By Cassandra Key
Walk onto the grounds of Bella Sera Ranch and you’ll see why it’s an East Texas favorite. Getting its name from an Italian phrase meaning “beautiful evening,” this full-service wedding and event venue has everything couples need to plan and host the wedding they’ve always dreamed of. There’s a Grand Hall that boasts 4500-square-feet of space to dine and dance in, cathedral ceilings, a stunning white rock fireplace, expansive windows that look out onto the private wooded area, a fully-furnished kitchen, and a bridal suite where the bride and her bridal party can get dressed and relax before the wedding.
There’s also a charming 18th-century-style white chapel that was built using a design found in Peninsula, Ohio. This signature beauty overlooks the wooded creek, houses the groom’s dressing room, and can seat up to 170 guests.
Couples can also take advantage of Bella Sera Ranches’ open air pavilion located in the private wooded area. Equipped with chandeliers and electrical outlets, this elegant outdoor space is perfect for couples who want to infuse the natural beauty of East Texas into their wedding celebration. And because it’s located near the chapel and Grand Hall, guests can easily be transferred should inclement weather arise.
Bella Sera Ranch broke ground in October 2010 and hosted its first wedding in May 2011. It was a dream come true for native Texan Deborah Walston to open the doors of the ranch to future brides and grooms. After living in Austin, Chicago, and western New York, Deborah settled back into her hometown of Palestine where she and husband Jack Kraatz dreamed up the concept of an event venue unique to the area.
“I’ve been working with brides and clients to help plan and coordinate their weddings and special milestones for almost seven years,” Deborah says. “We’ve helped over 350 brides and families celebrate their special milestones – from weddings, receptions, galas, proms, birthdays, reunions, corporate events, and memorials.”
When asked what she loves most about her work and Bella Sera Ranch, Deborah said it’s all about meeting with the clients and making their dreams a reality. “I also love seeing the bride in her wedding gown, how transformed she becomes and then being with her when we open the doors to the chapel and she sees her husband to-be for the first time that day. It still makes me tear up.”
Bella Sera Ranch offers a variety of packages for every budget, from the All-Inclusive Package, where the venue takes care of everything (except the photographer), to the DIY, in which couples can take full control of the services and outside vendors. Either way, future brides and grooms are guaranteed a wedding that fits their style, personality, and budget.
“Our professional staff will meet with all of our couples (even the DIY packages) at least once to create a timeline and to choose from our complimentary closet items,” Deborah says. “We have a decorating closet that has hundreds of complimentary items our couples can use to save on the budget. We offer everything from table centerpieces to vases, sashes and overlays to signs, easels, flower girl baskets and ring bearer pillows.”
Bella Sera Ranch also offers clients access to their catering service, which includes the use of the venue’s fine China collection and professional service staff.
It’s recommended that couples planning a wedding book one year out for high volume months like March through May and September through December. But Deborah and the Bella Sera Ranch team don’t shy away from quick turnarounds. “If you’re anxious to get married, we’ve planned a wedding in less than two weeks and everything was beautiful! We have planned weddings with couples that lived in Hong Kong, Pennsylvania, and all parts of Texas.”
After the venue is booked, the next step is creating a wedding style and choosing the color palette. Deborah says this will help place an identity on the wedding day and will cut down on all those enticing “pins” on Pinterest. “I always recommend to the couple to create separate boards for dresses, bouquets, cakes, table decorations, signs, and favors. So when we are meeting to plan the details, they aren’t going through hundreds of photos to find that special bouquet the bride fell in love with!”
She also recommends that if the bride has a favorite flower, like peonies or David Austin roses, to use them in the bride’s bouquet and save the budget for other areas she is passionate about, like the honeymoon.
As a full-service venue, Bella Sera Ranch can accommodate not only weddings, but corporate get-togethers, reunions, and special services in which families and friends honor the passing of a loved one. Deborah notes that more families are turning away from traditional stoic funerals to a Life Celebration. “At Bella Sera Ranch we provide a more relaxed atmosphere to honor, recognize, and celebrate a loved one’s life. Our chapel or outdoor pavilion is a wonderful location for the memorial service and our Grand Hall is an ideal space for a meal, cocktails, and gatherings of any size.”
Whether it’s the recognition of two people coming together or the remembrance of a life well lived, Bella Sera Ranch is here to help make life’s milestones more memorable.