It was through a sea of Dairy Queens and a thousand Native American turquoise jewelry stands that we made our way to our eventual destination, the Hill Country outside Austin. I packed my two sons, an overly excited Maltipoo and enough supplies into my hybrid sedan to make the three day trek across an endless desert that, at the last moment, miraculously gave way to green rolling hills and charming split-rail fences. The starting point of this epic drive was Beverly Hills, CA, and upon rolling into our new Texas home on New Year’s Eve 2014, we proceeded to dig ourselves into a new life, often comically, to build a wedding venue (clap now) deep in the heart of Texas. Since we began construction and renovation of the property in January 2015, I am asked on a very regular basis what would possess me to make such a move. The most concise explanation I could give is…more. Our life back in California was actually very happy and full of loved ones. But in the end, there was little more L.A., after a lifetime in this city, could surprise me with. I simply wanted not a better view, but a different one. And when I said ‘more’ to Life, Life said ‘here ya go, and you are not gonna believe this’ right back. It has been much more than I could have envisioned back in California; more experiences, more surprises, more victories, and most importantly, more friends.
Naturally, I could never have foreseen the bizarrely wonderful path that led us to the Texas Hill Country nor describe it with any brevity. But when the ranch venue started to take shape, and this crazy dream came to amazing life, every step we took from Rodeo Drive to Friday Night Rodeos, in retrospect, now makes perfect sense. And in the end, the only thing I did was follow my heart. K.R.R. is simply a magical place, and I am so grateful for the journey here on behalf of me and my family.
EVENT DESIGN, WILLEM-AIDAN & KING RIVER RANCH:
Good event design should make an initial impact at first sight and be seamless throughout the space, especially when mixing modern and more traditional, antique or rustic elements. It can be trickier than it seems. I have been designing events since 2003 and am so grateful to have had the opportunity to travel the world creating event spaces for some of the most visionary clients in the most jaw-dropping venues on the planet today with my event design company, Willem-Aidan. In my experience, the first consideration is always the space. This is the variable you cannot change, so look at how flexible the space is in style and built-in architectural elements. Your vision, in fact, most likely will change over the months before the event, and it is helpful to have the space’s immutable elements be able to integrate themselves into the final design. In other words, there is only so much that you can hide. Next comes the idea behind the design. I usually name mine, such as ‘Versace marries the Godfather in a vineyard’ at the Carmel Valley Ranch party for Cadillac in 2015, or ‘Austin Powers and the Sean Connery-James Bond have people over for martinis and mojo’ at our rooftop party at the London Hotel in West Hollywood, CA for Audi in 2014. The design conforms to the space because it is a flexible component and should follow and adapt to the space, and not the other way around, or you and your designer could be wasting precious time and money. But the idea behind the design should be consistent from beginning to end. Then, the logistics and production schedule follow. When choosing your décor, go big to small pieces. Start with furniture, then containers, then votives, then finally filling in with florals and lighting.
As an event designer for twelve years now, it was incredibly exciting for me to design my own venue. For over a year, flying back and forth from L.A., I saw nearly 150 ranch properties before I was driven onto King River Ranch’s riverside driveway. It was perfect in every way. I had envisioned a venue that would reflect the state of Texas and its rugged spirit in the most elegant way possible. I often describe K.R.R. as the Texas that the rest of the world dreams about, like that woman who needs no make-up, or that man an expensive car, to turn a stranger’s head. The idea behind the design of the ranch is obviously based in Country/Western culture. This is Texas, after all. But it would look exquisite with modern décor as well. I kept the reception and ceremony areas as stylistically flexible as possible, while still looking fabulous with minimal décor. Logistically, the layout is ideal for guests and vendors. Built with the intentional purpose of hosting weddings at K.R.R., parking, ceremony and reception areas are all easily accessible to each other on foot, by golf cart or much larger vehicle. Every area of the ranch can be reached by large truck if necessary. And yet, all 25 acres are optimally utilized to provide majestic backdrops in every direction. It is a photographer’s El Dorado with so much diversity of scenery and design. Having worked in so many top-tier venues in my career, I believe King River Ranch is as flawless as a rural venue can be.