Ok, this is the last and final installment of my ridiculously detailed reviews! I have hotel review, description/ideas for OOT bags, Groom's Dinner and Morning-after brunch reviews here.Hotel block: Marriot Courtyard St. Louis Westport Plaza: On the positive side, it was nice that the hotel had a big open common area (both indoors and out), was recently renovated, had an indoor swimming pool and jacuzzi for the kids, and they made us a deal to have hot breakfast buffet included in the rate. In addition, for booking so many rooms, we got my fiance's suite for the entire week free of charge. It was also really nice that they created a personalized hotel website for us and our guests. On the negative side, I didn't like the drive up to the hotel because it's in a really industrial area, although the upside was that the hotel was very quiet. I also didn't like that the hotel did not offer a free airport shuttle. A final negative was that the deadline for guest reservations was a little early (4 weeks before the event) although they did extend it for us once the deadline passed, as well as guarantee the rate so long as others didn't book the rooms. In total, I give a rating of B+.Hotel gift bags "OOT bags": We had a LOT of out-of-town guests, so I had a LOT of out-of-town gift bags to make! I purchased grape gift bags from papersource.com - very affordable and I recommend. I made a packet of information that included the weekend's schedule, maps and directions, restaurant recommendations and tourist/visitor suggestions. I emailed Marcia Spencer at the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission at [email protected]
for small guide books and maps - they were shipped to my mom's house free of charge. In the bag, I also included some dorky St. Louis things including gooey butter cake cookies and Fitz's rootbeer, as well as aspirin for the morning after the wedding, personalized water bottles, snacks, etc. One thing my guests really loved was that I included two St. Louis postcards, both of which were stamped and one of which was addressed to my fiance and me; we asked them to share their favorite memory of the weekend on the postcard to us and drop it in the mail - it was so much fun to read these when we got back from the honeymoon!Groom's Dinner: We had our Groom's Dinner at my Aunt and Uncle's home in Wildwood, so I can't rate a restaurant for this. However, my mother-in-law did use a few vendors. She contracted the tents, tables and chairs from Weinhardt. She really liked working with the man there, but was disappointed that we ended up not being able to use the tent at all (we had to move everything inside) due to weather; I don't know if they did anything to help her with the flooding that ocurred in the tent. She ordered a carrot cake (groom's choice) from Costco and it was delicious. The invitations were a Carlson Card product and were beautiful and affordable. Service for bussing tables and tending bar were screened from Craig's List - she had no issues with them but she did EXTENSIVE checks on them. My tip for the Groom's Dinner/Rehearsal Dinner is to provide everyone with nametags - we had over 100 guests for the Groom's Dinner and many people didn't know each other - we instructed guests to pick up their nametags upon walking in the door and it had their name, table assignment and relation to the couple spelled out (eg, "Bride's aunt").Morning-after wedding brunch: Because of all our aforementioned out-of-town guests with corresponding hotel check-outs and nowhere to go, we decided to host a brunch and gift-opening reception the morning after the wedding. I can't recommend this enough! We told people to come over relaxed, even in their PJs if they wanted. We served mimosas and bloody mary's and coffee, and brought in Panera bagels, pastries, salads and sandwiches. We held this at my mom's neighborhood clubhouse and decorated with leftover centerpieces and other flowers; we sent out invitations about a month before the wedding so people could make proper flight plans. Like I said, this was great - it was a nice way to say good-bye to people before we left for our honeymoon, as well as laugh at some of our guests' antics the night before, and open the remaining gifts.That's it, girls - I hope my reviews are helpful!