You’re engaged! Now what? While some brides-to-be relish planning their weddings long before Mr. Right comes along, the process can be overwhelming for many newly engaged couples. The first step toward exchanging vows is to say “I do” to a venue that fits perfectly with your vision of the ideal wedding.
We talked to catering specialists at four popular Marriott hotels in the Washington, D.C., region to get the scoop on selecting a wedding venue from experts who have coordinated hundreds of memorable traditional American and ethnic wedding celebrations.
Start looking and booking early
Once you determine when you want to get married, start shopping for your venue. “Start looking early. As soon as you find the right place, book it. Things go quickly,” advises Melissa Fedoroff, Catering Sales Executive at Key Bridge Marriott, a distinctive wedding venue in Arlington, VA.
“People are shocked how far in advance dates book up,” adds Maggie Goetzman, also a Catering Sales Executive at Key Bridge Marriott, where the booking requests come 12 or more months in advance for the coveted top-floor Capital View Ballroom, with its breathtaking panoramic views of D.C. Goetzman and Fedoroff recommend booking at least one year in advance to secure your preferred date and location, especially if you plan to marry on a Saturday in the spring or fall — the most popular times of the year.
If you want to marry sooner, you may need to be more flexible to score the perfect spot. Consider off-peak days, such as Friday or Sunday. “I’ve booked a wedding two months out before. We definitely can do it — and create a fabulous celebration — couples may just need to be a little more flexible,” Fedoroff says.
Prioritize your needs
As couples begin the search, they should discuss the top three things that are most important to them in a wedding venue. “Wedding planning can become overwhelming, but if they can sit down and determine what’s most important, they won’t get lost in all the details,” Fedoroff says.
To prioritize your wants and needs, first ask yourself what your dream wedding looks like. “When you were planning it as a little girl, what was in your head?” says Lynann Dumas, Senior Catering Sales Executive at the newly redesigned Washington Marriott Georgetown, a West End wedding venue. “Couples need to focus their search — are they looking for a location that’s close to a church and convenient for out-of-town guests; a destination like a beach or a winery; an historic building?”
While you search, consider how much organizing you can handle on your own. If you rent a barn or an historic building, you may also have to search for someone to supply catering, alcohol, tables and chairs, and lighting. “At a hotel, you get a one-stop-shop where everything from cocktails and hors d’oeuvres to linens and technology are organized for you. We also provide a list of recommended photographers, florists and other professionals that we’ve successfully worked with in the past, to cover all your needs,” Dumas says. At Washington Marriott Georgetown, you also get event space and guest rooms that have recently undergone a magnificent transformation and a location that’s easily accessible to Dupont Circle, Foggy Bottom and Georgetown.
When Krista Dippold got married out-of-town two years ago, her job in catering for Marriott prepared her to ask all the right questions during her search for a venue. “Unless you have your heart set on a specific location, make sure you shop around and check out several different options, whether it is hotels, banquet halls or country clubs. Weigh out the pros and cons of each one,” says Dippold, now Senior Catering Sales Executive at the spectacularly renovated Crystal Gateway Marriott, an Arlington, VA wedding venue connected to the Metro.
She suggests couples limit their visits to five potential venues. “It’s not going to be overwhelming and you are still going to remember the details and the differences. Don’t go to 20, you’re going to drive yourself crazy. It’s all going to jumble together at that point.”
The venue should accommodate your number of guests and your budget, advises Dippold, who coordinates everything from intimate affairs for 50 to multi-day ethnic celebrations for 1,100 in event space that includes the largest ballroom in Arlington County.
“Make sure you know the final price point, and whether it includes taxes or not. Ask about any hidden costs,” Dippold says. “Our wedding package is very straight forward. There’s no hidden fees. Not all venues do that.”
Match your personal style
Modern brides want a wedding that’s as memorable to guests as it is for the bride and groom — a venue that reflects their personal interests. “Ask yourself, what is my personal style? Is it country or is it city? Is it fancy or is it more relaxed?” says Cindy Fuller, Director of Catering Sales at Falls Church Marriott Fairview Park, a wedding venue in Falls Church, VA.
Falls Church Marriott Fairview Park has the best of two worlds — an unexpectedly lush park-like location just off the beltway and close to D.C. “With lots of green space, a fishing pond, fountain and walking paths, it’s a very serene environment that’s great for photography, which is important to bridal couples,” Fuller says.
Keep in mind that any venue can be transformed to fit a couple’s style. “We have brides and grooms who do incredible things to make their wedding personal, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot,” she says. One couple erected a garden pavilion in the center of the ballroom, complete with rustic wood tables and flowers in decorative tins. For a more modern look, another couple had the walls and ceiling draped in dramatic white linens and lights.
“Some couples have something small that they care about,” Fuller says. “One didn’t like cake, so they had an ice cream truck come onto our patio. It made the experience very personal to them.”
Whether you’re engaged — or hope to be — best wishes while you plan your nuptials. Keep these pro tips close for reference to make the process go as smoothly as possible. No matter what your personal vision is for a celebration, you’ll find a wedding venue that matches your budget and your dreams at a Marriott in Greater Washington, D.C.
Crystal Gateway Marriott — 1700 Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington, VA 22202; 703-920-3230; crystalgatewaymarriott.com
Falls Church Marriott Fairview Park — 3111 Fairview Park Drive, Falls Church, VA 22042; 703-849-9400; fallschurchmarriott.com
Key Bridge Marriott — 1401 Lee Highway, Arlington, VA 22209; 703-524-6400; keybridgemarriott.com
Washington Marriott Georgetown — 1221 22nd Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20037; 202-872-1500; washingtonmarriott.com