Location, Location, Location: Event Planning-in the Lehigh Valley

By Sara Hauff Doran

One of the most important decisions you will make when planning a party or special event is where it will be held. Choosing the right caterer is another. It’s vital to take the time to research different venues and choose the one that fits your style and the goals you’ve set for your event. . Here are some Lehigh Valley area locations to consider and what they have to offer:

Allentown Symphony Hall
If you are a fan of live music and have a large amount of guests coming to your event, the Symphony Hall in Allentown may be the venue for you. Not only can the upstairs Rodale Community Room hold 180 guests (as well as accommodate a dance floor), the historic hall seats 1,200 people.

That is why various fundraisers, theatrical performances that include music and dance– as well as weddings–are held there.

“Many clients often combine the two spaces with an event onstage and then another portion of the event in the Rodale Community Room,” says Tracy Damiani, box office and events manager at the Hall.

Those getting married can do soon the stage or in the orchestra pit and have a band or quartet as part of their ceremony, Damiani notes..

“Our hall has great acoustics,” adds Lucy Bloise, director of marketing and sales at Symphony Hall.

Some weddings are even held outside in the Arts Park by Symphony Hall with cocktails on the stage and a reception upstairs, Damiani says.

When planning a soirée, Bloise suggests booking it a minimum of six months in advance or longer if the event is during the Hall’s busy holiday season.

“November and December fill up very quickly,” she notes, with late spring and summer most available.

Because there is no in-house caterer for Symphony Hall, the facility provides a list of recommended caterers from which to choose.“You have greater diversity in choice of menu, decorations and price,” Damiani says. “You do not need to be extravagant to have a lovely event. Keep it simple. Many of the amenities that you think are absolutely necessary probably would not be missed and it would save you money.”

Bank Street Annex
Whether you want your wedding to be big or small and whether you have two or 24 months to plan it, Bank Street Annex in Easton may work well for your next event.“If you have the right mindset you can plan [a wedding] in a couple of months, says Kerry Harrington, manager. “It depends on how elaborate you want it to be and how organized you are.”

The Bank Street Annex is a family-owned and -operated reception venue that can hold 200 people. It has been in operation since 1998, specializing in weddings and family events that it limits itself to only one event per day.

When choosing a location for your special event, try to go to menu tastings if they offer it, says Harrington.

“People remember the food and the music,” Harrington points out. “You want to ask around. You can also Google [search] it and look for reviews of the place.”

The 10,000-square-foot building was once The Easton National Bank and many of its original features remain, including its second floor vault, teller windows, sitting rooms and its hand crafted 40-foot ceiling.

In order to keep costs down while planning a wedding, keep guest lists small. Harrington says that years ago it was more common to book larger weddings (more than 150 people) but now smaller weddings (80-100) are more in fashion. Also, the venue offers a discounted package for Friday and Sunday weddings that are popular, she says.

When organizing an upcoming event such as an engagement or birthday party, keep in mind that you do not need to host a sit-down dinner. You can have a cocktail party with hors d’oeuvres served butler-style instead. People still enjoy it, Harrington says, and yet it’s not as expensive.

The Club at Morgan Hill
Outdoor weddings and golf outings are popular at The Club at Morgan Hill in Williams Township (Easton) with accommodations for as many as 60 guests in the Vintage Restaurant & Bar with its stone fireplace or large wrap-around patio with sweeping mountaintop views.

For groups as large as 200 guests, The Club at Morgan Hill has a white tented heated and air conditioned facility on its stone terrace during the months of March through either October or November depending on the weather.

“Fall weddings are becoming very popular with our mountaintop views. The fall foliage provides a spectacular background,” says Bradley Wilson, director of food and beverage at The Club at Morgan Hill.

Wilson recommends starting the wedding planning process about a year and a half in advance of the wedding and then booking the facility at least a year ahead.

“The more time you have to shop around and make a decision, the more enjoyable of an experience you will have. Planning your wedding should be a fun and exciting time, not a stressful hassle.”

Wilson offers some pointers on how to pick the right caterer: “You should have a good connection with your caterer or event planner. If you don’t feel you can trust them, you shouldn’t be working with them.”

A few ways to cut the cost of your upcoming party are to limit bar offerings to just beer and wine or consider hosting events on off-days such as Fridays and Sundays, Wilson says.

When hiring a caterer, “you should have a bottom line of how much you want to spend per person,” says Rebecca Moodie, director of sales and marketing at The Club at Morgan Hill “You want to find the best meal that works within that price range.”

The Lotus Ballroom at The Hampton Inn
The best way to plan an upcoming event, according to Nicholas Kurek, general manager of The Hampton Inn in Easton, is to ask many questions and shop around.

“You have a specific vision of how you want your event to look and you have the freedom of inspecting various venues prior to booking,” he says. “Don’t sign a contract until you read it thoroughly! Each venue you visit will have differences in their terms and conditions. If something doesn’t sit right with you, it may be negotiable so don’t be afraid to ask.”

The Lotus Ballroom has flexibility in both the amount of people it can seat and the layout of the space, Kurek points out. For banquets, it can seat as many as 175 guests.

The wide variety of events held there include wedding receptions, bridal and baby showers, rehearsal dinners, office parties, business meetings, holiday and birthday parties, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, and brunches, to name a few.

“Do keep in frequent contact with your event planner at the venue,” he says. “If you have questions, don’t hold off and wait until last minute.”

Kurek says that in a perfect world, you would want to have your event contracted at least a month or two out to be able to ensure your requested date. But The Hampton Inn in Easton is able to take short-term bookings as well based on availability for last minute meetings or event pop-ups.

When planning a get-together, keep in mind that the spring and summer months are usually the busiest time of year for caterers, he says. The Hampton Inn in Easton partners with several catering facilities in the area that provide various menu selections.

Sinfully Delicious
In the catering business since 1986, Anthony Mowad, owner of Sinfully Delicious in Allentown, knows how to cater to local businesses.

Often with just a day’s notice, Sinfully Delicious provides food for 100-175 people every day for five -seven events, typically business luncheons, he says and offers catering seven days a week. Most breakfasts or luncheons vary from 10 to 60 people but Sinfully Delicious also has catered for larger parties of more than 200 people.

“Everything is made fresh the day it’s ordered,” he says. “So I come in [to work] at 2 a.m. on most days.”

Sinfully Delicious specializes in pharmaceutical and business lunches but also provides a diverse menu for weddings, graduations, family functions, outdoor events and golf outings, among others.

Because Sinfully Delicious is a small operation, Mowad can provide personalized service, he says.

Chicken salad on a croissant is one of Sinfully Delicious’ most popular menu items, he says. So with that in mind, he makes sure he has extras of the sandwich on a tray to those who have raved about the item.

“I’ll cater to their every whim,” he says. It’s little touches like that that keep the calls coming in.

When choosing a caterer, people should “have an idea of what they have in mind going into the party and then see which one will suit you best. Most people Google search or call and talk to more than one caterer,” he says.

When deciding on a menu, people should “keep in mind the time of year they are having the event because certain foods go over better,” Mowad says.

There are other considerations, he says, such as what is the type of event, is it indoors or outdoors and is there a theme.

Whether you are preparing for an event that is large or small, simple or extravagant, planning is key. Create a checklist, research your venues and take advantage of the expert advice outlined here. You can’t go wrong!

Resources for e-zine.

Allentown Symphony Hall, 23 N. 6th St., Allentown, 18101, allentownsymphony.org.

Bank Street Annex, 316 Northampton St., Easton, 18042-3542, 610-253-0515,bankstannex.com.

The Club at Morgan Hill, 100 Clubhouse Drive, Easton, 18042, 610-923-8480, theclubatmorganhill.com.

The Lotus Ballroom at The Hampton Inn, 3723 Easton Nazareth Highway, Easton, 18045, 610-250-6500,eastonhamptoninn.com.

Sinfully Delicious, 1727 W. Liberty St., # 1, Allentown, 18104-5027, 610-434-6777, sinfullydeliciouspa.com.

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