I have been managing projects for the majority of my professional career, but nothing could prepare me for the work that planning a wedding would entail for both my bride-to-be and me. I couldn’t dream of how difficult and time consuming (one of the reason why the blog wasn’t updated at the beginning of the year) it would be to find the venue, catering, cake and photographer.
Fortunately we had great advice from friends, along with a good bit of luck, which resulted in the perfect San Antonio style wedding. If you’re looking to plan a wedding here in the Alamo City, or you’re smack in the middle of planning and are frustrated as all get out, I hope that this post can give you a little relief and help you tie up some of the loose ends.
We attend Travis Park United Methodist Church, which is the church immediately adjacent to the Saint Anthony Hotel, so it was pretty easy for us to choose this venue. The sanctuary is quite beautiful and has one of those huge pipe organs that can shake the rafters. The organist is amazing and will meet you well before your wedding day to help you choose the music for your ceremony. The church has a deep history in San Antonio along with a commitment to help the people in the heart of the city.
While we could have had a reception at the church, we were looking to have a pretty big party, filled with tons of dancing, food and margaritas (more on this later). Because the ceremony was held downtown, we wanted to make sure that the reception was nearby. But even more than that is the fact that we really wanted to show off San Antonio to our visitors. The Bushnell proved to be the perfect spot.
Situated on Bushnell Ave and Shook Ave, right across the street from the Landa Library, is The Bushnell, a luxury apartment built in the 1920s. On top of the apartment is a 5000 square foot rooftop terrace that is made up of flowers, stone arches, and thousands of sparkling lights. It is located in Monte Vista, a part of the city just north of downtown that has a very high elevation. Combine that with being on a rooftop of an eight story building, and you end up 250 feet above downtown. That equals amazing views of San Antonio in any direction you look, especially towards downtown at night.
The terrace has wrought iron tables and chairs for the visitors to sit and mingle and a covered dance floor in the middle. Below is a 2,000 square foot ballroom with hardwood floors and balconies. We used this area for the caterer to set up the food along with tables and chairs, and saved the rooftop for the dancing. Visitors and locals alike were so impressed with the venue and lots of people were taking pictures with downtown San Antonio in the backdrop.
The Bushnell offers a weekly tour to see the facility in an “open house” format, and Richard, the owner, will be there to answer any of your questions. We had a great experience working with him and he was incredibly accommodating throughout the entire process. Many people have both their wedding ceremony and reception at The Bushnell.
Being a food blogger carries with it a little bit of pressure when putting together a menu for the reception – both of us wanted to make sure that we didn’t serve “wedding chicken.” You know that chicken that is dry and served with sides that don’t pack too much flavor. We wanted more than good food, we wanted amazing food. Let me assure you, this is difficult to do because (1) it is hard to find solid tasting catering food and (2) even harder to find something within a realistic budget.
One of the first things we had to determine was the vibe we wanted at our wedding. Should it be a formal sit down meal, or something that gets people mixing and mingling with each other? Since we envisioned a fun a social dinner, we wanted to give our guests the freedom to roam around and visit during the course of the meal. This led us to the option of serving heavy hors d’oeuvres instead of a plated meal.
After several tastings we hadn’t found what we were looking for. We had high hopes for True Flavors, the catering company of Johnny Hernandez (the chef of La Gloria), and they delivered. They put together a menu that including the following:
- Crab Fondue – This was by far my most favorite item. A delicious mixture of crab meat and melted cheese served with a bread crostini.
- Shrimp Tequila Shooters – A tall shot glass filled with a spicy gazpacho, tequila cocktail sauce-esque mixture that was topped with a jumbo gulf shrimp. The guests could eat the shrimp and then shoot the sauce.
- Stuffed Avocado – Imagine crescent moon slices of avocado with a corn/black bean mixture. Simple and delicious.
- Chicken Diablos – Little bites of spicy chicken wrapped in a small strip of bacon, served with a chimichurri sauce.
- Empanadas – Stuffed with spicy shredded chicken and cheese (honestly, I don’t remember these much because our guests loved them and there were none left when we arrived after taking our pictures).
True Flavors provided a bartender and let us bring all the alcohol to serve. We had cases of Shiner, Dos Equis and Bud Light along with plenty of red and white wine. But what would a San Antonio wedding be without margaritas? We didn’t want the line getting backed up with people waiting for their drink to be mixed, so we streamlined the process.
I tend to favor more “fresh” tasting margaritas than those that come straight from a mix. To get this flavor, my friends worked on a recipe that amounted to one part tequila, one part lime juice and one half part light agave syrup – I have termed it the “519 Margarita” in honor of our wedding day. Tres Caballeros is an economic tequila that I enjoy – it doesn’t have the harshness of a Camarena or Espolón – plus it comes in 1L bottles instead of the 750mL. We had containers with the mixture already in it and the bartenders only had to do was pour the tequila in and shake it like they meant it.
(Pro Tip: you don’t have to have a Costco card to go to the attached liquor store. Save the receipt and return any unopened alcohol after your wedding)
I should begin by saying that I don’t really care for vanilla cake at all. But Sandy Leyva of Elms Bake Shop makes a vanilla cake from scratch that I would trade most chocolate cakes for. Many of the other wedding cakes we tried had the same texture/weight of a birthday cake that you might buy at a grocery store – they just didn’t fit what we were looking for.
Sandy’s cake, however, was really dense and incredibly rich. The icing was sweet without being over powering and the cake itself was very moist. To top it off, she is incredibly talented at decorating your cake in any style you may want – I was ecstatic with the effort that Sandy put into our cake.
Phone Number: 210-479-0700
My wife and I selected Tyler Schmitt of The Mill Photography Studio based on a referral from friends who used him for their engagement pictures and wedding. I was incredibly impressed with Tyler, and many people have remarked at how well his pictures turned out.
We selected the Hays Street Bridge and the Pearl Brewery for our engagement photos. He was extremely friendly and put us at ease – I didn’t feel like I was in one of those awkward school picture sessions at all. He was able to have a really quick turn time on our engagement photos so that we could use on our website and different things for the wedding.
For the big day, it was incredible how many amazing shots he got, not only of the ceremony but also at the big party. He somehow was able to capture all the fun and the true essence of the party. Photo after photo looked spectacular and he gave us the licenses to print and use the pictures as we pleased. In fact, all the pictures that you are seeing on this post were taken by Tyler.
Best of luck if you are in the process of planning a wedding, and hopefully this post can be a little help if you haven’t quite finalized all the details. Even though it was a lot of work, it was worth it in the end. Our guests had a lot of fun and were able to see some of the highlights of San Antonio, and most importantly it was a day that was special for the both of us.
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