Honor Loved Ones. One couple had an empty chair at each parents' table. They said, ‘The place setting is here because our loved ones are here in spirit.’ ”
Add Both Romantic & Family Traditions. “In addition to their family traditions, one bridal couple who met during Mardi Gras wove that theme throughout their wedding, from their decor to their dishes."
Faculty House at Columbia University, 64 Morningside Drive (at 116th Street), New York, NY 10027
212.854.1200, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facultyhouse.com
Celebrate Your Day and Honor Your Favorite Traditions
Personalize Your Day
“For your reception, you might want to choose a food item native to your country or to where you were raised,” says Leslie Robinson, manager of catering and events at Faculty House at Columbia University. “Our chef often incorporates such dishes into our menus. Today we see many couples with mixed religions or mixed races, and of course, with the laws that have been passed in New York State, same sex couples. We work with our couples to bring their own taste into the wedding.”
“I love seeing how our brides and grooms bring out the full range of what is important to them,” adds David Martin, general manager. “One Faculty House couple really enjoyed clubbing at night, for example, and they brought in a complete club atmosphere. We hired a lighting company to uplight the bars and rented special furniture, including custom leather banquettes.
“We had their ceremony downstairs and then went upstairs for a very relaxed atmosphere, with a lot of specialty drinks and passed hors d’oeuvres.”
As you envision the look of your wedding, Leslie suggests floral arrangements. “No matter how big or how intimate your wedding may be, it is wonderful to bring some sort of floral decorations into it. We’ve seen the most elaborate floral, silver, and crystal arrangements, as well as simple arrangements, like rose petals sprinkled around votive candles.
“You might choose red, pink or pastel rose petals and match them to the color of your cocktail napkin. That little touch can add so much. We have a very neutral earth-toned palette here at Faculty House, so you can bring in any color, from the most vibrant to monochromatic or even just greens and whites, for example.”
Honoring Loved Ones
Leslie has seen couples incorporate many different family traditions into their weddings, but one stands out in her mind. “It was actually very touching and is still very dear to my heart.”
The family tables of both the bride and groom each had one empty chair. It remained empty throughout the reception, because it was reserved for those who couldn’t be there, for the grandmother who had passed away on the groom’s side and for the great-uncle on the bride’s side. “The bride and groom honored them with their own chairs at the table and with their own place cards, as if they were there attending.
“They said, ‘You’re seeing the place setting here, because our loved ones are here in spirit.’ It was very beautiful, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to honor their loved ones who have passed on. The bride and groom even had a moment of silence in their memory.”
Leslie also recalls the unique decor of a recent Jewish ceremony. “They designed the chuppah in a special way,” she tells us, as a tribute to a family member. “The bride’s aunt had a wonderful flower garden and the florist used some of the aunt’s flowers to create the chuppah, which sheltered the bride and groom as they said their vows.
“There were hydrangeas, roses, tulips, and daisies, and it was beautiful with its pale shades of ivory and lavender.”
Creating Your Menu
One Faculty House wedding couple shared a Filipino background. “They had a huge emphasis on food from the Philippines,” says Kim.
“So we created a lot of fish dishes for both the cocktail hour and the dinner itself, such as crab cakes with spicy mayo plus buttermilk and cornmeal-coated tilapia with a creamy lemon parsley butter sauce and toasted almonds.
“The couple went a step further and created very unique centerpieces that consisted of driftwood and sea shells, which were surrounded by votive candles.”
One of their bridal couples met during Mardi Gras, so they wove that theme throughout their wedding. “Our chef chose a very New Orleans dish, mac and cheese, which is usually very simple, and made it look elegant.
They also created a Mardi Gras atmosphere with bright linens and brightly colored beads as favors on the tables. “The bold colors fit well with our neutral, earth-toned palette. We’ve seen brides choose a wide variety of color schemes and have them look good in our rooms.” The couple also wanted a casual feeling, so the Faculty House team created a buffet setting, rather than serving plated dinners.
One recent wedding couple wanted a completely vegan menu. They did a tasting and the chef created an array of delicious mock meats, including a savory mock chicken stir fry. “The guests couldn’t believe it was not chicken! He also created a vegan terrine that we now incorporate into our main menu, since we are always ready to serve vegan options.
A Special Renovation
Built in the 1920’s by McKim, Mead, and White, the architectural firm that created famed Beaux-Arts buildings like New York’s University Club and the American Academy in Rome, the Faculty House was recently renovated. “We gave all four floors their own distinct personality,” says David. “Though we’ve been serving weddings and events for over 80 years, now we can do it even better.”
“We also added built-in plasma screens and hi-tech audio systems, which let our wedding couples show pictures on a simple drop-down screen and have their guests view them throughout all the rooms. Some of our brides have brought in DVD’s and simulcasted their story throughout the building.
“The most moving videos show the history of the couple’s relationship and how they nurtured the bond that brings us to this magical wedding day they are sharing with everyone.”
They also are LEED-certified. “A lot of environmentally conscious people really respect that.”
Varied Settings & Cuisines
“Many of our brides and grooms hold their ceremonies at nearby St. Paul Chapel and then walk to Faculty House. If it is a Jewish or a non-denominational ceremony, we have over a dozen churches and temples in the area.”
After the ceremony, they also have unique settings for photos. “You can take pictures on Broadway near the subway entrance, by the hot dog cart, or in Morningside Park right next door.”
They have done Indian weddings with traditional Indian cuisine and décor and even a Texas-Cuban wedding that featured special mojitos. “The groom was from Texas and the bride was Cuban. They did a Spanish dance in her honor and we had ribs and steak specially made for the groom.”
Since the recent renovation they’ve had a more expansive space for couples. “Now we can accommodate weddings from 20 people on up to 260. If you have a large group, you can book the entire house and create a ‘townhouse wedding.’ Use the bridal suite on the Presidential level, give your groomsmen a separate area, have your ceremony on the Seminar level, and also enjoy the terrace overlooking the park.
“We’re also offering a new drink made with rose petals,” says Leslie. “It’s called The Rose, and it’s a nice tradition in itself that we’ll pass to guests during the cocktail hour or when they’ve left the ceremony. It’s a vodka-based drink with pink champagne, passion tea, and rose petals. It’s pink in color, of course, and is as beautiful as it is delicious.”
Uniting The Wedding Couple
Leslie went to school for graphic arts and has worked in the Soho and Tribeca Grand Hotels and for Compass-USA as a catering director. “The most exciting thing is seeing two people in love come together to celebrate with their friends and family, and to honor the occasion with a wonderful celebration!”
“For me,” says David, who was previously food and beverage director at The Parker Meridien and before that, director of banquets at The Roosevelt Hotel, “a wedding is like putting together an orchestra for the bride and groom and exceeding their expectations.
“These are people’s most cherished moments. To put together this great symphony of food and beverages, and then to see the smiles and the warmth, is truly wonderful.”