Spare No Expense Weddings

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Sometimes the budget is endless.

The bride has an idea of what her wedding is going to be and budget is, well, unlimited. How far will a hotel go to make her dream wedding a reality? The Peninsula Chicago caters to clients’ visions, even if it necessitates a change of windows, wall coverings, drapes, light fixtures, dishes or carpeting.

“All have been altered at one time or another,” says Jennifer Clarke, catering sales manager. The hotel has rented unique china, laid new carpet, installed chandeliers and placed custom windows atop the hotel’s own at the request of a bride and groom.

Nor does The Peninsula Chicago shy away from accommodating a bold theme wedding. The ballroom was once transformed into a ‘forest’ of many types of trees at the request of a bride and outfitted with snow machines to create a winter wonderland. And the outdoor terrace, included in the rental of the Grand Ballroom, was once converted to oblige a golf theme, with green and white striped sofas and mini golf.

Recently, The Peninsula Chicago staff has received many requests for an afterglow – a nightclub-like party for the wedding’s younger guests that continues “into the wee morning hours,” notes Ms. Clarke. The afterglow is self-contained, taking place after the wedding reception in a different part of the hotel. Typically, the party is complete with its own food and DJ, she adds.

“I can’t think of anything that’s not possible,” shares Todd Brown, assistant director of catering, Hilton Chicago. Most weddings at the Hilton take place in the Grand Ballroom, which can accommodate 300-800 guests. With 35-foot ceilings, crystal chandeliers and hand-painted ceiling frescoes, the décor was inspired by the Palace of Versailles in France.

The space “has looked almost the same for 85 years,” shares Angela Braswell, media relations/sales manager. And with such iconic features, structural changes to the space are rarely, if ever, requested. “We wouldn’t compromise the integrity [of the space], which lends itself to any kind of décor anyone would want to bring in,” notes Ms. Braswell, who says, however, that changing tables, chairs and linens is negotiable.

When it comes to ‘little details,’ Hilton has featured an elaborate, 18-piece baroque orchestra (flown in for the occasion), stadium seating in the ballroom and outdoor parades of animals like horses and tigers, which Ms. Braswell and Mr. Brown expect to be allowed inside the premises as early as next year.

If clients wish to create an ambiance that doesn’t include the Grand Ballroom’s adornments, they can hold the celebration in one of the Hilton’s two ‘production friendly’ ballrooms, in which essentially any setting can be constructed from scratch. Often, the “entire room is decorated in drapes and flowers to create aisle space and include a wedding canopy, chuppah or mandap” for a wedding that’s fully unique to a particular bride and groom, says Mr. Brown.

By Michelle Phelan

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