On November 21st, Alex and I had wedding #3 at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, MA. We are finally done getting married! It may seem unnecessary, but it had to be done for various reasons. I felt the need to blog about this particular experience because I found the entire process with the staff at Hawthorne to be absolutely exceptional. For my experience, I have been a guest at several weddings, 3 of them just last year, and have had 3 of my own (to the same person!)
From the first meeting, almost a year ago, I knew that Hawthorne was very experienced as a wedding venue. My correspondence was primarily with Christine Turner who is the Assistant Director of Catering. After securing our date, Christine suggested I read Hawthorne’s Wedding Blog to get ideas and read about other wedding experiences. Even though we had already had two weddings, neither of them were as organized and structured as this one and I could use all the help I could get. The weddings on the blog were so creative and they all looked beautiful. I knew Hawthorne was a great choice. Over the course of the year, we had a total of 4 meetings with them, the initial meeting to set a date, the tasting, the initial details meeting, and the final meeting before the wedding.
In early August we had our dinner tasting and I was told to bring an empty stomach, that couldn’t have been more true. The tasting was essentially a mock wedding where the guests were couples like us who had upcoming weddings. They had several stationed and passed hors d’oeuvres along with a few upgraded items such as warm apple cider, which I ended up getting for my wedding. Also around the room were sample center pieces and napkin folds and each table was set up differently to display different chairs, tablecloths, napkins and centerpieces. Seated at each table with us was a member of the event staff to answer any questions that may come up during the tasting. They offered two samples each of the appetizer, salad, and dessert and the entree had 5 samples along with several sides served buffet style. There was so much food, I could barely try a bite of everything. They were so accommodating with Alex’s lactose intolerance, they gave him a salad without cheese, and a raspberry sorbet for dessert instead of the ice cream they had on the menu. The food was delicious, although I think I enjoyed the hors d’oeuvres during cocktail hour more than the actual dinner. I was completely sold on the crab cakes as soon as I tried the first one. After the tasting, we knew exactly how we wanted our reception set up down to the napkin folds, and we were able to confidently choose our meal options.
The next meeting was for the initial preparations. We made our food and drink selections, gave an approximate head count, discussed any personal details we wanted to include and we received our “homework packet” as they called it, which we had to fill out and bring to our last meeting. Christine was very organized and thorough and was able to answer any and all questions we threw at her. She was very patient with our indecisiveness and our lack of knowledge of the process. She also informed us that she would be going on maternity leave a few weeks prior to our wedding and that we would see no interruption in the excellent service we had been given thus far and the transition to her replacement would be seamless. And indeed it was.
At our last meeting, I brought the somewhat completed homework packet along with all of our wedding favors and other items that would be included in the ceremony and reception. We were greeted by Lindsay Otis and Liz Dube who would be taking over the rest of the planning. They knew exactly what we had discussed with Christine and walked through the timeline of the entire day of the wedding with us. Literally, starting from 9 a.m. when our photographer was to arrive straight to 5 p.m. when the reception ended. Every detail of every event (lining up the bridal party, when to walk, where to stand, when to leave, where to go, first dance, cake cutting, bouquet toss) was reviewed, and it only took an hour! Liz continued to tell me that she would be the single point of contact for Alex and I during the entire event. If we needed anything at all we would just need to tell her and she would work with the appropriate people to make it happen. Seriously, Liz should be working for the secret service. Going into this meeting I was extremely stressed out and nervous about the details of the day, after leaving the meeting I was so relaxed I wasn’t worried about a thing. I was amazed.
On the morning of the wedding, Liz gave me a brief rundown for the ceremony and let me know that everything was ready and on schedule. She was smiling, confident and genuinely happy to be helping me on my day and I have to admit, seeing her made me instantly less nervous.
After the bridal party photos were done, we had a half an hour to go before the ceremony started and no guest had arrived. Like none. 11:00 rolled around and still we had maybe 10 of the 90 guests. Liz was still calm and said it was no problem we could just push back the ceremony. It’s almost like she’s done this before. Finally after 20 minutes of Liz reassuring us that everything will be fine, we were able to start the ceremony. She gathered the bridal party and gave them their instructions, lined everyone up and orchestrated a great beginning to the ceremony. Luckily, our ceremony was super quick (considering that we were already married, we could skip most of the details) so starting 20 minutes late didn’t have much of an effect on cocktail hour.
After the ceremony, Liz instructed the guests to enjoy cocktail hour while the bridal party took some final group photos in a room off to the side which had its own table of hors d’oeuvres and champagne. Meanwhile, the waitstaff brought in trays of the passed hors d’oeuvres and my beloved warm apple cider. The treatment that the bridal party received was fantastic, the waitstaff was extremely accommodating and friendly and would go out of their way to bring us any specific item that we were waiting for (for me it was the apple cider).
After mingling with our guests, pushing the crab cakes on everyone I saw and enjoying 3 glasses of cider, Liz brought the bridal party back to the photo room and instructed the guests to make their way back to the ballroom for the reception.
We had our introductions, began our first dance and had everyone join in. While most guests opted for the open bar instead, we had a good group out on the dance floor. The reception carried on with Liz always around when we needed her, yet somehow invisible. She’s like a ninja. Dinner was absolutely delicious; better than the tasting. Again, the waitstaff was amazing. They introduced themselves to each table and made sure that everyone was getting what they ordered and even made sure to point out specific ingredients in the food for anyone with allergies.
When I was finally able to relax, mingle, eat, drink and enjoy a cupcake, the dance floor was my new home.
The reception was everything I could have imagined and we had an absolute blast. I actually, didn’t want it to end. But alas, 5 p.m. rolled around and it was time to clear out. Hawthorne did an amazing job clearing out the ballroom quickly and efficiently since there was another wedding right after mine. They saved the leftover cupcakes, favors and centerpieces and everything was delivered to our suite for us to take home the next day. The suite was beautify set up with chilled champagne and two of our cupcakes for us to enjoy.
Overall, my experience with the Hawthorne Hotel from beginning to end was exceptional. The attention to detail and professionalism was above and beyond what I expected. Christine, Liz and Lindsay did a fantastic job of preparing us, answering our questions, holding our hand when needed and guiding us through the entire process. My brother, who was my default “wedding coordinator” for wedding #2, had such high praise for Liz, we couldn’t have pulled it off without her. So, I just wanted to say thank you to Christine, Liz, Lindsay and the entire staff at Hawthorne for giving us a truly memorable day!