The Hotel Bel-Air has left all brides (and grooms) at the altar, so to speak, especially those who wanted to marry before 2009 was out. As a consolation, the hotel has offered to honor the brides' planned wedding dates at their sister Dorchester Collection property, The Beverly Hills Hotel.
While equally posh, the Beverly Hills Hotel is an entirely different feel than the Hotel Bel-Air which is more secluded and private. Visiting there feels as if you are miles away from Los Angeles. Visiting the Beverly Hills Hotel feels as if you are stepping inside an issue of Us Weekly.
And in the case of our bride friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, the Beverly Hills Hotel is already hosting two other weddings on her wedding date in November. The only space that could be used was one of the smaller ballrooms. So much for that special day.
Aside from having to find out the hotel was closing from her trainer, there also appears to be an issue with refunding the deposits the bride has already paid, which are typically 50 percent of the total costs. In the contract our bride signed with the hotel, if she pulled out within 90 days of the date, her deposits were non-refundable. But there was no "out clause" for the hotel if they pulled out within 90 days.
A rep for the Hotel Bel-Air said they are still honoring the brides' contracts, only at The Beverly Hills Hotel.
“In each instance Hotel Bel-Air will offer to accommodate the weddings at The Beverly Hills Hotel honoring the same contract. We will, of course, pay for any external expenses that they might already have incurred to enable them to change plans (i.e. re-printing of wedding invitations). The greatest of care will be given to each couple’s wedding.”
See an updated statement from the hotel, here.
If a bride does not wish to get married at the Beverly Hills Hotel, full refunds will be given. However, our bride friend says that hotel has not offered her a refund, although they did offer to pay for invitation printing costs.
Wedding coordinator Alexandra Rembac, owner and lead designer of Sterling Engagements, said that hotels have to think carefully about how they contact brides with such major news, like closing their property for 18 months. "When you're getting married, it's a big deal and people get really sensitive. So venues have to be sensitive as to how they contact people and handle the situation. Also, this can affect how [The Bel-Air] reopens. People involved will remember this."
Rembac said the hotel should offer brides something more for their inconvenience. "The least they could do is invite everyone who's had to experience this unfortunate situation to come back when the renovations are done and have a weekend 'on us.' They need to make good of the situation."
Rembac also advises brides looking to book a wedding at a hotel to do their research. "Go online and read the different reviews," she said. "Learn about the hotel's reputations behind the scenes. Look at what they have to offer, what their policies and guidelines are and come up with a list of questions to ask the hotel's catering sales manager. Even ask if they have plans for upcoming renovations or remodelings and how that might affect your wedding. You really need to safeguard and protect yourself."
And of course, Rembac recommends hiring a wedding coordinator who are "built to handle" these crises. In fact, Rembac's Sterling Engagements is offering a sort of "Panic Package" to brides who were planning on getting married at the Hotel Bel-Air. Sterling Engagements will give all "jilted" Hotel Bel-Air brides 50 percent off their services.
Meanwhile, our bride friend is still hoping to get her deposits back as well as money spent on other wedding costs like invitations, flights for family members and deposits paid to outside vendors. Until then, she and her fiancee have set a new wedding date for next year--out of the country.