I'm not sure which category to post this in but thought I would start here since I expect the same information could also apply to a wedding rehearsal dinner.
We chose to have our Welcome Party at Marriott's La Vista restaurant and are so glad we did! We decided against a rehearsal dinner since there really isn't much to rehearse and wanted to give our wedding guests an opportunity to get to know other. La Vista's manager, Eveline was a real pleasure to work with. I can't say enough good things about her. She was so warm and made us feel so welcome and seemed so excited to help.
Eveline worked with her crew to help us create an appetizer menu, including items that are not on their regular menu. She seemed to enjoy the challenge. One of our favorite items was a Tamarind Margarita which may be the best we've had as well as a colorful non-alcoholic mango margarita with a pink raspberry puree running through it. She also worked with us help us get the most of our budget.
The food was outstanding! The tandoori chicken kabobs with tangy chili sauce they created for us were our favorite and we really think they should find a permanent home on La Vista's catering menu! We appreciated the tasting we were able to do the day before and the last minute adjustments they allowed us to make.
We took over the La Vista bar and were offered the lounge as well. Eveline was very attentive to detail from the beautiful drink garnishes to the colorful fruit, cheese and vegetable displays. She also made special accommodations so our henna artist to work comfortably.
Unfortunately, we were running really late but Eveline kept the party moving. She played the bhangra music we had given her, and not so subtly - the music was really rockin' when we arrived! She would call to confirm it was ok to move on to serving drinks, starting the music, sending out the food.. Luckily, when we arrived everyone seemed to be in really good spirits and having fun! While the party was going on the Marriott staff was delivering the Welcome Bags to the guests' rooms. They really appreciated having that 'surprise' waiting for them.
Things to do differently? The only thing I'm unsure of is the Welcome Party timing. We had planned it from 8:00-10:00pm. We figured guests would have had very little sleep and would be wanting a nap when they got there. We knew they would arrive at the hotel between 3:00-4:00pm. We also weren't prepared to offer a full meal and wanted them to have time for dinner. Because of the late time a few retired before we were able to get there. Probably 80% hung in til the end though. Should we have had it earlier - 7:00-9:00pm? Maybe. Also, we had ordered personalized chocolate bars for the party and forgot to give them to Eveline when we gave her the bangles and bindis that would be passed out. That wasn't all bad because we later caught up with guests to give them the bars in person, however some guests were missed.
Why choose La Vista Restaurant for your Welcome Party or Rehearsal Dinner?
The people! Eveline and her crew do an outstanding job. They really listen to you and want to make it your party!
The food is outstanding! If you want something that isn't on their menu, just ask - I think you'll be surprised at what they are willing and able to do.
The space - we love the contemporary decor and the vibe of the space. While it is a bar, its non-smoking and has ambiance without being too dark and doesn't need 'decorating'. Kids could run around outside when they got restless and we could watch them through the windows
Cost control - since there are little (if any) set-up charges and no decorating necessary, you get to spend your money on food and drinks! (I will admit though that their catering prices are on the high end.) You determine your budget and decide how much you want to serve, yet there is also a full bar available for those that want to order more food or drinks on their own tab. We chose to offer a pre-determined amount of margaritas (alcoholic and non), 4 appetizers, a fruit display, cheese montage and some veggies. Also, the left-over fruit, cheese and veggies were packaged up and held for us to take on our sailing excursion the next day.
The La Vista staff allowed us to relax and have fun when we got there, something we really needed after a very hectic day. We left smiling from ear to ear! They exceeded our expectations and got our weekend off to a great start.
It depends on how long you let the henna develop. Sounds weird, but you can sleep in it. It will just crumble off and brush away, not smear. I can't imagine what the hotel thought the next morning as I had quite a bit! The darker the color develops, the 'better luck' it is for the bride. Mine is a week old now and is fading. I'd say it lasts 1-2 weeks depending on how much exfoliating you do.
We didn't get to dine at La Vista beyond the party but heard from several people that really liked it. Our henna artist and her husband especially liked it. I usually avoid buffets, but have to say theirs looked pretty awesome if only we had been in the mood for Italian.
We had their breakfast each morning though since we had it included in our room rate. Our favorite items where the made to order omelettes and made to order belgian waffles no one seems to know about. I had to try to stay away from the waffles before the wedding but had my share of fruit smoothies - pineapple, strawberry and yogurt was the best! At first we thought dinner was pretty expensive until we started walking down the beach and saw the cost of some entrees that didn't even include any sides.