Editor's note: This story first published in print on Sunday, March, 3, 2019, as part of the Daily Nonpareil's Happily Ever After special section. You can find the e-edition here

The gathering of friends and family members to celebrate the start of the new bride and groom’s life together is one of the most memorable take-aways of any wedding celebration, and the selection of a reception hall that reflects the new couple’s tastes is one of the capstones of a memorable wedding event.

Arlo Burke, who owns and operates Bayliss Park Hall, underscored the idea that flexibility should be a key factor in deciding which reception hall should be selected for the big event.

“Couples today like to personalize their wedding,” Burke said. “They want to be part of the decision-making for everything, from decorations to food, and they should be looking for flexibility on the part of the reception hall to adapt to their desires.”

Jose Aviles, who operates the Grass Wagon Event Center with Travis Taylor, said the notion of flexibility was a primary consideration in a recent expansion that added a second area to the reception hall located at the corner of Second Avenue and South 29th Street.

When the business first opened, the reception and meeting area was decorated in a more traditional manner, Aviles said, with wooden floors and a stage. The newly completed second reception and meeting area has a more modern, “industrial” look with metal and granite features that are popular with young couples today.

Both are what could be considered full-service facilities. Both can accommodate everything from a pre-wedding bridal shower to a rehearsal dinner to the entire wedding, including the wedding service and the reception that follows.

Burke was quick to note that many couples opt to exchange their wedding vows in Bayliss Park, which is located directly south of Bayliss Park Hall. Those attending the wedding can simply walk across the street to the reception.

A primary difference, depending on the size of the wedding, is that the larger ballroom at Bayliss Park Hall is on the second floor of the building, which does not have an elevator.

“We tell those who are considering our facility to look at their guest list and see if the stairs are going to be a challenge,” Burke said.

Both of the reception halls welcome insured caterers that are selected by the bridge and groom.

Depending on the size of the gathering, Burke said caterers can serve in either the smaller first-floor ballroom, perfect for rehearsal dinners, or in the larger second-floor ballroom that can accommodate 200.

Aviles said those planning weddings and receptions can utilize Primos Mexican Restaurant, a Council Bluffs eatery where he is part owner, or any other insured caterer for rehearsal or reception dinners.

“We can offer tables and chairs for up to 250, with the caterer providing dishes, glassware and silver,” he said. With the second side of The Grass Wagon now open, the facility has accommodated as many as 400 guests on one side and 350 on the other with no problems and can seat a maximum of 800 using both sides of the building.

At The Grass Wagon, full-day pricing (8 a.m. to 12 a.m.) ranges from $800 on Sunday to $1,000 on Friday and $1,500 on Saturday. Aviles said the facility is currently booked about six months out and is already taking bookings for 2020.

Although other package prices are available, Burke said Bayliss Park Hall is currently offering a three-day wedding special package for $2,500. With the special package, the hall is available on Friday for set-up and rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. Weddings and receptions are held on Saturday. He said the third day is a floater day — a Sunday — either before the wedding for a bridal shower or the day following the wedding to open gifts.

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