HOW THIS PAIR OF CENTRAL JERSEY EVENT SPACES MANAGE TO PROVIDE RED CARPET SERVICE AT A REMARKABLE PRICE
BY AMANDA McCOY • PHOTOS BY ROBERT NUZZIE
The U.S. wedding industry is big business and getting bigger with each passing year. In 2016, spending in that sector hit $72 billion, and is expected to climb an additional two percent annually for the next five years. According to a study by The Knot, the average cost of a wedding nationally came in at just less than $34,000 in 2018. In northern and central New Jersey, however, that number was $58,000, which made the state sixth 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. When the same study broke out the costs of a wedding, it found that the venue typically eats up the largest portion of the budget.
But tucked away in the Radisson Freehold, accessible via a private entrance, is an outlier in the high ticket wedding industry, a venue that offers lavish amenities for a fraction of the average cost. The hotel’s two event venues, the Crystal Ballroom and its more intimate sister, the Emerald Ballroom, offer all inclusive packages that cover full use of the banquet halls and outdoor garden, a bespoke catering menu, and personalized wedding planning and day of service event management. The average price tag for all of the above: about $12,500.
“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 spaces,” said 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 on to clients.
This is a big reason why our value outmatches competitors. At the Crystal and Emerald Ballrooms, you can throw a 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 hotel called Freehold Gardens) in 2007, the new owners knew the space offered potential. Shortly after the purchase, they undertook a large scale renovation to modernize the hotel’s 121 guest rooms, lobby and common areas, and two banquet halls. Those banquet spaces would go on to win numerous awards and become two of the most prized event venues in the company’s portfolio.
“We made a huge investment in modernizing the hotel and the banquet spaces,” Coppock said, “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 on [the We TV series] My Fair Wedding, among other recognitions.”
The Crystal Ballroom, which totals slightly more than 5,100 square feet, can accommodate up to 300 guests. (That includes a dance floor, though clients can add an additional 80 people to the list if they opt to forgo the dancing space.) Couples have access to a variety of accessories for personalization, including ceiling cove lighting in different colors; resin Chiavari chairs; fitted modern chair covers with optional add ons like jewels, sequins, or bows; backdrops; and wall lighting. The Emerald Ballroom, essentially a smaller version offering the same style and amenities, can accommodate up to 120 guests. Besides weddings, the venues have hosted a range of special events, from corporate galas and bar mitzvahs to intimate baby or bridal showers.
“Each ballroom is a canvas,” said Coppock. “Everyone can paint the picture of their wedding and capture what makes them unique as a couple.”
There is also 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. That area is also often utilized for cocktail hour, and includes a garden, fire pit, and a full service bar. And since the venue is attached to the hotel, many guests choose to stay on site and indulge in a weekend escape. A complimentary stay in the bridal suite is part of the package, said Coppock, who added that it, too, recently underwent a renovation.
“Our couples really like that there is a hotel attached to our ballrooms,” she added. “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.”
Wedding packages also include full service dining, and like the banquet halls themselves, menus can be customized. Everything from finger friendly appetizers and grown up 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,” said Rachel James, the regional director of catering sales for Hotels Unlimited. “We keep up with the menu trends as much as possible, and 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 feature of every wedding package one the Hotels Unlimited family prides itself on, said Coppock is the level of one to one attention each client receives, whether their guest list includes 300 or thirty.
“We strive to do things differently,” she said. “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 stressful. You want the most beautiful venue, yes, but we know that’s not enough. We want to become their friends. We want that feeling for every client…for every couple that walks through the door.”
Crystal and Emerald Ballrooms Hotels Unlimited
50 Gibson Place, Freehold / 732.410.6692 / crystalballroomnj.com