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8 Destination Wedding Spots Tailor-Made for Houston Couples

The escape from city crowds, the beautiful natural settings, the promise of abundant R&R with beloved family and friends—what’s not to love about a destination wedding? While the experience of a destination celebration is all about leisure, narrowing down the choices for your destination-wedding location can be, well…a lot of work. So allow us to assist you, with a peek into some of our favorite settings for the nuptial celebration of a lifetime—one that will let you and your guests enjoy life to the fullest!

NAPA VALLEY VISTAS

St. Helena

Special events at The Culinary Institute of America Greystone.

Photo: Courtesy of Culinary Institute of America at Greystone

In the center of Northern California’s world-renowned Napa Valley sits charming St. Helena—home of legendary hot-air-ballooning, diverse art galleries and vibrant family wineries. Known as “Napa Valley’s main street,” St. Helena also is home to the Culinary Institute of America’s magnificent Greystone campus, where regal 19th-century architecture meets spectacular vineyard views…and where every wedding is an unforgettable celebration of food, wine, family and friends.

Texas-based couples love hosting guests at this iconic venue—and with good reason. Where else but at CIA-Greystone, former site of the historic Christian Brothers winery, can you find a 90-foot-tall atrium, a stunning barrel room, and some of the world’s most exciting cuisine and wines, all in one place?

Napa

Culinary-Institute-America-Copia

Venue: CIA-Copia | Photo: Victor M. Samuel

For a Napa Valley food-focused wedding in a more contemporary setting, set your sights on the Culinary Institute of America’s newest facility: Copia. Located in the city of Napa itself, CIA-Copia is a food-lover’s playground, and a perfect place for lovers to celebrate the bond of marriage with those they love most.

Copia’s sophisticated mezzanine deck, overlooking the glass-walled atrium, modern amphitheater and the Napa River in the background, is among the venue’s most coveted spaces for sipping fine wine and craft cocktails, and feasting on custom menu items created in collaboration with CIA chefs.

You and your wedding guests also will get to take advantage of Copia’s many options for foodie fun. Located adjacent to the lively Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa, Copia offers culinary classes and demonstrations, tastings, and a fabulous on-site store where you’ll find everything from local wild mushrooms to luxurious French cookware.

HEAD FOR THE HILL COUNTRY

Wimberley

Old Glory Ranch

Venue: Old Glory Ranch | Photo: Anthology Photography

Historic Texas mill town Wimberley, located 45 miles southwest of Austin, is a haven for weekend antiquers, art-lovers and outdoors-enthusiasts. It’s also a picture-perfect location for your riverfront destination celebration.

For a wedding that takes full advantage of the natural beauty of this beloved Hill Country locale—but also allows for an on-site chapel ceremony and elegant ballroom-style reception—be sure to check out Old Glory Ranch, situated on 2,200 acres of Hill Country range along 1.5 miles of dazzling Blanco River frontage.

Whether you choose to say your vows in Old Glory’s enchanting Oak Grove, on a patio overlooking the emerald-green Blanco, or inside the venue’s climate-controlled Chapel Hall (built from repurposed homes and churches from the turn of the 20th century), you’ll know that your event will be given the full attention of Old Glory’s experienced staff—some of whom have been with the venue for more than a decade.

And make sure to inquire about the venue’s beloved miniature donkeys—which, when saddled with vibrant flower baskets, elicit “ooh’s” and “ahh’s” from guests young and old, and are a favorite for newlywed photo ops.

Dripping Springs

Terrace Club

Venue: The Terrace Club | Photo: George Street Photography

Known as the “Gateway to the Hill Country,” picturesque Dripping Springs is located just 25 miles west of downtown Austin, but feels like a million miles away from the big city. A visit to Dripping Springs might find you gobbling down Texas barbecue, plunging into the jade-green waters of famed Hamilton Pool, or two-stepping at a historic Texas dancehall.

A destination-venue-hunting trip to Dripping Springs must take you to The Terrace Club, where you’ll find yourself on top of the highest ridge in the region, overlooking acre upon acre of spectacular Hill Country scenery.

Terrace Club couples love to descend the stone walkway, and say their vows in the venue’s garden space, beneath a flower-bedecked arbor (and, more often than not, in front of a majestic Hill Country sunset), before making their way with their guests to the 7,000-square-foot ballroom, for dining and dancing. Since everything, from catering to rentals to centerpieces, is included in their wedding package, couples need focus only on the festivities, which means they have way more energy to enjoy a Dripping Springs wedding weekend of lawn games, local lake adventures, and celebratory hijinks at the acclaimed Deep Eddy Vodka distillery, located adjacent to the venue.

Johnson City

King-River-Ranch

Venue: King River Ranch | Photo:Bonnie & Lauren Weddings

In picturesque Blanco County, along the Pedernales River, lies the “Crossroads of the Hill Country”: Johnson City. Home to the “Texas White House”—aka the childhood home of President Lyndon Johnson—this charming Hill Country enclave, located just under 50 miles west of Austin, boasts countless nearby wineries, plus local hiking, fishing, horseback riding and hot-air-ballooning.

It also boasts beautiful King River Ranch, a stunning wedding spot set on a private ¼-mile stretch of the Pedernales, where horses, miniature donkeys and St. Croix sheep graze in expansive pastures…and where in-house wedding design services are provided by Willem-Aiden, a former fixture on Hollywood’s lavish event-design scene.

In love with the Hill Country, but got your sights set on a big, beautiful wedding, with all the whistles and bells of an in-town bash? King River Ranch’s King Barn can accommodate 250 for a seated dinner and dancing, while the venue’s spectacular River Terrace, built directly into dramatic rocky riverbank, provides an unparalleled backdrop for relaxed (but ultra-elegant) revelry.

GO WEST, YOUNG TO-BE-WEDS

New Ulm

The Vine

Venue: The Vine | Photo: Smith House Photography

Just west of Houston, set on 23 rolling acres filled with gently swaying trees and sunset views for miles, The Vine started as a rough sketch and a dream…and is now a regal private event venue that makes wedding-couples’ dreams come true.

The Vine’s capacious Barrel Barn may have “barn” in its name and customized sliding reclaimed barn doors at its entrance—but the nod to a rustic farm structure stops there. This remarkable 500-guest-capacity reception space features floor-to-ceiling flagstone fireplaces, gleaming wood surfaces and state-of-the-art lighting and sound capabilities, plus the ability to slide back those big ol’ barn doors and let nature in when the weather allows.

For a destination wedding ceremony with a contemporary chapel feel, The Vine’s on-site Union Bell Chapel is true to its name, with a working bell that newlywed couples can ring as they exit the chapel and make their way to the party of a lifetime.

Future weddings at The Vine will get to enjoy the fruits of this venue’s labors—literally—as the property’s young grapevines will be ready for harvest in the next couple of years, and eventually will be featured at the venue’s planned tasting room.

Columbus

Big Easy Ranch

Venue: Big Easy Ranch | Photo: Joey T. Photography

Situated 70 miles west of Houston and 80 miles southwest of Austin, Big Easy Ranch has everything a weekend wedding group could want, all on one magnificent 1,300-acre property.

Tour the grounds of this true-Texas-style destination resort, and you’re likely to stumble on sparkling lakes, picture-perfect ponds, cascading waterfalls and stands of centuries-old oak—any of which might strike you as a perfect spot for your al-fresco “I do’s.”

Dining, dancing and revelry typically take place in the 10,000-square-foot Lodge, where celebrants can feast on farm-to-table cuisine prepared by the ranch’s award-winning chef (gourmet game, and seafood with a Southern twist, are just a couple of his specialties).

During their leisure hours—one of the greatest appeals of a weekend destination wedding, after all—attendees may want to avail themselves of Big Easy Ranch’s Chet William-designed championship golf course, cast a line in one of the property’s well-stocked streams or lakes, or take a chance on trophy hunting with one of the ranch’s expert guides (Big Easy Ranch happens to be one of the top-producing whitetail ranches in Texas).

However you choose to round out your Big Easy Ranch wedding weekend, you’ll enjoy a destination wedding experience, at a destination so close to home, you’ll be snuggled down in your newlywed nest almost before you know it.

MEXICO IS FOR LOVERS

Cancun & Tulum

Oasis Hotels & Resorts

Photo: Courtesy of Oasis Hotels & Resorts

For busy couples who crave an oceanfront destination wedding without the logistical and design responsibilities a destination wedding can entail, Oasis Hotels & Resorts has the ideal wedding package solution, in one of two Yucatan Peninsula destinations: Cancun, offering dazzling beaches, endless shopping and high-energy nightlife; or Tulum, where soaring cliffs and Mayan ruins meet soft sands and cavernous cenotes.

Whichever site you select, Oasis will take care of every detail, from ceremony to reception to accommodations and more, when you choose the “O Weddings” package that fits your destination-wedding dream.

Options include the O Mayan Package, which incorporates local history and culture into your nuptials, with a traditional Mayan altar setup at your beachfront location, and a ceremony performed in the Mayan language (with English or Spanish translation, of course!).

For larger, more lavish celebrations, the O Eternity Package includes exclusive ceremony and reception decor; a private poolside or beachfront dinner with open bar, DJ and custom lighting; and a rehearsal dinner in one of the resort’s acclaimed specialty restaurants.

And while your O Weddings package features may be pre-set, the service you’ll receive is completely personalized. Oasis Resorts’ U.S.-based staff will serve as your concierge throughout the planning process, and put you in touch with your own personal bilingual wedding expert, on site, to make everything simple…and superb.

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Haute Off The Runway: 13 Wedding Dresses You’ll Love

From the catwalk to real life, the season’s most gorgeous gowns are as romantic as your love story. Scroll through and browse some of our fave wedding dresses straight from Spring 2018 Bridal Fashion Week. If you’ve fallen in love with these looks, we’ve got news for you—you can them on here in Houston! Check out our list of the city’s finest bridal salons here.

1. Elie Saab

Elie Saab

2. Pronovias

Pronovias 2018-Dria

3. Reem Acra

Reem Acra

4. Sottero & Midgley

Sottero-and-Midgley-Wedding-Dress-Allen

5.  Marchesa

Marchesa-Spring 2018

6. Hayley Paige

JLM, Bridal Spring 2018

7. Johanna Ortiz

johanna-ortiz-neutral-the-como-agua-para-chocolate-dress

8. Enzoani

Enzoani-Leann

9. Oscar de la Renta

Oscar de la Renta-Spring 2018

10. Sottero & Midgley

Sottero & Midgley-Finn

11. Lazaro

JLM, Bridal Spring 2018

12. Galia Lahav

Alma Front-Galia Lahav Victorian Affinity

13. Monique Lhuillier

Monique Lhuillier Spring 2018

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Recent Bride Laura Leigh Abby Gives Tips For Planning Your Same-Sex Wedding

Same-Sex-Couple

Photo: Heather Rice Photography

On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is a right protected by the U.S. Constitution in all 50 states. Prior to their decision, same-sex marriage was already legal in 37 states and the nation’s capitol, but was banned in the remaining 13.

It seems as if today in the United States the rights of same-sex couples are always changing. Just as we (finally) win our right to marry, we’re faced with backlash and discrimination from both the private and public sectors. It’s no secret that planning a same-sex wedding can expose you and your spouse-to-be to the possibility of discrimination. This can be determined by where you live and what kind of wedding you’re planning.

I planned a wedding in New York State and most of my vendors were based in New York City, which meant that for many of them, this was not their first same-sex wedding. Though we raised a few eyebrows, and I had to answer many questions with, “There is no groom, the other bride’s name is Samantha,” we were met with joy and excitement that felt truly genuine. We know, still, how fortunate we are, and that many couples face just the opposite.

Lesbian-Wedding

Photo: Rob Spring Photography

Love Your Venue

Your venue is the beating heart of your wedding, with your vendors serving as veins and valves and other metaphorical body parts. Select a venue where you feel comfortable, accepted and celebrated. This is good advice for all couples. Unless you’re getting married in a private residence, you know that other couples have come before and will come after you at your chosen venue. But during the planning process, right through to the minute you drive away post-wedding, you want to feel like the beloved leaders of a fairytale kingdom.

Vet Your Vendors

I’ve read too many stories of the discriminatory baker who wouldn’t bake the “gay wedding cake,” and I’ve watched as these stories propelled unassuming same-sex couples and business owners into the public eye. I can say with certainty that every single time, the couple is humiliated. This is not a feeling we want to recall when we think back on our wedding.

My rule of thumb is ridiculously simple: Look for experience, but also trust enthusiasm. When seeking out photographers, for instance, click on their website and explore their portfolio. Nine times out of ten an LGBT-friendly photographer will have a same-sex couple featured on their site. Of course, this isn’t always the case. I often collaborate with creatives who insist they’d love to shoot a lesbian wedding, but they simply haven’t been asked yet.

Lesbian-Wedding

Photo: Heather Rice Photography

Know Your Worth

We can also spin these discriminatory-cake-baker stories and use our “otherness” to our advantage. We had one vendor willing to drop her prices significantly because she wanted us in her portfolio. I reminded my wife of this often, “Babe, we are two women. I’m wearing a custom green wedding gown, you’re wearing Vera Wang, we’re throwing this big expensive weekend in the woods. We are a prize, so let’s behave accordingly.”

State Your Case

When choosing our wedding photographer—Heather Waraksa—this was my initial email:

“My fiancée Samantha and I are planning a wedding weekend extravaganza at the beautiful Cedar Lakes Estate next September. We are trying to get on top of some of the planning. As two girls, we both have some strong opinions on this wedding, but so far we’re (surprisingly) seeing incredibly eye-to-eye. My one major concern is photography! I don’t really like the look of most wedding photos, and I’d like something a bit different, specifically someone who can snap those magic moments and make it look effortless. We think your portfolio is incredible and would love to learn more about you and let you learn more about us. Our weekend will include a lakeside BBQ, mountaintop toasts, swimming and sports, vows by the lake, a big reception in a gorgeous barn, and an after-party in the tree house. We think it’s going to be spectacular and we’re looking for the right person to help capture the celebration. If you think you may be interested, and of course, available, we would love to meet you.”

This is essentially the email we sent to every single vendor, with a few tweaks of course. We also created a wedding-only email address: “2Brides2Be.” Our excitement was infectious and we had amazing vendors on board pretty quickly. As is reflective of my personality, I wanted to give plenty of information up front. I wanted potential vendors to know what kind of couple we were and what kind of wedding this was going to be.

Lesbian-Wedding

Photo: Rob Spring Photography

Be The Change

My advice is to be up front about: you as a couple, the wedding you want, and the kind of people you want to work with to make it a reality. There are going to be awkward moments—when I told one dress consultant there would be two brides, she asked if it was a “double wedding”—but I’ve never met a single person in a same-sex couple who isn’t used to the occasional awkward moment. I have no problem with those. In fact, I like being able to help others feel comfortable with how to speak to us and become more inclusive in their business practices. If you’re sick of crossing out the word “groom” then suggest to your vendors, “Maybe you should create documents with alternate wording.”

It’s not that tough to change their forms to read:

Spouse #1 ____________

Spouse #2 ____________

Let’s not be afraid to ask.

Lesbian-Wedding

Photo: Heather Rice Photography

Excerpted from “2 Brides 2 Be” (Rare Bird Books, 2017), by Laura Leigh Abby, available on Amazon.com.

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Enchanted Forest-Inspired Wedding at Chateau Cocomar by Civic Photos

Jessica met Oscar at the Aerodome ice skating rink when she was 9 years old and he was 15. “Our families introduced us to each other, but he was too cool to hang out with me. Sparks didn’t fly until ten years later,” tells Jessica. Lo and behold Oscar wasn’t too cool for Jessica anymore, they hit it off and he was ready to make her his wife.

When it came time to propose, Oscar found the perfect moment during their trip to Disney World to get down on one knee in front of Cinderella’s castle. Jessica said, “Yes,” to her Prince Charming, and they began planning their enchanted wedding—inspired by their Disney World proposal—at Chateau Cocomar.

Chateau-Cocomar Floral-Bridal-Party-Robes Floral-Bridesmaid-Robes Bride-Getting-Ready Bridesmaids-Outside-of-Chateau-Cocomar Bridesmaid-Bouquets Navy-Groomsmen-Suits Floral-Wedding-Sign Chateau-Cocomar-Wedding-Ceremony Bride-Walking-Down-Aisle Indoor-Ceremony-at-Chateau-Cocomar Chateau-Cocomar-Wedding Bride-and-Groom-Kissing Bride-and-Groom-Portraits Chateau-Cocomar-Wedding Bride-and-Groom-Kissing “I made sure our engagement photos, wedding decor, photo booth and dessert table incorporated hints of popular fairytale romance stories,” says Jessica.

Chateau-Cocomar Forest-Inspired-Wedding-Decor Fairytale-Wedding-Decor Forest-Inspired-Wedding-at-Chateau-Cocomar Forest-Inspired-Wedding-Decor Dessert-Table Dessert-Table Macarons Berry-Blush-and-Wedding-Cake Fairytale-Wedding-Decor “One of my favorite moments was the surprise fog and confetti on the dance floor,” she adds.

Guests-Dancing Bridesmaids-in-Photo-Booth Bride-and-Groom-Exiting-Reception

Photos: Civic Photos | Venue: Chateau Cocomar | Catering: Cafe Natalie | Flowers, Decor & Rentals: AJ’s Urban Petals | Dessert Table & Favors: Wink by Erica | Lighting, Music & Entertainment: LG Entertainment

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We’re Down With Downtown: 2 DTHTX Wedding Venues We Love (OK…3)!

Crystal-Ballroom-at-The-Rce

Photo: Ama Photography & Cinema | Venue: The Crystal Ballroom at The Rice

Sure, the bars are hopping. And yeah, there’s a hot, new eatery opening its doors just about every 19 seconds. But one of our favorite things about downtown Houston’s business-to-pleasure evolution is the growing popularity of our thriving urban center as a super-chic location for wedding celebrations.

Ballroom-at-Bayou-Place

Photo: Courtesy of The Ballroom at Bayou Place

One of the coolest kids on the Downtown block is The Ballroom at Bayou Place. Located right in the heart of Downtown’s lively Theater District, The Ballroom has 15,000 square feet (!!) of flexible party space, which can be configured for everything from an intimate engagement-party gathering to an all-out-epic wedding bash for 500 or more of your nearest and dearest. If sleek balconies, sweeping skyline views, swank chandeliers and velvet drapery sound like your idea of the ideal wedding setting, you’ll definitely want to check out this Downtown dazzler, where manager Craig Howard (formerly of Ritz Carlton hotels and Cirque du Soleil—you may have heard of ’em) and his team of pros will help you with everything you need to plan a very pretty city wedding.

Ballroom-at-Bayou-Place

Photo: Courtesy of The Ballroom at Bayou Place

Jumping from a modern ballroom to classic one, let’s take a little stroll across Downtown, and treat you to a glimpse at The Crystal Ballroom at The Rice, located, just like the name says, in the historic Rice Hotel. Built in 1913, The Crystal Ballroom is 5,600 square feet of…gorgeous. Picture 35-foot-high ceilings, hand-painted murals, arched windows, and, of course, the lavish chandeliers you’d expect from a place with “crystal” in its name. Plus, the venue is catered by Sambuca, a name synonymous with renowned American fare—making The Crystal Ballroom a great spot not just for opulent Downtown weddings, but impress-your-guests pre-wedding parties and rehearsal dinners.

Crystal-Ballroom-at-The-Rice

Photo: Ama Photography & Cinema | Venue: The Crystal Ballroom at The Rice

Oh—and don’t forget Lawless Spirits, also located in The Rice. This artisanal-cocktail hotspot, with its industrial-glam ambiance and equally chic terrace offers additional pre- and post-wedding celebration space, along with a taste of Texas history.

lawless-spirits

Photo: Courtesy of Lawless Spirits

Find these two Downtown gems, and tons more Houston-area wedding venues, right here, and schedule your tours early, loves…the best spots in town book up fast!

Crystal-Ballroom-Detail-Ama-Photography

Photo: Ama Photography & Cinema | Venue: The Crystal Ballroom at The Rice

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