A mural at downtown San Jose. Picture courtesy: Ritu Marwah

Mango hamachi sushi, scallops blushing with avocado tanginess, and glasses clinking with pomegranate gimlets; luxury has returned to downtown San Jose. The old Fairmont hotel is now Signia By Hilton, San Jose. Signia is Hilton’s most prestigious brand. At this hotel, the doors open to a new lobby and a stylishly lit bar. Beyond it, the city’s largest ballroom, the Imperial Ballroom, is getting set up for a wedding. 

Weddings at the Signia By Hilton, San Jose

The festivities start with a mehndi sangeet. “The intimate mehndi dinners are held here,” says Ritu Khurana, senior catering manager who oversees the weddings at the Signia by Hilton, San Jose. “This property is ideal for all sizes of functions,” she says, walking into the chandeliered room with a step up area for guests who want a bird’s eye view of the dancing.  

The Imperial Ballroom at the Signia By Hilton, San Jose, set up for a wedding banquet.

It is ideally located too; just a short drive from the nearby San Jose International airport. The downtown location of the hotel gives the visitors plenty to see and do. 

The San Jose Museum of Art (MOA) dominates the view from the windows of the coffee shop. Between the (MOA)  and the Signia by Hilton, San Jose, is the Circle of Palms Plaza, a quadrangle with a ring of palm trees encircling a California State Seal, the California Historical Marker 461 marking the site of California’s first state capital, San Jose.

The groom, astride his white charger, follows the procession of the wedding band and the dancing guests to the Circle of Palms Plaza where they dance within the quadrangle.

The groom arrives at the Circle of Palms. Pic: M.P. Singh

San Jose, the first capital of California

When California became part of the USA in 1850, San Jose was the oldest civilian settlement dating back to 1777.  At the 1849 state constitutional convention in Monterey, San Jose was chosen as the first state capital of California

The 1849 Assembly and Senate went down in history as the “Legislature of a Thousand Drinks”, a term attributed to Senator Thomas Jefferson Green of Sacramento, who ended each session with, “Let’s have a drink! Let’s have a thousand drinks!” 

Adjacent to the Circle of Palms Plaza, a two-story adobe hotel built around 1830 became the first state capitol and hosted the first legislative sessions in 1850 and 1851. 

At the Imperial Ballroom, back at the Signia by Hilton, San Jose, the priest kindles the havan fire at just the right muhurat. The bride’s party, through the windows of their suites, looks down upon the brightly painted The Tech Interactive Museum

Newlyweds at the Hilton Signia. Picture courtesy: M.P. Singh

Live Music at San Pedro’s Square 

Down the street from the Signia by Hilton, San Jose, the sound of a live band wafts into the air. San Pedro’s Square, an open air dining area, is filled with young professionals feasting on a smorgasbord of flavors from a fleet of eateries serving world cuisine. Dancers sway to thumping live music within a  circle of twinkling lights in the courtyard. The Hammer theater and the beautiful California theater are also nearby for entertainment.

In the square is one of Spanish California’s oldest settlements, the Peralta Adobe built in 1797.  It is the last remaining structure from El Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe, California’s first civil settlement. The pueblo of San José was created to raise crops and livestock, and became one of the major sources of food for the two adjoining presidios, San Francisco and Monterey. Across the street is San Jose Mayor Thomas Fallon’s home from 1855. 

Live music at San Pedro’s Square. Pic: San Pedro Square Market

San Jose State University, the oldest public university on the West Coast

Around the corner from San Pedro Square is the oldest public university on the US West Coast and the founding campus of the California State University (CSU) system, the San Jose State University  (SJSU). San Jose is considered the technology capital of the state and the SJSU, established in 1857, is among the leading providers of talent to Silicon Valley’s technology firms.

Newlyweds on the dance floor at the Hilton Signia. Pic: M.P. Singh

San Jose has a flourish of beautiful hotels downtown like the Westin, the Sheraton and the Hilton. While San Francisco has been favored as the city of choice for visitors and the Silicon Valley glitterati for long, lately an increase in crime in that city has generated a fear in the hearts of many visitors. In comparison, “Hosting a wedding is safer in San Jose than San Francisco,” says Ritu Khurana. 

Ritu Marwah is an award-winning author ✍️ and a recognized Bay Area leader in the field of 🏛 art and literature. She won the 2023 Ethnic Media Services award for outstanding international reporting;...