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What Are Building Dedication Ceremonies and How Are They Celebrated?

April 20, 2021 Resources

There are many reasons why buildings can be dedicated to individuals, and a building dedication can be a special thing for both the recipient and the dedicator alike. 

Carnegie Hall is an example of a building dedication. The music hall was dedicated to Andrew Carnegie because of his contributions to its construction. Another example is Shakespeare’s Globe. The theater was renamed after the bard posthumously, to commemorate the original theater where Shakespeare debuted many of his plays, which had burned down in 1613. 

These are just a couple examples of building dedications, and they can be an impactful way to honor and celebrate the achievements of notable figures.

Why Are Buildings Dedicated?

As mentioned above, one of the most common reasons that buildings are dedicated is in commemoration. This can be a commemoration of a great deed, historical event, or recognition of service or donation. Buildings can also be dedicated posthumously as a sign of recognition and respect for the person’s importance to an organization, area, or cause.

Building dedications are often represented through a dedication plaque or bronze memorial plaque. These typically provide further details about the person, people, or organization being honored and may include details such as a portrait, seals, or other images associated with them.

What Types of Buildings Are Dedicated?

Virtually any kind of building can be dedicated. Often, the building’s purpose or location will have some significance to the recipient of the dedication — for example, hospitals or orphanages may be dedicated to someone like Mother Theresa or Florence Nightingale, who worked closely in these fields. Some of the most common buildings that get dedicated include:

  • Hospitals
  • University buildings;
  • Business complexes;
  • Stadiums;
  • Libraries;
  • Museums;
  • Nature centers;
  • Schools;
  • Theaters.

Public outdoor spaces, such as parks, hiking trails, roads, or military memorials may also be dedicated in similar fashions to buildings. 

Planning the Building Dedication Ceremony

When a building is dedicated, or is going to be dedicated, there is typically an accompanying ceremony. This can be a small affair or something grander, depending on the wants of the people involved. No matter what size, it’s important to plan ahead for a dedication ceremony, so the individual being honored can attend if they are able. Here are some elements that go into planning a dedication ceremony. 

Dedication Committee

Whoever is funding the construction of the building, whether this be a board of trustees or one individual, is typically who decides a building’s dedication. A dedication committee may also include a family member of the dedication’s recipient, or members of the organization that represented. This committee will decide the type of dedication, placement, and even dedication ceremony specifics, such as inviting speakers. 

Venue and Set-Up

Typically, building dedications are held at the building in question. However, this may not always be the case due to factors such as poor weather, not enough room to accommodate the guests, or simply that the building isn’t finished yet. Another way that the venue is managed for a dedication ceremony is that there may be a small speech or commemoration at the site, then a reception held elsewhere, to accommodate for food or entertainment. 

Set-up may be handled by the dedication committee or independently hired contractors, such as a party planner. Podiums for speakers, testing sound equipment, seating arrangements for guests, decor, and room for refreshments are all a part of the set-up for a dedication ceremony. 

Key Speakers

Key speakers may be invited to speak at the dedication to reflect on the significance of the event. These speakers could be members of the dedication committee, the CEO of the business or company, or even the recipient of the dedication themselves. If the recipient is not able to attend, then a family member or loved one may speak on their behalf. Giving speeches at the dedication ceremony is another way to commemorate the deeds of the recipient, and recognize their significance. 


Entertainment may be included in the reception of the ceremony, or as a part of the main event. This could include food, drink, music, and even live entertainment, such as dancers or singers. Entertainment can be a great incentive for invitees to attend, as well as just another way to celebrate the recipient of the dedication. Some receptions are held at restaurants or lounges to foster this part of the evening, but others are more casual and held at the dedication site. Depending on the event, a dress code may even be asked of the attendees. 

Ribbon Cutting

Some historians think that ribbon-cutting ceremonies date back to 1898 and the opening of the Louisiana railroad line. The cutting of a ribbon symbolizes the opening or start of something new. Displaying the uncut ribbon visibly is designed to build anticipation for what lies ahead. Large scissors weren’t always the norm for these ceremonies, but likely became more popular for their showmanship, and the ability to cut large ribbons in a single stroke.

Dedication ceremonies often take place at the opening of a new building, which is why ribbon cutting is a popular feature event. Even if a building is being dedicated years after its construction, there may be a ribbon-cutting ceremony to symbolize a new beginning. 

Marking the Significance of a Building Forever

The true purpose of a building’s dedication is to mark the significance of that place and person forever. It’s often symbolic of the person’s legacy. Naming the building after the recipient of a dedication is another way we can see significance established in this way, though this isn’t required to have a dedication ceremony. 

Dedications can take the form of many types of signage. Perhaps most common is the etched plaque, as they can have additional information about why the building is dedicated to that individual, or history about them. Commemorative portraits, such as bas relief portrait plaques or photo relief portrait plaques can also be used to signify a dedication in a powerful way.

Marking the Significance of a Building Forever

Building dedication ceremonies are a long-standing tradition, and they’ll continue to play a role in how we honor important figures into the future. A building dedication ceremony can be a powerful method of honoring a person’s achievements for many years to come, and it can be a powerful reminder of their virtues for generations.

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