Actress, developer hitched at the hall

Times Staff Writer

With its $3-million pipe organ booming "Here Comes the Bride" and its stage transformed into a forest of faux cherry blossom trees, the Walt Disney Concert Hall took on a new look over the weekend -- wannabe wedding chapel.

Marking the first nuptials to be exchanged in the hall and the organ's premiere public appearance -- it was not supposed to make its debut until next year -- the ceremony said as much about the clout of the groom, L.A. developer Gerald L. Katell, as it did about the venue's versatility. A member of the hall's building committee and the Los Angeles Philharmonic board, Katell persuaded orchestra bigwigs to allow the classic strains of the "Wedding March" to fill the 2,265-seat space, to the delight of 180 guests. The cost for his chunk of history: "About $20,000," he said.

The hall will be available for future weddings, but chances are his marriage to aspiring actress Laura Margaret Saylor will be the only one allowed onstage, Katell confided days before the Sunday event. "It's kind of complicated. They'll probably orient future weddings more toward the hall's gardens and its British Petroleum Hall."

Indeed, the L.A. Phil had performed only hours before the couple tied the knot at the 7 p.m. ceremony, and it was up to event coordinator Marianne Weiman-Nelson and her crew to clear the area, then transform it into a space intimate enough for a small wedding. "There's no arch, no chuppa, no gazebo to work with, so we used the trees to create the magical environment," she said.

Descending the hall's 50-foot staircase, its brass rail smothered in white orchids, Saylor floated onto the stage in a cloud of white silk to exchange nondenominational vows with the man she met three years ago on a film set. "The organ made it," Katell gushed afterward. "To hear it announce Laura's arrival was a thrill." Wearing a diamond tiara -- a gift from her father, John -- the bride called her historic nuptials "a privilege" and "a little scary." "Marriage is a huge step. That was the scary part."

At the post-wedding dinner in British Petroleum Hall, guests such as L.A. Philharmonic Assn. board chairman John Hotchkis dined on filet of beef and chocolate mousse cake -- in the shape of the concert hall -- and chatted about Katell's one-of-a-kind ceremony. "With Jerry Katell, anything can happen," Hotchkis said. "Holy smoke! I'm surprised we're not at the Eiffel Tower. But now Jerry's done it, had the first wedding at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Suddenly, it has become old hat."

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