5 Tips for a Unique Hotel Wedding
Photo: Thomas Ross Photography
Venue: Double Tree by Hilton Greenway Plaza
There’s a reason—lots of reasons—hotel weddings are so popular in Houston. For one, there’s the weather factor: Having your wedding at a hotel means you and your guests can move from ceremony to cocktails to reception without braving the often uncooperative elements. The best hotels also boast excellent catering and event coordination, experienced service staff and luxurious accommodations for guests and pre-wedding prep, all of which can ease the stress of planning for busy Houston couples. And, of course, there is hotel event space itself—capacious, high-ceilinged, and built specifically to accommodate decorations, custom lighting and plenty of room for dancing. But while hotel event volume and convenience can be a boon for couples, it can also make a hotel wedding seem less than…unique. Which is precisely where that well-honed hotel staff expertise comes in. Here, we present six excellent tips, straight from in-house hotel wedding pros themselves, for creating a haute wedding experience at the hot property of your choice.
1. Ceremony on Site
A major advantage of a hotel wedding is being able to have all of your wedding events in one place, starting with the ritual of marriage.
“One of the many wonderful things about an on-site ceremony is that we are able to create whatever vision of your ceremony you prefer, whether it is chevron-theater-style seating or a circular style with the couple at the center,” says Angela Westhoff, senior catering manager for Galveston’s Hotel Galvez & Spa, a Wyndham Grand Hotel. “The sky is the limit to what we can help you design.”
At Galvez sister hotel The Tremont House, located in Galveston’s historic Strand District, senior catering manager Gina Hengst adds, “Hosting an on-site ceremony eliminates transportation issues and potential delays in getting the fun started.” One great option: “Transition the ballroom from the ceremony to the reception while guests enjoy cocktails in another on-site space,” making the most of the hotel’s grandest celebration location, while guests still get to enjoy another of this historic venue’s spaces.
2. Light It Up
While all hotel ballrooms have readily accessible light switches, you want to avoid flipping them…and instead go for illumination with high visual appeal.
Rebecca Payne, senior catering manager for the Hilton Americas Houston, notes that interesting lighting doesn’t just enhance, but actually can completely change, the look of ballroom walls. “Our Lanier Grand Ballroom has a different, contemporary look, with modern light fixtures and textured checkered walls,” she explains. “One of our recent brides loved the colors royal blue and fuchsia. Her wedding took place in the Lanier Grand Ballroom with bright pink up-lighting, causing the checkers on our walls to look dark blue and pink.”
With custom lighting, against a highly adaptable backdrop of neutral tones—the brand-new Hyatt Regency Houston Galleria, with its elegant, contemporary carpets and wall treatments is a perfect example—a hotel ballroom can become an entirely different world. “One of our recent weddings had an amazing underwater theme,” notes Hyatt Regency director of sales and marketing Melissa Malone, “where we had the walls illuminated in deep teal blue, and floating candles all through the ballroom.” She stresses that because the hotel’s ballroom is so customizable—“no traditional bright, floral hotel-ballroom carpet here”—you can really take it and transform it into whatever you want it to be, wherever your vision takes you.”
Chris Swetnam, social catering manager for the Hilton Houston Post Oak, adds that lighting doesn’t just brighten dark spaces, it can actually reduce their size. “Most ballrooms are designed to be grand, formal and impressive,” he says. And while these qualities may be ideal for the importance of the occasion, “not one of them creates a sense of intimacy.” To foster a feeling of coziness, he suggests, “Use lighting to create a more intimate space, by washing the walls in a soft color.”
3. Furnish For Comfort
A ballroom is a ballroom is a ballroom. Except when it’s not. With large load-in entries and vast empty space, a hotel ballroom is easily transformed into a luxurious “residential” setting, when the right furniture and accent pieces are put in place.
At Hotel ZaZa Houston, where opulent decor abounds and original works of art are, well…everywhere you look, stylish but comfortable furniture is a natural addition to the ambiance, especially when installed in the swank Phantom Ballroom—a favorite space for wedding receptions. Ashley Bartek, Hotel ZaZa’s associate director of catering and special events, likes to cozy up the place with “lounge furniture, including banquettes, coffee tables, oversized chairs and ottomans, mixed with cocktail and dinner tables.”
Meanwhile, at the Hyatt Regency Houston Galleria, couples need not bring in custom rentals to create a chic, comfy, residential feel: “We have such modern, elegant furniture—including linen-less tables—it doesn’t feel draped and covered up,” Malone says. “It feels more like a beautiful home.”
4. Serve Up Celebration
One of the best ways to un-banquet your hotel ballroom wedding is by giving guests a dining experience that feels more “restaurant” than “reception.”
At the popular Woodlands Resort & Conference Center, even guest groups of 500-plus enjoy an intimate dining experience. “Having a full bar, a seated dinner with unique main-course options, and dining tables of different shapes and sizes, all are easy ways to give any reception the feel of restaurant dining,” says resort director of catering and banquets Brad Whiting. “We are fortunate to have an experienced banquet and culinary team who recognize that food trends are continually changing. You don’t have to stick to the basics. Our on-site bakery, butchery and dry-age room, all give us an edge, enabling The Woodlands Resort to provide truly custom menus for each and every couple.”
5. Make Guests VIPs
With their locations in some of Houston’s hottest areas for dining, shopping and late-night fun—think: Downtown, The Galleria, River Oaks—in-demand city hotels are ideally situated for guest enjoyment during the hours they’re not on “wedding duty.”
“With a large international population here in Houston, most of my weddings have guests coming from every corner of the globe, so to them, we are a destination wedding,” Swetnam notes. “It is important to remember this by scheduling welcome receptions, as well as local attractions for guests to experience during their down time. With our location near the Galleria, River Oaks and Uptown Park, there is a lot of activity that is free for your guests. We offer courtesy shuttle service to these locations.” Want to keep the festivities closer to home? Schedule a private event “with a more casual ‘Texas’ or other theme for the night of guests’ arrival in the hotel,” to maximize convenience and give visitors a chance to adjust to the surroundings.
And don’t forget the most important wedding guests of all—you and your beloved. Evangelia Grell, social catering manager for The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa, never forgets the honored guests at the heart of the wedding celebration: “I love to send a couple a favorite item, a particular bottle of wine or Champagne. Or, if they love sweets, a fun dessert platter.” She adds, “At the end of every wedding, I send the couple wedding cake, and anything they would like to order from room service, since couples don’t usually have the opportunity to eat dinner and enjoy cake at their wedding.”