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Friendor Friday with Lauren Jones, Wedding Coordinator for the Loews Don CeSar

We are very excited to have Lauren Jones, Associate Director of Catering and Conference Management, from the Loews Don CeSar, take over the ADP blog to talk about the hotel, how she helps couples make their dream come true, and

 

 

Tell us about holding a ceremony and/or reception at the Don Cesar:
Most couples opt for an outdoor Wedding Ceremony in either our tropical Courtyard or right on the Beach with the Gulf of Mexico in the background. We offer eight indoor or outdoor Wedding Reception locations. All of our banquet spaces have spectacular views of the Intercoastal or the Beach. Because we have so many gorgeous banquet spaces, most couples have their entire Wedding Weekend at our Resort.

When did the Don first open?
Thomas Rowe opened the Hotel in 1928. We are part of Historic Hotels of America. Back in the 20s Al Capone stayed here, as well as, F. Scott Fitzgerald, among other famous guests of that era.

How many guests can you accommodate?
250 guests in our Grand Ballroom including space for dancing and entertainment.

The best feature of the Don?
There are two. One, the location is unbeatable. We resemble a pink castle located directly on the beach. Two, our staff is devoted to making our couple’s dream weddings come true. All of our team members have a passion for exceeding our guests’ expectations and creating memorable experiences.

Any required vendors that a couple must use if they book your venue?
We have partnered with three fabulous Wedding Cake Bakeries, A Special Touch- Cakes by Carolynn, Cakes by Nomeda, and the Cake Zone. If the couple selects any of the three, the Wedding Cake will be applied towards their Food and Beverage Minimum for the Reception space and they will not pay a cake cutting fee. If they choose to purchase a Wedding Cake through an outside vendor, there will be a cake cutting fee. We also encourage and incentivize our couples to book a Wedding Planner or Day-of Coordinator from our Vendor List.

What is included when a couple books your venue for a wedding?
Included in the Ceremony are white folding chairs, an audio package, a fruit infused water station and, the most important, a weather back-up location. Included in the Reception are the tables, banquet chairs, white or black linen, votive candles, flatware, glassware, plates, riser for bands, dance floor, etc. Depending on the size of the Wedding, we include a complimentary night in a suite or guestroom.

How far in advance should a couple book their venue?
The optimal time to secure the location would be 10 – 12 months prior to the Wedding Date in order to get a specific time of year or particular date. If the couple is flexible and would like a date more short term, we are always happy to accommodate. About a year ago, I had a couple book their 150 person wedding one month prior to the date and we pulled it off with time to spare!

Do you offer wedding planning services? What makes your services different from the rest?
My Catering Sales Team and I assist our clients all the way through, from the initial site visit to the detail meetings and tastings to the Wedding day, we will be there every step of the way. We like to see ourselves as a one stop shop in order to make it more convenient, simplified and fluid for our Couples. We are more than willing to coordinate the Ceremony and the flow of the Reception; however, it is always appreciated when our clients book a Wedding Planner or Day-of Coordinator. We have many fantastic planners on our Preferred Professionals List, among them is Cheers Events, our on-site event company. They offer day-of coordination, as well as, event design.

How do you help couples customize their big day?
Couples always want the details of their big day to exude their personalities and interests, including and most importantly, the food. For almost every Couple, we have customized a menu package. Our Chefs strive to please and wow by incorporating couple’s ideas and likes and dislikes into their Wedding Reception Menu. I have seen everything from a Sous Vide Fish Action Station to a Gourmet Grilled Cheese Bar. We rarely tell clients that we are not able to accommodate their food requests, and we are proud of that.

Do you target any particular niche?
Yes, typically our couples are looking for a high end Wedding experience in a place they feel they can be themselves and relax. We also are well received from couples that are looking for a vintage theme or beach theme weddings. Our space really lends itself well to either.

Fun fact about the Don?
The Don Cesar was named after a character in the Opera, the Maritana. Don Cesar played the Hero.n 1942, The U.S. Army purchased the hotel to be used as a sub-base hospital, then a convalescent center for airmen returning from their WWII tour. Parts of the movie “The Infiltrator” starring Bryan Cranston was just filmed here. It will be in theaters in Fall 2016.“Loews Loves Pets”, furry friends are able to stay in rooms on the first floor. It takes 2,995 gallons of pink paint and 12 weeks to paint the hotel.

Have you had any strange requests for a wedding? (décor/themes?)
You name it, we have had a request for it. Just to name a few…
Horse and Carriage Ride on the Beach
Groom’s arrival to the Ceremony by Jet Ski
Groom’s arrival to the Ceremony by Duck Boat
Dog ring bearer or flower girl
Ferrari Wedding Cake (look and size)
Flash Mob at the Wedding
Having a table setting and meal for the creator of the Hotel, Thomas Rowe (people really get into the history)
Gobo lit up in our Pool
Helicopter Exit

Most unique event that has taken place at your venue? Or most memorable?
By far the most unique Wedding we have seen was the “Epic Wedding” that took place in our King Charles Ballroom (see link). The video has over 2 million hits on YouTube. Guests of the Wedding included Batman and Iron Man among other characters.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z04VIhagpko

How is the Don different from other wedding venues?
What separates us from the rest is our phenomenal team, the breathtaking location, our rich history and our decadent food offerings. We are the total wedding package here at the Don Cesar.

How/When did you start working for the Don?
I started at the Loews Don Cesar right out of college in 2007 as a Front Desk Agent. I like to refer to the Front Desk as the boot camp of the Hotel Industry. In the 8 years that I have been here, I have worked in four different departments and have held 8 positions. The experience that I gained through the variety of position is invaluable to my current role as the Associate Director of Catering and Conference Services. The more knowledgeable you are about your hotel or resort and its offerings, the better experience for the client and your hotel becomes, ultimately, more profitable.

What interests do you have outside of work? Tell us about yourself!
My passion is food and drink, I LOVE to eat and have a very diverse palate. On my days off, you can usually find me in Downtown St. Pete trying out new restaurant, lounge or brewery. Another passion of mine is to travel and experience the world. Both my Mom and I have big birthdays coming up later this year, so we planned a trip to Italy in September to celebrate. We will be staying in an Agriturismo (Farmhouse) in Tuscany for a large portion of the trip. I am very much looking forward to having a delicious glass of Chianti paired with authentic margherita pizza, my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

 

 

We had the honor of capturing a beautiful St. Petersburg wedding photography at the Don recently, we loved the elegance of their reception room! 

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