Why Don’t We Do It In The Park?

There are lots of places to get married besides a church or courthouse. Here's how to do it.

IF YOU’VE WANTED TO THROW ROCKS instead of rice at the gimmick-getting weddings—i.e.—snorkeling for the rings, sky diving for the flower girl; if you don’t want to say it to the judge in his sterile, white cubicle; if you can’t go the traditional church wedding … There are alternatives.

Texans can unite, two by two, in matrimony (holy or otherwise) in grand “un”tradition. On Texas historical sites. In city parks. On beaches. In backyards. On a fishing pier. In and on lots of places that don’t require classic wedding-bell hassles, long satin dresses and large, cash-on-the-spot outlays.

Cosmopolitan folk with a yen for the woodlands can get married in some parks. On city property. For free. In Houston, you need written permission from the Parks and Recreation department to do your time. Write William G. Schiebe, P.O. Box 1562, Houston, 77001 for information on the Rose Garden in Hermann Park, the really woodsy Arboretum in Memorial Park, or the gazebo and the historical homes in Sam Houston Park. Those who wish to be married in the gazebo must contact both the Harris County Heritage Society (1100 Bagby, Houston 77002) and the Parks and Recreation department. In Dallas, request, in writing again, permission from the Director of Parks and Recreation, 406 City Hall, Dallas 75201. And in Austin, the arrangements are just a phone call away. Simply dial 512-476-6692, ext. 10 and ask for Louise Nivison.

San Antonio discourages weddings in parks. But they have super alternatives. The Arneson River Theater, which hosts the Fiesta Noche del Rio during the summer has a seating capacity of 1000 people. It’s entirely outdoors. The “seats” are of grass and a stage across the river would provide an elaborate wedding setting. The rental price is set at $50. You have to bring your own lighting equipment—a small price to pay for having center stage. Also in San Antonio is the famous La Villita—a little restored village that was once a Spanish settlement. Charlotte Kearney, manager of La Villita, says that the patio areas are available from 6 p.m. til midnight for receptions. However, she might be talked into letting you have the wedding there too. The Cos House costs $20 for up to 100 guests. (Prices may be going up soon, folks.) If you want chairs for the reception that will cost you an extra $17.50. There is a patio outside so guests can flow in and out.

Juarez Plaza, in the same area, will accommodate 150 to 500 people and it costs a mere $60 for the six hours. It’s an outdoor area (just imagine mariachis and candlelight). But just in case it rains, don’t fret. There is Bolivar Hall which will accommodate 200 soggy guests, seated inside and l00 more in the gallery. According to Ms. Kearney, the patios are closed after November. Arrangements can also be made for times other than evenings—if the couple doesn’t mind a few curious passersby.

For those who really want to throw a whing-ding (up to 1500 people) they can rent the Plaza Nueva. The area is entirely fenced and a perfect place for champagne celebrations. For reservations at La Villita, call Charlotte Kearney at 512-227-0521 or write 416 Villita Street, San Antonio 78205. If you opt for a church wedding, there is a non-denominational church in the area under lease to Rev. David Edmunds. Contact him at 512-226-3593.

Weddings in Corpus Christi are a whole ‘nother bag. Kenneth C. Krenek, superintendent of Parks and Recreation, is pretty hang-loose about weddings in the parks. “We don’t necessarily provide any facilities, per se, for weddings, but there aren’t any regulations against it. People are perfectly welcome to use the parks. If there is anything I can do for them—I want them to let me know.” Krenek will take requests over the phone, 512-882-1971 or write 222 Belden, Corpus Christi, 78401.

If you want to gravitate closer to the water (and there’s plenty of it in the coastal town) you might request McGee Beach—a very small strip beach right off Shoreline.

For a kind of kinky wedding, Corpus has just the spot. In Cole Park there is a municipally owned fishing pier—about 800 feet of it. It’s lighted and “if you’re not afraid of getting snagged by a hook,” talk to Krenek about it. Or, if you dig the briney way, but not a pier, you could try for a T-head or the L-head. (Those heads lead out to boat slips.) Ask Krenek about them. And speaking of beaches, don’t forget Galveston for a wedding and marshmallow roast. If you have questions, call Patsy Poole, 713-763-1261.

If you’re hung up on getting married on a boat—forget it unless there’s a chaplain aboard or you own a yacht. “The days of getting married on the high seas by a captain are over,” sighed one old captain. (We checked with Judge Hugo Touchy and he verified that a new law has been passed prohibiting ship captains doing the deed. “They just have to wait ‘til they get to shore.”) So rule out the ever-adrift Battleship Texas and all other seagoing vessels unless you know a chaplain.

However, if you are bent on getting married near a boat, you can get married on certain portions of the San Jacinto Battle grounds. Jim Frantz, superintendent of the grounds told us that one should call him at 713-479-2431 to make arrangements. Officially, no alcoholic beverages can be served. And the wedding party should plan on bringing their own chairs and portable picnic tables. Frantz says he can’t reserve any one place for the nearly weds but will work with people who are interested in being married on the site. He did make a plea for ecology. “Please leave the grounds as you find them—or even cleaner. It would really annoy me to find lots of cups and plates scattered around.”

If you don’t opt for a picnic in the park for the reception, you can rent buildings. The Garden Center, in Houston, is available if you call Dan Ogea, 713-529-5371 or write 1500 Hermann

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