For many people in 2021, weddings don’t mean what they used to. The spectacle has been toned down. After all the postponing and the making it work, the many wedding celebrations have been pared down to the core essentials. Couples, families, and friends have gotten creative, and they learned to act fast.
Couples waiting for just the right opportunity to pivot from their old dream wedding ideals without losing flair now have a chance thanks to an Austin icon.
This July 30 and 31, Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater will host its recurring Weekend of Weddings, offering completely self-contained wedding packages at a discount, and knocking out those waiting lists for a spectacular venue. There is still space for couples to sign up for the Friday date, and there’s no cutoff; wedding slots will go until the last one sells. And don’t worry about logistics; each booking includes the services of a wedding planner.
Last year, ACL Live was facing a different kind of problem. The organization had an iconic space sitting empty in the heart of Austin. The team saw an opportunity to invite small groups in for 45-minute socially distanced weddings that included a 20-minute ceremony and a 20-minute reception. This new offering, the Shotgun Willie Wedding, solved a pandemic problem while creating a lasting loophole for couples working with a modest budget but wanting the ACL Live experience.
“We just wanted to offer something that was really turnkey, stress-free, and still gave everybody a really memorable experience,” says Michaelyne Escobar Long, director of private events and special projects.
Whether a couple chooses the Shotgun Willie package, the longer ACL Live Headliner Experience, or the 3TEN Roadie Experience downstairs, they get married under professional stage lighting, either onstage in front of the famous Austin City Limits skyline backdrop or in front of 3TEN’s 20-foot LCD wall.
To document the unique visuals, the venue offers complimentary photography by Alison Narro, who often photographs shows during regular operations. Every wedding includes a livestream, in case the couple would like to include people at home (the venue currently allows between four and 40 guests, depending on the package). Even if the in-person guest list is complete, the recording can be downloaded as a memento.
One groom was able to invite family from New Zealand via livestream, making creative use of another pandemic restriction to solve a regular-life problem. Both Escobar Long and her colleague, director of media and communications Kaitlin Bouzek, say even they’ve been immersed in the streams while making sure an event is going as planned.
“So I’m just sitting in my office, crying about how they’ve waited 20 years, they have two kids, they’ve built a life together and this is just a nice celebration of everything that they’ve worked for,” Bouzek says.
Another couple the staff remembers had their first dance to a Devo song, complete with props and the full confidence that their wedding was living up to their music-nerd dreams.
While the goal of Weekend of Weddings was to make every event complete in as little as 45 minutes, ACL Live offers add-ons to be sure couples aren’t making sacrifices just to squeeze in the schedule. In fact, there are already four Headliner events scheduled for the weekend at three hours each. A partnership with W Austin takes the party elsewhere to make room for the next event, offering a cake cutting, rehearsal, accommodations, and after-party at the pool, all in separate increments to keep it customizable.
Most of these options are available all the time, but Shotgun Willie Weddings are just for the weekend promotion, which ACL Live plans to keep available as an annual event.
There are plenty of reasons to keep things small, even outside of public health measures. The bite-sized option creates especially useful flexibility for those who want to save money or have a great but simpler time.
Bouzek says the venue sees “a lot of couples that this isn’t, maybe, their first marriage, or they are a little bit older ... or having a destination wedding and just want to have the ceremony component done here.”
The lasting impact of an ACL Live wedding, for most of the guests, is simply that it happened at the iconic venue. It’s trademark Austin behavior for a cultural cornerstone venue to open its doors to the public for an unpretentious, good time.
For more info about the packages ($1,500 to $5,000 before add-ons), watch a video, or to schedule an event anytime, visit weddings.acl-live.com.