Setting up for a wedding can be expensive, complicated and stressful for the bride, groom and their families. And while it is the venue operator’s job to develop relationships with and understand the emotional and logistical desires of clients, it is their business.
Philippe Demol, marketing director at The Ballroom at McLean Gardens in Cleveland Park, says clients and planners need to have a mutual understanding. Planners have to “pretend this is the day of [the wedding]; you have to pretend that you are a client,” he said, adding that even if a potential client decides to take their business elsewhere, they leave with an understanding of the process and logistics of everything “from a party planner perspective.”
Demol sees a lot of potential clients who come ecstatic over the fact that their wedding is close, but without many details in mind. “Planning a wedding for a 20-something is a process,” he says. “They go from cloud nine to the reality of having to invite and plan for and feed 100-plus people. It’s a process.”
A crucial part of setting up a wedding is matching aspects such as the florist, photographer and DJ or band with the personalities of the bride and groom, according to Katie Shannon, social event sales manager at the Four Seasons Hotel Washington, D.C. in Georgetown. “We try to be as sensitive as possible to our clients’ requests,” she says. “Our main focus is the bride and groom.”
Shannon and Demol both emphasize that it is important for planners and their clients to visualize the wedding day. “Your place has to be ship-shape, clean. You have to be prepared to show them every single option and scenario,” Demol says. Shannon adds: “We go through a formal walkthrough process and paint a picture.”
Most clients book their venues nine months to a year before the wedding date. Demol says that he and his team offer their clients options for more than just the ceremony and reception. Because The Ballroom is not a hotel, part of his job is to inform clients of nearby hotels, as well as the parking situations and the closest synagogues.
The Ballroom hosts three to four Jewish weddings a year, Demol says. And apart from setting up and taking down the chuppah, the process for setting up for a Jewish wedding is largely the same as for any other wedding. Shannon, on the other hand, says that at least half of the Four Seasons’ weddings are Jewish weddings.
“There are a lot more details intertwined with a Jewish wedding,” she points out. Venues, Shannon says, need to make arrangements for the bedeken (the veiling of the bride) and the ketubah (marriage contract) signing if necessary, as well as to ensure that the hora begins at the right time and that, if there are guests who keep kosher, they receive their meals. The Four Seasons prepares all the food for the weddings they host.
“It’s our job to be extremely knowledgeable about all backgrounds and types of weddings.”