Moment of Discovery
When Shaun Gray first met with clients last fall about planning their January 2023 wedding, they were quick to let him know they had already chosen and booked the venue.
“One of the grooms had attended a social event at the Houston Botanic Garden and fell in love with the vibe, so they knew that they wanted to have their wedding there,” he recalled.
Admittedly, it was not Gray’s preferred approach. And he wasn’t even clear on the exact location that had sparked such an interest from his clients.
“As a planner, I’ll be honest, I like getting booked first, just because I know all of the spaces in Houston and what works for different themes and budgets,” said Gray. “Also, when they said they planned to have it at the Houston Botanic Garden, my mind immediately went to another greenspace in Houston. Then, when he gave me the address, and I looked it up, I was like, ‘where is that?'”
Unfamiliar with the 132-acre oasis in Southeast Houston, he welcomed the chance to meet with the Garden’s director of private events, Jessica Cohen. Immediately, Gray was impressed with Cohen’s eagerness to provide an early tour of the entire space, educate him on the history of the grounds, and explain all of the different options available for events. However, the potential of what he saw that day was even more notable.
“There were tons of possibilities. You can be on one side of the Garden, and you’re in the tropics, and then a couple of feet away, you’re immersed in this amazing, fresh Culinary Garden that smells great and looks phenomenal,” said Gray. “Immediately, the inspiration started firing in my mind as to the opportunities of suggesting the venue to future clients.”
His excitement grew when Cohen provided Gray with the Garden’s vendor list.
“From my decade of experience in Houston and working with many vendors in the past, I knew right from the jump that they cared deeply about quality. These vendors were all good, reputable service professionals in the city. I knew just from that first tour with Jessica and then reviewing the vendor list that my couple would be in great hands.”
Gray’s optimism proved justified as the wedding date neared. Cohen continued to be generous with her time when late vendor additions required multiple walkthroughs in the weeks leading up to the big day. In addition, after freezing temperatures hit Houston hard at the end of the year, she reached out to Gray and the couple to let them know how the Garden had been affected and minimize any impacts to the wedding plans.
“Luckily, the Woodland Glade and the lawn around the tent were not damaged much by the freeze, but Jessica felt it was important enough to let everybody know. And she again extended an opportunity for us to come so we could assess the areas for ourselves and kind of map out where to take photos, and she ensured we were all moving forward with the same information at all times,” said Gray.
Going the Extra Mile
Gray also noted that the attention to detail and commitment to making the couple’s wedding a success exceeded what many other locations offer. Not only did Jessica’s team go the extra mile by proactively lighting the Alcoves to match the event’s color scheme, they were accessible and helpful throughout the event.
“When I arrived, I was immediately greeted by Mayra, the venue coordinator. Of course, she was always super quick and on the ball to handle whatever I needed, so I felt like I could work faster and be more productive for my clients,” explained Gray. “In addition, I had to tell Jessica, ‘girl, go home already,’ because she was always checking in to make sure things were running smoothly. I don’t see that often with other venues, so it was a great, great experience.”
What Comes Next
With a successful wedding for his clients and their 140 guests in the books, Gray is ready for a return trip to the Houston Botanic Garden to explore all the amenities available for event planners.
“I really want to get into the Culinary Garden and also look forward to showcasing that gorgeous outdoor Harvest Table in the Emily Clay Water Walls courtyard with the limestone,” said Gray. “Not to mention, the vendor areas are out of the way and contribute to a guest-forward experience. It makes it easy to emphasize comfort and give people the ability to move around.”
No doubt, if a future client tells Gray they have already booked the Garden as their venue, hesitancy and confusion won’t be a part of his reaction.
“I am an emphatic fan now, and I can’t wait to get back there to work again.”