2020 has proven that you can’t cancel love. With engagement season quickly approaching and many 2020 ceremonies put on hold, 2021 is set to be the year of the wedding, making the next couple of months a crucial time for couples to find and lock-in their preferred venue.
Knowing weddings may look a little different for the foreseeable future, Hilton gathered a number of their expert event planners to share their best advice for hosting safe and memorable ceremonies and celebrations. Backed by Hilton EventReady with CleanStay, these tips showcase how couples can transform the event experience from a COVID-19 wedding into their dream celebration.
Seek out the memorable.
Fifty percent of those who agree there is a travel memory deficit feel they will miss out on special life moments with loved ones, according to a recent Hilton survey that launched its global “To New Memories” campaign. Since there’s no better time to make new, lasting memories than a wedding, Hilton expert planners recommend seeking out wedding venues that help couples and their guests achieve that goal. At Hilton, an example of hotels that deliver the memories, every time, include:
- Casa Marina Key West, a Waldorf Astoria Resort offers couples an unforgettable “waterwalk” for whoever wants to make their wedding entrance a statement, with a 200-foot-long runway that transforms into a ceremony aisle. A customized sand sculpture is also available for picture perfect photo album moments.
- The Reach Key West, a Curio Collection by Hilton features an oversea gazebo that enables the couple and their guests to float over the water, not just on air, when the “I do’s” are shared in this covered private space.
- In addition to its stunning 4,000-square-foot landscaped courtyard, The Logan Philadelphia, a Curio Collection by Hilton features a nearly scratch kitchen that offers an elevated culinary experience where items on the menu are hand created from locally sourced ingredients. Whether it’s the house-made charcuterie accompanied by homemade pickles and Maldon crackers or the 72-hour-sous vide short rib accompanied by an infamous honey corn cake, the chef and hotel team will help create a menu set to impress.
Focus on more purposeful favor offerings.
Wedding favors continue to be a common way couples can provide a personalized thank you to their guests, but many look a little different now. The events and catering team at Hilton Austin says it’s been more popular to gift individual packages that lean into cleanliness or encourage physical distancing, like customized masks or hand sanitizers.
As Brittani Libring, senior sales manager at Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines points out, “it’s all about making it ‘COVID cute!’”
Ann O’Riordan, director of Catering and Events at The Drake Hotel says couples should welcome the opportunity to create memorable experiences for guests even if it’s at a safe distance. “Currently, the hotel offers Champagne curbside at check-in, glam bars and private family elevators – and it really makes an impression with wedding guests.”
Focusing on flexibility helps for an easy planning process. “The No. 1 request from 2021 wedding couples is flexibility in booking terms and minimum spend amounts given the level of uncertainties that comes with planning today,” notes Daniela Davies, Complex Director of Catering and Events at Casa Marina Key West, a Waldorf Astoria Resort.
All couples should seek partner venues and companies, like Hilton, that provide flexible contract clauses, but experts are feeling confident about 2021 celebrations. “With group availability still open, 2021 should be easier for couples to pick a date for their wedding, especially if they look at securing a date by the end of the year,” says Verena Rentz, assistant director of Events & Catering, Hilton San Diego Bayfront.
Once booked, Hilton Bogota’s Director of Sales Elena Guerrero suggests couples check with their event planner to be sure they understand any local or state restriction on events, alcohol consumption and protocols for their event to avoid surprises along the way.
“Our hotel prides itself on being flexible, realistic, honest and transparent, adapting to different scenarios, establishing trust and catering to the couple to give them the wedding of their dreams,” adds Brittani Libring.
Additionally, couples should know where they don’t want to be flexible. "While we don’t know what next week, next month or even next year looks like, I think the best advice we can offer is for the couple to understand what is most important to them – and then we can work to understand the best solution for everyone," Christopher Anderson, director of Sales & Marketing, Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas.
Embrace your dream wedding.
Experts agree that every wedding doesn’t have to be remembered as a COVID-19 wedding, and it’s important not to lose sight of a couple’s dream vision for their special day.
- For instance, while large dance floors specifically are currently not allowed in Philadelphia, at The Logan Philadelphia, there is still an opportunity for families to feature signature dances. The wedding couples’ first dance, mother and son and father and daughter dances have all taken place at the front or back of the event set-up to allow for proper physical distancing while still maintaining tradition.
- At Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines, one way couples can encourage physical distancing is by organizing the ceremony with pods of chairs for families or guests who travel together. This also helps accommodate more people in the space.
- Conrad Indianapolis is still offering their infamous white-gloved synchronized dinner service, which has been positively received since opening in 2006.
Go hybrid (or micro!).
Event planners around the world are quickly becoming hybrid event experts, enabling wedding couples to achieve their ideal RSVP list – virtually – if not everyone can attend in person.
Utilizing the Hilton EventReady tips and guidance, Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines delivered a couple’s dream traditional Indian wedding through a hybrid platform, which included broadcasting in the officiant priest to both the in-person and 75-person virtual audience. The stream was later uploaded to YouTube for an additional 200+ views.
Alternatively, couples can take a more intimate approach with a number of microwedding package offers available throughout the portfolio.
Live in the Now.
While it may be different planning a wedding today, our expert planners encourage couples to keep a positive attitude and enjoy the entire experience – from the engagement to the wedding.
Put simply by Director of Sales and Marketing Catie Walsh from Waldorf Astoria Chicago, “Embrace the times we are in; don’t try to fight it. In the end, love always wins and what matters is that the couples enjoy their special day as they enter into a new chapter of their lives together.”
For those looking for a venue, visit meetings.hilton.com for more information. Hilton Honors also provides a great incentive for the hardworking event planner – whether that is the bride, groom or a professional coordinator. Through the Hilton Honors Event Planner program, members can earn Hilton Honors Bonus Points for weddings (other special events also included in offer) booked at participating hotels within the program. Through the Hilton EventReady Flexible Offer, customers who book by Dec. 31, 2020 for weddings or events taking place through May 31, 2021, can earn double Hilton Honors Points (2 Points per $1 USD spent) on guest rooms, event space and more on qualifying events at participating hotels.