A year before their 2011 Thanksgiving weekend wedding in the quiet waterfront town of Stonington, Liz and John Barrett of Shelton began a methodical search for guest lodging. “Stonington didn’t have a lot of hotels so we were pushed into Mystic,” Liz said. But with Route 1 traffic and a tip about frequent DUIs there on holiday weekends, they searched further. Large hotels, they felt, would be most likely to have plenty of rooms during a busy travel week.
They spent a weekend meeting with hotel managers and touring facilities — noting aesthetics (since the rooms and perhaps the lobby could become photo backdrops), amenities, and customer service before choosing the Mystic Marriott Hotel & Spa in Groton. Although about 10 miles from the reception site, the hotel had easy highway access and a generous transportation discount based on room block size.
Compared to lodging at the nearby casinos, which got nixed for not offering block discounts, the Marriott was priced right — even less than some lower-star hotels. And, recently renovated, “the rooms looked clean, fresh, and well maintained,” Liz said, adding, “On the morning of the wedding, it was nice to wake up and have all my friends and family there.”
As part of that group, I can confirm we were happy to be there.
“A well thought-out lodging plan is appreciated by any guest,” said Andrea Martin-Seaman, founder of Danbury-based Event Creations, who has done weddings throughout Connecticut and Westchester and beyond.
Here are some “do’s” for saying “I Do” to wedding accommodations.
Location: Select a hotel within 15 minutes of the reception, advised Brett Galley, owner of Greenwich and New York City-based Hollywood Pop Gallery, designer and producer of weddings and other events. Don’t assume anywhere is too pricey before checking into its room block rates.
Price: Even if you’re not on a budget, assume others are. “Most guests have traveled a long way and now have the expense of an overnight stay in addition to the wedding gift to the couple,” Galley said. But are different room types available? Liz’s parents, for example, wanted to splurge on a suite for maximum wedding day primping and pictures space, while all had a $120 per night option. Ask what the rates will be once the block fills, Martin-Seaman said.
Blocks: Some hotels, Liz discovered, require an exact quantity of rooms from the get-go. “If you said you needed 40 rooms, you had to be 75% booked or pay for the extra rooms,” she recalled. But the Marriott allowed 10-room increases of rooms as existing blocks filled, with an event coordinator providing frequent updates and guidance. The Barretts initially thought they would need 20 rooms, but needed 50 in the end, so they were lucky to have a hotel with that practice. (Liz does, however, wish they had requested the rooms be on the same floor.) Some hotel chains, such as the DoubleTree Inn, which has a Norwalk location, offer online guest list managers, allowing couples to track bookings and easily add rooms as needed.
Amenities: Choose a property to fit all guests — from families with children to seniors who may need “easy access to everything on the grounds,” said Galley. On site dining is key, and all the better if a full, sizzling breakfast (often anticipated) is available, Martin-Seaman said. “A continental breakfast may be a eliminating factor in hotel selection.”
Transportation: Prepare, and display at the front desk, a wedding day transportation schedule (transportation a must for weddings not on site). The Barretts provided a coach bus for guests and a party bus for attendants. “Depending on the wedding schedule, you may wish to have more than one pick-up time,” Martin-Seaman said.
Welcome gifts: Martin-Seaman and Galley advise providing gifts, with the front desk presenting them at check-in.
“It is customary and a very nice gesture,” Galley said. Yet, gifts need not be elaborate. The Barretts filled bags adorned in the wedding colors/pattern with snacks and goodies such as playing cards. It sent a message, as did all the carefully considered lodging-related decisions, that they couldn’t be happier to have friends and family there to celebrate.