By Shelbi LeMeilleur
Driving down Texas State Highway 237, otherwise known as the Texas Independence Trail, there is a turnoff in Round Top leading into the woods. If you aren’t paying attention, it could easily be missed without the road signs urging you to turn into the Round Top Festival Institute.
Festival Hill is a dream of musician James Dick brought to life. He had travelled all around the world playing music and wanted a place to do so in Texas. The property also became a place to train young, talented musicians through a vigorous summer program. While Festival Hill has become known as a prestigious music institute since its inception, Contracted Events Coordinator Kathy Valtasaros has helped make it a popular destination for weddings in Texas, as well.
Weddings are primarily held in the Edythe Bates Chapel. According to Valtasaros, the chapel seats 160 people. However, the institute recently started renting out the concert hall for larger weddings, accommodating 400 or more guests.
The chapel was moved from La Grange to Festival Hill in 1883. However, it was only a shell. “Everything [in the chapel] is custom designed,” explains Valtasaros. The prize of the chapel, a Henry Erben Pipe Organ, one of only three in use today, is the centerpiece of the chapel’s renovation. “They built around the organ,” says Valtasaros. Many brides choose to incorporate the organ in their weddings. Other custom designs and original pieces make the chapel a breathtaking setting for a wedding. “We time the weddings to happen at sunset,” Valtasaros says. The timing allows the sunlight to hit the altar just right through the stained glass windows. “It’s absolutely beautiful.”
Festival Hill also has an open campus, and, according to Valtasaros, is the only facility in the area that can accommodate more than 100 people. Usually, the wedding party chooses to stay on campus, hold a rehearsal dinner on property, and even throw a small party before the wedding in the intimate lower chapel.
“We book a full year out,” Valtasaros says. “If the chapel is not being used on a weekend [by the institute], there is a wedding.”