to different people. But if you don't read through everything, you may end up regretting the choice and settling for things or situations that you really didn't want in the first place.” -Sherri Rimel, Olympia Catering

“Typically, with the standard rental hours of this venue, you can only get in later in the afternoon. If you are a couple with a large setup or a lot of DIY decor, I highly recommend adding the extra hours for setup.” -Haley Fabrizio, Breezin Entertainment

“Considering that this venue isn't a hotel, there's a logistical consideration that can significantly impact your photography timeline. Confirming your arrival time with the venue is paramount. Establishing a clear understanding of when you can access the space allows for seamless planning, ensuring that every precious moment is captured with precision. When it comes to getting ready, the venue offers a room for this purpose. However, it's worth noting that many of our couples opt for getting ready at a hotel. Both options have their own unique charm, and the choice largely depends on your personal preferences. Communication with your photographer is key here. Discuss your vision and preferences so that they can tailor their approach accordingly. Whether it's the intimate atmosphere of the venue's getting-ready space or the luxurious backdrop of a hotel room, your photographer can work their magic, provided they are in the loop. An additional consideration for this venue is the limited space for guest arrival photos. When guests start to arrive, there's no designated area for private photos without being in plain sight. To address this, we ensure our couples are hidden 30-40 minutes prior to the ceremony. This ensures that the anticipation and excitement are preserved, and the first reveal is a truly special moment for both the couple and their guests.” –Buffy Feldman, Lifelong Photography Studio

“One unique element of this venue is that it sits above the boat house for the college and high school rowing teams. As such, there is a ‘no glass' policy for beverage service. All beverages must be served in plastic cups or cans.” -John Meyer, Elite Events Catering