Positioned perfectly on the Destin Harbor, The Emerald Grande captures the daily picturesque sunsets there! It also has to be one of DJ Josh's favorite Emerald Coast wedding venues, so he was excited when he got the chance to chat with Emily Buckley, the banquet manager there.
Emily shares how she worked her way up through the organization, all of the different venues (yes, venues plural!) that The Emerald Grande offers couples for their wedding, as well as how she arrived in this area.
Make sure to click that subscribe button, so you don't miss an episode. And if you haven't left a review, DJ Josh would appreciate it! He might even read it on a future podcast! Also, if you have a wedding pro that you think other brides might benefit from working with, send their info to [email protected] he'd LOVE to chat with them :)
The intro and outro for this Highlight Weddings & Events Podcast were both edited and produced by DropHouse Voiceover Production Studio and Tony Tee Neto, Voiceover Artist & Audio Producer. For more info on branding elements, editing, and post-production services, visit http://drophouse.com.
The song used for the intro and outro for this episode is Crush by https://audiohub.com License: CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:00:26] Well, hello again, everyone. Thanks for checking out the podcast. My name is DJ Josh with Highlight Weddings and Events, and I have an awesome guest with me today. Her name is Emily Buckley, the Banquet Manager from the Emerald Grande. How you doing today, Emily?
Emily Buckley: [00:00:42] I'm good. How are you doing?
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:00:44] I'm doing awesome. It's winter time in Florida.
Emily Buckley: [00:00:48] Yeah. It's chilly. It's definitely chilly. But I do hear that we're supposed to be going up to the seventies this weekend. So I'm looking forward to it.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:00:57] Yeah. If you've never lived in Florida, you do not understand how bipolar the weather is here. It literally is getting down to like forties or thirties at night.
Emily Buckley: [00:01:06] Yeah, it's horrible, but it's okay. I'm from Buffalo, New York. So, it could be much worse, so we shouldn't be too hard on it.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:01:13] No, definitely not. It's just aggravating planning, any outdoor activities. And the crazy thing is, is the forecast is not always right.
It changes very fluidly.
Emily Buckley: [00:01:23] Exactly.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:01:24] That is one of the reasons why you should make sure to have a venue that has an indoor and outdoor options just in case the weather does change. But we'll get to that in a little bit. Other than being from Buffalo, Emily, would you mind introducing yourself to the listeners of the podcast?
Emily Buckley: [00:01:40] Absolutely. So, I am from Buffalo, New York, and I started out here at the Emerald Grande in 2015. And I actually came down here for an internship to wrap up, college and everything. and I was able to do it all the way in Florida, even though I was going to school in New York.
so I started out in the food and beverage department and I was the pool deck server and I, worked my way up here and about three and a half years ago, I, came over to the catering and banquet side. of the food and beverage department. I was the banquet manager for the last few years.
And as of about a few weeks ago, I'm actually the catering sales manager now it's a really great company to work for and to work your way up here and, I love my team and everyone that I work with. So it's definitely been an enjoyable experience here at the Emerald Grande.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:02:26] Well, congratulations on your recent promotion.
Emily Buckley: [00:02:29] Thank you!
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:02:30] That's a good feeling. And it's cool that the Emerald Grande has provided you an environment to grow professionally.
Emily Buckley: [00:02:36] Yeah. It has been great. I don't think I'd be able to do what I'm doing now, unless I, had those years starting out working on the pull deck, bartending, and then doing all of the operations side of everything. It really does help when you're doing sales to know what our team is capable of and the extra miles that we are able to go for the guests.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:02:56] Well, and it also helps you as a manager to appreciate what it's like in a lower position or more of a customer interaction portion.
Emily Buckley: [00:03:04] Yes, absolutely.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:03:06] So it helps to give you a broad view or, you're not just a manager. You've had that experience,
Emily Buckley: [00:03:12] Oh yeah. And you know, we have such a great team here that, everyone is just such a great team player and all of our staff really enjoys going above and beyond for all of our couples and events that we do host here. So that's probably my favorite thing to watch is everyone just be very excited, the day of weddings for, the bride walking down the aisle and just celebrating with them. that's definitely been my favorite part about working here.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:03:37] Okay. Well, I'm glad you brought up the bride walking down the aisle, because my next question is what excites you about being a part of the wedding event
Emily Buckley: [00:03:46] team? Ooh, that is only so hard. You know, I really enjoy what I do here. And, I definitely like seeing everything from start to finish. I love building, this custom wedding, for these brides that are coming in for a destination wedding. And getting to, build the process with them, build their menu and how their day is going to flow and all that kind of stuff. And then to see it come to life, the day of the wedding is, really special.
and building that relationship is really fun.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:04:17] Okay. so as couples are getting ready or whether they're just starting planning their wedding, or as they're going through the wedding planning process, how can couples working with you make their wedding a highlight?
Emily Buckley: [00:04:31] I will admit wedding planning is a little difficult. The hardest part that couples are going to go through is selecting their wedding venue. So, to make the process a little bit easier for them with it being more of a destination type setting here in Destin definitely just kinda discuss between the two of them how many people are going to actually attend.
if they're wanting like buffet versus a plated dinner, if they want to do an open bar or just have a cash bar, like having all of those details planned out ahead of time before touring and coming will really help so that, we can go into depth on what they're really wanting when they're coming here for a
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:05:09] tour.
Okay. Now, what. Attracts couples to having the Emerald grand be the venue for their wedding?
Emily Buckley: [00:05:16] that is a loaded question. I just think our property is so big. And we have so much to offer for everybody. We are definitely geared towards, family friendly. When people are coming here, you have Harborwalk Village that has all of the excursions and boat rentals in the little shops down there. nightly entertainment that's put on by our great marketing department and events team, and, bars and restaurants down there. So it's just a lot of nightlife and fun stuff to do down there while they're staying here with us.
nine times out of 10, if you're staying somewhere else, you end up on our property one day or, or more. So it's nice to be an elevator ride away from all of that kind of stuff. And then not to mention all the amenities that we do offer, in-house as far as accommodations and our restaurant pool happy hour, our beautiful spa that we have here. those are just a lot of things that do attract, couples coming and booking with us is because we do have everything located right on our property. you could pull in and park your car here, and you're not going to have to leave until you're checking out, after your event has taken place, which is very stress-free for a lot of people that are traveling to a destination location.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:06:27] I do think you are forgetting one awesome thing about the Emerald Grande. And that is the view of the Destin Harbor.
Emily Buckley: [00:06:35] Yes. Yes. We are really lucky and, our venue, I know we're going to talk about the venues, but the Captain's Deck.
I stand out there all the time. And I just feel like I have made it in life because of how spectacular that view is. There's nothing like it. And I've visited a lot of venues and, a lot of other places out of town and you know, you stand out looking over the water and the sunset And there's no better view. We're, really lucky here.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:07:02] Ok. Now, you mentioned different venues, the Emerald grant has to offer. And that's actually one of the things I really like is it's not just, you only have one or two options. There's multiple options. Can you share a little bit more about that to couples?
Emily Buckley: [00:07:15] absolutely. And that is another great thing here about the Emerald Grande is we have something for everybody depending on what kind of vision that they all have for their special day. So obviously the captain's deck is one of our more popular venues. It has the big lighthouse behind it with a great view of the water. And, it has this very, big, elegant, grand staircase that the brides get to make their entrance on. And I get these pictures all the time from the photographers, sharing them with me and that picture of the bride walking down the aisle off that staircases just. It's absolutely beautiful. And then to the right of the captain's deck, we have the sunset deck, which is obviously called the sunset deck because it has the most beautiful view of all the sunsets that we have here in Destin, Florida.
it's a little bit more intimate deck, a little bit smaller, and it's kind of off to the corner, so, people can't really see over that way. And then we also do beach weddings and our beach weddings are such a fun experience because the resort actually owned its own private boat shuttle that shuttles all of the guests for the wedding to our secluded beach. It's about a four to five minute boat ride. But not very many people can say that they arrived to a wedding ceremony via boat shuttle, so that's always really fun for all of the guests. we do weddings over on our secluded beach that we own.
And then getting to the indoor venues, we have our grand ballroom, which, is a very formal ballroom, open floor plan. We are very fortunate to have great views of the water from our ballroom. We have these great patio doors that open up that overlook the water.
We have our Harborview Room, which is a little bit different than a traditional wedding venue. It's more modern. That room is definitely more for the party, mingle. It's a dual-level room that has its own private patio off of it. And then we do have floor to ceiling windows in there that overlooks the harbor and the water. That is one of our more popular venues that we have cause it's different than, all the other places in town that just have big ballrooms, open floor plans. This one has a lot of character to it.
And then we actually did just open up a new venue this past week. It is called the Grand Terrace. it's located off of Harborwalk Village. It is a half indoor, half outdoor and the outdoors. part of it is covered. The outdoor portion is covered with hundreds of cafe lights. It has a great view of the water. The indoor part just got remodeled and, just very neutral palette in there. So, when weddings are coming in, they can make it their own in there. So we're very excited about this new venue and we're looking forward to, using it a lot more.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:10:00] Very nice. I'm going to have to check out the terrorists because I have not seen it yet.
Emily Buckley: [00:10:04] Yes, it's so beautiful. I'm so excited. When we did the event over there, it was actually an in-house event and all of the execs and everything walked in and couldn't believe, what it has transformed into. So I really think that that is going to become a very popular venue space here. So we're looking forward to that.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:10:22] And, you also have the dual functionality of it being indoor and outdoor, which is nice.
Emily Buckley: [00:10:28] Yeah. Yeah. So we're actually looking to do, the outdoor part. We're wanting that to be more of like the dance floor, because you'll have those really pretty cafe lights out there. That's what we're envisioning with that venue.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:10:41] What is the capacity for the different spaces? for couples that haven't been to the Emerald Grande to give them an idea whether each space would suit what they're thinking.
Emily Buckley: [00:10:51] Yeah, absolutely. So the captain's deck is going to be about 250 people and we can do ceremony and reception out there. We have been doing a lot more of those lately, just because of COVID measures and all that kind of stuff. All the guests feel really comfortable being outside and just having open air out there and having a little bit more space.
The sunset deck is going to be more suited for about a 50 to 60 person, ceremony, but we can do about a hundred people reception wise out there because we can utilize the other half of the deck that wraps around the side of the buildings.
The grand ballroom is for 200 guests. The Harbor view room is more around 150, 175. And our new venue, the grand terrace is going to be, for a seated dinner, buffet, dinner. It's going to be about 50 to 60 people. But if you're looking to do a rehearsal meet and greet in there, we're able to accommodate, 75 to 80 in there because it's more cocktail style.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:11:51] Yeah. So like you said, there's definitely something for everybody and you're not necessarily pigeonholed into a specific, guest count or there's just a lot of flexibility on how you can accommodate a couple's vision.
Emily Buckley: [00:12:05] Yeah. we love, keeping up with the times and getting creative and all that kind of fun stuff. So, we're pretty much willing to try anything. some brides come with us with these crazy ideas and, we're not here to spoil the fun or anything like that. We're here to help them create their vision for their day,
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:12:21] what I've found and what I've appreciated about bride or a couple that has a unique vision is it forces you to think outside the box. And it also is a really, cool experience because it's unique to them. And it's maybe something that you haven't done yourself or the space has not been used specifically for that. so it opens up the possibility for other couples in the future. Just playing around and being creative and unique in that way.
Emily Buckley: [00:12:48] Yeah. And I think that's probably the best thing about weddings and, the business that we're in is, our jobs never get old. Every wedding is different. No weddings are the same. So, you know, every week and weekend that we're doing these, you never know what you're walking into and.
it keeps things fresh. You never get tired of what you're doing, which is great.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:13:08] Definitely. Now you did mention the C word.
Emily Buckley: [00:13:11] I did
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:13:12] COVID-19. and unfortunately that is the pandemic has had a lot more staying power than I thought it would. it's a bigger issue as the months get colder. Can you elaborate a little bit more about what the Emerald Grande is doing, to create a safe environment for couples and their guests for their big day?
Emily Buckley: [00:13:32] Yes, absolutely. So we've just been working with all of our couples to make sure that they feel good about everything, that their guests feel comfortable. As of right now, we are operating buffets. However, they are contactless buffets. So all of our servers are serving them for them. the guests just gets to grab a plate and they walk through the line. They're not touching anything. all of our staff is wearing gloves and masks throughout the duration of the event.
We will have gloves and masks available for all of the wedding guests. If they would feel more comfortable having those. All of our venue spaces have plenty of hand sanitizer. All that kind of stuff is all throughout our property as well. for all of the guests. And, especially at check-in, we have the plexiglass down at the front desk for guests to feel a little bit more safer having that in between them.
The housekeepers are taking a lot more time in the room with, sanitizing But, on the wedding side, we are allowing, the couples to kind of shift around their venues. Like I said before, we had a wedding this past November that, they had a higher guest count and they were supposed to be indoor. So what we did is we actually moved their entire reception outdoors, just so that they could spread out a little bit more. In was in the open air and a lot of the guests felt a lot more comfortable. So we are trying to make everyone feel as comfortable as possible. If doing an outdoor reception is better, or works out better for them, then, that's just what we're trying to accommodate with all of our couples.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:15:00] Okay. now, how has your COVID-19 experience been for you personally?
Emily Buckley: [00:15:06] Personally, it hasn't been the best just because I haven't been able to go home too.
my friends and family. And normally my parents come and visit me quite often, so those trips haven't happened. I recently got engaged, so my mom has been really upset that she can't be here apart of the process with me. And, I bought a house this year as well. And, she's just kind of upset that she hasn't been able to be down here, but, we FaceTime a lot, so we're working through it and, I'm just very thankful that Florida is open and everyone, is able to continue to work.
But on the work side of things, it has been challenging. You get really sad and upset when you're having all of these brides call you and they're concerned. And they've taken this time to plan this special day and to have all of this uncertainty going into it. My heart breaks for them and that's been our standpoint and our stance here at Emerald Grande is we want to do everything in our power to make this as easy process for them since they are already going through, their family, calling them, asking them if they're rescheduling or, just giving them their opinion. So we just want to make it a very easy experience for them through these times. And just do everything that we can to make sure that that day is still as special as possible for them.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:16:23] Absolutely. Yeah. It's definitely encouraged a lot more flexibility because everybody has been touched in one way or another by the pandemic.
It's, not something that some people are going to be like, "Oh, well, that's not that big of a deal." Like it's serious. And Wedding professionals specifically are taking it seriously learning to adapt to the circumstances.
Emily Buckley: [00:16:47] Yeah. This was definitely a learning curve, for all of us, because, we had to add an entire clause into our contract about a pandemic, that we've never had to have before. So, it has been, a learning curve, but we're working through it and, We're just being human about it. We're trying to just make sure that they still get to have their special day, whether it be them having to downsize their wedding, if they feel that that's the best case scenario for them, or, you know, selecting another date in the future to try to wait and see if everything kind of clears up a little bit. We're just giving them a lot of options and working with them throughout these times.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:17:24] Well since you've shared with the listeners about the Emerald Grande and yourself professionally, would you mind answering some personal questions?
Emily Buckley: [00:17:32] I would love to.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:17:33] Okay. So first question, and this is my favorite one. Anybody who's been listening to this podcast for longer than three or four episodes knows this is coming.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Emily Buckley: [00:17:44] So, this is a really funny question. I have always wanted to do something in weddings, and it came to me when I was in college. I remember I was a business major. I started out as a business major and I went to my, counselor, when I was a sophomore in college. And I was like, "Look I really want to be a wedding planner." I was explaining to her like everything that I wanted to do. And she was like, "Yeah, but there's really no major for that. And was kind of just like, made me feel like it was unachievable.
Yeah, very discouraged. So I stayed in business being miserable. And then I actually, my junior year. I talked to one of the professors and I switched over, up North it's called Recreation and Leisure, but I think it's the Southern equivalent to, hospitality. So I switched over and kept my business degree just because I already had worked so quickly through it.
but I did the Recreation and Leisure and graduated that was like, event management, So. I always have wanted to have something to do with weddings. So I'm glad that that is what I ended up with.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:18:52] Yeah. You definitely have landed in a good spot for that.
Emily Buckley: [00:18:55] Yes. Yes. And that's why after my internship, I did not go home because this is such a great saturated area for weddings.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:19:04] So then that leads me to, an additional question. What was it like transitioning from Buffalo, New York to Destin ,Florida?
Emily Buckley: [00:19:14] The hardest part about doing that is everyone back home in Buffalo, New York is diehard Buffalo bills.
You know, like that, that is my team. I don't care if they're losing horribly, like ride or die. That is my team. And then coming down here, it's so hard to like, Catch games on TV, or when you go to the bar and you want to, watch a game or go to a restaurant, like they never have my team on. And I get made big fun of a lot down here when I'm wearing my bills gear. So that's been pretty hard.
The food is completely different. We don't do seafood up there. It's strictly. Chicken wings, pizza and subs up there. So that's been a little different. And of course the big one is the weather, being away from the snow. So those are my main differences and you know, the hardest things about moving down here. So
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:20:09] Yeah. Admittedly, I am a Miami dolphins fan.
Oooh. So we're rivals.
So rivals, but I have the same kind of problem because most of the, games that are broadcast they're either the Falcons or the Saints and the Buccaneers. Sometimes we'll get the Dolphins game here because there aren't a lot of AFC teams locally, but they're not always broadcast because unfortunately, until this year, the dolphins have also sucked really bad for like the last four or five years.
Emily Buckley: [00:20:40] Yeah. Yes. That's the saddest part about being away from home is, my parents always throw these really fun Bills parties where all of our friends and family come over on Sundays and do like a big potluck. And so that's definitely what I miss most about home is being a part of all those kinds of things.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:20:56] All right. Well, since you are a wedding professional, what's your favorite wedding dessert and then just dessert in general?
Emily Buckley: [00:21:05] Ooh. Well, my favorite wedding dessert. I'm not a big cake person, so I'm usually like, the chocolate covered pretzel rod or the chocolate covered strawberries are my favorite, something a little bit different than cake.
and then my favorite dessert in general is ice cream cake. And I don't consider that cake.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:21:25] No, it's definitely not. It's its own category, but, but what, flavor of ice cream cake.
Emily Buckley: [00:21:30] I like the, what is it? The Caravel brand where it's like vanilla and then they have the layer of the crunchy cookie. That's my favorite one.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:21:39] All right. Let's imagine that You have no weddings this weekend. What is Emily Buckley going to be doing on her Saturday?
Emily Buckley: [00:21:49] Ooh, um, that Saturday I would probably be at the dog park with my three dogs. Yeah. I have three very, very, very large dogs.
So they love to go to the dog park any chance that we can. So we try to go every day or every other day. That's their favorite thing to do. So that's probably what I would be doing.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:22:09] Ok. What kind of dogs are they?
Emily Buckley: [00:22:11] I have a black lab, German shepherd. I have a very old pit bull that has lived passed his life expectancy and he is doing great. He's running around like a champ. And then we have an albino yellow lab.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:22:26] Rhoda was very much adamantly a dog person for most of our relationship. But because of different things, we couldn't have a dog and we just adopted a cat, right around Valentine's day. And she is probably not going to be a dog person ever again.
Emily Buckley: [00:22:44] Oh my goodness. We love dogs, you know? And they're so great. They know when you're sad or you're excited, you know, and I love coming home to them. So that's my highlight of my day is getting to walk in and having them waiting there so excited to see me.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:22:59] Do you have any final thoughts before we wrap up the podcast for the listeners? Anything you'd like to share with them?
Emily Buckley: [00:23:08] Hmm. Don't think so. It has been a pleasure getting to talk through everything. I always love talking about weddings and what I do. It fills my heart up, that I get to do what I love every day and, get to create all of these visions and, a special day for couples that aren't from the area. So that in itself. It has been a pleasure talking about all of it. And I have a warm heart leaving from all of this.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:23:36] Well, good. I'm glad I could be a part of it. So if a couple wants to reach out to you, what is the best way for them to get in touch with you about their big day at the Emerald Grande
Emily Buckley: [00:23:49] We're on all the major platforms. Our website is probably the best way. We have all of the direct phone numbers located right on, our website. We're on Facebook, Instagram. Our Instagram is @emeraldgrandeweddings. Those are really great ways to see what other couples have done here in the past. So definitely check out our Instagram. We're on the knot, wedding wire. All those kinds of platforms. That has all of our contact information. So that would be the best way to go about getting a hold of us.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:24:18] All right. Well, Emily, thanks so much for stopping by and chat with me for a little bit.
Emily Buckley: [00:24:40]]Thank you. It has been a pleasure.
DJ Josh Woeckener: [00:25:00] Awesome. Well here's to all the couples that are in the process of planning their wedding and here's to making those weddings a highlight.