By Lisa Olson
Austin has entertainment down.
The music scene? The best in Texas, maybe in America.
The foodie scene? Thanks to the combination of top chefs and innovative restaurants, Austin was just named one of the “Top 10 Tastiest Towns in the South” by Southern Living.
In recent years, Austin has started making a name for itself in yet another scene: weddings.
Thanks to a migration of creative industry talent and the high number of 20-somethings, not to mention the mild weather and tourist-friendly atmosphere that makes any city wedding-worthy, Austin is gaining a reputation as a hot wedding location for locals and visitors alike.“The number of couples from Austin and from outside of Austin that we work with are split about 50/50,” says Jessica Dickman, marketing coordinator and event assistant at the Austin event planning company Clink. “Especially with the popularity of wedding blogs, people from all over the country get to see how beautiful and creative Austin weddings are. We have all the benefits of being in a city, but with a laid-back vibe.”
Despite the unpretentious style of Austin weddings, The Knot listed the Austin-San Antonio area the 17th most expensive city in America to get married, with the average cost of a wedding (in 2011) weighing in at $27,735. That’s a hit for sure, but a far cry from Manhattan, where nuptials run an average of $65,824.
With wedding budgets on the rise for the first time since 2008, Austin may become even more popular in upcoming years, as couples become more willing to set their budgets higher.
Caroline Joy Casey, a popular wedding photographer based in Austin, has lived all over Texas but considers Austin the best city in the state for a wedding. “Austin’s wedding style is centered around two things: the natural beauty of the outdoors and the joy of good food around a shared table. The atmosphere of these weddings is more relaxed and informal with an emphasis on the people rather than the décor,” she says.“To me, that’s a signature mark of an Austin wedding.”
Austin has a huge variety of both indoor and outdoor venues, from cabins overlooking Lake Travis and the swanky Four Seasons Hotel, to restored mansions near downtown Austin, such as Mercury Hall. The hall is one of the most in-demand venues in Austin, thanks to their central location, flexibility with vendor choices and signature stained glass windows. “Brides get a hill country feel in the heart of South Austin. We’re proud of this city and we just have so much to offer the Austin bride,” says Courtney Landers, the events manager.
In addition to the variety of venue choices, Austin has plenty of tourist attractions for out-of-town guests to enjoy during a weekend wedding, such as Barton Springs Pool and the plethora of food trailers. Mariela Gonzalez, a bride-to-be who will walk down the aisle in July 2013, is from Houston and her fiancé is from San Antonio, but they chose Austin as their wedding location. “There is definitely more to do in Austin than in our hometowns, so we hope our out-of-town guests will have a lot more fun here.” Gonzalez says. “We also met in Austin at school, and we love the vibe of the city.”
What constitutes the signature “Austin vibe” is hard to describe, but Landers sums it up as “relaxed and fun, with a mix of vintage romance. Austin weddings push the boundary with creativity, decor and the vendors clients bring in.” Dickman agrees, and emphasizes a natural, organic feeling. “You can do things in Austin that people would think you were crazy if you did them anywhere else,” she says.
A few Austin wedding signatures, which are not seen often in other places around America, include food trailer catering, unique flowers like coxcomb and thistle, and using both a live band and a DJ during the reception for variety.
“Most couples I work with pour their energy into giving their friends and family an amazing experience with delicious food at the center of it all,” Casey says. With these priorities at heart, Austin is shining as a perfect example of how the millennial generation wants to celebrate their love.