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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Finally done! And more confused than ever...



We originally had 4 places to see this weekend. Sandcastle Caterers,
Russo's on the Bay,, Garden City Hotel and The Woodlands. However, due to a last minute (and rather spontaneous) decision to take a Web-Design Class at Queens College, I had to move our Sunday appointments to Saturday and make some cuts. Though I really want to see The Woodlands, they are very difficult and annoying to schedule appointments with. They won't let ANYONE in on Saturdays to see the place because they are setting up for weddings. I'm sorry...you cannot possibly be having a wedding at 11:00 on a saturday, just let me come in and see the place. Believe me, I understand that I won't be seeing the final finished product. Anyway, they wouldn't let me schedule an appointment for Saturday, and Chris and I are very busy for the next two weeks. So, I have an appt. with them for Thurs. October 8th. Well, we may very well have reached a decision by that point. Sorry Woodlands: Your loss. We also ruled out Garden City Hotel because I just haven't heard good things about it, I hear it's overpriced and not great service. So, yesterday we saw Sandcastle and Russo's on the Bay.

Sandcastle was impressive and, like Marina del Rey, a place that I thought I was going to hate, I ended up loving. I don't even know where to begin. The outside entrance area isn't anything to rave about. When we walked in, Chris immediately goes "I feel like I'm in Las Vegas" There's lights on the stairs and medieval statues everywhere. I had to admit he was right and that wasn't entirely a selling point for me. I like Las Vegas, but I don't want to get married there. We were met with a very lovely young Greek woman named Dina who works at the Sandcastle but is also getting married there next June. First we saw the Hospitality Room. We would have this room from 5:30-6:00 in case any guests showed up early for our 6:00 reception. It's a nice lounge with tv screens and an open bar. They would also have passed hor'douvres at this time. Then she showed up the bathrooms and bridal suite upstairs. Both were very nice. I thought it was cool that there was a tv screen in the bridal suite that showed us a video of our guests at cocktail hour in case we didn't attend cocktail hour. (We plan on attending, but would probably leave it early to freshen up for the reception) Next, she took us into the cocktail hour room and it was one word: Impressive. We would have this room from 6-7 or 7:30 depending on what we want. There is a huge giant boat in the center of the room which will house all seafood from sushi to shrimp to raw oysters and clams and lobster.

There was a beautiful stage with a piano in which they would PROVIDE the pianist for our cocktail hour (which is a great deal). They have a brand new martini bar station with a waterfall. The Martini Bar has the capability of coming down from the cieling half-way through the cocktail hour with smoke and lights and they do a mini-presentation. Ummmm...not my cup of tea/pretty tacky. But at least it won't be me coming in from the ceiling for my entrance. (Please read below for Russo's on the Bay description). I would probably ask them not to do this for the cocktail hour, but could be persuaded to do it if I was allowed to laugh the whole time as it was happening to let my guests know "Yes people, I am aware this is a bit 'much.'" Now, the room itself was impressive but they're currently adding an addition which is an outside patio. It was very under construction while we were there but I think it's going to be beautiful. It's an outside patio half of which will be covered by glass for shade or rain protection. They will have tables out there, a waterfall and a staircase leading down into the garden behind the facility. I saw the computer generated pictures and it looks like it's going to be really nice. He told us to come back next weekend to see the finished product, which we may do. This way, our cocktail hour can be both inside and outside (which was also offered to us at The Inn at New Hyde Park). Next, we went downstairs to the Grand Ballroom. The worst thing about this place was that the bathrooms are on the second floor of the building and the main ballroom is on the first floor. That's not very convenient, but that really was the only negative against it. The ballroom was very pretty. Long dance floor down the center of the room. They have a camera on a tripod filming our entire wedding for us to take home at the end of the night. (all raw footage of course) They had tv screens for slide shows, very beautiful linens. Lights that we can change or decide how we'd want it to be and plenty of space. It was a very nice room. After that we went into her office to discuss the menu which was quite impressive and pricing...also incredibly reasonable. They include everything as a package, no extra add-ons or hidden fees, we get it all. PLUS the owner of the Sand Castle owns a hotel in Crete, Greece. This hotel is included in the price for a 7 day honeymoon!! Absolutely no where else included a hotel for their honeymoon and still this place was no more expensive than anywhere else. Of course, I need to research this hotel a little more but the pictures I happened to see looked amazing. All in all it was a great deal and a great place. My qualms here are really the very first thing that Chris said when we walked in: It felt a little like Vegas...and therefore, I'm worried it's a little gaudy. It's really not that bad and I'm sure as long as everything else is done tastefully no one will know, or quite frankly care.

Russo's on the Bay was hands down the worst place we have visited out of this entire process. I knew that we wouldn't like this place going into it, but I was curious to see it myself. Especially since this is the famous place where the bride and groom enter THROUGH THE FLOOR in a glass elevator for their reception entrance with a fog machine and everything. Really?? It all seemed very tacky to me. We enter the place and it's very clear there are multiple parties going on at once and it's very loud. It seemed very much like a wedding factory. I had called this place twice prior to coming in about scheduling an appointment. I was told that they don't do appointments, but to dress nice and the consultant will let us peak through to see the ballrooms. We go up to the office and are met by a very unwelcoming, very serious and not warm receptionist at the desk. She takes my information, we wait for a consultant. The consultant comes out, ONLY introduces herself to me and Chris. Never even acknowledges the Duni's, takes us into her office and immediately goes over the menu only addressing me and Chris the entire time. EVERYTHING is an "upgrade" You want dessert? More per person. You want linens on your tables and covers on your seats? More per person. You want this? more per person. You want that? More per person. Then, she gives us the base price per person and that's that. If we want to schedule an appointment to come back and see any of the rooms, we may do so with her. WHAT?! We didn't see a single thing about that facility other than the offices and lobby. Worst.Customer.Service.Ever. AND she definitely was the worst and coldest salesman(woman) that we've dealt with so far. I don't know where our wedding will be held, but I can certainly tell you where it will NOT be held: Russo's on the Bay.

So there we have it: Our top three choices are Marina Del Rey, The Inn at New Hyde Park and Sandcastle. Three EXTREMELY different places, all offering great packages. It all depends what kind of a "look" we're going for....beautiful and elegant by the water? Classy and sophisticated elegance at The Inn at New Hyde Park? Or just downright fun and showy (While still being classy) at SandCastle? (and with a honeymoon no less).

We have a lot of pro and con lists to make up. And, I think we need to visit each of these places again and hopefully with my parents when they come in 3 weeks to help us with the decision. Part of me doesn't want to sit on this for three weeks....but we are so busy the next two weekends we might just have to.

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