So how does a ballet dancer/bartender end up creating wedding dreams for hundreds of Northern Virginia brides? Meet Virginia Perry, wedding specialist extraordinaire for the Hilton Garden Inn Fairfax.
Virginia's mom was a hotel convention planner, she says. "It's sort of like being a military brat, moving around from place to place, only living in hotels." Her travels finally landed Virginia at George Mason University, where she received a Bachelor's in Fine Arts, concentrating in ballet, theater and stage design. Her dream at the time, she says, was to work at the Kennedy Center.
To pay the bills, Virginia started working as a bartender and later was promoted to restaurant & bar manager. To boost the bottom line, Virginia began planning events for her bar in Shirlington and is the founder of "Cause of Paws". Her bar's patrons enjoyed her events and one of her regular customers, who was connected with the Hilton (now DoubleTree) Silver Spring suggested that she go into catering & hotel sales.
For two years, Virginia slogged through traffic from Manassas to Maryland, learning the ropes and booking corporate events, tour & travel, and room blocks for out of town wedding guests. In January 2012, she joined the Hilton Garden Inn Fairfax and handles about 50 weddings a year.
Located on Route 50, west of Fair Oaks Mall near the Fairfax Country Parkway, the Hilton Garden Inn offers something most hotels in the area don't have - an outdoor ceremony space. The terrace, accommodating up to 200 guests with its arbor and fountain, is Virginia's pride of the property. "It's lush without dragging everyone through the mud," she says. And when planning an outdoor ceremony, it's always best to have a Plan B in case of bad weather. Included in the ceremony site fee is a back up ballroom space, "Ten feet away and ready to go," says Virginia. "Pure convenience." For a $1200 ceremony fee, you get the terrace, back up ballroom, dressing room, rehearsal time and audio-video equipment.
The hotel's main ballroom can accommodate up to 200 and there's no room rental fee. Other touches of "pure convenience" at the Hilton Garden Inn include all inclusive wedding receptions, ranging from $85 to $125 per person, complimentary room for the bride for the weekend with ceremony/reception packages, and LED uplighting.
"My heart goes out to brides," says Virginia. When asked to offer planning advice, here are her words of wisdom:
* "Remember, this (day) is about you. Having consideration for your guests is nice, but this is not their damn wedding," she laughs.
* "The things you'll remember will not be the most expensive items - it's the things you personalize and reflect who you are," says Virginia. "I've even had rubber duckies floating in our fountain because that meant something to the couple."
* "Never hire the cheapest DJ," advises Virginia. "Your DJ is the most important part of your day. Your MC is the energy-keeper."
* And finally, "Don't discuss your wedding with people who are not invited - or else they will invite themselves!"
To meet Virginia and tour the Hilton Garden Inn Fairfax, call 703.667.9363.