My story for the March 2014 issue of McKinney Magazine, published by the McKinney Chamber of Commerce. I always love doing these types of stories because the interviewees are enthusiastic about being included, and I get the bonus of visiting lots of wonderful places in the community! So fun!!
When you imagine your dream wedding, what do you see? A sophisticated ballroom with luxe furnishings and crystal chandeliers? A chapel with stained glass windows? Contemporary décor juxtaposed with historic brick walls? Shabby chic elegance with flowing linens and simple flowers? Or perhaps a gazebo set amid manicured lawns and towering trees?
No matter your vision, the tried-and-true wedding and reception venues in McKinney can make any couple’s nuptial dreams come true, says Vanesa Baggett, tourism services representative for the McKinney Convention and Visitors Bureau. And she should know. Part of her job involves offering free concierge services to connect couples with McKinney wedding/reception venues and hotels. Each month, she helps at least a half-dozen couples start the process of booking their wedding, reception and guest accommodations in McKinney.
“McKinney is a destination for weddings,” Baggett says. “I personally think it’s the quaintness of the town in general – our downtown is such a big seller. We have a lot of quality venues and hotels, and people love to bring their out-of-town guests downtown to shop and dine. Our population is about 150,000 but we don’t feel like a big town. We still have a warm, quaint hometown feel.”
The McKinney CVB offers a list of tried-and-true wedding and reception venues on its website, visitmckinney.com. When couples meet with Baggett, she first assesses their vision and guest needs before taking them on site visits to introduce them to events venue and hotel contacts.
“The most popular venues we seem to see are the Grand Hotel, Cotton Mill and Flour Mill [in historic downtown McKinney], Myers Park, Storybook Ranch, Chestnut Square, and the Bella Donna Chapel in Adriatica – it all depends on the bride’s vision,” Baggett says.
Myers Park and Event Center: Nature’s Beauty
If couples favor a natural setting and an outdoor wedding, they’ll want to visit Myers Park and Event Center, a public facility in north McKinney operated by Collin County that features 158 rolling acres and multiple venues. Myers Park is so popular for weddings, in fact, that only six open Saturday evenings remained available in 2014 as of mid-January. It’s no wonder that Star Community Newspaper readers voted it the best McKinney wedding venue in 2011 and 2012.
Judy Florence, Myers Park manager, encourages couples to contact her and her staff because they can still accommodate 2014 wedding parties on Fridays, Sundays and even Saturday mornings. Couples love getting married in the beautiful gazebo at Myers Park and then having their reception in the Landing, a large hall. Other popular wedding sites at Myers Park include in the perennial garden, on a small bridge surrounded by woods and in the big pole barn. A new venue, called the Amphitheatre, will be available soon, likely in May. It features Austin stone columns with a small roof and an open back that looks out into a stunning wooded area.
Florence says couples love Myers Park’s natural beauty; the highly competitive, affordable prices with few added fees; the fact that they can choose their own caterers and vendors – or have family members provide refreshments; and the fact that those who book the gazebo and the Landing package automatically have a backup plan in the event of bad weather on their wedding day. Couples can simply get married indoors at their reception hall.
“We get a lot of rustic and natural weddings,” she says. “We have a beautiful grassy area with trees as the background, and the brides show a lot of creativity. Some of the brides have come in by horse and carriage, in a Rolls Royce, or drive in on a four-wheeler.”
For information: Go online to myersinfo.com or the Myers Park and Event Center Facebook page or call 972-548-4792.
Grand Hotel: Refined Elegance
The Grand Hotel on the downtown McKinney square is synonymous with world-class luxury and sophistication. The beautifully restored building formerly served as McKinney’s opera house, and it’s now the definitive locale for couples dreaming of an elegant wedding and reception.
Sales Manager Melanie Kosarek says while the Grand Hotel is known for its refined splendor, couples don’t realize how reasonable its prices are. “I consider us, for the quality, service and amount of space, to be very affordable,” she says. “Everybody has a budget – we’re very conscious of that.”
Guests rave that “we make it really easy for them,” Kosarek says. “We’re a one-stop shop with a lot of amenities to offer. We offer all-inclusive fabulous service throughout your event – we take care of everything. I think our service really stands out.”
The most popular wedding and reception venue at the Grand Hotel is the 2,500-square-foot Grand Ballroom, which held 61 of the 78 weddings at the hotel in 2013 as well as numerous other events.
“The décor is elegant and timeless, so it goes with every bride’s style and is fully adjustable. It’s a very flexible space,” Kosarek says. There are still some 2014 dates available, she says.
One of the fun trends that the Grand Hotel has enjoyed assisting couples with is creating a signature wedding cocktail for them. Many couples are also foodies who relish having a say in their dinner presentation. Kosarek is also seeing trends with desserts in which couples choose cupcakes, pies or other non-traditional wedding cakes.
Smaller wedding parties are easily accommodated at the Grand Hotel as well. Rick’s 110 is a private dining room with its own street entrance. The inviting Wine Room features floor-to-ceiling oak wine racks, and the intimate Library seats 28 guests who dine amid recipe books from around the world.
“When you’re getting married, you want to be treated well, like you’re the only person who matters on that day – and you are,” Kosarek says. “That’s what we strive to do well.”
For information: Go online to grandhotelmckinney.com or call 214-726-9250.
The Pantry: Historic Charm
Built in 1898 and originally a hardware store, The Pantry in downtown McKinney features historic charm, original wood floors (complete with inset numbers for measuring various goods), brick walls, and exceptional pies. The Pantry is home to numerous wedding receptions, rehearsal dinners, and special events each year. There are still available 2014 dates.
Among its selling points for couples: Wedding parties get the entire building when they rent the venue; the space is fully customizable and can be transformed to feature any look; and The Pantry’s events coordinator provides wedding planning services.
“We do everything; we take care of our guests from beginning to end, and I help you coordinate everything as well,” says Kim Shumway, events coordinator at The Pantry. “I help them choose a menu that’s appropriate for their budget. I also make suggestions for everything from decor to how many guests to invite. We want the bride and groom to have a fun, stress-free experience planning their wedding. From the moment we greet them and their guests as they arrive, we want them to enjoy the party while we take care of all the details.”
Shumway says The Pantry attracts many brides who favor weddings with rustic elegance. However, it’s incredible how the vintage building can be tailored to meet any bride’s vision, she says.
“We had one bride who tented the second floor so the first floor was draped in material; we’ve had dance floors down the center aisle; we’ve had people giving toasts from up on the second floor and brides throwing their bouquets from the loft,” she says. “It’s very versatile.”
A highly popular offering at The Pantry are the homemade pies, which couples often serve in lieu of a groom’s cake. Plus, Shumway says, “any of the pies can be made into three-inch mini tarts, and they’re adorable. We’ve had brides use them as favors. We put them in cute cello bags and each guest walks away with a bit of The Pantry.”
For information: Go online to thepantryrestaurant.net or call 972-542-2411.
Gather: Industrial-Contemporary Luxury
This beautiful restaurant and events venue celebrated its two-year anniversary in November 2013 after quickly becoming one of the hottest spots for a get-together. Gather, located in downtown McKinney, also recently earned accolades from McKinney Magazine readers as the best wedding venue in 2013.
Owner Crystal Bryant says Gather is perfect for smaller weddings, since it holds as many as 100 people. Couples who book their wedding and receptions at Gather tend to favor simple, natural elegance, she says. There are still available 2014 dates in the fall and winter.
Gather features exposed historic brick walls, hardwood floors and luxe, contemporary furnishings with crystal chandeliers, beautiful place settings and elegant linens. Couples are welcome to provide their own table-top décor or just the decorations for a sign-in table.
“Because of everything we offer, people like that they have to do minimal decorating,” Bryant says. “It’s not an empty ballroom – we have created a beautiful space. We saw a lot of people using succulents, a lot of moss, and a lot of greenery last fall. Very elegant, simple and classic. We get a lot of candles in our venue. Some venues don’t allow real flames, but we do.”
The wedding parties at Gather feature sit-down dinners, and the on-site chef offers a delectable menu that’s 11 pages long. “We can customize it any way you’d like – you can pick as much or as little food as you’d like, and with our pricing, you can build a full menu within our minimums,” Bryant says.
Bryant says she’s honored that couples have been raving about how easy it was to have their event at Gather, the excellent food, and the efficient, customer-oriented staff.
“If your wedding is stressing you out, you’re doing too much,” she says. “Let me take that on for you – and it’ll be done. If you want easy, we’ll do that for you. We do only one wedding per day so that there is no rush on either end. It really will be as easy for you as I say it is.”
For information: Go online to gathermckinney.com or call 972-548-8882.
Heard-Craig Center: History & Hospitality
If couples wish to celebrate their big day in a beautiful historical site, they should consider booking their wedding and reception at one of the venues at the Heard-Craig Center for the Arts in downtown McKinney.
The Heard-Craig House is a museum listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark. While it’s not available to lease, couples can rent the elegant Heard-Craig Hall, get married outdoors in picturesque Katie’s Garden, or enjoy a celebration with a small group of family and friends in the Carriage House. There are still available 2014 dates.
Executive Director Barbara Johnson and her staff love being part of a couple’s historic day. They take joy in discussing brides’ ideas — often assembled from Pinterest.com — and then showing them a photo album illustrating the ways the Heard-Craig venues can be transformed to fit a bride’s theme.
“We take a lot of photos so that other brides can get ideas for their wedding,” Johnson says. “When you walk into a room and it’s not decorated for a wedding, sometimes it’s hard to imagine what it would look like. If you look at photos of ideas, it helps a lot.
“We always try to give superior customer service and let them know that we’re with them the whole way,” Johnson continues. “We want to make their event an easy, great event for them so we are happy to work for them as much as they need or want us to.”
Entire wedding parties and the bride and groom’s relatives often tour the Heard-Craig house museum before the wedding so that they learn about the venue’s rich past.
“We love that they do this because when they have their wedding, they have a real sense of our history and McKinney’s history,” Johnson says. “There are so many people who love getting married in the historic district because there’s so much to do on the square. When they have people visiting from out of town, they can show friends and family something that’s really exceptional when they go to downtown McKinney.”
For information: Go online to heardcraig.org or call 972-569-6909.