library of congress in washington, dc

library of congress in washington dc | amanda jayne events blog

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was crossing off a venue from my bucket list – the Library of Congress. Well the event we hosted there has come and gone and in the midst of lots of other events, I never had the chance to post some photos or share my thoughts. Then the whole government shutdown happened and I didn’t want to draw attention to a venue that was currently unavailable for use, but now that everything is up and running again, let’s chat about the LoC!

To start, the Library is beautiful. It is amazingly gorgeous. But it is a cultural institution (or a national treasure, if the federal government is telling you) and events are not necessarily easy to put on there. There are a ton of rules – most of which are completely understandable. For example, you can only have events during certain hours. We were not able to have are start time any earlier than 7 PM, so it wouldn’t interfere with regular guests in the space. There is a metal detector that all guests need to use. This isn’t that uncommon in DC, but it may be to some planners. The metal detector ended up being a huge bottleneck for our guests. (You can read more about that in my blog post on timing over at Social Tables).  There is no red wine allowed – again, not uncommon for museums or historic sites. The floors and stairs at the Library are marble and red wine would stain.

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sharing is caring – send me your wedding and event photos!

share your wedding photos!

This blog is a combination of event and wedding planning advice and inspiration. While I love compiling inspiring photos from around the interweb, I love original content more! What that means is real events – weddings, galas, showers, parties, etc. I really love to share these photos – that’s the best way to find new ideas, in my opinion. Plus it’s so much better when you know the story behind the photos!

If you would like to share your own wedding or event photos, please visit the submission guidelines page for more information!

Here is some recently shared real inspiration:

mike & bethany’s cape cod beach wedding

joe & amanda’s manor wedding

jenna & kenny’s romantic garden wedding

james & noel’s summer countryside wedding

I look forward to seeing your submissions!

when your meeting is a small fish in a big pond

when your meeting is a small fish in a big pond

Sometimes you’re a small fish in a big pond, or at least, your meeting or event is. Depending on where you are hosting your meeting and what else is going on in that venue, there are bound to be times when your event isn’t getting the priority treatment because there is something else going on that is bigger, more complicated, more important, more expensive, or maybe a more valued client.

Hotels like to tell you that each and every meeting is important to them but I can understand that everyone needs to make tradeoffs – it’s the ugly truth, sometimes you become the small fish and the big fish gets all the attention.

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the flying bridge in washington, dc

The Flying Bridge Event Venue in Washington DC

I recently had the chance to do a site visit at a unique venue in Washington, DC – the Flying Bridge. It’s a rooftop location with a stunning view of the Capitol, complete with an all-weather tent that makes it a viable option all year round.

The Flying Bridge is located on the roof (literally) of an office building a few blocks away from Union Station. You do have to use the same elevator banks as the rest of the office building to access the space – although they can work around the security procedures if your event is off-hours.

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the willard intercontinental

willard intercontinental in washington dc | amanda jayne events blog

Washington DC is one of those places that is constantly changing, yet some places are still cherished for their history. The Willard InterContinental Hotel is one such place. The Willard is so full of history that you’d be hard pressed to find someone in DC who hasn’t been there – whether to stay in one of their beautiful guest rooms, attend an event in the magnificent banquet halls, or even just have a drink in the Round Robin Scotch Bar (which is how I first discovered the Willard years ago when I first started visiting DC on work trips, long before I moved here).

The building of the Willard was built in 1901, but a hotel had been on the site for nearly 100 years prior. Due to its Pennsylvania Avenue address, located only steps from the White House, the Willard has hosted scores of famous, important types over the years, including nearly every president since the 1850s. The hotel was closed in 1968 and reopened in the late 1980s after a lengthy restoration and joining the InterContinental family.

We were considering the Willard for a 200+ person event in the fall so I headed over to do a quick site visit. I didn’t get a chance to peek at the sleeping rooms (although I’ve stayed there and they are wonderful) or even all of the meeting space (there is over 20,000 square feet), but I did get a chance to tour the lower level, which has the Ballroom and several smaller rooms and board rooms.

The ballroom is spectacular. I don’t usually gush this much over space, but this is one heckuva windowless ballroom. See for yourself:

willard intercontinental in washington dc | amanda jayne events blog

The ballroom is 4,700 square feet and would hold 450 theatre style.

Even the lobby is lovely:

willard intercontinental in washington dc | amanda jayne events blog

And the foyer:

willard intercontinental in washington dc | amanda jayne events blog

The Buchanan Room, 1,100 square feet and capacity for 90 theatre style:

willard intercontinental in washington dc | amanda jayne events blog

The Pierce Room, 1,900 square feet and capacity for 220 theatre style:

willard intercontinental in washington dc | amanda jayne events blog

Even the board rooms (Fillmore, Taylor & Garfield) were lovely.

willard intercontinental in washington dc | amanda jayne events blog

willard intercontinental in washington dc | amanda jayne events blog

willard intercontinental in washington dc | amanda jayne events blog

I love that each of the rooms have a slightly different character – so nice to see in ballroom level spaces!

This space just scratches the surface of what the Willard has to offer.

Of course the Willard is famous for its service, it is definitely an upscale, luxury hotel. And for that, you pay the price. But for the space it has to offer (and the amazing location), it is able to command those prices. And while it does a good amount of meeting and event business, it also is one of the top spots for DC society weddings – *swoon*.

Next time you’re in DC, if you haven’t stopped by the Willard yet, make sure you do so! Even if nothing else but to step into this amazing lobby:

willard intercontinental in washington dc | amanda jayne events blog

Have you hosted or attended a meeting or event at the Willard? What did you think?

the value of building relationships with hotels

Hyatt Regency San Antonio Q Bar

I follow several event planning blogs, including Social Tables. They had a good post yesterday about building relationships between hotels and planners. I agree with everything in the article, but it inspired me to write this post just to expound on one point that Social Tables made a bit further: the need for honest communication and building relationships.

Hotel sales people are busy. Event and meeting planners are busy. So why don’t we figure out how to work together in a way that doesn’t waste each others time?

For me, it’s all about communication and honesty. Planners are often so afraid to share information with hotels in the bidding stage – especially when it comes to the “b” word – Budget.  Planners seem to never want to share that magic number with hotels. They are afraid of losing their bargaining position, that they won’t be able to negotiate. But think of the flip side – if I have a budget of $10,000 for a meeting, and a hotel can’t possible service my meeting for less than $30,000, I would be wasting the hotel’s time, which I feel is a bit disrespectful.

But let’s be honest – everything is negotiable. Just because you throw out a number doesn’t mean you won’t be able to negotiate a better deal. Plus – the focus should be on the value of your event spend. It’s not just how much you spend, but what you get for that money.

That also doesn’t mean that planners shouldn’t dream big and still send RFPs to luxury hotels, as I’m consistently and pleasantly surprised how far those hotels often come down from their rack rates for group sales and meetings. But after the initial bid, if a hotel is clearly out of your price range, it’s best to let them know. Or, if the hotel is asking for your budget, give them a range and let them see if they can work something out for you.

I’m always careful to couch my budget numbers with some context which shows the hotel what matters most to me, because we all know that events and meetings are not a zero sum game and I know I sure don’t choose a venue on price alone. Things like service, the event space, VIP extras – these are all usually considered in addition to price. Security and privacy can be particularly important, enough to choose a much more expensive venue at times, just for the peace of mind.

That only scratches the surface of how you should be communicating with hotels. After you make a decision and sign the contract, it’s important to keep the hotel involved every step of the way. I always consider the hotel (and every vendor, really) as a partner in the event. They play a huge role in making my event a success. If I keep them informed – of changes, of priorities, of the goals of the event – I am more likely to be able to rely on their help, especially if something goes wrong.

Don’t underestimate the value in truly building a relationship with the hotels that you work with. Whether it’s for the duration of a single event, or if it’s a venue you use time and time again, it’s an invaluable relationship.

What are your thoughts on building relationships with hotel partners?

The top photo is of the Hyatt Regency San Antonio Riverwalk. I chose a photo of their hotel because even though I only had one conference there about five years ago, I still remember their staff so fondly, as they did a great job with our meeting. They were one of the first hotels where I realized the value of building a relationship.

Photo courtesy of the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau.

hyatt regency washington on capitol hill

hyatt regency capitol hill | amanda jayne events blog

DC is full of hotels, but only a few can boast the location that the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill has – it’s a stone’s throw from the US Capitol. Its location makes it a popular choice for meetings and events. With 38,000 square feet of meeting space, it’s also one of the larger meetings hotels in the city.

I had used the Hyatt Regency a few years ago for a few different events while working at a previous job. For those meetings, the location was crucial, particularly since it was only a short walk from Union Station. But it had been a few years since I last visited the hotel, so I made sure to come by for a site visit as we were considering it for a 200+ person event in the fall.

Since we weren’t in need of a room block for this event, I did not check out the sleeping rooms on this tour for lack of time, but I have stayed there personally in the past. My memory of the rooms is that they were completely adequate. They didn’t blow me away, but they were completely functional.

The Hyatt’s lobby is large and open, but much of it is taken up by the restaurant and lounge. There isn’t as much seating as you might expect for a meetings hotel.

hyatt regency capitol hill | amanda jayne events blog

hyatt regency capitol hill | amanda jayne events blog

The majority of the meeting space is on the ballroom level, one level below the lobby. The space that I was looking at was the Regency Ballroom and Foyer.  Here is the foyer (in use for registration for a meeting that day). It’s functional, but you definitely know you’re in the basement, so to speak.

hyatt regency capitol hill | amanda jayne events blog

The Regency Ballroom made up for this, a bit. The chandeliers are gorgeous, and there is some detail in the room that gives it a little extra something, despite being a windowless ballroom. This photo is of Regency A, which is the largest section, which is about 5,600 square feet with a capacity of up to 800 for a standing reception.  The entire Regency ballroom is about 11,300 square feet with a capacity of up to 1,800 for a standing reception.

hyatt regency capitol hill | amanda jayne events blog

Also on the ballroom level is the Columbia ballroom, which is significantly smaller, and a series of breakout rooms named for different battles in the American Revolution: Concord, Lexington and Bunker Hill.  This is a section of the Columbia ballroom:

hyatt regency capitol hill | amanda jayne events blog

My biggest gripe about the Hyatt Regency is that it feels like a meeting factory. I was there on a Tuesday morning and there were several meetings going on. The ballroom level in particular is so packed with meeting rooms that your group is bound to run into other groups. This might be fine, but most of my clients prefer a bit more privacy.

The lobby level had the Congressional rooms and the Capitol rooms. Here is the capitol room:

hyatt regency capitol hill | amanda jayne events blog

One of the Congressional rooms:

hyatt regency capitol hill | amanda jayne events blog

The hotel also has breakout rooms on the 2nd floor and the Thornton Lounge on the 11th floor, which has views of the Capitol. This is their most popular room and is more difficult to book.

Overall, I feel like the Hyatt Regency is a perfectly serviceable location. It benefits by being so close to the capitol and having so much space, that if you have a smaller meeting or event, they often have something available, which is great for planning last minute events. But there is nothing incredibly special about it.

One last note – I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the service on my short visit. I’m hoping this was just a one-off, but when I arrived for my site visit, I went to the front desk to ask the agent to call the sales assistant I was meeting. This is what I would normally do if the sales person wasn’t meeting me in the lobby anyway, but this is in fact what the sales assistant had told me to do. There was no line at the front desk so I made my request, but the agent didn’t know who I was asking for. This isn’t entirely surprising at such a large hotel, but then even when I spelled her name, he wasn’t able to find her in their phone system. He asked which department she was in, and when I said Sales and Catering, he told me, “Oh , just go down to her office. Go down these escalators, make a left, and right…” I cut the agent off, saying that I really preferred to have him call her and for the sales assistant to meet me in the lobby.  Have you ever tried to find a sales office in the hotel? They are often tucked away by the meeting space for a reason, but personally I don’t feel like I should have to go on a wild goose chase to find it, especially for a site visit.  After showing my contact’s email on my phone to the agent he was finally able to get her on the phone, but the whole interaction was less than positive. When I have a negative experience with a staff member at a hotel, I always worry how my guests will be treated.

Have you worked with the Hyatt Regency Washington DC on Capitol Hill? What were your thoughts?