Marriage Island: History
In the midst of the mariachi music, the clamor of the bustling restaurants, and the festive, Hispanic charm of the San Antonio Riverwalk, it would not be unusual for a tourist to run across a wedding ceremony. Over 100 years ago, a cypress tree was planted on the edge of the river and over time, the root ball of this tree formed a small island that juts out into the calm waters. Removal of this makeshift island would have resulted in permanent damage to the tree so the city made the decision to leave its roots in place. It is this island that has come to be known as Marriage Island. This small, intimate venue boasts an average of 225 weddings a year. Some say it has even evolved into the shape of a heart and brings good luck to couples who are married there. Located in front of the Hotel Contessa, this island is a lively and festive setting for small, destination weddings.
In 1991, artist Rolando Briseño was commissioned to create a small statue commemorating the first Catholic Mass conducted on the river. The Spanish Priest Damien Massanet, who established the first Spanish Mission in East Texas, was traveling back east when he encountered a Native American Coahuiltecan community located on what was known at the time as the Yanaguana River. Damian Massanet and his fellow missionaries conducted a service here on June 13, 1691, also known as St. Anthony’s Day. To honor the day, they renamed the river after Saint Anthony of Padua and built a nearby mission. Briseño constructed this steel sculpture near Marriage Island to commemorate the historic beginnings of San Antonio and its missions.
The tradition of marriage ceremonies on the island began shortly after the Mexican Revolution, when Mexican priests blessed the area. The island belongs to the city and Downtown Operations oversees use of the venue for a charge of $200 per 30 minutes. Couples who recite their vows on Marriage Island have the privilege of saying that they experienced first-hand the rich culture of San Antonio and the continuing tradition of this unique and historic venue.