wedding photo booth

Two Trends in Wedding Photography for 2014

Wedding photos, for many brides and their families, are a way to ensure that the legacy of their special day is carried on to the next generations.  By catching those ephemeral and magical flashes on film, they can look back 50 years from now and relive those special moments. After all the planning that goes into a wedding, the actual event seems to go by in a flash, so the importance of capturing such moments cannot be overstated. Here at the Hilton Charlotte Center City, we value the impact that stunning wedding photos have just as much as our clients.  But how does one achieve a sublime wedding album? recently listed 13 hot wedding photography trends, and we have picked out two of our favorites!

wedding charlottewedding charlotte 2Stop-Motion Wedding Photo Film

This technique consists of taking several shots in one space, applying animation, and then compiling the shots into a video set to your choice of song. Brides & Grooms have found great success putting this “video” on their Facebook page or wedding site.  We particularly love this concept with our perfect center city location! On the corner of 3rd and College Street, we are in the middle of all the action that Uptown Charlotte has to offer. We are a part of a bustling city and are surrounded by backgrounds unique to the Queen City. You can even select a still from your collection of stop-motion shots and make it a beautiful wedding album cover to introduce the setting of your Wedding Story. 

Photo Booths with Social Media Integration

Grab your favorite props from your local vintage store and create your own photo booth for your guests! Technology now allows your guests to instantly upload their fun goofy pics to social media sites. Hilton Charlotte Center City would love to help you create a fun photo booth for you and your guests on your big day! We are highly active on social media including, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram and are privy to the latest trends. We can even incorporate your custom hashtags throughout our property! Just don’t forget to tag us!

Famous Wedding Photographer, Joe Buissink, says it best:  “If you force it and you keep looking for moments then you end up shooting what you think the wedding should look like rather than actual moments that are unfolding in front of you.”

Whatever vision you have for your wedding album, the Hilton Charlotte Center City has the tools to take you there! We strive to surpass your expectations and make your big day stress free.  Let us help you achieve your happily ever after, no matter what photography trend fits you best!

Megan Applegate is the Senior Catering Sales Manager at Hilton Charlotte Center City.   She has been in the catering and Wedding planning industry for 14 years and is excited to bring the experience and expertise she gained in the Miami market to Charlotte.

Planning for the Future! How Mentoring Interns Can Help Build a Strong Work Force

The Hilton Woodland Hills has partnered with California State University, Northridge (CSUN) again this year, hosting five interns from their Business and Recreation, Tourism and Hospitality Management programs.  Each student rotates through six major departments in the hotel learning operational and managerial responsibilities while also taking courses related to the field. The Director of Food and Beverage at the Hilton, Babette Shade, is also a part time professor at CSUN. “It is exciting to see such eager students learn and understand the field of hospitality and to know that they are our future leaders for tomorrow” stated Shade.


Shown above from right are Babette Shade, interns Linda Iglesias, Kari Costanza, Hilton General Manager Deepak Mehra, intern Yui Kurata, Hilton Human Resources Director Maribel Preciado, and interns Shelby Brito, Katilyn Regan.

CSUN began their Recreation, Tourism and Hospitality degree program a few years ago and has seen an explosion in enrollees. As the hospitality industry continues to strengthen it only made sense to partner with them for future talent as we invest in human capital while strengthening employment within our local community and commerce, hence “Hilton’s Bright Blue Futures”.

We began our partnership with CSUN 3 years ago and mentored the intern program specific to the needs of hospitality students with much success. Several of our intern graduates are now Hilton employees!”

BabetteBabette Shade is the Food and Beverage Director of the Hilton Woodland Hills/Los Angeles. Babette has been in the hospitality business, including hotels, casinos, and amusement parks. Babette’s passion is to customize events – both food and decor – to incorporate a healthier approach for planned meals. Food is medicine and we all benefit when food becomes art!

coastal award taste of the nation

Coastal Kitchen & Bar awarded “Best Cold Food” by the American Culinary Federation

Coastal Kitchen & Bar located inside of the Hilton Charlotte Center City has been honored with “Best Cold Food” for its Tuna Crisp appetizer, awarded the by American Culinary Federation.

Hilton Charlotte’s Coastal Kitchen and Bar competed in Taste of the Nation on Wednesday, April 16, 2014. The evening featured tastings from the area’s top chefs, restaurants and culinary schools all to raise funds to end childhood hunger in America and in Charlotte. Together, the event raised over $100,000 for No Kid Hungry NC.

Uptown Charlotte’s Coastal Kitchen & Bar offers worldly flavors of comfort served with southern hospitality. The restaurant features seasonal menus that include local favorites, as well as a variety of multi-cultural ingredients and weekly specials. The bar offers an assortment of libations, many created by our own mixologists. The restaurant is located inside the Hilton Charlotte Center City on the plaza level, 222 East Third St., Charlotte, NC 28202. For more information and reservations, please call Coastal directly via phone at (704) 331-4360 or by accessing OpenTable: Coastal Kitchen & Bar.

pink ribbon

Hilton Woodland Hills/Los Angeles Hosts Nationwide Tour of Gowns in Association with Brides Against Breast Cancer

The Hilton Woodland Hills/Los Angeles announces its partnership with Brides Against Breast Cancer in hosting the Nationwide Tour of Gowns on May 31 & June 1, 2014.

Brides Against Breast Cancer™ contributes to programs for cancer patients, their families and caregivers. Their outreach and educational efforts during the “Nationwide Tour of Gowns” bridal shows around the country help ensure that people impacted by cancer have the resources and information they need in their battle with cancer.

The more than 100 yearly bridal shows provide brides-to-be with an opportunity to find their dream gown at an incredible savings, while contributing to services that provide education, information and outreach to men, women and children affected by cancer. Show sales include hundreds of new, name brand and designer gowns, as well as lovingly worn gowns in various styles and sizes, and they offer a convenient layaway plan. Most gown prices range from $99 to $799 with designers gowns valued up to $3,900.

The hotel has encouraged its team members who have already said “I Do,” to consider donating their gowns to BABC.

Many of our hotel team have been touched in some way by breast cancer. Tamara McLaughlin, Director of Sales & Marketing said “So many of us are touched by breast cancer, whether it be a mother, sister or daughter. Our team are so proud to be able to support Brides Against Breast Cancer in a most personal way, donating dresses and hosting this event on their behalf.”

For tickets to attend the Nationwide Tour of Gowns, please visit

About Brides Against Breast Cancer

Brides Against Breast Cancer (BABC) is a wholly owned affiliate of the Center for Building Hope, headquartered in Sarasota, FL. The Center offers free information, programs and services to cancer patients, caregivers and family members, while connecting them with others who are undergoing a similar experience.  The revenue generated by Brides Against Breast Cancer makes it possible to deliver free information and services to thousands more people impacted by cancer. The goal in 2014 is to make free programs and services available to anyone, anywhere through a nationwide online network of more than 100 affiliates called the Health Support Network.

Maryann Davis is the Sales and Catering Coordinator for the Hilton Woodland Hills/Los Angeles. She has been with the hotel for 7 years, having worked in Outlets and Banquets previously.  She enjoys running 5K and 10K races.


Hints from a Road Warrior

As someone who spends more than 300 days a year on the road, whether it be on business or vacation, I have had to learn every trick that is available to me to save time, energy, money and my sanity.  Here are some of my tips to help those of you heading out on the road.

I plan every trip before I leave the house. A wonderful app to help manage travel plans in will accept air, hotel, car, shuttle and other travel arrangements forwarded from your email and import the details directly into the Trip created on the site.

Watch out for those airfares! Some airfares look to good to be true. They are. They might be cheaper at the outset, but once you add the checked baggage fees, carry on fees, fee for a seat and the fee for a drink of water – it’s cheaper to fly a legacy carrier!

If you want the perks that come with travel watch this video:

Hit the Ground Running

I spend the time to research my arrival. Where is the car rental office? Is it easier to take public transport? How much would I expect to pay for a taxi to my destination? I also even research nearby dining options.

Everything is on my phone. I have the airline app with my boarding passes and flights, the hotel app with my hotel reservations, car rental app with my car rentals. Everything is in my hand. TripIt has it all on one itinerary.

Invest in TSA PreCheck or Global Entry if traveling overseas. With either of these you can cruise past security or border control. No more lines, no more waiting. Less time at the airport and more time at home!

It’s important to keep important numbers on hand. Who am I meeting with? When? How can I reach them in the event of travel delays?

I keep $60 and one of my photo ID’s in a safe place. In case my wallet is lost, I have cash and a form of ID.

I keep every receipt whether it is tax deductible or expendable. I use Neat Receipts to keep track of all of my travel spending and scan in my receipts daily. It helps me out at tax time! It’s a portable scanner so if I ever lose my receipts I have an electronic copy. 


Packing the Right Way

I have mastered the art of packing for 10 days in a single carry on! Lay out your clothing and cull. Decide if you really need that item or if you can launder some items before your return to minimize the items you are taking.

You can also avoid checked luggage fees by packing light. If I check luggage I always have a change of clothes in my carry on in case the checked luggage doesn’t quite make it as quickly as you do.

If you travel with medications, leave the bottles at home. I use a single bottle or plastic sandwich bags for my medication. It saves a lot of space for other essentials. If you get medications from a national pharmacy, use their app to have your medications refilled at the closest location to your hotel.

I tend to travel to the same place a lot as I work on projects. One the weekends I fly home I take a carry on and leave my luggage at the hotel in storage. 

When High Tech Works 

Gone are the days of traveling with thumb drives. All of my documents, files, data storage and applications are saved on a cloud drive such as Dropbox. I can access anything from any computer. Whether it be at an airport lounge, hotel or my netbook.

Make sure you have a printed copy of your entire travel itinerary. Phones get lost and phone batteries die!

Staying Happy

To stay healthy, I make an effort to stay fit on the road from the simplicity of bypassing moving sidewalks at the airport and walking on your own to using the hotel’s fitness center.

Most importantly however is to “be nice”. Service staff, whether it be at hotels, car rental agencies or airports deal with stressed travelers all of the time. It is truly amazing the kinds of additional services and perks you get when you are nice.

When things go wrong, take a breath. It’s probably not their fault. And usually, they are the only ones that can deliver the appropriate solution. 

Final Words of Wisdom

Always have a backup plan. Use every resource to make sure you are ahead of the game. While others are standing in line to talk to a gate agent, call the airline – you will get through quicker. If bad weather is delaying flights, book a room for the night while everyone else is worrying about their flight!

And the most important advice I can give you is this; S?!# Happens! At the end of the day, you cannot control anything that goes on when traveling. You can plan. You can have contingencies. But when they fail or do not materialize – relax and enjoy the ride!

For your convenience, here is a list of apps and websites I use to help me manage my travel.

With more than 20 years of experience in the Hospitality & Catering Industries, Andre Link is a Hotel Consultant that has built a reputation for success in sales and a keen understanding of the operational aspects of the business.

His business takes him to Europe, Middle East, Australia, Asia and all over the United States.  Andre is also the principal of his own travel company, Expedia CruiseShipCenters.

Life saving award collage

Recognizing Employees Who Go Above & Beyond

In the 24/7 hotel environment, unexpected situations are an inevitable part of the job.  Employees may need to react to events that take them far outside the confines of their normal job description and training.  How do you recognize employees that go above and beyond to help a guest, to remedy a situation, or just plain save the day?

Here at Hilton Washington Dulles Airport, back in January 2014, a guest notified us of a man on the ground in the parking lot that was in some sort of trouble.   We notified 911, and called our engineering department to transport the man from the parking lot inside.  Our PBX Operator, Debbie Utt, used to be a medical triage, and with her background, went out to the lobby to assist as a few of our engineers carried the man in from the parking lot.  Using heroic efforts she was able to save his life in the 6-7 minutes that it took for the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue to respond to the call.   They told us that if Debbie hadn’t been so quick-thinking, the man most likely would have not survived.

The guest was rushed away to the hospital, but Debbie and Sheila, our Director of Rooms, remained in contact with his daughter.  He is now in a rehab facility and recovering well.

We knew that such a heroic and selfless act needed to be formally acknowledged.   We wanted to share with Debbie’s coworkers, the Hilton brand, and the entire community this courageous, above & beyond act!  It was an opportunity to show our whole team how appreciative we are of quick-thinking, solution-oriented action.  The 4 major accolades included:

  • DEBBIE’S IMMEDIATE COLLEAGUES/TEAM: Recognition at our 4th quarter Employee Luncheon by the entire team on property
  • WITHIN THE COMMUNITY: Publicly thanked on our Facebook and Twitter pages
  • HIGH PROFILE PROFESSIONAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Hilton Hotels awarded Debbie with the Spirit of Blue Energy Award
  • BONUS AWARD: Fairfax County Fire & Rescue recognized Debbie in a Life Saving Award Ceremony (video below)

Debbie only did what came naturally to her in the moment, and was of course not seeking praise or thanks.  But we could not let the incident pass without some fanfare!  This story represents a serious, life or death moment, and is an extreme case, but smaller opportunities to go above and beyond present themselves daily.  Showing gratitude and sharing praise is what can motivate and inspire employees to put in that extra effort, which your guests will really notice.

KaylaMurphyKayla Murphy is the Social Media/Sales Coordinator for the Hilton Washington Dulles. A native Floridian, Kayla recently moved to the Dulles area and is loving it so far, especially the changing of the leaves, which is something she never experienced having lived in Florida her entire life. She is mommy to her almost 4 year old daughter Bella and is an avid food-lover!

Hilton Woodland Hills/Los Angeles

Hilton Woodland Hills/Los Angeles Joins the Green Revolution Commemorating Earth Day

Hilton Woodland Hills/Los Angeles announces its inclusion in Earth Day celebrations.

In addition to the robust recycling program in place at the hotel, the hotel will commemorate Earth Day all week 04/21 – 25.

Guests parking Hybrid or Electric vehicles at the hotel will receive complimentary Valet Parking at the hotel on April 22nd, Earth Day.

Both the RestauraKale Martini #1 woodland hillsnt and Bar will offer guests a “Treetini” signature cocktail. A donation of $2 per drink will be made to a local tree planting organization.

Throughout the week, the hotel restaurant will offer vegan dining options featuring locally sourced ingredients, minimizing the carbon footprint of the meal.

General Manager, Deepak Mehra said “we are thrilled to take a small role in our part to bring awareness to our place in the global community ‘going green’. Our team members understand that every little bit counts and our contribution, no matter how small will make a difference.”

About Earth Day Network

The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement. The passage of the landmark Clean Air ActClean Water ActEndangered Species Act and many other groundbreaking environmental laws soon followed. Growing out of the first Earth Day, Earth Day Network (EDN) works with over 22,000 partners in 192 countries to broaden, diversify and mobilize the environmental movement. More than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.

For more information on the Earth Day Network, please visit

Residence Inn Pleasanton

Visit San Francisco from your Pleasanton Hotel

San Francisco, the famous “City by the Bay” has everything from first class restaurants, cultural offerings in music, theater and ballet to brand name shopping on Union Square and boutiques in her unique neighborhoods.

But like many popular cities, San Francisco can be difficult to navigate for visitors. Traffic can be challenging and parking charges can add up. Save yourself the stress and hassle and use BART to explore San Francisco’s hidden treasures.

BART, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system is an easy and affordable way to explore the city. With the BART station less than half a mile away, here at the Residence Inn Pleasanton hotel, we have many guests stay with us in this historic suburb to enjoy a full suite experience with complimentary breakfast at room rates considerably less than in the city, yet only 45 minutes to the heart of the city.  They simply take our shuttle to the station and from there, ride BART into the city.

Pleasanton hotel BART Mapp

Log on to and you can chart out your visit on their easy to use Schedule Planner. Simply input your departing and arriving addresses and when you want to leave or arrive. BART will give you the stations you need to use, and the scheduled train times.  Once you arrive at the BART station go to one of the ticket machines to purchase a ticket for your trip. You insert the ticket into your departing station and then again as you arrive at your destination.

Trains leave every 10-15 minutes and the fares are very affordable ranging anywhere from a few dollars to $11 or so to travel from the SFO International Airport.  BART also provides easy access to Oakland International Airport as well as SFO, saving higher cab costs.

So consider using BART on your next visit and plan your hotel stay on the BART line.  You can save time, money and also do your part in helping to save the planet as well by using public transportation.


margieMargie Johnston has held numerous sales, marketing and catering positions in her 25+ years in the hospitality industry, working with Hilton Hotels, Hyatt Hotels, Universal Studios and the Long Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau. She is President of RevenueResources Management, a hospitality consulting firm providing outsource solutions (task force coverage, business development & lead generation) to hotels.  She also served as an interim GM at the Residence Inn Pleasanton hotel.


Martini Recipes with Rum or Whiskey .. why not?

When most people think of the Martini recipes, they think Gin or Vodka. In this industry it is important to constantly evolve and come up with trends. Helping pour off product that is just sitting on the shelf is an added bonus!


Have you ever tried a martini recipe with Rum? Whiskey? Brandy? There are many martini recipes out there in the world, but why not more? It takes a creative thinker and a great pallet, but it can be accomplished.


Martini recipe
An appletini with Rum? Yes!

Next time you have flavored rum that you want to create a specialty cocktail with, try a Martini. Treat it with the same flavors as vodka and see what transpires. For example, does an Appletini need to be vodka or can it be apple spiced rum? For the past few years rum has not been as popular, so many bars have tons of brands and flavors just sitting on the shelves collecting dust.


To get you started, let me share my secret recipe for a whiskey martini.


0.5oz George Dickel Sour Mash Whisky
1oz Anisette (Yes, I said Anisette)
0.5oz Sweet and Sour
1oz Sprite


Shake with lots of ice and pour into a chilled Martini glass. If done correctly it will leave a nice frothy top layer and taste very smooth.


Want more knowledge on cocktails?  Check these posts out on Hawaiian cocktails, cocktails under 200 calories, and craft cocktails.

Courtney LeibowitzCourtney Leibowitz is the Food and Beverage Manager for the Hilton Woodland Hills/Los Angeles. She started her hotel career with the Hilton 8 years ago as a front desk agent and a few years later found her passion through the Food and Beverage department. When not at work, her favorite thing to do is travel and cook for her friends and family.

Visit Rancho Cordova with a Funding Grant

Do you need funding to kick start your next event, conference, or sports tournament?   The Rancho Cordova Travel and Tourism Board offers Grants for events that generate room nights in Rancho Cordova (CA).  Rancho Cordova is known for hosting well known events such as NCAA Rowing, the Hot Jazz Jubilee, and numerous youth and sporting events.

The City of Rancho Cordova is conveniently located just 12 miles east of Sacramento – the capital of California – and provides a variety of attractions. The beautiful American River lines Rancho Cordova’s northern border and offers many activities both on and off the water. Rancho Cordova is just minutes away from the historic Gold Country and the spectacular Sierra Foothill Wine Country.  When you visit Rancho Cordova, you’ll find rich history along with great locations to hold sporting and corporate events.

Visit Rancho Cordova

Rancho Cordova features a 70,000 square foot events center which is ideal for basketball, volleyball, martial arts, and numerous indoor sporting events (see brief video of Rancho Cordova Events Center here).

To apply for a grant, event planners simply complete the grant application and satisfy a number of criteria including confirming that their event will produce hotel room nights in Rancho Cordova, CA.   A list of participating Rancho Cordova hotels and a grant application is available on-line at Visit Rancho Cordova.

Individual grants are available to corporate, association, or non-profit, public or privately-funded planners.

For additional information, planners can contact the Sacramento Marriott Rancho Cordova.