Whether the legendary cherry blossoms are in full bloom or it’s another time of year when the city glows with the evergreen charm befitting of our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. is a landmark destination for same-sex couples to proclaim their vows and begin a life of marital bliss. (It also boasts the highest number of lawyers per capita if you need a prenuptial agreement). For a venue with style and substance, many couples go for the grandeur that can be found at the Mandarin Oriental Washington, DC (1330 Maryland Ave. SW. Tel: 202-554 8588. www.mandarinoriental.com).
When it comes to wedding planning, Michael Deltette is a seasoned catering and events professional who has been assisting couples in creating their dream weddings for more than 25 years. Named the Most Celebrated Wedding Professional in D.C., Washington Style Setter, and Wedding Guru, Deltette views each couple as a unique opportunity to bring their vision to life, and he’s got the experience and credentials to make it happen. As a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, as well as holding a master’s degree in psychology and management from La Salle University, Deltette knows how to stay the course and assist couples with the multitude of decisions required to make their special day a wonderful experience for themselves and their family and friends.
For this year’s Wedding & Honeymoon Issue, Deltette offers tips on how to approach planning your special day, an insider’s perspective on the Mandarin Oriental, Washington DC’s most coveted venues, and local recommendations for those photo opps to last a lifetime.
What are the various ceremony and reception venues available at the Mandarin Oriental, Washington DC?
For more intimate weddings, couples can choose from the hotel’s outdoor garden or Gallery Room that offer views of the Jefferson Memorial and Southwest Waterfront. For larger and more lavish weddings, the Mandarin Oriental, Washington, DC’s Grand Ballroom offers more than 8,300 square feet of event space or the Oriental Ballroom with more than 5,000 square feet. Both feature classic chinoiserie-inspired décor, which is a European interpretation of Asian artistry. The hotel’s architectural and design touches also create a very luxe environment for guests, from the grand façade to the touches of marble, limestone, and glass throughout. The lobby itself was inspired by the neighboring Jefferson Memorial and features a soaring domed ceiling as well as gold and silver leaf throughout.
What have been some of your favorite interactions with same-sex couples who have chosen to celebrate their nuptials at your property?
It’s always heartwarming to hear stories about how couples met. I have been fortunate and am thankful for being part of these life events. It’s exciting to learn about each as an individual, how they met, and the adventures they’ve had in their relationship. From this information, we design and develop unique experiences and go through the process together. Each couple is different, and the challenge is how to express their distinctiveness in food, entertainment, and décor. The goal is to create fond memories that each couple can hold dear. It’s also wonderful to see a supportive family. I wish that more families celebrated with same-sex couples as they would with a straight couple—love is love after all, and everyone deserves to be with whom they love.
Every wedding is unique to the couple getting married. What are some of your favorite personal touches that you’ve seen couples integrate regarding theme and décor?
One couple pulled off getting baby pictures of all their guests and using them as their place cards. I’ve also had a bride that was walked down the aisle by her two Afghan hounds, and a groom that rapped his vows. Lots of couples like to incorporate locations that have meaning to them, such as where they met, where they are from, or where they got engaged. A couple that loved the Washington Nationals baseball team and got engaged at Nationals Park had their cake design inspired by the stadium.
Food is a huge part of every wedding. What suggestions can you offer for menuplanning to ensure a delicious event?
Food has really taken center stage at weddings and is more reflective of the couple, be it in their culture, a shared love of cuisine, or dining style. I love for my brides and grooms to get expressive about what they serve. Of course, you don’t want to go too esoteric for guests, but I also encourage brides and grooms to choose dishes that they like and represent their individuality and shared experiences. One couple’s favorite “cheat item” was McDonald’s world famous French fries. We worked with a local franchise and had bags and bags of fries brought over right before the reception. The guests loved it! Another couple served kulfi (an Indian ice cream) to guests on the dance floor to keep the party going. None of this could be possible without Executive Chef Stefan Kauth, Banquet Chef Rey Bautista, and an incredibly talented culinary team.
Great food requires great cocktails. What are your tips for a bar set-up, and do you recall any specifics from a couple that integrated unique mixology into their wedding plans?
My advice is to always have enough bars! A line of people queuing to get a drink all night and missing half the reception can throw off a wedding’s entire vibe. The rule of thumb is one bar for every 50 to 75 guests. Just like people don’t want to wait in a line for a drink, they don’t want to be handed the same old cocktail. Creativity and engagement with the guests are what people will be talking about long after the wedding. They also make for great Instagramable moments. Have fun with it! At my wedding in Kauai, Hawaii, each guest was welcomed with a fruity cocktail that was garnished with the campiest parasol and hula boy!
Where can a couple streamline a budget without feeling like they’re sacrificing in the overall experience?
Couples want a little of this and a little of that, but all of that adds up. For example, you don’t need to hire a photo booth when you already have a photographer as practically everyone has a smartphone and is connected to social media. You can get the same effect by purchasing a couple of Polaroid cameras, which is more interactive and has a retro feel. You’d be surprised at some of the fun and unique shots your guests will capture. Using these Polaroid prints, have the guests write a short dedication and post on a framed board. The couple can later hang this as artwork in their home.
For those who want to put a ‘wow factor’ into their wedding, what are your suggestions?
I always tell my couples to think about weddings they have attended and what stood out to them and build upon that, including aspects of the wedding they would never want to do. From the culinary side, I can tell you that the one thing everyone remembers is a gastronomic disaster! No matter your budget, this is the one area you must get right. Creating a ‘wow factor’ here will go a long way. Rolling dim sum carts, specialty food stations, food trucks, and celebrity chefs have all been winners in my experience. Also, nothing kills a party like bad music. I find that guests like when couples have bothaDJandaband.AgoodDJcan read a room and play great music during the meal and warm up the guests. A band always gets people on their feet and engaged. Of course, everything else is just fun. I have had acrobats, dancers, fortune tellers, magicians, calligraphist, and artists all working a reception.
Documenting the special day has become as important as the experience itself. What are new or innovative ways that couples are creating memories.
I couldn’t agree more. Photography is one of the most important aspects of any event. These are the memories you will have as you grow old with your partner. The most significant trend I have seen has been unconventional photography. Not just taking photos outside of the venue, but doing away with “staged” photos. It’s less about the photography running the day and more of it being in the background to capture the entire experience from different perspectives. A standout for me was a couple that had personalized View-Masters created for each table with photos of the couple. They then turned a bunch of the images from their wedding into reels so they can view them for years to come, which is a lot more interesting and fun than a traditional wedding album. A lot of couples are getting creative with video, too. I have seen short films, mock-documentaries, and even music videos.
A wedding is often a weekend affair. What are some of your suggestions for making it a unique and pleasurable event?
Off-site Rehearsal Dinner: This should be relaxed and not as big or formal as the wedding. Host the dinner at your favorite pizza joint or sports bar, or tie in the wedding destination. In D.C., Virginia, and Maryland, eating crabs is a big tradition; some couples opt for going to a local crab shack and rolling up their sleeves for the night. Destination DC (www.washington.org/places-to-eat) has some great recommendations.
Photo ops around Washington, D.C.: Many LGBTQ couples get great photos on the steps of the Supreme Court or the U.S. Capitol. The fountain in Dupont Circle is also popular, as is Freedom Plaza.
Experiences to Share with Guests: A favorite is having a morning-after drag brunch at Perry’s (1811 Columbia Rd. NW. Tel: 202-234-6218. www.perrysam.com) in the city’s vibrant neighborhood of Adams Morgan. Renting a tour bus for the wedding party is also a lot of fun, educational, and a great way to see and explore D.C.
Experiences for the Wedding Couple: As the only Forbes four-star spa in the city (www.mandarinoriental.com/washington/national-mall/luxury-spa), preand post-wedding massages are always amazing and a great way to indulge during what is typically a packed weekend. We offer a range of specialty treatments that were developed with specialists in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and master aromatherapists. With amazing sunset views over the picturesque Tidal Basin reservoir and Jefferson Memorial, as well as dining tables in every guestroom, a private inroom meal is always a winner.
Beyond its involvement in same-sex weddings, in what other ways does the Mandarin Oriental, Washington, DC engage and support the LBGTQ community?
One of our guiding principles is“Working Together. We emphasize the importance of teamwork and treat each other with mutual respect and trust. The hotel is an open work environment for all individuals and promotes an atmosphere of self-pride and community.
Michael Deltette Director Of Catering And Events Mandarin Oriental, Washington DC