Durban - As anyone who’s ever been married, or been involved in the preparations for a wedding would know, it’s a mammoth task.
Throw in a groom from the US, a bride from Taiwan, and a wedding in South Africa and you know things are going to get interesting.
This was exactly the scenario that played out at the Hilton in Durban recently, and unless you knew the background you would have thought that all parties involved lived a few kilometres away. Which provided an interesting insight into how planning what was obviously a global wedding was made easier using a global hotel group.
The groom is originally from these parts, with most of his extended family based here, and this explained the need for the local nuptials. But this left his wedding planner – his sister – with the unenviable task of organising everything from Orlando, Florida.
Distances aside, working with different time zones meant communicating at rather unheard of American business hours. But liaising between the nearest Hilton in Orlando, the Hilton in Durban, and a family member on the ground here resulted in a critical triangle of communication.
At the wedding I chatted to the planner and it became obvious that there was a level of professionalism and experience from the Hilton in Durban that became the defining factor between success and failure. With weddings there are constant changes and ongoing requests, but I was told that the banqueting and eventing crew took everything in their stride and confirmed details needed through e-mails timeously.
All that was needed when the huge wedding party converged in Durban was a tie-up meeting to go through the final logistics and the roll out began.
Personally, I thought the Hilton a strange choice of hotel group as I’ve always associated it with more of a business feel. In South Africa they’re generally located next to convention centres or in business hubs, and don’t come across as the kind of chain you’d find children running around in.
And yes, the Hilton in Durban does have that corporate feel to it. But a wedding seems to bring out its warmer side and the staff seemed to know the checked-in guests who were part of the wedding party – to the extent of trying to keep our rooms all on the same floor and near each other, and ushering us between venues when needed. The reception desk even knew the times of the various little functions – of which, being Indian, there were a few!
I liked that once the venue was booked for the wedding, the hotel made a special room rate available to guests wanting to attend, and that everything from the decor to the food was as Indian and cultural as you’d expect from a community hall down the road.
Everything ran like clockwork, from the rehearsal to the reception, and staff I ran into were friendly and efficient. There was a slick banquet feel to the events, with temporary bars and buffet areas of the highest standard.
The Hilton Durban as a hotel is top-notch, with good food on offer at the main restaurant, a nice vibe at the Rivets nightclub in the foyer, and really comfortable rooms. The bridal couple had an executive-level room, which also meant access to the executive lounge on the 14th floor. Strictly speaking, we weren’t allowed in there, but again, being a wedding the hotel let residents join the socialising there.
I can’t tell you what the whole affair cost, and I doubt it was cheap. But for something as important as your wedding, I reckon the Hilton Durban gets the nod.
l Contact details: 12-14 Walnut Road, Durban, Tel: 031 336 8100, Website: www.hilton.com - Sunday Independent