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Friday, Dec 9, 2022
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Hotels Share in the Matrimonial Bliss With Wedding Events

Local hotels, including the Carlsbad Hilton Oceanfront Resort & Spa set to open this summer, take wedding planning just as seriously as couples preparing for that walk down the aisle.

Just months before construction started last year, says Vice President and General Manager Bob Moore, the $60 million property’s original exterior design was rotated “nearly 180 degrees” toward the ocean to better capture the view — and with it, operators hoped, a chunk of the local market for scenic coastal weddings and other special events.

Starting in October, more than 100 couples touring potential wedding sites have been among the first to view the venue — well before its planned opening in late June. The hotel has since booked about 25 weddings for 2012.

“You had to have them use their imaginations because they’re standing on dirt and looking at sticks,” Moore said of last year’s bridal visitors. “But lots of these couples took photos of themselves in hardhats during those tours, and those will be keepsakes in their wedding albums.”

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Research firm The Wedding Report Inc. recently reported that couples in the San Diego market spend on average between $23,020 and $38,366 on weddings, based on the average number of guests estimated between 135 and 149.

Here Comes the Cash

The average U.S. wedding cost just over $27,000 in 2011, with about half the budget spent on the venue, according to a poll of 18,000 U.S. brides done by TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com.

Hoteliers say that the wedding business played a big role in helping local properties weather the national economic slump, and it remains key to sparking ripple business in room stays, use of on-site services, and future bookings for corporate and private events.

“We really didn’t have a recession in weddings, even during the recession,” said Tom Voss, president of the five-star Grand Del Mar resort in Carmel Valley. The posh resort has booked around 50 on-site weddings so far for 2012, an improvement of around 10 percent from levels seen in the past two years.

Depending on the combination of amenities ordered, weddings at Grand Del Mar cost around $300 to $400 per person. Party sizes have recently ranged between 100 and 400, and only one wedding is scheduled on the property for any given day.

Wedding party sizes may have trended down during the national economic slump, Voss said, but they have since trended back up. Wedding events now account for around 45 percent of overall event revenue at the Grand Del Mar, and those attending just one wedding can have a big impact on other hotel operations.

Wedding Guests Become Guests

“People will decide to stay for a weekend, use the spas or learn to play golf, and just make a full vacation out it,” Voss said.

Susan Khania, director of catering at the Carlsbad Hilton, said the property is projecting that it will host 70 to 100 weddings in 2013, based on bookings and inquiries of recent months. It is currently competing with a variety of price points to suit a range of budgets, and also offering corner-suite room packages and free spa treatments for brides, among other incentives to compete with rival venues for the coveted wedding customers.

Dave Griffin, director of sales and marketing for Paradise Point Resort & Spa at Mission Bay, said the resort expects to host 135 weddings by year’s end, up from 120 in 2011 and 85 in 2010. It is not usual for the resort to host five nuptial ceremonies on a given weekend during the peak June to October wedding season.

Wedding offerings at the property, operated by Destination Hotels & Resorts, include a budgeted minded “elopement package” geared to those holding low-key events for around 25 guests at a price of around $3,000. There are also more elaborate packages, geared to 250 or more people, which can run toward $40,000 to $45,000.

Griffin said the hotel has beefed up its direct-sales efforts to attract weddings and other events tied to the event, including rehearsal dinners. To compete, local properties are often throwing in extras.

“People in this economy are still looking for value to an extent,” Griffin said. “So you need to be able to throw in some extras or upgrades, whether it’s a champagne toast, or free bows for the chairs, things like that.”

Bookings are normally done around a year in advance, but Griffin said the property often has discounts and smaller booking windows for those willing to have a wedding on a Friday, Sunday, or other day outside of the most popular wedding day of Saturday. The arrangement, for instance, fits the schedules of military personnel who want to tie the knot before heading out on new deployments.

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