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Hotel WeddingBefore the last economic crash, corporate travelers made up the lion's share of revenue for most major hotels around the Washington, D.C. area. Big hotel-based weddings had quietly gone the way of aspic and olive trays. The financial downturn, however, drained millions of dollars of business from hotels that had gotten used to the generous use of corporate spending accounts. Enterprising hotels in D.C., Maryland, Virginia and into the Midwest are rediscovering the potential of the hotel wedding. The revival is being led largely by Indian patrons; however, Chinese, Brazilian, Jewish and same-sex couples of multiple cultures are redefining the charm of a grand ballroom event.

Ceremony on a Grand Scale

It would be hard to overstate the ornament involved in a modern and lavish Indian wedding at one of the hotels that takes pains to cater to an Indian clientele. The ceremony itself may involve the bridegroom arriving inside the hotel on horseback. An event at one of the hotels in the past year boasted an elephant. It is not unusual for there to be fully choreographed dances. The entire event may actually be stretched out over four or five happenings, over the course of several days. As is evident by the costs involved, most of these weddings are considered to be high-end.

Catering to a New Clientele

Management in many of the hotels has stepped up to meet the demand for culturally specific events. Kitchens may keep typical dishes and beverages on hand to serve at wedding consultations. Hospitality staff may receive training in the geography, demographics and finances of the families' country of origin. There may be classes or seminars on the details of wedding customs in India or Brazil. Staff may even be provided with authentic clothing to wear on the day of the wedding ceremony. The aim is to create a seamless event for the couple, the family and the guests.

Adjusting to Foreign Customs

A truly authentic experience requires some effort and adjustment on the part of the business. For example, it is an Indian custom to keep an open flame at the place of the ceremony, a request many hotels may find difficult to accommodate. Hotels are finding ways to make it happen, managing the necessary permits and allowances to have the fantasy unfold just as the couple desires. As accommodating as some of these hotels may be, there may still be challenges. Ironically, one of them may be the propensity many cultures have for negotiation. Management may not only need to learn to haggle a bit, but may have to engage in negotiations with multiple aunts and uncles in addition to the immediate family.

Business is Booming

It may be true that a decade ago, hotels offered only the services they thought appropriate and rarely went out of their way to offer anything more or different. Now, it seems the tide has turned. Many large hotels are expanding their catering departments to meet demand. Big weddings are back, it would appear, but they are transformed. Couples are no longer ordering off the menu but seeking to weave their cultural roots into the event. Some hotels are taking advantage of the wedding boom by allowing their space to set the stage for the traditions and customs of betrothed couples from all over the world. The strategy may be paying off. Word of mouth is keeping catering departments up and down the eastern seaboard beyond hopping. While the opulence and extravagance of some of these events is notable, there may be another reason for an uptick in business. It may be that people want to have their special day at a venue where they and their traditions are welcome, whatever they may be.

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