Celebrate Your Heritage ... “We started on Friday with a traditional Nigerian ceremony where the wedding party and family were dressed in beautiful Nigerian fashions. Then on Saturday, we had a wonderful American-style wedding."
Add Personal Touches ... “Prior to the wedding, Blisse’s mom and dad measured all the artwork on the walls leading to our Grand Ballroom. They had wedding photos from past generations of both families enlarged to fit directly into our frames! It had such a personal look as guests made their way to the Ballroom for dinner."
FROM THE BRIDE
“Ruke and I both attended Cornell University,” says Blisse Wilkinson, who recently married Ruke Ufomata in a unique ceremony at Hilton Pearl River. “We were friends through our school years and when we both moved to New York to start our careers, we began dating.”
One night they had dinner reservations in Brooklyn and arrived early. “Ruke suggested we go for a short walk to Brooklyn Bridge Park. As we looked at the bridge, he handed me a card and asked me to read it. Then he got down on one knee. All of a sudden a photographer began taking pictures. Then our families, who were hiding, started yelling and came to take pictures with us. We ended the night celebrating at River Café.”
They wanted a Nigerian ceremony and an American style wedding during the same weekend. They read about Hilton Pearl River, which offered everything they needed in one place. “As we drove onto the property and saw its castle-like architecture and its beautiful fountain, we knew Hilton Pearl River had the beauty we were looking for.
“It was also important that our contacts were easy to work with, and from the moment we met Gerry Burns, director of catering, we were sold. Her warm personality made us feel like she would care about our wedding as if it were her own. She also had great industry experience so we knew our wedding was in good hands.
“Gerry made herself as available as possible. She offered many great suggestions on how we could do things even better. She really got to know us as well as our parents. Because of Gerry, our wedding truly felt customized to fit all our needs. I could not have asked for a better experience.
“Derek, our maître d’, was also very organized. He worked closely with us before the wedding to make sure we thought through every detail. He provided great advice as we put together the order of events for both days. On our wedding weekend, the entire staff was eager to make sure both days were perfect.
“The best advice I got for the wedding,” says Blisse, “was to enjoy every second of the day and not to sweat the little things that may not go as planned, because no one but you will notice!”
FROM THE VENUE
“Blisse and Ruke hosted a highly personal wedding weekend,” says Gerry Burns, director of catering at Hilton Pearl River. “We started on Friday with a traditional Nigerian ceremony and party in Le Jardin, with floor-to-ceiling views of the hotel’s patio and back lawn. The wedding party and family were dressed in beautiful Nigerian fashions and Ruke and his family also brought in their own Nigerian DJ and caterer.
“On Saturday, we had a wonderful American-style wedding. The day was gorgeous and Blisse and Ruke were able to exchange vows on our outdoor lawn overlooking Blue Hill Golf Course. Our house band Craig Scott rocked the dance floor and we even hosted an after-party with music and fun foods. Over 100 guests stayed overnight.
“Prior to the wedding, Blisse’s mom and dad measured all the artwork hung on the walls leading to our Grand Ballroom. They had wedding photos from past generations of both families enlarged to fit directly into our frames! It had such a personal look as guests made their way to the Ballroom for dinner. We also hosted a farewell brunch on Sunday before the guests made their way home.”
Décor & Your Timeline ... “We work with the floral designers and our wedding couples to create different looks for our Ballroom. Farm tables, lounge furniture, specialty bars, and custom lighting are some items brides have recently used. But our Grand Ballroom is so dramatic that sometimes pretty flowers and candles are all that is needed.”
Hilton Pearl River’s maître d’s, Derek and Jacque, meet with each couple a month before the wedding to create an in-depth timeline for the day. “It starts with hair and makeup to first look, the ceremony, and then the dinner dance.” Once the couple confirms the timeline, Gerry and her team share it with all the vendors so everyone is fully informed. “We want the day to be seamless and that takes planning in advance.”
They updated all their banquet rooms last year to create a cleaner, more contemporary style, while retaining the charm of a European château. “Our stunning indoor-outdoor cocktail room, Le Jardin, leads to our outdoor area where we host many of our ceremonies. The Conservatory, with its domed hand-painted cloud ceiling, is a unique space for cocktail hour or a ceremony room, and our Grand Ballroom, with its floor-to-ceiling windows and gold millwork, is a memorable reception room.”
Lasting Values ... “I have worked for Hilton and the Maloney family that owns our hotel for over 35 years. Will Maloney, our owner, along with our food & beverage director, Barbara Kelly and our chef Ellen Zarcone, take such a personal interest in our weddings.
“My favorite part is standing by the bride and her parents before she goes down the aisle if the ceremony is here, or standing by the bride and groom right before they are first introduced in the Ballroom as a married couple. It is always such a joy to be part of their most special time.”