As the ‘Bride Guy,’ Peter Ochoa has seen it all – and loves every minute of it
Peter Ochoa is in the business of making people happy. Most of Ochoa’s work as director of events at The Bryan Museum in Galveston involves planning weddings and working with brides and bridal families.
For the past five years, Ochoa has guided dozens of brides toward a successful event by following his mantra: customer service, he said.
“My staff and I have all have been in the events business for years and we all share a common philosophy: take care of the client’s needs and make sure they have a memorable experience,” Ochoa said.
Ochoa, who moved to Galveston six months before The Bryan Museum opened in June 2015, spent most of his adult life in Southern California, he said. Although the events business is highly competitive, he has found Galveston to be a treasure trove of beautiful venues and talented suppliers for weddings, he said. He uses almost exclusively Galveston-owned companies as vendors, including caterer Todd Schott of Chopin Mon Ami Catering, florist Connie Dryden of Island Flowers and event rentals Rachel Lankford of Tour de Tents. Richard Farnsworth at the museum has been Ochoa’s right-hand man for several years. Last year, Jessica Shofner joined the team.
“They, and many others, have all really helped to shape our business as it is today,” he said. “I am very grateful they were willing to share their ‘island secrets’ with me.”
In his role as the “Bride Guy,” Ochoa creates and facilitates private parties and corporate events at the museum’s conservatory as well as inside the facility, 1315 21st St. But weddings are what he does most. In fact, before the coronavirus pandemic, the museum was booked every weekend with a wedding, rehearsal dinner or reception until February. Most have been rescheduled successfully.
Being a male in a predominately female-dominated profession has given Ochoa an edge, and he enjoys working with brides, he said.
“I’ve always gotten along well with women and have had lots of female friends my entire life,” he said. “I think brides realize my only objective is to assist them in creating a beautiful wedding. Each bride is wildly different and even though we host over 50 weddings a year, it’s always fun and new each time.”
He laughs when asked about “bridezillas,” those difficult, demanding and obsessive brides.
“I know that animal exists, but I’ve honestly never encountered one here,” he said. “Seriously, we have been very, very lucky. In the five years I’ve been doing weddings for The Bryan Museum, I’ve never had an unpleasant bride or groom. I think brides sometimes get a bad rap. I personally realize how stressful planning a wedding can be and how much time, energy and money goes into creating that one single day. There’s an insurmountable degree of anxiety to make sure everything is perfect and lives up to this fairytale vision — a fantasy that has started developing at like age 6. It’s a tremendous dream to live up to.”
Ochoa said he has seen many interesting and unique ideas, he said.
“While there may still be wedding traditions in place, there certainly aren’t any rules about dresses or cakes,” he said.
Ochoa has seen every shade dress from virginal white to champagne to blush to scarlet red and even black, as well as a pantsuit or two, he said. Some brides choose to have their entire family walk them down the aisle and one even was carried chariot-style like Nefertiti, he said.
Nefertiti was the queen of Egypt and wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten during the 14th century B.C.
And some of the wedding cakes have been over the top, he said.
“We’ve also seen some of the craziest wedding cakes in the world — everything from an elaborate 3-D Game of Thrones cake, to a huge mountain of Cinnabons, a 3-foot high Texas Longhorn tower, an African elephant, and a large square of AstroTurf with dozens of mini golf-ball cakes,” he said. “The grand prize goes to a couple of UTMB doctors that were married here two years ago and had a cake that resembled a life-like surgery. There were bloody guts and vital organs popping out, and even had real surgical clamps holding open the sides of the cake. It was crazy looking — but tasted great. The blood was actually strawberry filling.” It was created by baker/artist Cakes by Jula in League City.
The best advice Ochoa can give prospective brides is to start early, he said. Planning a year in advance isn’t too early to begin, he said.
“Be organized and methodical in your approach,” he said. “Develop a realistic budget and stick to it. But my No. 1 piece of advice is to have fun on your wedding day. Try not to stress so much. Your guests will never know what you forgot to do or what didn’t happen. Remember, they are there to celebrate your marriage — not for the golf ball cakes.”
Ochoa feels very fortunate to have a career he enjoys, working with creative people every day, he said.
“I attended a conference last year called Wedding MBA, which is like the summit for all things wedding, and celebrity wedding coordinator, David Tutera said it quite succinctly: ‘We are in the business of making people happy,’” he said. “And suddenly, I got it. It is essentially what we do. It’s not rocket science, but we are able to offer the gift of joy to a person for a few hours, and that can often stay with them for a lifetime. I may not know it all, but I do know how to have a good time.”