The true story of a wedding at Ocean Place Resort and Spa.
I had to wait almost a week to write this post about my son’s wedding at Ocean Place Resort in Long Branch, NJ… just to make certain my judgment wasn’t clouded by emotions. Besides, I was raised if I didn’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. I just can’t bite my tongue any longer. Future brides need to know exactly what to expect from Ocean Place Resort and Spa if they decide to book their most special day there.
It’s a big day when one of your children gets married. It’s even bigger when it’s your last… and a SON to boot. Oh… I’ve been MOB (Mother of the Bride), twice, so I know the drill. As MOG my friends cautioned me to wear beige, sit in the corner and keep my mouth shut. However the bride-to-be included me in the planning, and I’m forever grateful she did.
From the moment my future daughter-in-law and son began the discussion of making their commitment to one another ‘official’, a team consisting of her mother, a bridesmaid, and me was formed to hunt down the perfect venue. The future bride and groom live on the west coast… the rest of us live on the east and some live out of the country. A beach wedding was the future bride and groom’s wish… so off we went in search of a location and venue fit for the wedding of the century located on a New Jersey beach.
I’ll skip past all the venues we checked out that didn’t even come close to meeting our criteria, and cut to the chase… Our team unanimously thought Ocean Place Resort and Spa in Long Branch was the ultimate venue. The large expanse of pristine sand planted with palm trees, the glorious renovations, the option of having a bonfire on the beach were all major check points in the ‘plus’ column.
We toured the facility with one of their event planners and were ‘wowed’. Although her mother was suffering from sticker shock, we all knew the bride would love the place. It had just the right amount of ‘laid back’ beach wedding feel mixed with enough elegance for the bride to feel like a Princess. Perfect!
Before the final decision was made… it was time to bring the bride’s father into the mix. The bride’s parents and I made a date and met at the venue on a Saturday evening to see a real wedding in action. What we got instead was FIVE weddings to view. The stars in our eyes dimmed as we realized this place is a wedding factory… churning out weddings one right after another… five weddings, five cocktail parties, five receptions, and five bonfires.
Instead of going back to the drawing board, the kids decided to plan their ‘big day’ on a Friday in early June. One big bonus is the price is a bit lower on a Friday and secondly… it’s not as popular a day and therefore the odds are better you will not be sharing the beach.
Let’s fast forward now… the bride and groom have flown in and seen the place, and approved. Paperwork and contracts passed back and forth, more tours and meetings have taken place… the dress has been chosen, altar designed and made… it’s been a flurry of activity and the big day is just a month away. Our first major disappointment rears its ugly head… the food tasting. Oh… don’t get me wrong… the tasting went smoothly, but only ONE dish from the chosen menu was served. Yes… only ONE, the lobster and shrimp pasta. The chicken dish and beef selection were not the items the bride chose… so, why were we here??? The beef was grisly and a bit tough… so the bride’s father asked for a different cut… and he didn’t care for the red sauce used on the lobster and shrimp dish and requested it be changed to a white wine and garlic. I’ll comment further on the actual food the day of later.
Picture this… everyone has flown into town. It’s the day before the wedding. You are scurrying around in all directions with last-minute preparations… when you get a call from Ocean Place stating although you made your room reservation 6 months ago, they are so sorry, but they have to BUMP you. YES… this really happened to the sister of the groom… who had a newborn!!! Oh, the front desk assured her they secured her a room in a lovely hotel a few blocks away and of course there would be no charge for the room that night. What good does THAT do when you have to nurse the baby, and fit in naps when you are blocks away from the action???? She, or her husband (the best man) would be traveling back and forth, missing some of the planned festivities. OH… and even though the room they requested 6 months ago was for 2 queen sized beds so they could share with the in-laws to help with the baby sitting… they were given a room with one king size bed… cozy. Not to mention the ‘open’ bathroom… as in no wall between the shower and the room. Speak about getting to know your in-laws a little more than you are comfortable with. Needless to say… the in-laws drove up the next day.
We were still reeling over this when Ocean Place placed another phone call… The BRIDE WAS BUMPED TOO… in addition to one of the bridesmaids!!!!! The bride!!!!! Really!!!! I can’t make this stuff up!!! Ocean Place apologized, stating they made a huge mistake and a difficult decision had to be made… but another event booked 240 rooms and so the bride had to move on down the road. Promises of a bellhop moving their things back over the next morning were made, but never executed. The front desk was quick to assure everyone they would still be able to use the facilities like the Spa, pool, and workout space… just assuming the bride would feel comfortable walking a few blocks to the other hotel in her bathrobe.
To add insult to injury… upon check out one of the bridesmaids was charged for the change in rooms and the front desk refused to remove it immediately stating ‘accounting’ needed to make the adjustment… and they weren’t ‘in’ at the moment. It’s almost a week later and the problem has not been resolved.
So…. Here we are… the Bride and a few other guests have been bumped… and feel like second-class citizens. Nerves are being stretched to their snapping point, clothing and belongings being shuffled between a few ocean beach blocks, the sister of the groom is seething trying to rearrange her feeding and babysitting schedule to be able to enjoy the wedding. After a few hours we all calmed down and made the decision we were not going to let this ruin our good time. Tomorrow was the ‘big day’ and there was so much else to focus on.
And things went downhill after that!
Our schedule was to be at the hotel in the ‘get ready’ room at 9:00am for hair and makeup to begin. During our tours we were shown the ‘get ready’ room. It was beautiful, located on the second floor with a huge balcony overlooking the boardwalk and a spectacular view of the ocean. Imagine my surprise when I was escorted to a thin, narrow, totally enclosed room with a dripping air-conditioner compressor!!! “Oh HELL no!”
OK… in all fairness the staff probably didn’t know about the dripping air-conditioner… but come on… did they really think that squishing 11 women in a tiny room with no windows for 5 ½ hours was an acceptable way to treat a bride and her wedding party on the big day???? Seriously???
The bellhop called down for a manager as requested… then quickly scurried away. The manager arrived and informed us another bride was using the other ‘get ready’ room across the hall and since they want their brides to feel special they keep them separated!!! I kid you not… she actually said those words, “they want their brides to feel special’!!!! And she said them with a straight face!!!! Oh yeah… my future daughter-in-law really felt special all right… NOT!
We were moved to the room we were originally shown… but it shouldn’t have taken an act of congress to do so!!! The morning’s room juggling cut out about 45 minutes of much needed time for the hair and makeup artists to do their thing, so they were a bit frazzled.
In the end… we found out there were a few more weddings scheduled that day. We knew the bride of one of them… and the groom of the other. Small world. In addition, the other bride wasn’t getting married until later in the day… and arrived just as we were leaving for our ceremony.
The ceremony was scheduled for 3pm on the beach. Around 10:30 the weather report was bleak… predicting 70% chance of rain. Damn! The indoor back up ceremony site was set up and looked lovely… but it wasn’t the bride’s dream wedding. The father of the bride created the altar and was waiting for permission to erect it in the sand…as it couldn’t be erected inside. Things were getting tense. It was finally decided to set up the outside site… just incase. Besides, none of the decorations could be used indoors any way.
The weather co-operated and the ceremony was held on the beach as planned. Although it sprinkled just a little before the sun came out, the hotel provided some towels to wipe the seats… but not enough. The ceremony was lovely… just as we all hoped and dreamed. The cocktail portion of the day, originally planned to be held on the outside patio, was moved indoors due to foreboding clouds overhead. Good call! I think everyone was overjoyed to be out of the sticky, muggy heat.
At the entrance a server offering the signature drinks of the day greeted me… Coconut Mojito and Rum Punch. Both were refreshing… however no one tasted the alcohol. Maybe that’s how it was supposed to be??? The food, both passed and at stations were plentiful and delicious. The steel drum band was exceptional!
However… reports of a rude bartender began to circulate. Apparently it wasn’t WHAT he said that was rude, but rather HOW it was said. He accused the best man of drinking too much and would be cut off… when in reality he was only being helpful and gathering drinks for tables and basically serving them. Perhaps the bartender needs a refresher course in customer relations?
Upon entering the reception room I was pleased with the set-up. The table scape wasn’t an easy one to replicate, but the staff did an AWESOME job! The room was a bit crowded, but that was to be expected as the guest list pretty much maxed out its capacity. That didn’t stop us from dancing the night away and having a wonderful time.
I am sure you will agree with me that a wedding is only as good as the entertainment, the food, and the bar… right? Well… the DJ nailed the entertainment! He read the crowd, played the right music at the right time and remembered the Bride called all the shots. I wish I could say the same about the food and the bar.
There were over 90 guests… and only ONE bartender. Yes, it was the same rude bartender as the cocktail party, and no, his demeanor hadn’t changed… commenting rudely to guests about their drinking habits. In addition he was s-l-o-w. When asked why only one bartender was on duty, the reply was that the serving staff was told there were only 75 guests attending. Huh! The final count had been in for weeks… there was no surprise the number was over 90. It was an open bar, so my guess is that is how Ocean Place keeps their costs down. Slow bartenders make fewer drinks therefore using less alcohol.
Speaking of alcohol… let me touch on the champagne toast for a second. I only have a second because that’s how fast the servers whisked my glass away after the toast. The glass was only filled with 1 inch of liquid to begin with. My daughter doesn’t drink a drop of alcohol, so she passed hers on to me. I took 2 small sips from my glass, stood up to speak to someone at the next table for a few minutes and when I returned both glasses had disappeared! Gone! The servers had cleared the table in such a hurry. I was so stunned I snapped a picture of the round indentation the glass made in the tablecloth as proof a glass really existed at all.
Remember I mentioned the food tasting earlier? Well… here it comes into play. The requested white wine and garlic replacement sauce never happened… the sauce was still the red one. The Jerk Chicken, which we never tasted was NOT Jerk Chicken at all… and was so dry I only took one bite and pushed it to the side. The Black Bean Salad was wonderful, fresh, and colorful. Nothing else looked appetizing so that’s all I ate… one bite of dry chicken and a few forkfuls of black bean salad.
I work for an event planning company part time and have eaten at Ocean Place on many occasions. I was never a fan of their brown resin hot water baths they use for buffets… and was overly disappointed to see they use them for weddings as well. They just aren’t fancy enough for a wedding in my opinion. They are great for the outside bar… but seem to add a ‘picnic’ feel to the serving table.
Let’s talk cake! It was beautiful and delicious, purchased from an ‘approved vendor’ … although it was difficult to tell since the servings were so thin you could almost read a newspaper through the slice. Thank heavens there was a smorgasbord of desserts on the side. They were all yummy!
Everyone assumed the cake slices were thin so the happy couple could save the top layer for their first anniversary. Ah, no. The top was never saved nor given to anyone on their behalf. I’m guessing if you wanted the top you had to spell it out in the contract. Don’t you think that should be a checklist question for the event planner? It wasn’t. Perhaps that was our mistake??
The reception ended with a bonfire on the beach… with S’mores! What a peaceful and calming finish to a celebration of two families blending together. Then WHAM… time’s up! The staff threw a trashcan of cold water on the fire… and it was time to go home. I know the staff has to get cleaned up and get home… and there might even be regulations about bonfires on the beach… but in my mind I envisioned the fire slowly burning down and extinguishing on it’s own. Silly me.
One last point of contention to discuss is Ocean Place’s total disregard and mistreatment of your personal belongings. We were assured during the service and reception all ‘get ready’ rooms would be locked. I believe that was true for the girl’s room… for some of the time… however we know for a fact the groom’s room was never once locked. Thankfully nothing was stolen, although many expensive items were there on display.
After all is said and done, the staff gathers everything up and delivers it to the couple’s room. This is where the real heartache happens. To say the couple’s belongings were handled without care is a HUGE understatement. The guest book poster which was signed with happy wishes for the newly weds was crumpled and stuffed under the burlap runner and is damaged beyond repair. Leftover cookie favors were broken and many are missing. Handmade seashell frames arrived to their room broken, which most likely can be repaired… but that’s not the point. The bride’s seashell bouquet was also stuffed in a box without care and has a few broken shells. Items were simply tossed haphazardly into boxes without thought. Total carelessness!
None of these things ruined the wedding completely. The bride was still beautiful, the groom still smitten, and the guests danced ‘til they couldn’t move another muscle. After a year of plotting, planning, dreaming, and implementing, the wedding was still a success, IN SPITE of Ocean Place.
The DJ, Videographer, and Photographer were professionals (and AWESOME) and made the bride and groom the center of attention, rightfully so and made them feel special.
I will leave you with a favorite quote by Maya Angelou:
‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’
Perhaps the staff at Ocean Place Resort and Spa needs to repeat this quote on a daily basis.