Friday, 13 September 2013

A Behind-The-Scenes Peek at The First Wedding at The Langham, Chicago

 
It is a very invigorating experience to open a hotel, and it's one of the best experiences in the business.  I have opened four hotels over the years, and I look back at these as real milestones in my career.  There is a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, so to speak, but it is truly exhilarating.

Therefore, I have asked one of the team members at The Langham, Chicago to give us, as a guest blogger, a "behind the scenes" account of one aspect of opening our beautiful new hotel in the Windy City.

Gaylord Lamy, the Director of Food and Beverage at The Langham, Chicago shares with us his experience in organizing the first wedding - three days after the 10 July opening - and transforming this event into a memorable occasion for everyone to cherish.

Opening a hotel is not just about getting it to operate efficiently but also to secure a base of business so that it can be as successful as possible after its opening.  I applaud the Chicago team to have had the courage to take the wedding booking and make it a resounding success, the result of which immediately helped the hotel's public profile and which I am sure has also brought in more business.
- Brett Butcher

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Although I’ve been with The Langham, Chicago since the summer of 2012 and have been involved in the challenging process of creating a professional F&B department from scratch, putting together our first social event for this absolutely stunning hotel in this fiercely competitive city just a mere 72 hours after its opening will always be a defining point in my career.
Prelude to the first wedding held at The Langham, Chicago

The first challenge in organizing this inaugural wedding in our Devonshire Ballroom was to figure out how things were going to work without the spaces themselves being finished. I’m not sure who had more pre-wedding jitters then: the bride or me! 
Conceptual planning with cardboard mockups

At the time, I remembered that, to look at the table setups for the outlets, we had to cut cardboard mock-ups of the tabletops, the same size and shapes of what would be the finished version. We used the cardboard in the shape of the tables to see if everything would fit nicely. So everything was really staged in the back as much as possible to reflect what would happen in the front of the house. So that was quite a feat –to be able to conceptualize in abstract, then map everything out in physical form without the actual furnishings.
 
Unpacking the silverware

 
Even up to the hotel’s opening, we were staging in the back of the house (as precisely as possible) what we wanted to happen in the front of the house once construction was finished.
Since we had a very obvious deadline looming, everything had to be done in double time, which was an exciting and nerve-racking challenge. We worked with rental companies for all the tables, chairs, and linens, and decorations—and that made it even more complex because now we were working in a brand new environment with equipment that were not our own.
 
 

Now originally, we had four different parties interested in a wedding on 13 July —the first three were understandably discouraged by the fact that we would open three days earlier as they were unsure if we would be ready for them. But the last wedding party really held on to that date, and for that we truly appreciate their confidence in us. One of the biggest nail-biting moments was when we invited the bride to the hotel for her wedding tasting. We did it on a Monday, and the wedding was five days later on the following Saturday—it’s really rare to hold a tasting so close to the wedding itself, but the couple fully trusted us with everything, and I'm relieved to say that we pulled it off seamlessly.
 
Desserts by Executive Pastry Chef Scott Green at the wedding tasting

The menu was also created on the day of the tasting. Our talented chef pulled it together; the wedding couple gave us a little background of what they liked, and the whole menu was completely tailor-made to their wishes. Basically, there was nothing off the menu.


"French 75" - the bride's choice of cocktail, as seen at the wedding tasting

 
All the way to the day of the tasting, 75 per cent of the ballroom was still a storage space. So we set up just one small part of the ballroom for the tasting, which looked beautiful— but if they had peeked behind the wall, it might have been a little scary!






 










The day of the wedding was the first time any of us had seen the Devonshire Ballroom fully decked out. And I’m delighted and proud to say that it all worked out beautifully through sheer hard work, dogged persistence, long hours, team camaraderie and an unwavering mission to make our first social event the very best the bridal party has ever seen.

Here’s how the Devonshire Ballroom looked a few minutes before the wedding party arrived:

The Devonshire Ballroom magically transformed into a wedding wonderland

Finally, none of it would have been possible without our fantastic Banquet and Events colleagues and I'm proud to work with each and every one of them as we set The Langham, Chicago up for success.



 
Gaylord Lamy is the Director of Food & Beverage of The Langham, Chicago.

4 comments:

  1. Impressive for sure! Congrats!

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  2. Amazing to see the steps leading up to opening--congrats, Gaylord, Michelle and the whole team.

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  3. Welcome to chicago, the competency among the best hotel in the city is going to be brutal and the winner is going to be the one with the best service.

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  4. BRAVO! The final picture of The Devonshire Ballroom looked stunningly elegant! Big WOW for your accomplisment and for all the tremendous work that went on behind the scenes. Much success to all of you and congratulations for an outstanding opening!

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