From rustic luxury to lavish grandeur to enchanted European charm, these three magnificent Central Texas wedding venues will steal every bride’s heart.
By Shelley Seale
For many people, a wedding is one of the most important days of their lives. It is the entrance into a marriage and a celebration of love with family and friends. No wonder so many couples search painstakingly for the perfect venue to make the big day magical and beyond special. Fortunately, Central Texas isn’t lacking for spectacular and imaginative wedding locales. Here, we feature three area properties that are uniquely enchanting, from a Venetian palace to a European castle and even a modern rustic-chic country barn.
It’s difficult to imagine what a fire station, saddle-making shop, speakeasy and Venetianstyle grand palazzo might have in common. Yet these elements are all woven together in the history and reinvention of Palazzo Lavaca in downtown Austin, a truly magical, one-of-a-kind venue and event space.
The two-story building constructed of limestone brick dates back to 1890 and was originally one of Austin’s first firehouses. Throughout the Prohibition era and the Great Depression, rumors spread of a speakeasy and brothel run on the premises, adding to the mystery and charm of the site.
By 1940, the spot became home to Capitol Saddlery, a saddle foundry and boot-making shop owned by Rodeo Hall of Famer T.C. “Buck” Steiner, a legendary leatherworks artisan with a colorful, larger-than-life personality. Most of the saddles for Sears, Roebuck and Company were made here during this period, along with those for other clients, including ranchers, musicians, rodeo performers and politicians. Legendary bootmaker Charlie Dunn crafted his custom boots at Capitol Saddlery for 25 years, boots that donned the feet of illustrious customers such as Ernest Tubb, Gene Autry and Carole King.
“It seems everyone in Austin history has walked through those doors and has a story to tell about Buck,” says Giselle Koy, owner of Palazzo Lavaca. “Apparently, he was quite a character and not afraid to express his opinions to anyone, from the governor of Texas to an alleged boot client, Al Capone.”
After six decades, Capitol Saddlery moved locations, and the storied building stood empty until Koy purchased it in 2008. The acquisition was driven by her desire to save a piece of local history and with the idea of making her home there. The Austin native started from scratch in the space that had been left mostly untouched. In her forays, she made some fascinating discoveries, including stumbling upon a trap door that had been used to drop hay to the horses when the building housed a fire station, a 1905 Otis elevator and a 130-year-old painted frieze. Koy kept the original oak and longleaf pine floors, tin ceilings and the oversized boot sign that marked the spot as the home of Capitol Saddlery.
Around those unique, iconic elements, Koy began to build something so lavish and exquisite that it’s simply breathtaking. Koy had traveled extensively throughout Europe, particularly in Italy, where Venice had stolen her heart. Taking her inspiration from the grand drawing rooms and lavish palaces there, she painstakingly began to reimagine the landmark building in Austin. An incredible collection of chandeliers was brought in, including an 18th-century Venetian lantern and a massive midcentury antique from the Golden Nugget casino in Las Vegas.
This type of eclectic mishmash defines Palazzo Lavaca. Eighteenth-century antiques sit side by side with original boot lathe racks from the Capitol Saddlery days, phone numbers still etched on them. Yards upon yards of smoky amethyst velvet curtains drape rooms that hold pale-pink ceramic lights, Parisian marble bars, Fortuny wallpaper and old painted frescoes. The result is something that is distinctive yet eerily reminiscent of the strange beauty of Venice: Old World luxury and opulence partly in ruins alongside touches of modern glam.
“After the renovations were complete, I began to receive requests from visitors and friends for possible photo shoots; video shoots; portrait shoots; music videos; boudoir shoots; small, intimate weddings, etc.,” Koy says. “After so many requests, I began to rent the space, which turned into the creation of the wedding venue/corporate-event business.”
With a thoughtful approach, Koy transformed the old saddlery into five distinct spaces: the Grande Ballroom, the great room, the Violet Flame Bar, a kitchen and an open-air courtyard.
There are also two stunning parlor rooms that can be used as separate changing suites for the bride and groom.
Palazzo Lavaca hosts some 30 to 40 events annually, including weddings, corporate gatherings and private parties, for as many as 165 guests. Koy says one of the things that makes the space so special to guests is its wondrous ability to remind them of a different era, one of glamour and refinement.
“We receive gushing, elaborate reviews about the experience of the bridal party,” she says. “Our venue manager, Oliver Belche, receives fan mail for the beauty, charm, elegance, Texas history and extraordinary experience of those who marry at Palazzo Lavaca.”
Palazzo Lavaca, 1614 Lavaca St., 512.593.2413, palazzolavaca.com
When you fall in love with a place so much as a guest that you end up buying it, chances are it’s pretty special. That’s exactly what happened to Kate and Matt McCabe after they visited Villa Antonia. The couple first set foot on the estate when they attended a wedding there at the end of 2011 and were instantly smitten by the romantic Italian-style villa in the middle of the Texas Hill Country. A couple years later, when they saw the property was up for sale, the McCabes didn’t hesitate to buy it.
This spectacular mansion has the look and feel of Old World Europe, like a castle straight from a fairy tale, featuring 360-degree views of the Hill Country. This gem of an estate was built in 1999 as a labor of love by Antonia “Toni” Sharp, who originally created it as her personal residence. She had searched for years for the perfect piece of land, even analyzing the patterns of the breezes that meandered up from the canyons before she painstakingly designed her dream home. The place was so magnificent that soon, people were stopping by for a closer look, and couples began asking if they could hold weddings at this picturesque villa.
Spurred by so many requests, Sharp began to transform the property into an event venue, adding a quaint white chapel and romantic rose garden, as well as magnificent stone terraces to amplify its European charm. Stone walls and archways were sourced from a canyon on the property, adding plenty of Texas Hill Country flair as well. Sharp’s daughter and mother meticulously placed every tree and plant, further contributing to the family’s labor of love.
“The villa isn’t master planned as an event venue, which is part of the charm,” says Elizabeth Vaughn, marketing and sales director for Villa Antonia. “Couples are attracted to the villa because of its Old World charm. [There are] narrow pathways to rose gardens, waterfalls pop up in unexpected places, stone gargoyles [are]hidden in the garden, balconies, towers and terraces—all to explore. It reminds a lot of guests of being at an Old World villa or estate where every generation would add on to the home and grounds using local materials.”
Weddings are hosted in the 5,000 square feet of indoor space, which features a fabulous foyer with a grand staircase, grotto, dining room, chapel and dance hall, or in the exquisitely landscaped gardens and outdoor terraces. Villa Antonia hosts between 110 and 120 weddings each year, with many of those clients cherishing memories of their first time experiencing the villa and falling in love with it. One bride attended her high-school prom at Villa Antonia and dreamed about getting married there for the following 12 years. She just booked her wedding for this year.
“We love weddings and we love happy couples and families,” Vaughn says, “which is why we include a venue-coordinating team with every booking. Most couples are planning the biggest event that they will ever plan, their wedding day. We have an amazing coordinating team that executes the plans that the couples make so they can enjoy their day, knowing that someone else is sweating the details.”
19039 Adrian Way, Jonestown, Texas, 512.267.3509, villaantonia.com
THE ADDISON GROVE
Rustic weddings in country settings have long been popular, but the game is elevated to a whole new level at The Addison Grove, home to a stunning and stylish 6,000-square-foot barn. Far from a typical Texas barn, this gorgeous space is a welcome juxtaposition of pastoral and modern. Glittering chandeliers hang from the soaring rafters, while oversized windows and sliding glass doors fill the room with natural light and bring the outdoors in.
“The barn is the perfect complement to the property’s natural character and crisp neutral canvas,” says Alisha Randig, director of events at The Addison Grove. “It is a perfect combination of rustic elegance surrounded by the beauty of the Texas Hill Country. The property has several beautiful, large oak trees whose branches provide much-needed shade for ceremonies during the summer. Our lawn’s lush green grass, as well as a spring-fed pond, complete the picturesque backdrop for any event. Guests are also often drawn to the fire pit located under a canopy of large oaks that overlook the pasture, home to our six longhorns.”
Randig says while guests might find it surprising longhorn steer call The Addison Grove home, she notes the animals are really big cuddle bugs.
“They love to gather for treats or a selfie or two with our couples and their guests,” she divulges.
The sprawling, picturesque property, located about 15 minutes southwest of downtown Austin, is a property of Heyens Holdings, owned by brother-and-sister team Matt Heyens and Jodi Strenkowski. The siblings opened their first venue in Raleigh, N.C., but when they looked to expand, they were very intentional about their choice of Austin.
“Heyens Holdings selected Austin for its second location because of the city’s thriving entrepreneurial culture, combined with its vibrant hospitality community,” Randig says.
The venue opened in September 2016 and hosted more than 90 events in 2018. In addition to the capacious barn and its attached 1,800-square-foot covered patio, where guests gather for cocktails and lawn games, the property also offers an 1,800-square-foot bridal house. This elegant retreat features a mesmerizing manicured garden with a pond situated perfectly under towering oak trees, creating a tranquil setting that’s the perfect locale for mentally preparing for the big day. A separate groom’s suite is located at the other end of the property and includes an
outdoor patio, games table and fully stocked refrigerator.
While it offers a bucolic country setting that feels much farther away from the big city than it actually is, The Addison Grove boasts all the high-tech modern conveniences any bride could hope for. The barn features a green room with a TV and Wi-Fi, comfy couches and a private restroom, while the fully equipped prep kitchen meets the needs of any caterer. The entire property features uplighting and downlighting throughout, creating a magical Hill Country setting both during the day and into the evening.
Many couples choose an outdoor ceremony in the grove, a natural yet groomed spot under the live-oak canopy, or at the pond for a tranquil backdrop.
“While our main focus will always be weddings and special events, we are very excited to be in the early stages of planning a few events…that will be open to the community to come enjoy a piece of our paradise,” Randig says. “A few we’re particularly excited about [are]an annual bridal showcase featuring some of Austin’s best wedding vendors, the Texas Crawfish Palooza and Briskets, Brews and Blues.”
Never overlooking any detail, the folks behind Heyens Holdings opened the company’s third venture, Native Bloom, a full-service floral studio, to offer gorgeous floral designs to clients as well, with a studio located onsite at The Addison Grove. And Heyens and Strenkowski recently opened another wedding venue, The Ivory Oak, in Wimberley, Texas, proving that when it comes to wedding venues, there’s never too much of a good thing.
“We are so fortunate,” Randig says, “to be surrounded by some of Austin’s best to bring fun events full of great music, food and drinks.”
11903 Fitzhugh Road, 512.904.9656, theaddisongrove.com