FeaturesG&G 2020

Gayest & Greatest 2020: Weddings and Travel

Kirksey Gregg’s downtown venue is the picture-perfect spot for a couple’s big day.

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Kirksey Gregg’s The Ballroom at Bayou Place is the winner of this year’s Favorite Wedding Venue (photo by Alex Rosa). 

Kirksey Gregg, 59, was born in Crane, Texas, a dusty little town known more for its oil than its gardens. Although he grew up around arid lands and little rainfall, Gregg fell in love with flowers, and his family was more than willing to support his passion.

“I’ve always loved flowers,” Gregg admits. “When I was 15, my grandfather bought me a flower shop.” And while he was quite content in West Texas, he wanted to move to Houston to manage a friend’s flower shop. Today, he co-owns The Ballroom at Bayou Place in Downtown Houston as well as Kirksey Gregg Productions, a full-service special events company he operates with his husband, Shay Calhoun-Gregg.

“We opened The Ballroom in 2016,” says Gregg, who has two partners in the venue. “At 15,000 square feet, it is the largest privately owned event space in downtown.” On the second floor of the Bayou Place entertainment complex, The Ballroom overlooks the Theater District through its floor-to-ceiling windows and from its gorgeous balconies. Conventions, galas, and private parties are typically held there, and it’s also a popular wedding venue. Even the Greggs were married here.

“[We had our wedding at The Ballroom] the week after Harvey,” Gregg says, referring to the 2017 hurricane that wrecked Texas. “We had 500 guests and a full sit-down dinner. It was fabulous. We did all the flowers; it was quite the floral scene! We had these huge screens with impressionist paintings that changed for each course.”

Gregg loves weddings as much as he loves flowers, and he has seen plenty of both during his 22 years in the events business. “I love giving joy to other people,” he explains. “If I can’t make a bride and her mother cry tears of joy, then I haven’t done my job.”

But things are different this year. Almost all big events have been canceled due to the pandemic. Even the Houston Ballet is taking its annual Nutcracker Market fundraiser online this year—a blow to Gregg, who loves the ballet and has done design work for the event for 17 years.

“It’s a shame,” he says, “because Houston Ballet really needs that money.”

Like the Houston Ballet, The Ballroom is also suffering.

“We are coded as a restaurant, so we could hold an event for 2,000 people right now,” he says. But nobody’s throwing parties like that during the pandemic, and the dip in business has affected those working both the front and back of house. “You don’t realize all the people behind the scenes who are needed to put on a special event,” Gregg explains. “And we’re all banding together to get through this.”

However, as bookings for 2021 skyrocket, he’s optimistic that the Ballroom will overcome and remain a beacon for many. “People are ready to get out! After the trauma is over, people want to get out and celebrate.”

For more information on The Ballroom at Bayou Place, visit theballroomatbayouplace.com.

WEDDINGS & EVENTS

Best Place to Pop the Question

Eleanor Tinsley Park
Finalists: Pearl Bar, Williams Tower Water Wall

Best Place to Rent/Buy Formal Wear

Al’s Formal Wear
Finalist: Men’s Wearhouse

Best Wedding Officiant

Johnny Peden
Finalists: Kirksey Gregg Productions, Billy Whitaker 

Best Wedding Cake Bakery

David Alcorta Catering & Custom Bakery
Finalists: Cake Fine Pastry, Sweet Nation, Who Made The Cake!

Best Wedding/Event Catering Firm

David Alcorta Catering
Finalist: Devour Houston Catering

Best Wedding/Event DJ

Darker Side DJs & Karaoke
Finalists: B&B Entertainment, Brad Janacek

Best Wedding/Event Florist

Rexberry Luxury Events
Finalist: Perfect Petals by Geo

Best Wedding/Event Live Music/String Quartets & Bands

Harmony Strings
Finalist: Divisi Strings

Best Wedding/Event Photographer

Yvonne Tran 
Finalists: David Troung, D Jones Photography, Kirk Surber Photography

Best Wedding/Event Planner

Lauren Burnham/EventSmith
Finalists: A Day to Remember, Rexberry Luxury Weddings, Wedding Bliss Events

Best Wedding/Event Venue

The Ballroom at Bayou Place
Finalists: Crystal Ballroom at the Rice Hotel, Madera Estates, The Parador

Best Wedding/Event Videographer

J&D Productions
Finalists: Jay Clarke Films, Kirk Surber Photography

TRAVEL & VACATIONS

Best Airline

Southwest Airlines
Finalists: Emirates, United Airlines Best LGBT Cruise or Tour Company

Aquafest Cruises
Finalist: Concierge Travel 

Best Local LGBTQ Travel Agency

Concierge Travel
Finalist: TravelPros.net

Best LGBTQ Honeymoon Destination

Walt Disney World
Finalist: Paris

Best LGBTQ Travel Destination

Puerto Vallarta
Finalists: Costa Rica, Key West, Provincetown

Best Local Hotel

Le Méridien Downtown
Finalists: Magnolia Hotel Houston, Sam Houston Hotel

This article appears in the October 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and Gayot.com, among others.

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