He points to a corkboard full of thank you notes on the wall behind his desk.
“That is what keeps me going,” he says.
Here sits Darrin Land, Director of Romance at the Hilton Pensacola Beach.
Although he came to Innisfree with more than 200 under his belt, Darrin has planned and successfully executed around 86 weddings per year since joining the Hilton team in January 2015.
“Each wedding helps me grow, because of the connection with the whole family,” Darrin says.
What has he learned? Never say, “I’ve seen it all,” because the minute you do, something crazy will happen.
Like the time a bride emerged onto the pool deck in all her splendid glory, only for her veil to become unpinned from her hair and float away. Guests were reaching for it from their balconies … Darrin thought this wedding might end in a funeral.
“There’s about a six-to-eight-foot gap between the two towers. Mother Nature took that veil up and down, right through the crack,” Darrin recalls. “I radio Engineering and say, ‘Is there anyone looking in the sky?’”
Hunter Warwick, a bright young engineer at Hilton, came to the rescue, keeping eyes on the veil until it landed across the street at Red Fish Blue Fish. Meanwhile, the groom was wondering what had become of his bride.
“Lucky for us, Hunter ran track in school,” Darrin says with a laugh. “He sprinted across the street with veil in hand, and I pushed that comb so hard into her hair.”
On May 20, 2017, Darrin Land hit a milestone 400 weddings when bride Kathryn Howell said “I do” at the beautiful Hilton Pensacola Beach.
Of the experience, Kathryn’s mother Danyell shares:
Darrin has been absolutely wonderful, very responsive and anticipating our questions and needs before we had even thought enough to ask. It was very clear to me from our first meeting that Darrin is extremely professional, but also has a “heart” for his work. I would definitely recommend the Hilton and Holiday Inn at Pensacola Beach to other brides and families. The ease in working with all staff from the beginning of the planning stages to the finish has made all the difference for me, the mother of the bride. This may be Darrin’s 400th wedding, but he made us feel like it was the only one for him.
So how does our Director of Romance keep it fresh after 400 weddings?
By focusing on every client’s needs.
It may be a wedding, but there’s always a reason behind it. Maybe they are childhood sweethearts. Maybe someone has to deploy. Maybe a family member is ill, and the date has to be moved up.
“What is the why?” Darrin asks. “Before in my career I thought they just wanted to be married. But now I know there’s so much more.”
Darrin ran his own company for eight years before coming to Innisfree. It was always his goal to grow and produce, but without the army that is Hilton Banquets and Catering behind him, he wasn’t reaching his full potential. Now, he can do three or four weddings in one weekend.
Every October, Darrin attends the Las Vegas Wedding Show. In 10 years of going, he’s only met two or three planners who produce the type of volume coming out of the Hilton Pensacola Beach.
Each year, as wedding season approaches, Darrin finds himself thinking, “When does one retire? At 400 weddings? 500? 600?”
But then the mother of the groom comes up to him holding her shoes at the end of the night, looks him in the eye under a star-filled sky and says, “Can anyone truthfully say it was perfect? I’m going to answer that for you, and the answer is YES.”
There are always a lot of things that could go wrong, but the guests don’t see any of that. That mom was exhausted, but she still took the time to say thank you.
He looks back at his wall filled with cards.
It is, after all, what keeps Darrin Land going.
And we’re so glad he does.
– Ashley Kahn Salley
Lead Storyteller, Innisfree Hotels