The staff at the Langham Huntington Pasadena Hotel & Spa has hosted thousands of weddings on the property's beautiful grounds. Although a wedding at a hotel or resort may appear effortless, couples must be well-versed in all the elements that keep the event running smoothly. We asked Langham Huntington's director of catering sales, Jill Hilts, what brides and grooms need to know about planning a celebration at a hotel. Read on for her top insider tricks.
If a couple is interested in using a hotel/resort as their venue, how do they begin the process?
A wedding is unlike any other event or personal celebration. A couple should first do some online research to ensure the venue understands the uniqueness of weddings and is committed to this very distinctive market. Some great examples include maintaining a frequently updated blog that contains photos of real weddings, tips, and trends. Does the venue offer wedding menus or packages? If you Google "weddings at (name of venue)," what comes up? Search online for lots of photos!
It's great to have an idea of your expected number of guests – larger hotels offer multiple options, each priced differently. Think about the elements of your reception that are important to you. For example, are you interested in a garden or indoor ceremony? Do your plans include a live band, DJ or both, plated dinner, stations, or a buffet? Be aware that buffet and station presentations can take up additional floor space requiring a larger venue. It is important to determine these details in order to confirm you are obtaining proposals from appropriately sized sites.
Request a proposal on the property's website and list as much information as possible – number of guests, ethnic food presentations, and especially your date or time of year you are considering. If you do not receive a response within 24 hours, move on to another venue. This is really a basic expectation.
What types of qualities, amenities, and services should couples look for in a hotel before booking?
A great go-to tool is their Preferred Vendor List. You can expect these professionals have been hand-selected as being the best of the best in their field and for the area. These vendors are also very familiar with the facility and staff, another great benefit!
Questions to ask:
– Does the venue require that you have a professional wedding planner? Who is going to be your "go to" onsite if you do not plan to hire a professional planner? Who will be in charge of the service staff?
– Does the venue offer multiple onsite locations for your rehearsal dinner and wedding brunch?
– Does the venue offer customized menu planning?
– Does the venue offer a backup alternative for outdoor areas in case of inclement weather?
– When do the pool and bar close? What is within walking distance of the hotel? Is it in a safe neighborhood?
How far in advance should couples plan on booking?
Start obtaining information and pricing 15 months in advance. Most hotels/resorts will not quote pricing further out. If you are only looking for a Saturday and/or a specific date, be prepared to commit about 13 months in advance.
What are some advantages to having a wedding at a hotel?
Your guests will appreciate your thoughtfulness. Having all of your events at one location will certainly put them at ease. Can you imagine friends and family coming into Los Angeles and having to navigate the freeways to get to one site for the rehearsal dinner, another for the ceremony, and yet another for the reception?
It can be expected that a hotel will be able to offer the basic equipment on a complimentary basis, whereby a free-standing venue, mansion, or banquet hall may require that you rent and bring everything in, which adds to your cost. If the hotel has a pastry team, you can also expect they will be able to provide your wedding cake.
What are some common mistakes couples make, or misconceptions they have, about planning a wedding at a hotel?
Hotel staff can be expected to be great listeners and amazing problem solvers; however, they are not marriage or family therapists.
A hotel will have a talented full-service culinary team. Most properties allow the use of an outside caterer for specific religious and cultural preferences. The misconception is that the hotel then becomes a banquet hall, which it is not. It is important to understand that an outside caterer must work seamlessly with the hotel and be respectful of its policies, maintaining the integrity of the property and equipment – this is the client's responsibility.
Be sure that you are comparing "apples to apples" when exploring venues. For example, do all quotes contain the same selections (brand names) on the bar? These do not need to be exact, but should be in close price proximity. Be sure they all contain the same quantity of hors d'oeuvres, number of courses with similar menus, and level of wines offered during dinner.
How can couples holding a wedding at a hotel create a great experience for their guests?
Host a welcome reception on the date of guest arrival and use the opportunity to provide ideas for excursions around town and hand out walking maps and brochures. This is also a great way for everyone to meet. Some attendees will appreciate having an option of exploring on their own, while others will enjoy a planned and well-coordinated excursion. Personalize the food and/or beverage during the evening to integrate one or more traditions from your heritage or history together. For example, if you met in Guatemala you may want to offer licuados (fresh shakes) made with papaya, pineapple, or mango, specific to this region.
Your overnight guests have invested in being with you this weekend, which often includes taking one or more days off work. It's important to welcome and thank them accordingly. A welcome basket/bag in their room upon arrival could include area maps, sunscreen, and other items reflective of the location as well as the itinerary for the weekend are all great ways to make your loved ones feel appreciated. When your venue offers a multitude of unique gardens and environments, it provides a different experience throughout the weekend.