Personalize Your Menu: "We’ll ask the bride and groom to write a personal greeting which we will print on the menu."
Surprise Your Guests: "The waiters introduce themselves, explain the menus and then pause before introducing the Chef’s special for the evening. Not even the bride and groom know what the special is before the event."
Create An Experience: "The first thing we tell couples is that they’re not in a catering hall and their guests can order dishes as if they're in a fine restaurant."
VIP Country Club, 600 Davenport Avenue
New Rochelle, NY 10805, 914.235.1500
Make It An Experience
“Even before you start visiting wedding sites, you should consider the experience you want your guests to have,” says Thomas Esposito, General Manager of VIP Country Club located on the Long Island Sound in New Rochelle, NY. “What’s important to you?”
Some couples emphasize desserts, others might care more about the cocktail hour and others want super premium alcohol with carefully selected liquor. “Do you want an outdoor ceremony? How many people are you inviting?
“Those are things to consider before shopping. Some couples have parents who might have very different ideas, so if you know what’s really important to you, it helps with discussions and planning.”
Customize Your Theme
When considering possible themes or stylish displays for your wedding, Thomas explains that sometimes ideas reveal themselves in the early conversations. “I’ll ask what they do for a living and one groom, for example, said he sold coffee.
“So I suggested having a really nice coffee station with lots of options.” Thomas and his team created special coffee menus for their wedding guests, who ordered as if they were in a coffee shop. “Their guests thought it was uniquely personalized for the couple.
While talking with another wedding couple, Thomas mentioned that VIP Country Club makes their own ice cream on site, but the groom said he loved Häagen-Dazs. “I made a note of that and on the night of the wedding, I brought out Häagen-Dazs for him. He appreciated that it was just for him. It’s all in the details!"
“Today,” Thomas observes, “brides and grooms are more sophisticated. For example, they love the premium scotch and bourbon station. We put descriptive materials there, plus interesting bottles, such as ‘The Good Stuff,’ which summons up the Prohibition era, when Al Capone would go into bars and threaten people, telling the owners to ‘Buy the good stuff.' The cigars, they love. For many couples, these things are now all about creating the experience.”
A few months back, the groom’s parents decided to have the wedding cake made at a bakery near them in Albany and then to drive it down to the event at the VIP Country Club. “They got here and when they opened the box for the first time to see the cake, it looked like it had been smashed up from the bumps in the road. They were so upset and they worried about how they would tell the bride.
“However, we have our own bakery on site,” Thomas tells us, “so I said, ‘I can make you a cake very close to this right now.’ We baked the cake that day, took it out during their reception, and later in the evening they did the cake cutting.”
A School for Waiters
VIP Country Club has its own waiter school. “it’s unique and sets us apart,” Thomas smiles, “but maybe it’s just because no one else wants to go through the aggravation.”
The program the VIP Country Club developed has four classes. “Our first two are focused on the cocktail hour and dining room, while the last two encompass beverages and desserts. After successfully completing the classes, our wait staff is ready to serve. It’s a lot of work but the night of the wedding it eliminates a lot of issues. Our staff pronounces menu items correctly, they know what the sauces are, and they know how to be cognizant of allergies.
“We have pre-party meetings where staff learns about the particulars of that evening’s wedding menu. We also have post-party meetings to constantly improve our performance and the experience.”
Uniquely Customizing Your Menu
“The first thing we tell couples when they come in is that they’re not in a catering hall and their guests can order dishes as if they're in a fine restaurant. We explain our menus to them and that all our cocktail hour stations are very interactive. An Asian station, for example, will have different potstickers, so you can ask for yours to be steamed and I can ask for mine to be fried or request a vegetarian filling or pork. They’re all designed to maximize the experience for your guests.
“We’ll ask the bride and groom to write a personal greeting which we will print on the menu. The waiters introduce themselves to the guests, explain the menus, and then pause before introducing the Chef’s special for the evening. Not even the bride and groom know what the special is before the event.”
Thomas also added the coffee station he originally offered to the guest who made his living selling coffee and now the VIP Country Club offers an à la carte coffee menu with specialty coffees, nine different organic teas, and iced teas, with flavors like pumpkin spice and peppermint.
Your Décor. Your Traditions
“Brides come in with grand expectations and visions for their décor. If their budget permits, that’s wonderful. But if they need guidance on where to spend the money to get the greatest impact, I advise them to get items that can be moved and utilized throughout the day.
“Now that we do so many ceremonies on site, depending upon nationalities, we incorporate many different traditions. Some Asian couples have tea ceremonies, Indian affairs have lamp lightings, where, after the ceremony and couples make their entrance into the room, there is a beautiful brass lamp filled with oil and the wick is ceremonially lit. Kosher events have challah breads and ketubah signings. Polish events sometimes bring in special China they brought with them from their home country for a salt and bread ceremony.”
They do other traditions that are not always religious, such as those for veterans. “I offer to set up a traditional Veteran’s Memorial Table with a set table, but with the glasses turned upside down to commemorate those who can’t be there that day. Everything set on the table has a meaning.”
Thomas tell us they have outdoor and indoor areas for the cocktail hour. “There is a patio for people to enjoy on a nice night. All our ballrooms have indoor lounges. Couches and tables are built right into the room, so if anyone wants to wander and relax they can sit without going into the lobby alone.
“All our dining rooms have private rooftop terraces. On a beautiful night, a couple can have an outdoor ceremony, cocktail hour on the patio, dinner and dancing upstairs, and dessert on the outside terrace. They can experience four different locations throughout the wedding.”
They refashioned their cocktail room, designing it more like a Manhattan lounge. “It’s been a big hit. There are large video monitors on the walls and couples have photos flashing on them during cocktail hour. We have a full sound and light system, so they don’t have to hire additional people. Because we’ve designed all our own buffet equipment and furniture, we also can wheel everything out from the cocktail hour room and couples can use them in an after-party room.
“Couples love it because so many times there’s an after-party at some other place and as their guests leave the wedding they may want to go, but when they get in the car, they end up just going home. Here it’s convenient and easy. We also do exit stations. When they’re leaving, I have large hutches for pretzels, doughnuts, and coffee to go.”
VIP Country Club opened in May 1997 and later purchased the adjacent estate, which has 10 bedrooms. “We’re trying to make it so people can spend the night and get ready there before their wedding. It will feel like a mini vacation.”
“I Love Weddings and Events”
"I’m very lucky that I make my living by doing something that I love to do,” says Thomas. “I got into the industry waiting tables and I’ve never looked back. Catering and event expos, food shows, and trade magazines keep me enthusiastic in evolving and staying current.
“It’s a thrill and ever so rewarding to make people’s life events into wonderful and cherished memories that stay with them their entire life.”
VIP Country Club, 600 Davenport Avenue, New Rochelle, NY 10805
914.235.1500, firstname.lastname@example.org, vipcountryclub.com