Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitality brands have had to adjust their operations and expectations around group business. Limitations on large gatherings and the dramatic slowdown of business travel have put many hotels that rely on group business in a tough spot. However, the hotel industry is never lacking in creative solutions. In the case of Omni Hotels & Resorts, one solution was launching a program for micro weddings.
Omni Hotels & Resorts’ micro weddings provide an intimate and safe ceremony for a couple and a few their most-loved ones. Because the number of attendees is so small, couples are able to relax in the days leading up to their wedding date without constantly worrying about changing COVID-related restrictions. “These smaller gatherings can be special and unique, and attendees have great, incredible memories,” explains Dan Surette, chief sales officer at Omni Hotels & Resorts.
This isn’t the first time Omni properties have catered to the demand for small weddings. Three years ago, the Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia started offering an elopement package designed for groups of about 25 people. The pandemic has made this package even more appealing for couples looking to tie the knot during a time in which they must be cognizant of not having too many people in an enclosed space. “It’s been a perfect storm for small events,” notes Jocelin Meesenburg, director of catering and conference services at Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia. “This is the year of small, intimate gatherings.”
But even small gatherings present a risk factor, and different states, cities, and counties have local pandemic-related rules and restrictions. In response, Omni Hotels & Resorts developed Omni Safe and Clean, a brand-wide set of standards and regulations designed to keep guests safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is focused on enhanced cleaning procedures, decreased touchpoints, increased social distancing guidelines for events, and more. In addition to following best practices and regulations, the corporate guidelines help Omni Hotels & Resorts build comfort and confidence among guests. “You have to be nimble and pay attention because the rules are changing. Our team closely monitors the executive orders issued by the state, county, and city levels so that our clients and guests can lean on us to be the experts,” Meesenburg explains.
To further reduce the risk of virus transmission, Omni’s micro wedding ceremonies are generally held outdoors. For couples who prefer to be inside, Omni is able to offer large indoor spaces, giving their guests bigger rooms than needed to facilitate social distancing, taking measures like setting up more tables that seat fewer people and larger dance floors where people can spread out.
There are also challenges associated with catering even small events in the current environment. For instance, rather than facilitating a self-serve dinner buffet, a staff member must scoop and plate food for guests. Instead of passing around open plates of hors d’oeuvres, small bites must be served on individual plates. Cake cutting ceremonies are also off the table.
Meesenburg says that Omni’s teams have responded to these roadblocks with creativity. “The brainstorming has actually been one of the fun attributes of dealing with the crisis,” says Meesenburg. For instance, hotels have decorated events using visually attractive and interactive display stations with Plexiglass shields. “It still feels elegant. It doesn’t feel like you’re at a hospital; it feels like an engaged, special experience for you and your attendees,” Meesenburg says.
For hoteliers, knowing one’s audience and having a good relationship with one’s team is the key to implementing a successful micro-wedding program for guests. “There is a market for micro weddings or elopements. [Hoteliers] should get with their team and think about how they can create these unique, private, intimate events that are still memorable using spaces within their facilities,” explains Surette.