Westin offers a major wedding giveaway, five dozen vendors sport their services and free drinks accompany panel talks.
On Feb. 18 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., the second floor of The Westin Alexandria will transform into a wedding wonderland, sporting 61 local vendors, live entertainment from East Coast Entertainment’s Perfekt Blend, a demonstration on how to take the most flattering photos and, of course, giveaways galore.
But this year, the 2nd Annual Alexandria Wedding Showcase is stepping up its freebie game to top last year’s event, at which Monte Durham (TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta)—whose own wedding was in Alexandria—made a celebrity appearance.
“Since we knew that we weren’t getting Monte this year, we were like ‘What is this year’s big thing?’” Megan Hosford, Visit Alexandria‘s Destination Wedding Specialist and this year’s event organizer, said of the planning committee at its River Farm retreat in Alexandria. “And then all of us kind of agreed: ‘We have to give away a wedding this year. We just have to do it.’”
The Westin Alexandria volunteered, offering one lucky winner a $50,000 wedding for up to 100 guests. Included is The Westin’s ceremony and reception spaces, a pre-dinner cocktail hour with hors d’oeuvres and an open bar, a plated dinner, china, glassware, lighting, draping and two nights in a presidential suite. Also covered: Select Event Group-provided linens, chairs, chargers and flatware; photos by Sarah Marcella Creative; 10 floral centerpieces and a bridal bouquet/boutonnieres via Velvet Moss Floral; and a cake from Alexandria Pastry Shop.
The giveaway is not the only thing differentiating this year’s event from its predecessor, however.
“There’s something about a live band that really gets people excited,” Hosford noted. “We definitely still have a lot on stage, but this year we’re hoping to kick it up a notch with more of a party feel.”
Republican National Distributors will provide alcohol so guests can sip on free cocktails while listening to two panels and taking in a fashion show. One features David Magsumbol from The Westin Alexandria, Annee Gillett from Eat Good Food Group and Kristin Carrigan from Kelley Cannon Events, while the second, led by Megan Hosford, a representative from the Office of Historic Alexandria and the Old Town Shop’s Valerie Ianierie, focuses on “Perfecting Your Alexandria Wedding.”
Through the nonprofit Brides Across America, 20 pre-selected military and first responder brides will be awarded a free wedding gown after trying on and selecting one from the event’s meeting-room-turned-boutique space. Note that the boutique is only open to those twenty brides, however.
As for other handouts, one couple will win a two-night stay at the Lorien Hotel & Spa that includes lunch, two dinners and a $100 Visa gift card; another will be awarded a free Virginia is for Lovers “L.O.V.E.” letters rental (normally $1,000), and one bridal party will get to take a pillow-making class at AR Workshop.
But not to worry. Even if you don’t win any of the major prizes, the first 500 guests will still walk away with their own Scout bag.
“One of the biggest benefits of attending, especially our show, is that doing research for weddings can get very stressful, time-consuming, and [when] looking at different websites, you may not find the exact info you need,” Hosford explained. “If you want to hold your wedding in Alexandria, you’re getting a total overview of the vendors in town all in one day.”
And why would someone want to hold their wedding in Alexandria?
“Destination weddings are awesome, and you can have a destination wedding in Alexandria when you really look at it and plan it to be really local,” says Hosford, an Alexandria bride herself. “All of my guests said the same thing: Alexandria is very romantic, the community is so walkable and it’s easy to go out and experience the town. Some people came early, others extended their stays.”
“It’s not just a wedding,” Hosford says. “It’s a wedding weekend.”