Where to conduct a wedding ceremony -- and its following celebratory reception -- seems as deeply engraved in our collective psyche as the gold-embossed, cream-colored invitations we've all received to those countless festive occasions.
But times and customs, even surrounding something as strictly traditional as a wedding and its all-important reception, do change. Some couples simply don't want to be bound by the conventional ritual of a church wedding followed by the obligatory reception in either a cavernous hotel ballroom or in the sterile ho-humness of a country-club private area.
Instead, more couples are expressing themselves by their individual, even quirky, choice of venues for the wedding and reception. Some are taking their vows in the sculpture garden of a trendy art gallery, while others are converting a lake party boat into their own nautical chapel and reception space. Still others are donning kimonos and getting married in an authentic Japanese ceremony -- surrounded by the bucolic serenity of a botanic garden. And if you want truly offbeat, some couples are renting out entire bowling alleys for their wedding and partying by rolling a strike or two.
"In the quest for unique spaces for the wedding, we're also seeing a lot more weddings and receptions held outdoors -- say like an open field within a park or on some family-owned property," says Tara Wilson, president of the event and entertainment designing firm Tara Wilson Events. "But above all else, a lot of today's brides and grooms are looking to create more of their own environment in their weddings and receptions."
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The following are six of some of the newest, or more unusual, Tarrant County locales for weddings and their accompanying receptions:
Japanese Garden of the Fort Worth Botanic Garden
3220 Botanic Garden Blvd.
New or unusual: This is the first year that in the bucolic setting of the Fort Worth Botanic Garden's Japanese Garden, one can stage a totally authentic Japanese-style wedding complete with tea ceremony. The newly established firm Kyoto Weddings organizes the entire event, beginning with a tea ceremony for the bride, the groom and their parents, held in the garden's teahouse. Kyoto Weddings offers to dress the bride and groom, and their party, in authentic kimonos. The actual Japanese wedding, which lasts around 30 minutes, takes place in the pavilion within the Japanese Garden. All the various stages of the traditional Shinto-style ceremony are observed, starting with the ritualistic drinking of sake followed by a ring exchange. After the toast to the bride and groom, during the final procession out, little origami cranes (in place of rice) shower the newlyweds.
Can accommodate: 10-250 guests
Special features: Kyoto Weddings takes two hours to wrap the bride in four layers of kimono fabric, while spending 30 minutes dressing the groom. If other members of the wedding party want to dress as a samurai or a geisha, complete with sword and wig, that can be arranged as well. Extra kimonos are provided by Kyoto Weddings for certain friends and family who might not have been in the ceremony but want to be in the photos. The Japanese Garden's ponds are specially stocked with royal koi fish. Kyoto Weddings also provides live music, often in the form of a musician playing a koto, or Japanese floor harp.
Cost: $350-$3,200 (rental price for varying sites in the botanic garden), often for the standard six hours. Kyoto Weddings charges approximately $3,000 for the tea ceremony, a kimono rental ($250 for each kimono, $100 dressing fee) to the bride and groom, their parents, and various other guests, and live music. Kyoto Weddings also offers 50 8-by-10-inch photos at $500.
Availability: Numerous spots till the end of year and well into 2011.
More information: Kyoto Weddings: 817-217-8014; Fort Worth Botanic Garden: 817-763-0724 or www.fwbg.org.
111 Hampton St.
New or unusual: Since its reopening in 2007 after a massive renovation, Artspace 111 may be Fort Worth's sole trendy gallery space to steadily host wedding ceremonies and receptions. The gallery features three areas -- the sculpture garden (where most of the ceremonies are staged), the adjoining terraced sculpture area and the inside galleries, constantly filled with highly distinctive art -- to host its weddings. Can accommodate: Up to 250 guests.
Special features: For its price, Artspace 111 offers use of all three of its primary spaces, plus all the basic rentals: chairs, tables, linens, plates, glassware and silverware. The customer provides his or her own choice of caterer. The client is also allowed to bring in all their own florals and lighting. The gallery can provide a valet.
Cost: $1,700 (for 50 guests); $3,000 (for 100 guests); $3,600 (for 150 guests); $4,900 (for 200 guests); $6,000 (for 250 guests). Four hours for the event, plus two hours for setup and one hour for breakdown. Included is a one-hour rehearsal, plus a security guard.
Availability: July and August remain open, while September is entirely booked. One or two weekends remain in October, with November and December also available.
More information: 817-909-7490; www.artspace111.com.
Lone Star Lady
Just for Fun Grapevine
2500 Fairway Drive
New or unusual: If you would like your wedding to take on a nautical mood, then staging a ceremony on Lake Grapevine, specifically on the Lone Star Lady boat, might satisfy that craving. The 90-foot-long Lone Star Lady can seat 60 downstairs and hold a reception for more on the upper, outdoor deck. It can easily accommodate the wedding party's caterer and bartender, as well as a DJ or band.
Can accommodate: 100 guests.
Special features: The Lone Star Lady comes with a suitable number of tables and chairs. It also offers a full kitchen and a captain and two first mates who will help with the wedding preparations. The boat also has an outdoor bar, along with a full entertainment center and a full-size projection screen.
Cost: For a three-hour ceremony-reception, the charge is $650 an hour. Four-hour bookings are $600 per hour; eight-hour,$550 an hour.
Availability: It averages three or four wedding receptions a month in the summer and has slots for the remainder of year, though many Saturdays are already booked.
More information: 817-310-3000; www.jffdfw.com
Piazza in the Village
77 Piazza Lane
New or unusual: Around for only a year and a half, this venue establishes an immediate connection between Texas and a European village, thanks to its Mediterranean-style architecture. The chapel, adorned with crystal chandeliers, along with the courtyard and the ballrooms, were all designed in neutral hues so that the bride can suggest whatever personal colors she would like to make her wedding ceremony and reception stand out.
Can accommodate: 280 guests.
Special features: The Piazza has numerous built-in cameras throughout the chapel so a DVD copy of the wedding can be made. It also can do a live webcast of the wedding for family and friends unable to attend the ceremony. In both the bride's and the groom's suites, there are flat-screen televisions that they can watch as their guests arrive. Professional lighting options for the reception area include pin spots for the tables, the couple's initials on the dance floor, changing colors on the walls and disco balls.
Cost: $8,000 is the starting price, extending up to $19,000 for an eight-hour rental.
Availability: Saturday night slots are sold out till the end of the year. Other days and times still available.
More information: 817-520-0026; www.piazzainthevillage.com
1 Legends Way
New or unusual: With the entire stadium as an incomparable backdrop, it's possible to have a wedding ceremony and reception in more than 20 spaces inside the complex, including on the field, in one of the end zones or on one of six end-zone platforms (where the end zone seats would normally be) -- all overlooking the field. Finally, there are as many as eight club spaces, from Club Lite to the American Airlines Lounge, all with high-end finishes such as granite and marble flooring, from which one can stage the ceremony and the reception.
Can accommodate: Up to 4,000 guests.
Special features: The stadium offers, through Legends Hospitality, a full in-house catering service for a wedding reception able to prepare everything from light hors d'oeuvres and a huge assortment of buffet items to a multiplated, multicourse seated meal. And the bride and groom can take advantage of the stadium's Diamond Vision big screen by programming it to provide video footage or a live feed of the ceremony. Wedding guests can also get tours of the stadium, including the locker rooms.
Cost: Various price points, available through direct consulting with stadium.
Availability: Wedding ceremonies-receptions are scheduled based first on general calendar and space availability.
More information: 817-892-4465; stadium.dallascowboys.com.
Aristide Event & Conference Center
570 N. Walnut Creek Drive
New or unusual: Open only since February, Aristide stands out for it resemblance to an 18th-century Italian church, right down to the vaulted ceilings, ornate arches and huge ballroom balconies. It's got the size, at 15,000 square feet, to orchestrate just about any wedding. The outside area is landscaped with large trees, a profusion of hydrangeas and roses, and patios and terraces on multiple levels.
Can accommodate: 1,270 full occupancy for inside-outside cocktail party; 500 for a sit-down dinner; 300 for an outside, sit-down dinner.
Special features: The bride's room comes equipped with lots of lighting and mirrors, while the groom's room has a television and a bar. There are also special lighting packages, where one can arrange for the columns and arches of the facility to be illuminated with various LED lights (pink, blue and purple are popular) to custom-decorate the space. Aristide tailors its reception menus by working with several preferred outside vendors. Recently, several customers wanted to substitute Coke floats, s'mores and a chocolate fountain for the traditional wedding cake. And, naturally, ice sculptures can be ordered.
Cost: For a typical wedding of up to 300 guests: $4,000 (venue rental for four hours plus a two-hour setup time with a one hour cleanup). That includes tables and chairs, plus rehearsal time and the use of the facility for photo sessions.
Availability: During the prime wedding days of Friday-Sunday, there are limited spots available through the end of the year -- with September having the most available dates.
More information: 817-842-1212; www.aristideevents.com
Andrew Marton is a Star-Telegram senior arts writer, 817-390-7679