Where the tree-lined River and Rock Roads meet in New Braunfels, Texas, there are still some Gruene Estate neighbors unaware of the unique ranch-for-rent within their midst. That will surely change in the near future. As an exceptional venue for special celebrations, the secret of Gruene Estate is sure to get out.
One such occasion was the early September 2014 Beier-Gonzales wedding. The ranch proved to be one of the mystical elements of a loving, accepting and culturally diverse celebration. Here’s how it unfolded, beginning with Friday’s late-afternoon rehearsal party:
Introductions to family are made under Southern Live Oaks that canopy the brick patio of the main house. An eclectic mix of wrought iron and wicker furniture provide ample seating as individuals toast one another’s arrival.
As guests amble through the buildings and grounds, as dusk settles and landscape lights flicker, as the deer, horses and long-horn steer touch their noses to fenceposts, the evening’s blessedness gradually envelops the group.
At the center of the open-air, gravel-floored shed—placed within one of the gardens—is a large, wooden table. Spread out on its top are brisket, sausage, tortillas, potato salad, salsa, guacamole and fresh fruit. All had been prepared in the well-supplied kitchen or grilled with the ample cookers and grates provided by the estate.
After serving themselves, guests begin to claim their little space around fire pits and picnic tables. While watching bean-bag tosses and games of horseshoe, casual conversations can be heard as guests proffer bits of their past and present with those around them. In one fashion or another, they’re all attempting to say “welcome” to strangers about to become family.
The bright moon in the night sky cast its light on all those lucky few invited to the pre-wedding party, as well as on the small, white, rustic church, tomorrow’s most important place. If one looks closely enough, they can see the stone borders of the winding path leading to the tiny chapel.
After their guests depart, eager for the big event and encouraged by the initial gathering, the bride, the groom, her grandmother and both sets of parents retire to their respective rooms in several of the historical buildings set on the estate. Vignettes of Texas past are all around them—in the quilts, wall-hangings, furniture, pictures, floor boards and coverings. As they put their heads to pillows, do the two families think about the history they’re making for one another?
Early morning wedding Saturday. The bride’s grandmother oversees the hairdresser and makeup artists as they use their talents on the beautiful young woman before them.
Then the decorators arrive. Using the many wonderful accoutrements supplied by the Gruene Estate, along with the bits of whimsy lovingly crafted by the bride, they don’t transform, they merely enhance, the buffet area, banquet hall and dance floor. Silver candlesticks and burlap table runners; lanterns and mirrored trays; an old metal headboard and watering can; discarded shutters and doors with rusty hinges; hand-crocheted doilies and tablecloths; birdhouses, too—somehow it all comes together.
The florist arrives, as do the photographers and caterer. The magic is still spinning as the guests arrive for the late afternoon ceremony. To all of them, the clapboard chapel that stood at a distance during last night’s affair opens its arms. Its glass chandeliers sway in the breeze and the stained glass windows softly segment the sun’s rays. Off in the distance, the tall grasses, hay bales and horses remind those congregating that something special is about to happen on this piece of extra-ordinary Texas.
Entering on the arms of loved ones come the bride’s mother, the groom’s mother and then the bride herself. The pastor officiating the open-air ceremony guides the couple thru their vows, while, off to the side, a shabby chic buffet holds a simple bouquet and cross. Guests smile; many fan themselves to keep the heat at bay. Now it’s over. The “I dos” become “we did,” and everyone joyfully heads for the rustic banquet hall for food, drink, music and merry-making.
Tealights swing from tree branches above the lemonade table; a homespun tableau provides a backdrop for the happy couple’s first meal as Mr. and Mrs.; guests enjoy the celebration’s repast at weathered tables prettified with flowers and glass votives; music encourages the dancer in everyone to come out and play.
Bride and groom, parents and in-laws, grandparents, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles, among them all big hugs, hearty congratulations and kind words are freely exchanged. Then, amazingly, and out of nowhere, half a rainbow appears above the chapel. Is it part of the magic? Can it be called mystical? Who knows, but it all really happened on the Gruene Estate.
For more photos, see Gruene Estate on Kimmunitee’s Pinterest board.