Griffin Gate Marriott: Your One-Stop Wedding Spot
From the picturesque and quintessential "southern feel" of the Mansion, to the more traditional setting of the Grand Ballroom, Griffin Gate Marriott Resort and Spa has it all. Not only its venue selections, but also in catering, planning and other amenities on the property. Kentucky Bride Magazine sat down with Griffin Gate's Courtney Jones to get an inside look at all things wedding at the resort.
Kentucky Bride Magazine: Can you start by telling us a little bit about the history of Griffin Gate?
Courtney Jones: Griffin Gate was built in 1981. It was first focused on group business and things like that. But the wedding industry is important when it comes to of course the weekend business and having the unique venues too. We are the only resort in town, so we kind of like to present ourselves as being kind of a destination right around the corner. We're a little bit different from standalone venues like wineries, places like Grand Reserve, and Barrel House because we are a hotel and wedding venue. The Marriott is more than just the rooms, we have the wedding venues too. Being the resort, that gives us that other little niche to advertise the different spaces we have.
The Mansion was actually here before the hotel was built. It was built in the 1860s. It was a restaurant for many years that was shut down in 2008, and is just used as a standalone special events venue now.
KBM: You mentioned the Mansion as one of your venues, so what are all the places a bride can get married at the Marriott?
CJ: For the ceremony sites, we have the Mansion Lawn, the Bluegrass Pavilion Patio--those are our outdoor spaces. And then if needed, like during the winter months, we have a junior ballroom called our Terrace Ballroom, in addition to our Grand Ballroom, which you can use spaces in that for ceremonies as well.
For receptions, which are kind of the main focus, we have the Grand Ballroom, the Bluegrass Pavilion, Paddock Pavilion, Mansion, and the Terrace Ballroom. So five different venues essentially.
KBM: So what are the benefits for a bride to have her wedding here, in terms of space and the amenities that you offer?
CJ: So the benefits of being at a place such as the Marriott is that we have the amenities on the property to enjoy to make a weekend celebration out of it, not just a one day event. We have the spa on property, the golf course on property, we have the indoor and outdoor pool, fitness center, full service restaurant, and then of course the sleeping rooms, which brides can get a really great discount on for all of their guests coming from out of town. Also a big benefit is that we are full service. We're caterers, we provide all the necessities for the event, such as chairs, tables, linens, set up, breakdown, servers, bartenders--all provided within our packages. It's kind of the all-inclusivity of being at a Marriott and the ease of planning because you don't have to pull from a million directions ... and try to do everything on your own.
KBM: So with some of the planning services you have, can you explain those and how they work?
CJ: How it works is a little bit different than some of the standalone venues and even the Hilton and Hyatt and those kinds of places. We have several different venues and we're a large property. We have four event managers that actually help the bride with the whole planning process in the way of helping them choose what menu they're going to serve, the set up of the room, the timeline of how the ceremony is going to flow into the reception, all the way to the end of the night. So the event manager is essentially there to ... make sure that everything we do has been OK'd by the bride. We still recommend that a bride get a wedding planner ... because the event manager's job is to make sure that everything in that reception room looks exactly as they discussed, the food comes out exactly on time ... they are kind of the time-keepers of the evening.
KBM: Since you have five event spaces, do you have more than one wedding a weekend?
CJ: We can. The maximum we usually do is no more than three. But they're in such different sports that brides don't even see each other. Personally, I got married here in our Bluegrass Pavilion while there was another reception going on at the Paddock Pavilion, and they're really close together. I had no idea that reception was there. I knew because I work here, but I had no idea as a bride. Everyone has their own set spots ... and we do a lot of coordination with the whole team to make sure that it's seamless for both parties.
KBM: So what's unique about each of the venues that a bride can get married in?
CJ: Each one is very different and it's awesome because we have something for each bride, depending on what kind of style you're going for. So the Grand Ballroom is very traditional. It has beautiful, large chandeliers that, as you walk in, just take over the whole room. Kind of Beauty and the Beast-ish. And it has a nice antique feel too. So the kind of bride that really likes candle-lit dinners, lace and intricate details, really large centerpieces--that's the kind of bride for the ballroom.
The Bluegrass Pavilion is a very popular venue because it's a climate-controlled tent that overlooks the golf course and has a huge patio connected to the back of it. It has eight chandeliers and it's a little bit more of a modern feel, but it's sill elegant. It also has draped ceilings ... making it a little bit more of an intimate setting. That one is really unique because it's actually already pre-decorated for you. You basically just get to come in and put your own little touches on it, as simple or as elaborate as you want to get.
Our Paddock Pavilion is really unique because it has exposed ceilings. So you can see the HVAC and the A/C units running through it. And I say it's kind of like an airport hangar feel because it has the really high ceilings. So that's for the bride who likes to do the whole Pinterest thing because you can really bring down the ceilings by adding lanterns, extra lighting, draping ... basically anything you want to do in there. It's really cool to put your own touch on that.
The mansion, since it was built in the 1860s, is really awesome because it has that elegant, southern, plantation home fell. So if you're going with the "Gone With the Wind" type feel, that's exactly what you're going to get with the mansion. It has chandeliers in every room, a winding staircase, large windows, the ceilings are 12 or 14 feet tall, really large rooms, fireplaces in every room, a patio, a built-in bar, and then a side and front lawn. So all of it together creates a really intimate setting.
KBM: How many guests can your venues accommodate?
CJ: The Mansion can do more than 120, but I think it's perfect for no more than 120. The Paddock Pavilion can do about 300 or so comfortably, with dance floors and bands and everything a bride wants in there. The Bluegrass Pavilion can do about 220. The Ballroom can do about 460-500. But it can be split up for smaller. So about 500 when it's fully open, but then we can split it depending on the size with partitions that can be pulled.
KBM: For the wedding guests, how do you accommodate parking?
CJ: We have complimentary parking. Out front, I think we have more than 500 parking spaces. And we also have valet services, so guests can either valet, (and we have special event prices for guests who want to do that). Parking is right out front ... it's really easy to get to all of our venues from our main parking lot.
KBM: So as far as signage inside the hotel, if you have multiple weddings on one weekend, do you provide signage to help guests get where they need to go?
CJ: We do. We have lobby ambassadors, as well as a reader board which scrolls through the events, and then also physical signage within the hotel. Typically, even on a busy weekend, we at most will have two receptions, so it's not too complicated.
KBM: In all your different venues, how are you able to accommodate a bride that might want to completely transform a space to create her ideal wedding vision?
CJ: We have staff here that will help her create whatever she's wanting. To help her get in contact with whatever vendors are needed to do that, whether that's contacting them for her or even just providing that information to her.
We allow any kind of decorations to be brought in as long as it's not harmful to the facility--so as long as we're not hammering into the walls or something like that, we allow the bride to do whatever she wants and as elaborate as she wants. And also, depending on the bride, we can allow as much set up time as needed. We definitely will work with the bride to create whatever she wants, and mainly get her in contact with the people that can help create that for her.
KBM: We touched on this earlier with the planning and catering services and helping plan menus and things like that, but what are some of the menu possibilities that you have available through your catering service?
CJ: Anything. We have some all-inclusive packages. We have rehearsal dinner packages that include the salad, the entree, the side items and everything. We have all-inclusive packages with cute little names like the Simply Southern, the Bourbon Belle, and Bluegrass Bliss. These three include bars, chair covers, sashes, hors d'oeuvres that are butler-passed, champagne toasts, as well as the plated entrees with salads and things like that. Some of them include a midnight snack that we push out about 10:30 or 11 p.m. We have basic menus that we can give her, and we have packages that we've created, but we have the ability to customize any menu she wants to do.
We do have a menu tasting that we do twice a year. We like to do the events because it allows the bride to see a room set up for a wedding reception, and also to see our staff working so they know what to expect on their wedding day. So that's a big bonus that before they have to choose exactly what they want to serve their guests, they get to come and try everything.
KBM: So as far as the planning goes, how do make it go as easily as it can for the bride?
CJ: So they will meet with the event manager a many times as they need to feel comfortable with their wedding day. We're all certified wedding planners, which basically means we've all gone through a pretty good training on the traditions of weddings, different food ideas, and different tricks and tips. All of which hopefully gives the bride the extra peace of mind that we know what we're talking about. We have a banquet event order that gives them the timeline that outlines every detail they've talked about with the event manager, so they're on the exact same page as us. When I had my wedding here, it was like the game plan ... it was all outlines on there and it went perfectly.
CJ: It was based upon our excellent reviews that we've received in the past year. It's a pretty big deal because statistically, more people go online if they've had a bad experience, more so than if they've had a good one. So for us to get that many positive reviews is great.
KBM: What's some advice you would offer to a bride when she's making important decisions about venues and vendors?
CJ: I would say it's okay to tell the vendor or venue your full vision of what you're thinking about. I would want to know exactly what you're thinking and envisioning for your wedding ... so I know what I can tell you to help with your plans. Don't feel like you're going to bore me with the what you're wanting. So my advice would be to just lay it all out there. Help me help you. If you hold back on information thinking we're going to charge you more or judge you for your thoughts, don't be afraid of that.
All photographs courtesy of Courtney Jones of Griffin Gate Marriott Resort and Spa