Photo by Sebastian Anaya

Wondrous weddings and fabulous fêtes lead 2021's top society stories in Houston

top society stories of 2021

Well well, didn't Houston look smashing in its big return to society gatherings.

After a year holed up at home in robes, shorts, and less formal attire, locals were eager to dust off the tuxedos and go gown shopping for fabulous fetes in 2021. One reason to dress up is a wedding, and our Real Wedding series proved most popular in the section, with readers swooning over nuptials featuring power couples and local-ebrities.

In all, a triumphant return to parties and soirees — all for a good cause, no doubt — as Houston, the most philanthropic city in the U.S., made a grand comeback to events. Here are the stories local scenesters strutted to most.

1. Houston power couple jets off to St. Croix for luxurious island wedding. Readers just loved the love story between Jacquie Baly, a former Greater Houston Partnership vice president who now works in public and media relations, and James Craig, who owns a booming oil business.

2. Houston celebrity chef and fiancée steal away to New Orleans for intimate wedding. Chris Shepherd surprised the city when he stole away to NOLA to marry his longtime sweetheart, power publicist Lindsey Brown.

3. Houston chef weds longtime friend in elegant Mexican getaway. In another local celeb wedding story, David Cordúa, who is Houston restaurant royalty, wed his longtime friend and love, Sara Padua Cordúa.

4. Handsome Houston hunks and celebs rock the runway in raucous, record-breaking gala. Always one of the most popular society stories of the year, the annual Una Notte gala boasts rugged local men of sports and influence rollin' on the runway to adoring crowds. A Simone Biles appearance made this year's event one for the books.

5. Beloved Houston jewelry dynasty dazzles in posh Post Oak party. A Houston institution for decades, the Zadok family wowed crowds with their shimmering, two-story boutique and a grand opening party featuring Gary P. Nunn.

6. Cyndi Lauper and Houston A-listers love the '80s at $2.8 million totally rad children's charity gala. Laura Ward could be officially known as Houston's children's benefactor. Her record-breaking gala starring Cyndi Lauper proved that time after again, no one does it like Laura.

7. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston draws an elegant A-list crowd for $1.7M Grand Gala Ball. Always putting on a grand affair, the MFAH didn't disappoint with it's nearly $2 million spring gala.

8. 11 Houston power women go Old Hollywood glam for cherished children's cause. Some Houston's most leading ladies and doers were honored in an Old-World Hollywood fashion show in this year’s St. Jude Gold Soiree, which raised $153,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

9. High-profile Houstonians shine in Operation Smile's life-changing gala. Prominent Houstonians Kent Schaffer and Shara Kuy, Keith and Shawntell McWilliams, and Dr. Daryl and Amy Dichoso were honored for their work with the benevolent charity that provides life-changing surgeries to children in need.

10. Hip Houston young professionals work up a sweat at swanky new River Oaks fitness studio. Hot young locals worked it as SWEAT (formerly SWEAT 1000), welcomed stylish Houstonians for the grand opening and the company’s rebranding at the Kirby Collection (3300 Kirby Dr.).

Photo courtesy of 38th Biannual Bridal Extravaganza Show

Houston's biggest bridal extravaganza unveils huge downtown show

here comes the bridal show

Brides-to-be, get ready: The biggest bridal show in the country comes back to the Bayou City Saturday and Sunday, January 8 and 9, 2022.

The 38th Biannual Bridal Extravaganza Show sets up shop in the George R. Brown Convention Center, bringing with it cakes, gowns, local vendors, fashion shows, flowers, and more to help give brides (and grooms!) a ton of inspiration for wedding planning. In all, more than 200 vendors will be present.

General admission tickets are $14.99 and $20 for early entry, and Sunday VIP admission is $49, and tickets can be purchased online.

The weekend bash features Insta-ready selfie walls, 15 fashion shows, cake samples, and seminars. There's a special Sunday VIP seminar with with Reward James Akpiri, the author of “Wedding Whoops: 50 Things Not to Do on Your Big Day.”

The first 100 VIP brides also receive signature swag bags with complimentary gifts from sponsors and vendors. In addition, look for super cool out-of-the-box ideas, like Jump into Bliss Houston, a luxury bounce house company, and Bierwagen Draft Beer Truck, as well as a mobile bar from The Vintage Brew.

Couples can also download the BrideScan app, which lets them connect with wedding professionals via a QR code. They will leave the event with a digital list of all of their favorite vendors, perfect for future wedding planning.

Founded in 1983, the Biannual Bridal Extravaganza has evolved into the country's premiere wedding planning event. It draws couples and their families from all across Texas and beyond. More than just a one-stop shop for wedding needs, the show offers couples access to experts and the chance to win big prizes.

Available to win this go around honeymoons, shopping sprees, a bachelorette weekend at the Westin of The Woodlands, a three-night stay at Breathless Punta Cana, a groom’s outing at Golf Club of Houston, a weekend getaway at Deer Lake Lodge, and more.

The show is open Saturday, January 8, 2022 from 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday, January 9, 2022 from 11 am to 5 pm More information is available here.

Photo courtesy of LovBe

Brides will swoon for sparkly rings from this female-founded jewelry line

I Do

Spring — and love — is in the air. If finding the perfect engagement ring is on your horizon (or maybe upgrading the one you already have), consider LovBe lab-grown diamonds.

In addition to their ethical and environmental benefits, LovBe has a few dazzling attributes special only to them:

  • Twice the carat weight of a mined diamond for the same price. Talk about more for your money!
  • Superior color and brilliance. Not all diamonds are created equal, whether lab-grown or mined. Only two of every 10 lab-grown diamonds examined by LovBe's experts are accepted as part of their collection. 98 percent of LovBe diamonds are graded Ideal or Excellent Cut — their diamonds are literally the best of the best, for the best value.
  • A female-founded brand. In a very male-dominated industry, LovBe is unique in that it was started by a woman — who actually had no background in the jewelry industry!

Lab-grown diamonds have identical chemical, physical, and optical properties to an earth-mined diamond. As testimony to this, the Federal Trade Commission removed the word "natural" from the basic definition of a diamond in 2018.

And launching this month is LovBe's first exclusive collection: LovBe Eternal, a capsule collection of nine engagement ring designs featuring fancy shape side stones.

From sleek, tapered baguettes to sophisticated pears to timeless round brilliants, LovBe Eternal allows couples to build their perfect engagement ring. Simply select a center stone of your choosing that fits both your design desires and budget, and then marvel at the ring that exemplifies your unique past, present, and future.

This new collection also marks the introduction of the LovBe Hallmark, a single, round brilliant lab-grown diamond securely placed where only the wearer will know of its presence. The diamond sits close to the vena amoris, which according to the ancient Romans went directly to the heart.

The diamond will be accompanied by LovBe’s signature "L heart" engraved stamp, ensuring the authenticity of each LovBe Exclusive Collection ring.

From customized designs to unparalleled customer service, your LovBe experience will be as rare and refined as your chosen diamond. Let LovBe be your guide to the perfect engagement ring — begin exploring your options today.

Lab-grown diamonds are real diamonds!

Photo courtesy of LovBe
Lab-grown diamonds are real diamonds!
Photo courtesy of HAR.com

Rule this fairytale Texas castle for a princely $6.5 million

Lakeside palace

A five-story fairytale castle on Lake Whitney that easily could be a fixture at Disney World or along the Las Vegas Strip just hit the market for $6.5 million.

The 10-bedroom, 15-bathroom Parsons Castle — complete with a drawbridge and moat — is in the Lake Whitney town of Laguna Park, promoted as the Getaway Capital of Texas. It’s about 90 miles south of Dallas-Fort Worth, near Waco. Adam Musiel of eXp Realty has the listing.

Built in 2017, the property features 11,500 square feet of living space on a more than two-acre site. The castle has served as a venue for weddings, corporate events, reunions, graduation celebrations, parties, and other gatherings.

Highlights of the castle include:

  • Balconies on each floor
  • 3,000-square-foot ballroom
  • Bridal suite
  • Groom’s dressing room
  • Gazebos
  • Pool and hot tub
  • Two fireplaces

Hundreds of commenters on Zillow Gone Wild’s Facebook page posted thoughts about Parsons Castle — dubbed "Taj Ma Y’all" by one commenter — that likely would disturb a king or queen.

“This looks like what happens when you start putting all the leftover LEGO pieces on top of each other,” one critic wrote.

“Looks like the home of a Texan oil baron trying to copy Middle Eastern oil barons’ houses, but confused Middle East with Middle Ages halfway through designing it,” another critic observed.

Several kinder, gentler commenters accurately noted that the castle looks like an ideal wedding venue.

Stuart and Rebecca Parsons built Parsons Castle.

“When we bought the property in 2005, we weren’t sure what we were going to build here. But before we even poured the slab, we had already had three or four weddings here. So that’s sort of how this all developed,” Stuart Parsons told Waco TV station KWTX in 2019.

Rebecca Parsons told the Waco Tribune-Herald in 2019 that her husband started drawing up design plans for the castle shortly after they bought the land.

“The castle evolved after years of design changes on the original building drawings,” Rebecca Parsons said. “The original drawings did not look like a castle, but with the help of Sterling Thompson Architects and John Rogers, the structural engineer on the project — who are both from Waco — the castle emerged, to everyone’s delight.”

Workers started pouring the slab for the project in 2009.

“It has been a long project with a lot of changes over the years,” Rebecca Parsons told the Waco newspaper. “But the finished product speaks for itself. It is absolutely amazing and beautiful inside and out, and the perfect venue for a wedding, big event, or big party.”

Parsons Castle sits on the shores of Lake Whitney in Laguna Park.

Photo courtesy of HAR.com
Parsons Castle sits on the shores of Lake Whitney in Laguna Park.
Photo by Meeker Pictures

Houston couple weathers historic winter storm with intimate wedding ceremony

Weathering the Storms

Sometimes, things just don't go as planned — that's the story of the last year for many Houstonians.

But, if there's an award for "Not Letting Multiple Disruptions Destroy the Gorgeous Wedding You Had Planned," there's no doubt it would go Courtney Broussard and Jerimy Craft.

Many couples this year had to navigate the pandemic, rearranging their wedding plans, guest lists, and dates. Courtney and Jerimy battled not only that, but the February ice storm that shut down Houston.

Their wedding was always planned for Valentine's Day. They'd booked the Meekermark, in Magnolia for their ceremony and reception. As the day of the wedding got closer, they knew a storm was coming.

"We expected it to come Sunday night," Courtney tells CultureMap. "All the forecasts said Sunday night, and we thought, all right, everyone will be home by then. It's not a big deal. But the morning of the wedding, I was woken up by my phone, just ringing and buzzing from guests pulling out. And I had a vendor pull out. They were saying, 'Check the news. Check the weather.' And I realized, Uri was going to hit while everyone needs to be on the road. It was heartbreaking."

It was also stressful, but this is a couple that refused to let roadblocks get in the way of the wedding they'd planned.

Courtney called Jerimy and the couple's wedding planner to talk about what to do. Their officiant, Jerry Holt of Nashville's Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, agreed to come to Courtney's hotel room at the Residence Inn Market Street in The Woodlands and conduct the ceremony there.

"It went from stress and heartbreak to just excitement," says Courtney.

Their vision of their wedding originally included 150 guests attending an outdoor ceremony at the Meekermark, then filling the site's renovated bard for the reception.

As the COVID-19 pandemic dragged on, they changed their plans to host the entire wedding outdoors, remaining optimist that daytime February temperatures would accommodate that.

As Uri bore down on Texas, the couple switched their plans again, finally marrying in their hotel suite with 10 guests.

Their story was such a triumph, it landed in the New York Times.

"There were so many moving parts," says Courtney about the quick recalibration of their ceremony. "It didn't really hit me until I was looking at Jerimy that, yeah, we are really doing this."

"I believe that success leaves clues," Jerimy, who is a coaching manager, says. "And when we starting planning this, one thing that was non-negotiable was our date. So, when Courtney called me that morning and asked if I could come to the hotel, the answer was of course. Because we planned to get married that day."

The couple are anchored in their belief in each other, and when they interact, there is a current between them that enhances and clearly brings out the optimism and steadfastness of the other.

The met in 2014 at The Flat. Jerimy was there with friends and Courtney was there as well — on a date, and the groups overlapped a bit. A song by Jesse Boykins came on the sound system, and Jerimy and Courtney were the only people who knew the song and the artist. That intrigued Jerimy. But he wasn't about to intrude on her date.

The pair did exchange Instagrams, however.

"I texted my friend Luther that night," says Jerimy. "Something like, how cool is this, and that the great girls are always taken."

"Instagram became our connection, though," says Courtney. "And it's random how fate works. I found myself at a concert years before and the opening act was the artist that connected us. And I wasn't feeling well, and didn't want to go to the concert, but I did. And that's how I learned about this singer. That's fate."

The couple started dating in 2017. It would take another year before they understood there was much more than that happening. Jerimy invited Courtney to New Orleans to attend a white-coat ceremony for a friend of his. She said yes, even though she wouldn't know anyone there but Jerimy. That trip was where they realized they wanted more than just dating.

"I kept watching how he interacted with his friends," she says. "He had such love and joy for them. I could see how happy he makes everyone. And I thought, 'wow, I love this. I want this in my life.'"

"Everyone — my mom, my best friend — kept asking me that weekend: 'Are you dating? Because you need to be,'" says Jerimy. "I watched the way she interacted with us and I realized that I needed to be more intentional. This was what I wanted, needed, and looked for. And I knew I had to put things into place to make it official."

Jerimy proposed in 2019, on December 21, his parents' anniversary. His proposal recreated a series of the milestones that marked the couple's relationship. Their evening began with drinks at The Flat, then segued to dinner at Backstreet Café, home of their first date.

They then headed to Postino in The Heights, which is where, Jerimy says, "I first acknowledged I wanted her to be my girl." While the pair was walking down Memory Lane, Jerimy's brother and a friend were decorating a hotel room where he planned to pop the question.

As the pair walked in, the Jesse Boykins song they'd heard the first night they met was playing and Jerimy got down on one knee.

"I was just, 'are you serious? Is this happening?'" recalls Courtney, who, once she took everything in, quickly said yes.

The pair have emerged from a pandemic and hastily replanned wedding with their bond even stronger. And they plan to host a reception on June 21 at the Meekermark, celebrating with all their friends. They were able to have all their original vendors, save the bakery providing the cake.

The date just happens to be Jerimy's birthday.

Bride's dress: Sarah Seven "Milan," from Lovely Bride Houston (Alterations: Prestige Tailors by Mario)

Bride's bouquet: Jackie Trejo Floral Design, LLC

Groom's suit: Indochino

Wedding planner: Tamarah Smith, Tammy's Table

Wedding venue: Residence Inn by Marriott Houston The Woodlands/Market Street

Original wedding venue and site of June celebration: The Meekermark, Magnolia, Texas

Food: Cafe Natalie

Make-up artist: Charlie Rojas

Bride's hair: Braids by Indie Fendi

Photography: Meeker Pictures

Wedding celebrant: Pastor Jerry Holt, Hicks Tabernacle MBC, Nashville, Tennessee

Attendants: Carmen Prado (Maid of Honor), Jay Craft II (Best Man)

Attendants' dresses/suits: Maid of Honor: David's Bridal, Best Man: Indochino

Winter Storm Uri forcerd Courtney Broussard and Jerimy Craft to plan on the fly.

Photo by Meeker Pictures
Winter Storm Uri forcerd Courtney Broussard and Jerimy Craft to plan on the fly.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Iconic Austin blues club brings the show to fans with new indie livestreaming platform

Live on Live

If legendary Austin blues club Antone’s is your vibe, but the drive to Capital City isn't, you’re in luck. Antone’s Nightclub launched a new service for livestreaming its shows in November.

Kicking off with New Orleans-based funk and jam band Dumpstaphunk, for their special “Phunksgiving” show last month with Michael Hale Trio, the full lineup is delineated on the Antone’s website. Specifics were still loose before the launch, allowing the famous blues club to call the shots. The partner agency that created the streaming service, 3rd + Lamar, created the system to give Antone’s as much freedom as possible.

"Partnering with Antone's to build their livestreaming platform and produce each of their shows is an incredible opportunity for 3rd + Lamar," said the agency’s co-founder Nick Schenck in a press release. "The amazing talent that performs at Antone's – and their fans worldwide – deserve best-in-class live production quality, and we're thrilled to play a part in this operation."

Not that Antone’s needed to stand out more in the music industry (the nearly 50-year-old venue has always been one of the best places to see both local and national talent), but this achievement places it among relatively few venues across the country, especially those that operate their system independently.

The intimate Antone's shows are filmed by four Blackmagic 4K cinema cameras on tracks overhead, which ensure that the whole space is easily visible without having camera operators amid the audience.

“We did over 430 individually ticketed shows in 2019 and we felt like we were bursting at the seams,” said Antone’s owner Will Bridges. “Then when livestreams became more prominent during the pandemic we realized, this is our opportunity to take Antone’s outside of our four walls. … [W]e see people in the comment threads all the time saying ‘If I could only be teleported to Antone’s!’ Well now they can.”

The release emphasizes that the system means Antone’s “fully retain[s] ownership of their content, which can then be utilized at their discretion.” It also calls the service “an add-on option for all artists performing at Antone’s,” positioning the service as not just an audience luxury but a performer’s low-cost marketing tool. Suddenly, artists playing at Antone’s are afforded a choice without needing to be invited to record or pay an independent video team, while reaching even more viewers with no extra time spent advertising.

“Our ultimate goal is to make these amazing musical experiences accessible to everyone. Life is busy, but we want to give everyone the opportunity to participate no matter where they are or what they have going on,” said Bridges. “We want to make livestreams from Antone’s totally commonplace. When we announce our upcoming shows, fans have two options: watch it at the club our watch it at home.”

Livestreams are at antonesnightclub.com, and links also appear with each applicable event across the site. Prices are listed on the website, and livestreams start 10-20 minutes before each show.

Alt-rock legends Red Hot Chili Peppers heading to Houston for 2023 North American tour

one hot minute

One of alternative rock's most pioneering and enduring acts is headed to Houston to close out a highly anticipated North American tour next year. Red Hot Chili Peppers will play Minute Maid Park on Thursday, May 25, 2023 as part of a North American trek that kicks off in Vancouver, British Columbia on March 29.

Houston lands the honor of the closeout city for the North American tour (the band will also play a slew of dates in Europe). Effortlessly hip, celeb-fave modern rock band The Strokes will support the Chili Peppers, along with the talented bassist-vocalist Thundercat.

Tickets go on sale this week at 10 am Friday, December 9 online.

Houston fans who can't get enough can also catch the Chili Peppers when they hit The Alamodome in San Antonio on Wednesday, May 17 — the only other Texas date.

Aside from The Strokes and Thundercat, supporting acts along the way include Iggy Pop, The Roots, The Mars Volta, St. Vincent, City and Colour, and King Princess.

Touring in support of their two No. 1 studio albums released in 2022, Unlimited Love and Return of the Dream Canteen, the Chili Peppers have been played sold-out shows in London, Paris, Los Angeles, and more with major names such as Notable artists such as A$AP Rocky, Anderson.Paak, Beck, and HAIM.

The first rock band in 17 years to score two No. 1 albums in one year, the band has been red hot on the Billboard charts and at the MTV Video Music Awards, where they received the Global Icon Award and brought the house down with a performance of the No. 1 single “Black Summer,'' which also won the award for Best Rock Video.

Fronted by the impossibly chiseled and ageless (he's 60!) Anthony Kiedis, the Chili Peppers formed in 1983. Unabashedly proud of their LA roots, the band burst onto the scene with early singles such as "Higher Ground" and "Give It Away," both showcases of bassist Flea's slappin', funk-fueled basslines.

Throughout the peak of alternative music in the '90s, the band saw tragedy, personnel changes at guitar, and reinventions — Kiedes' rap-singing, Flea's bass grooves, and singalong choruses all constants over the decades.

While many '90s alt-rock acts fizzled, the Chili Peppers stayed relevant; the band boasts two anthemic singles with more than 1 billion streams — "Californication" and "Under the Bridge" — and more than 25 million followers on Spotify.

Expect this show to be packed with Gen Xers and new fans for what promises to be one hot minute.

Red Hot Chili Peppers 2023 tour dates:

  • Wednesday, March 29 – Vancouver – BC Place
  • Saturday, April 1 – Las Vegas – Allegiant Stadium
  • Thursday, April 6 – Fargo, North Dakota – FargoDome
  • Saturday, April 8 – Minneapolis – US Bank Stadium
  • Friday, April 14 – Syracuse, New York – JMA Wireless Dome
  • Friday, May 12 – San Diego – Snap Dragon Stadium
  • Sunday, May 14 – Phoenix – State Farm Stadium
  • Wednesday, May 17 – San Antonio – Alamodome
  • Friday, May 19 – Gulf Shores, Alabama – Hangout Music Festival
  • Thursday, May 25 – Houston – Minute Maid Park

Fan-favorite, wood-fired Houston pizzeria quietly opens in the Heights

enough (pizza) to love

A popular Houston pizzeria has opened its second location in the Heights. The Gypsy Poet has begun a quiet soft opening in the former Fegen’s space at 1050 Studewood St.

Since its 2019 debut in Midtown, the Gypsy Poet has earned a devoted following for its wood-fired pizzas. The restaurant’s personal-sized, 13-inch pizzas exist somewhere on the spectrum between traditional Neapolitan and classic New York — too crispy for the Italians but not quite foldable like an East Coast slice. Options include a classic Margherita and the signature Fancy Backpacker, which is topped with prosciutto, truffle oil, and arugula.

Part of the restaurant’s appeal stems from its friendly service and easy going atmosphere. It regularly hosts informal musical performances and other artistic happenings.

Taken together, Gypsy Poet has earned legions on fans. Yelp users ranked it as Texas’s second best restaurant in 2021. More recently, Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy awarded it a high 7.8 rating during a pizza review.

The restaurant opens at a time of transition for pizzerias in the Heights. Dallas-based Neapolitan restaurant Cane Rosso closed last year, and suburban favorite Crust Pizza Co. opened this summer in the former Mellow Mushroom space at N. Shepherd and 20th.

The Heights location of Gypsy Poet will be open Tuesday-Thursday from 5-9 pm; Friday from 12-2 pm and 5-10 pm; Saturday 2-10 pm; and Sunday 2-9 pm.