Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ranch Weddings: Where Romance Meets the Texas Hill Country

By Lisa Y. Taylor

Some wedding day amenities are hard to come by. But brides and grooms looking for rolling green terrain, sparkling river banks, roaming horses and a breath of fresh air don’t have to look any farther than the ranches of the Texas Hill Country.

Though full of rustic charm, many of the estates provide facilities, catering and services found in the finest ballrooms. From casual country to glamorous gala, the venues featured in this round-up welcome the opportunity to show-off their natural appeal and high-end hospitality.

Modern Country: Marquardt Ranch

The sky is the limit at Marquardt Ranch. Captivating sunsets, hot air balloons by day, and fireworks at night can all be part of an unforgettable wedding experience.

“Our guests really get a sense of getting out of the city and into nature because we sit on a terrific bluff that overlooks the Guadalupe River,” says Dru Steubing, whose great-grandparents founded the ranch more than 100 years ago. “We offer both an outdoor ceremony area and a modern indoor reception hall where the ceremony can be held if it rains.”

The limestone-constructed reception hall combines the best of Hill Country chic with traditional style. It features wooden ceilings and beams, and its two spiraling wrought iron staircases lead to separate bride and groom bell tower suites. The facility sits up to 250 for dinner and dancing, and 320 when adding the covered porch.

“Our brand new reception building is what we might call, ‘Texas elegance,’ Steubing says. “So if the bride wants a fancy wedding, and the groom prefers a more country function, they can both get what they want here.”

The reception hall’s French doors open to a ceremony site featuring a three-tiered landscaped terrace that faces the gently flowing river.

Brides and grooms are welcome to bring their own caterer, although the ranch offers a suggested list of vendors.

Refined Heritage: Rio Cibolo Ranch

Only 25 minutes northeast of downtown San Antonio, wedding guests can experience the genuine flavor of Texas at Rio Cibolo Ranch. Here, grazing longhorns and pecan orchards abound in harmony with cultivated gardens.

Garden ceremony sites include the Pecan Orchard which boasts a centuries-old pecan grove; the Lily Garden which lies along the banks of Cibolo Creek; the Creekside Garden that overlooks waterfalls and the Cibolo Garden that offers an arched stone entrance and gazebo.

“What sets us apart is the beauty of our grounds and wedding gardens,” says Craig Christopher, marketing director and member of the family that owns the ranch. “We really capture a more refined appearance with our manicured herb and lavender gardens.”

Three reception facilities have their own unique take on the Lone Star State’s heritage. Genuine western appeal is found at the 20,000-square-foot R.C.R. Corral which features a large stage and dance floor. The room can be set up to accommodate relaxed picnic dining or formal occasions with round tables, linens and china.

“The Corral is our most western facility,” Christopher says. “It’s a favorite for destination weddings with a Texas theme.”

Rio Cibolo’s newest reception venue, Zuehl’s Hall, is reminiscent of an old German dance hall. The interior offers an antique bar, rock fireplace and expansive windows, while the outside provides a spacious deck and patio. Wedding couples using the hall have access to Zuehl Haus, a quaint cottage for bridal preparations or the honeymoon night.

On the banks of Cibolo Creek is the Lazy Lily River House which has a limestone rock fireplace, cedar-planked walls, and views of a pecan orchard and shaded deck.

For convenience, Rio Cibolo provides a wedding consultant to help coordinate vendors. The exclusive in-house caterer serves up Texas standards such as slow-smoked beef brisket as well as Tex-Mex cuisine, tender steaks and lobster.

“We provide full turnkey service to make planning easy for the bride,” says Christopher.

Resort Comfort: Riven Rock Ranch


On a hilltop above the Guadalupe River, Riven Rock Ranch exudes sophistication in a luxurious, yet cozy, resort setting. The working cattle and horse ranch is nestled in an agricultural valley about five miles from Comfort, Texas.

“This is truly a special place,” says Chris Havens, who owns the ranch with his wife. “With its pastoral surroundings, the ranch has the feel of an old European farm.”

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