By Amanda McCoy, Industry Magazine
(November/December 2019) – The U.S. wedding industry is big business – and it’s only getting bigger with each passing year. In 2016, the industry’s spending hit 72 billion dollars and is expected to climb an additional two percent annually for the next five years. According to data from The Knot, the national average cost of a wedding came in just under $34,000 in 2018, but in North and Central Jersey, that number crested $58,000, nabbing the sixth spot on the most expensive list. If couples want to cross the Hudson to exchange vows in the Big Apple, they can expect to fork over nearly six figures for the big day. When examining each area of expense, the same study denotes the venue typically constitutes the largest portion of the wedding budget.
But tucked away in the Radisson Freehold, accessible via a private entrance, lies a curio of the high-ticket wedding industry, offering lavish amenities for a fragment of the average cost. The hotel’s two event venues, the Crystal Ballroom and its more intimate sister space, the Emerald Ballroom, offer all-inclusive wedding packages that include full use of the banquet halls, outdoor garden and fountain, a bespoke catering menu, and personalized pre-planning and day of service. The average price tag for all of the above comes in at $12,500.
“Event planners are often stunned by how much we’re able to include in our packages for less than they anticipated, especially given our high-end location and exquisite event spaces,” added Julia Coppock, marketing director of Hotels Unlimited, the New Jersey-based hospitality management company that owns the Radisson. “By owning and operating a family of hotels and event spaces in New Jersey instead of a single location, we can consolidate our costs and pass the savings onto our clients. This is a big reason why our value outmatches our competitors by leaps and bounds. At the Crystal and Emerald Ballrooms, you can throw an incredibly posh wedding or event, and still save enough to splurge on, say, the designer dress of your dreams.”
When Hotels Unlimited first acquired the Radisson Freehold (at the time a boutique hotel called Freehold Gardens) in 2007, the proprietors knew they had just uncorked a sea of potential. Shortly after purchase, the new owners employed a massive renovation to modernize the 121 guest rooms, lobby and common areas, and the two banquet halls. After the renovation, these banquet spaces would go on to win numerous awards and become two of the most prized event venues in the company’s portfolio.
“We came in and made a huge investment in modernizing the hotel and the banquet spaces, and it’s become the place to go in Freehold. Along with the Sheraton Eatontown, the Crystal and Emerald Ballrooms are the jewels in our crown. They’ve won the Knot Hall of Fame award and been featured in My Fair Wedding, among other recognitions.”
The Crystal Ballroom spans just over 5100 sq. ft. of space and can accommodate events up to 300 guests with a dance floor (clients can add an additional 80 people to their guest lists if they opt to forgo the dancing space). Couples have access to a variety of different accessories to personalize the venue, including ceiling cove lighting in different colors, resin Chiavari chairs, fitted modern chair covers with optional add-ons like jewels, sequins, or bows, backdrops, wall lighting, and more. The Emerald ballroom is essentially a smaller version of the same style and amenities and can accommodate weddings of 120 guests or less.
“The ballroom is a canvas,” added Coppock. “Everyone can paint the picture of their wedding and capture what makes them unique as a couple.”
Couples have the option of exchanging vows inside the banquet halls or in the open air. The outdoor space includes a large fountain, which is a popular backdrop for photo shoots or an al fresco ceremony. The outdoor area is also utilized for cocktail hour and includes a garden, fire pit, and full-service bar. And since the venue is attached to the hotel, many guests choose to stay onsite and take the opportunity to enjoy a weekend escape. A complimentary bridal suite is included in the packages, and Coppock explained it recently underwent a renovation to make it even more high-end and glamorous.
“Our couples really like that there is a hotel attached to our ballrooms. They don’t have to worry about transportation, as it’s truly a one-stop shop. It can be a weekend getaway for their families and loved ones. The newly remodeled bridal suite is beautiful and includes new chaise lounge chairs and modern amenities.”
The wedding packages also include full-service dining, and like the banquet halls themselves, the menu can be entirely customized. Everything from finger-friendly apps and grownup comfort food to elegant, fine dining fare is doable, and the catering team encourages each client to get creative. The venue is also famed for its themed stations, like the “Bacon Me Crazy” spread, a Doughnut Mind If I Do” station from a local bakery, and even a S’mores board with a fire pit.
“The menu is what really sets us apart from the competition,” added Rachel James, the regional director of catering sales for Hotels Unlimited. “We keep up with the menu trends as much as possible, and we have over 100 different options. We can also personalize as much as possible. We can do an upscale comfort food theme, modern and glitzy, or even a whimsical twist.”
One final inclusion in each wedding package, and one that Coppock explained the Hotels Unlimited family prides itself on, is the level of one-on-one attention each client receives, whether their guest list is 300 or 30.
“We strive to do things differently. Not only do we have an amazing menu and beautiful venues, but when someone walks in the door, they meet the general manager, the room sales coordinator, and everyone else who will be a part of the process. We basically roll out the red carpet. You are the only one on our minds at the time. We know wedding planning is so stressful. You want the most beautiful venue, but we know that’s not enough. We want to become their friends. We want that feeling for every client and every couple that walks through the door.”
In addition to weddings, the venues have hosted a variety of special events, from corporate galas and large bar mitzvahs to intimate baby or bridal showers.
Crystal and Emerald Ballrooms
50 Gibson Pl.
732.780.3405 / www.crystalballroomnj.com