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Vendor reviews - our wedding weekend, 3/18-3/19, 2016.
ericamklein Posted: Mar 27, 2016 08:36 AM+
ericamklein MEMBER SINCE: 1/15 TOTAL POSTS : 19 WEDDING DATE: Mar 19, 2016
Posted: Mar 27, 2016 08:36 AM bride-minus.png

Vendor reviews - our wedding weekend, 3/18-3/19, 2016.

Our wedding was a week ago already (holy cow!) and I haven't posted on this board much, but I wanted to be sure and provide all of my vendor reviews for anyone who would find them helpful.

Officiant: April Gismondi

April was absolutely wonderful to work with from day one. She custom-wrote two full ceremonies for us - our legal civil ceremony which was held privately, and our unity ceremony which was held during the larger reception - after spending nearly 2 hours talking with us to get to know us individually and as a couple and to learn our interests and values. She really listened to us and worked hard to make sure our ceremonies would be meaningful and thoughtful and would achieve exactly what we envisioned, despite our unconventional approach. She even helped us put together a truly unique-to-us unity ceremony in which we combined 8 spices to make a custom blend, aligning the spices to the four elements through traditional symbolism and spoken pledges offered by several of our closest friends. We got so many compliments on our spice ceremony - all of our guests recognized how much of us was in it, and we never would have gotten there without her insight and creativity in putting it all together.

She also officiated our legal ceremony and was warm, down-to-earth, and genuine with a healthy sense of humor - our nearest and dearest who attended had so many kind words afterward. She made everyone feel calm and welcome and was so excited for us that it just felt like having another member of the family there!

Afterward she followed up with an email giving us tracking info for our marriage license, and provided links and instructions for handling my name change, which was super-helpful.

April clearly loves what she does, and it makes all the difference. I would recommend her to anyone looking to do something truly special for your wedding!

Venue: The Mansion at West Sayville

The Mansion was the only venue that we saw that really felt right for us while still being within our budget and allowing us the level of flexibility and customization we knew we’d need to make our wedding day our own. From the very beginning Steve, the Banquet Manager, was helpful and responsive, answering emails generally within hours and allowing us to visit the venue several times over the course of our planning, as well as arranging a food-tasting for us before we’d even booked the date after we expressed how important the food was to our event. (The food was delicious, by the way, and we booked on-the-spot!) He really made us feel confident that we would be able to put together exactly the event that we wanted.

We were able to use the venue space for both our legal ceremony and our reception the next day for a very reasonable price, and in both instances it was perfect. The house is so lovely and has such history, the size was perfect for our guest list of 75 (felt airy and roomy without being either cramped or dwarfed by the space), and the view is the most beautiful of any I’ve seen at other Long Island waterfront venues thanks to the gorgeous salt marshes just outside, the view of Fire Island and the lighthouse across the water, and the perfect placement of the building to catch spectacular Long Island sunsets. Our guests could not stop talking about how beautiful and perfect the space was!

Our Maitre’D Annemarie was absolutely wonderful. We met with her for the first time a month before the wedding and she quickly developed a strong sense of the vibe we were trying to achieve, and helped us figure out all the scheduling and logistical details of our somewhat unconventional reception and unity ceremony so that everything ran smoothly the day of (or if it didn’t, neither we nor our guests were aware of it, so she did her job perfectly!). She and her staff absolutely nailed the set-up and got all of our decor exactly as I’d envisioned in what seemed to me to be record time (as there was another event taking place the same day and ending about 2 hours before ours began) and once our reception began she made sure that everyone was where they needed to be, when they needed to be there. She also very discretely let us know when one of our family members had consumed a bit too much alcohol, giving us the opportunity to deal with it quietly without making a scene.

The venue staff also took excellent care of us and made sure we always had an opportunity to eat and drink and were never in need of anything, from sending up food and champagne to the bridal suite while my small wedding party and I were getting ready, to bringing us drinks during dinner, to making up our plates at the buffet. They were never intrusive and were always impeccably kind and polite to both us and our guests.

I honestly could not be happier with our decision to have our wedding here. It was the perfect fit for us and I will miss it now that everything is over!

Photography: Lotus Wedding Photography (Vince, Zelin & Anthony)

We used Lotus for 2 days over the course of our wedding weekend. Vince shot our civil ceremony on Friday, and Zelin (with assistant Anthony) shot our reception on Saturday. All three of them were kind, funny, down-to-earth, and really fun to work with and talk to. Both Vince and Zelin really did a great job of taking advantage of the spaces and environments we had to work with, and took our very vague ideas/suggestions and ran with them - we could tell both of them were being really thoughtful in staging and lighting every shot. They were careful to check in with us at each stage of the proceedings to make sure they were getting the shots we needed and that they weren’t being intrusive on us or our guests, which was hugely important to us. During the reception especially, I barely noticed that Zelin and Anthony were there and continuing to work their magic. The most telling thing, though, is that even my husband - who will say to anyone who will listen that he doesn’t like having his photo taken and doesn’t care about looking at photos - had a great time working with the guys from Lotus, and is just as excited as I am to see the final shots!

DJ: DJM Entertainment (Mike/Eric)

We worked with DJ Mike, who owns the company, to arrange everything for our wedding reception - he was the only DJ we came across who seemed to fit our personalities and our vision for our event. We didn’t want a lot of flash or crazy effects and absolutely did NOT want a loud, boisterous MC who would be running around and yelling at our guests to dance. We wanted something lower-key and classy, and we wanted our DJ to be open to working with our specific and varied music tastes. We found exactly that with DJM Entertainment, and although DJ Mike wound up being unable to actually DJ our wedding, his sub Eric did an excellent job of picking up where we left off with Mike, taking all of his notes and running our reception perfectly. He was really great about asking questions and clarifying anything he wasn’t sure about, and was able to adjust his approach on the fly (like when all of our guests got in line at the buffet at exactly the same time, clearing the dance floor unexpectedly - he wisely flipped back to cocktail hour mode and kept up an appropriate vibe). We got so many compliments on the music, with many of our guests saying we had the best playlist they’d ever heard at a wedding! The dance floor was packed for much of the night and we all had an absolute blast. Really couldn’t beat the price, either.

The only thing that didn't quite go as planned is that we were supposed to have a photo slideshow running on a flatscreen tv during the reception, and we spent a bunch of time putting one together and even brought it to the venue the day of, but we never actually confirmed that we'd still get this when our DJ assignment changed, and in the end we all forgot about it. We didn't pay for it, it was an extra that Mike threw in at booking, so it's not really a huge problem (and neither my husband or I even realized until the day after so no one missed it!) but it is disappointing in retrospect.

Transportation: Sir Oliver

We used Sir Oliver for all of our group transportation for our two-day wedding: for our Friday ceremony we booked a 12-passenger limo to ferry us from our hotel, to our ceremony location, then to dinner and back to the hotel; and for our Saturday reception we booked a smaller limo to transport the wedding party to the venue in two trips, as well as shuttle service both before and after the reception for our guests, and a town car to bring my husband and I back to the hotel at the end of the evening. Everything ran exactly as planned, with all of our transportation arriving right on time (practically to the minute, actually) and getting everyone where they needed to go in a timely fashion. All of our drivers were incredibly friendly, polite, and helpful, especially when transporting the wedding party on Saturday (our driver was so careful with my wedding dress!). The office staff were helpful, honest and responsive throughout the booking process and we really felt they had our best interests and our budget in mind when helping us work out the logistics of our weekend.

Would say that the limos were a little bit worn-looking on the inside, but they looked just fine on the outside, were impeccably clean, and all of the passenger controls and refreshments were perfect. Should also note that the vehicle they described as a 12-passenger limo apparently was only meant to seat 10, 11 if an extra passenger sat in the front with the driver (the 12 includes the driver) - we had 9 people in ours and it was already quite a tight fit. I don’t know if this is standard but be aware when booking that you may need a bigger car than you think depending on the size of your guest list. I did not see the inside of the shuttles but they were billed as fitting 32 passengers and our biggest group of around 2 dozen people seemed to fit very comfortably.

In any case, we’ve already agreed we’ll use them for all of our hired transportation in the future.

Hair and Makeup: Renaissance Salon, Ronkonkoma

I went to Renaissance with my sister (maid of honor),mother and mother-in-law for hair and makeup the morning of my wedding, and they made us all look absolutely gorgeous! They listened to each of us and achieved exactly the look we were each going for, in a very reasonable amount of time. Everything held up perfectly from the moment we left the salon at 11am until the end of the reception and beyond - my makeup still looked flawless when we rolled into our hotel room at 2am! The price was right and the result was exactly what I’d hoped for, and everyone we worked with was very sweet and helpful and fun. (Maryanne did my hair and makeup, and she, Krista, and one other stylist whose name I’m afraid I’ve forgotten took care of the rest of my group.) Will continue to come to this salon for all my cuts and styling from now on!

Cake: Rolling Pin

To a certain extent this was our only choice, as they were the only bakery specifically recommended by our venue that was safe for me and my guests due to severe peanut and tree nut allergy - they are a completely peanut-free bakery and are able to guarantee that an individual order will be nut-free if needed. However, I don’t think we settled at all as our cake was delicious and beautiful. It looked exactly as I imagined and tasted divine, we got so many compliments! We ordered marble cake with canolli filling and buttercream icing, but the day of they actually went one step further and gave us both chocolate AND marble cake on different tiers, which was what we wanted originally but didn’t want to pay extra for. Maybe this was a mistake but in any case, it was a lovely surprise - I actually preferred the chocolate cake but my husband preferred vanilla, so we compromised on marble when we ordered ;)

Hotel: Courtyard Marriot, Long Island Macarthur Airport/Ronkonkoma

We stayed at the Marriot for 3 days on our wedding weekend and had nearly 30 additional guests who stayed between 1-3 nights from Thursday, 3/17 - Sunday, 3/20. As part of our stay we attempted to make use of welcome bag distribution by the front desk, spent a large amount of money in the hotel bar (including a fee to keep it open late on Saturday night) and held a private breakfast on Sunday morning. Unfortunately we were extremely disappointed by the entire experience, from booking all the way through checkout:

Communication issues - From the very beginning it was difficult to impossible to get in touch with anyone in group sales, and it would take multiple calls/voicemails/emails and days of waiting to receive any sort of return communication, and when we finally were able to get a response we were often left with questions unanswered. It took us weeks just to get the block of rooms reserved. We also spoke with so many different people over the course of the booking process, some of whom appeared to be employed by Kleinfeld Hotel Services, that we never felt sure of who we SHOULD speak to or who was responsible for our booking and knew our situation. This continued until nearly 2 weeks before the event, at which time Cindy Prisco stepped in, but we still experienced some problems even afterward (was asked for a signed contract to be sent in, 4 days after I sent it the first time and was told we were 'all set'; arrangements made with Cindy were not communicated back to the hotel staff, questions asked via email were never answered, etc.)

Misinformation about shuttles - When we set up the room block in the fall, we were told that they would be booked through the hotel a month before our event using an external company, and were quoted a price. When we reached out as directed a month before, we were strongly encouraged to book the shuttles ourselves, and at that point we were so nervous about all the communication problems that we didn’t want to force the issue, and the price we were quoted wound up being way off from what it actually cost. This had a significant impact on our budget and caused a lot of extra stress as we were forced to make arrangements quickly and at the last minute.

Room pricing - the rooms in our reserved block were priced at $149, but nearly all of our hotel guests were able to find significantly cheaper pricing by booking through external sites or simply waiting until closer to our event date - at least one person booked at a rate nearly $100 LESS than the group rate. We feel that those of our guests who we encouraged to book early at the group rate were taken advantage of and are very unhappy that they wound up paying so much more for their rooms than was necessary.

Hotel bags - Absolutely nothing about this worked. We provided a list of guests before we even checked in and were told that it would be run against the hotel's reservation records to confirm rooming and delivery, but never heard anything back. We brought this same list to the front desk along with the bags when we were ready to drop them off and asked a staff member to check their records, which they did, but they did not take any action to ensure that those guests would actually get their bags on check-in (ie. making a note in the reservation record, leaving a list for staff to reference when checking in guests, etc.). We had to go back to the front desk at least twice more to remind staff to hand out the bags, but still only half of our guests received them as they were supposed to. We wound up passing extra bags out by hand. We also never got back any extras that were NOT handed out - imagine they are still sitting in the office because no one's even contacted us. It would have taken no effort to make a note in our own reservation record to return any un-distributed bags to us at check-out, but it was clear that no one working the front desk had any idea that we had special events going on unless we brought it up ourselves. Should also note that in attempting to verify our guest list with hotel staff, at least one of our guests did not appear in the system but absolutely DID have a reservation - we had to contact that person and ask THEM to contact the hotel to confirm, which was an unnecessary hassle for our guests since they were immediately assured that their reservation was in the system.

Room turndown/cleaning and security - On Friday 3/18 our room was never cleaned. We notified the front desk and housekeeping was sent up while we were in the hotel bar with our guests. When we returned to our room half an hour later, we found our door propped open with no one inside or anywhere in sight. We went inside and timed nearly 5 minutes until housekeeping returned, but we have no idea how long our door was left open before that. The staff member also tried to say that he was 'just around the corner' and was keeping an eye on the room, but we saw no one when we came in, and he obviously had no idea we were in the room when he returned because he was visibly surprised to see us. This is completely unacceptable - we had valuables, money, gifts, and items of high sentimental value in our room during the time it was left unsecured, and anyone could have come in while we were gone.

Sunday breakfast - we tried on multiple occasions to find out where our breakfast would be held on Sunday morning after our wedding but did not get the information until Saturday, at which point we had to scramble to ensure our guests knew where to go while we were already occupied actually preparing for our wedding. Setup was late (we were told 7:30, don't think things were really set up until 7:45, though luckily we had very few guests with us so early) and many of the cups and mugs set out for our use were dirty and needed to be replaced. There was also no signage put out at the elevators until I flagged down a staff member to ask for it, making it difficult for our guests to find their way to the correct room. I would note that the staff taking care of things during the breakfast were very responsive to everything we asked for and seemed to be working hard to make sure things were done properly.

Overall notes - Time and time again we were assured, by both Cindy Prisco and by on-location staff, that our needs would be taken care of and that things would go smoothly, but almost nothing did. We were given many guarantees that were ultimately broken. The hotel itself is beautiful, and we did feel that the staff working in the bar and food service areas were going above and beyond to provide good service despite being very clearly overworked, but we will not return here under any circumstances and will not recommend this location to anyone.
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