Warm Receptions

Arizona’s newest reception halls lay the foundation for one-of-a-kind weddings

published in Arizona Bride

In recent years, Arizona brides have returned to an erstwhile style of reception venues in the valley – the exclusive reception hall. From VIP treatment to private usage to customized details and elite amenities, it’s no wonder Arizona brides are flocking to these luxe halls for their wedding celebrations. “A lot of couples are looking for a different element,” says Cicely Rocha-Miller, owner and Senior Consultant of Life Design Event Planning. “They want a wedding with their unique flavor.”

Fortunately, reception halls fill that need. Arizona’s best offer intricately planned environments with one-of-a-kind events in mind. “The really cool thing about reception halls is they’re open for you to do a lot with decor,” Rocha-Miller says. They work especially well when used as a foundation to build on. Gilbert’s Villa Siena, for example, completely transcended its original Tuscan decor in December 2006 when Seema and Rahul Kode celebrated with a grand, traditional Hindu ceremony and reception complete with elephant sculptures, wafting incense and textiles from India.

Reception Halls also routinely offer other benefits, such as freedom to select vendors, a large variety of available days and times and the ability to accommodate hundreds of guests. More often than not, halls come equipped with all the tables, chairs and linens needed, which allows couples to put more of their budgets towards creativity, notes Rocha-Miller. Many halls also offer exclusive use of their entire facility, which allows guests to migrate to different locations for ceremony, cocktails, reception and after-party and creates an event as many-tiered as the tallest wedding cake.

Urban Chic

Inspirador is a multifaceted jewel of a venue created by owner and developer Dilia Wood. “The story of Inspirador is about adding meaning to weddings,” she says. Located in historic downtown Chandler, it offers several environments that are each a delight to the senses.

Inspirador features four distinctly different main event sites. The Tryst art gallery, dubbed “Manhattan in the desert,” displays a changing collection of contemporary works, while the Poet’s Lounge is a sublime ceremony setting characterized by an aisle of poetry. “The aisle isn’t traditional,” says Wood, “but the poems are. One is a beautiful Russian proverb, ‘Love is a ring and a ring has no end.’” Symphony Hall is a lofty indoor tabula rasa ready to be decorated and themed precisely to each couple’s desire and the courtyard offers guests a crackling fire while they revel under the gorgeous desert skyscape.

Brides will appreciate the many additional services Inspirador offers, including Chocolate Amnesia, a wine and chocolate tasting treat, available for the reception. The Giving Society is a service that allows brides to do good as they celebrate by ensuring all wedding leftovers are donated to appropriate charities. At the Inspiration Lounge, brides (regardless of their wedding venue) can formulate ideas for their weddings and future lives by perusing the library and collection of unparalleled products from around the world. “The lounge looks like a jewel box from the street,” says Wood, “lit with aquamarine, aubergine, citron and other diamond colors.” It’s an ideally whimsical environment for a bride to plan a day out of her dreams.

Fairytale Sophisticate

The Castle at Ashley Manor is the quintessential venue for any bride who wanted to be a princess when she grew up. Located in southern Chandler, the Castle was inspired by lavish European estates, from the Amalfi Coast to the British countryside. The culmination of that inspiration, conceived by owners George and Laura Duerr, is an elegant palace interior with an English castle façade encircled by Mediterranean gardens.

The Castle offers three picturesque sites. For outdoor ceremonies, couples may choose from the glass-domed gazebo with nearby fountain, Grecian-style statues and cypress trees, or an open stone plateau embellished with urns. For receptions and indoor ceremonies, the Castle’s ballroom features marble floors, crystal chandeliers hanging from 30-foot ceilings and fire sconces. The Ballroom’s newest feature is a sleek grand piano, recommended for entertaining guests during the cocktail hour.

“When I booked my wedding for 2007,” says Jessica Barry, now event director at the Castle, “construction wasn’t complete. But I saw a painting of what it would look like and was in love with it from that point on. I immediately knew this was the place I wanted to get married. When my husband Sean and I did finally see it completed, we thought it was breathtaking.

“In addition to the Castle’s beauty,” Barry says, “what makes weddings special here is the event coordination. We arrange all the details, including complimentary centerpieces of customized flowers and candelabras.” Couples will also appreciate Wednesday Wedding Workshops, at which they can meet vendors, taste samples and shop for wedding accessories.

Rustic Romance

Once inside the stone walls of Villa Siena, guests may find it hard to remember that they’re in Gilbert. Inspired by the architecture of Tuscany, wife-and-husband team Sabrina and Reed Porter meticulously researched, designed, commissioned or hand-selected each of the authentic details within.

“We put a lot of energy into creating Villa Siena,” says Sabrina Porter. “It was so much fun traveling through Europe to photograph and collect antiques.” One of Porter’s favorites features the patio floor detail in La Piazza Toscana. “Our brick pattern was inspired by the city of Siena, Italy. Each brick is set in a herringbone pattern resulting in a stunning starburst from the central courtyard fountain. The piazza covers 10,000 square feet and is able to host large outdoor events up to 350 people. We had all 40,000 bricks cut to be the exact size and shape as those in Siena.”

Surrounding the piazza are hand-carved cantera columns embellished with rings of quatrefoils. “It’s a symbol of joy and hope that you often see in and around Florence,” Porter explains. Each of Villa Siena’s four main indoor rooms also boast authentic styling, including a custom mahogany floor that was hand-scraped and -stained, oversized cantera fireplaces, cherry paneling built around nine pilasters salvaged from The Morgan Library & Museum in New York City and historic wrought iron lighting.

“Most couples like to take a piece of the Villa home with them, too,” says Porter. “We offer them large canvases featuring artistically enhanced photographs from our inspirational European tour.”

Lakeside Luxury

Anchored in The Lakes, a private community in Tempe, the Waterfront offers several choice ingredients for romance: kaleidoscopic sunsets, enchanting boat rides and two idyllic sites from which to admire the views.

“For weeks after our wedding we heard from both Joe’s and my family about how beautiful the Waterfront was,” says Shasta Broyles, who married in 2006. “We couldn’t have imagined our wedding anywhere else.”

Perhaps the most outstanding feature is the private boat landing, at which couples often make a grand entrance. “On our boat ride over we sipped champagne and waved to our guests,” Broyles says. “Everything looked exquisite as we approached, the whole place was lit beautifully.”

Adjacent to the landing is the patio, a multi-purpose area often used for both ceremonies and cocktail hours. “We put a bar on one side of the patio and a cigar roller on the other,” says Broyles. The cigar vendor placed a rug out on the deck with a few tables filled with cigars and cigar boxes set underneath a framed party tent. Like the patio, the Waterfront’s Grand Ballroom provides stunning lake views courtesy of floor-to-ceiling picture windows and an abundance of mirrors reflecting the play of light across the water.

For Broyles, the Ballroom’s ornate chandeliers dangling from high, vaulted ceilings was key. “Our photographer showed us images he had taken in beautiful, low lighting,” she says, “and we really wanted our pictures to have the same effect. We couldn’t be happier with the results we got at the Waterfront.”


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