Meet the three women who will turn the wedding of your dreams into a reality at The Townsend Hotel in Birmingham.
By Merritt Rosenthal
Sponsored by The Townsend Hotel
Snuggled in the heart of downtown Birmingham is The Townsend Hotel — a luxury, world-class boutique hotel. Opened in 1988 and expanded in 2000, it offers 150 guestrooms and specialty suites, recently re-imagined foyers and deluxe event spaces. It is the setting for a fairy tale wedding come true. And that’s exactly what The Townsend Hotel strives to deliver.
The Townsend Wedding Way all starts in the catering department with Joanie Sams, Lizz Smith and Merritt Rosenthal. At the very heart of this team is the authentic desire to provide anticipatory and impeccable service, seamless planning and inspired weddings. Knowing this day in a couple’s life is so very important, Sams, Smith and Rosenthal appreciate and take the calculated steps to ensure a well-orchestrated wedding experience.
Joyce Golden and Ron Rich, whose daughter got married in October at The Townsend Hotel, said their wedding experience was “perfect.”
Joanie Sams, director of catering, has been a principal element of The Townsend Hotel for 30 years. Her catering experience was launched in her youth as her parents owned and operated a restaurant called River Rouge Hotel and Bar. She was expected to help out with the family business as her parents stressed accountability and responsibility at a very young age. In December 1988, Sams’ career at The Townsend Hotel started when she was hired as chief concierge. In this coveted seat, she became a familiar and welcoming face to guests. However, the catering department called her name and she has been an indispensable figure ever since as director of catering.
Her knowledge and level of expertise is unparalleled in the Michigan catering industry. From intimate, upscale 20-person dinner events, to grand scale galas, weddings and Bar and Bat-Mitzvahs, Joanie has seen and done it all. What has been consistent in her years here is the fact that there is an unspoken culture with one goal, and that is to work together toward a grand experience for the guests.
“Joanie Sams is one of those individuals that when you sit down with her, you instantly feel that you have known her for years,” says Carolyn Hefner, a renowned wedding and event planner. “Joanie is calm, knowledgeable and is reassuring and makes you always feel at ease. This is the personality best suited to guide one through building an event — I never worry with Joanie at the helm!”
Lizz Smith stands strong in her years of restaurant and catering experience. Devoting 22 years to another well-known quality catering company and eight years at The Townsend Hotel, clients gravitate toward her catering expertise and undeniable ability to yield a skillfully-crafted event.
“Lizz and Joanie are two ladies who just get it,” says Geoff Kretchmer, president of Star Trax. “They are both service people first — consistent with the entire staff at The Townsend, they take the time to get to know the guests, with no attitude and no judgment. They approach each person with a willingness to learn about their individual event and know their space so well that they can come up with a variety of creative ways to meet their needs.”
For Smith, her favorite part of creating weddings at The Townsend Hotel is that each event is completely different. She encourages each bride and groom to exhibit their own “style and spirit” and to make their wedding uniquely their own. Smith believes in showcasing those special moments that will help celebrate their “love, joy and happiness.”
Rounding up the social team is Merritt Rosenthal. With her Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and design background from Parsons School of Design in New York City, she is able to provide a well-rounded take on all things wedding. Also, having owned and operated a wedding planning business in Birmingham for 10 years has enabled her to understand the modern bride and groom.
Her career started at The Townsend Hotel as concierge where she committed herself to anticipating guests’ needs and providing exceptional hotel experiences. She quickly found her home in the catering department eight months later as conference service manager and then social catering manager. Rosenthal knows it is a privilege and honor to work alongside such remarkable ladies as Sams and Smith.
Together, the three center themselves on The Townsend Wedding Way by getting to know the client, anticipating their needs, understanding each event and whole-heartedly believing in a full-service approach.
Kretchmer of Star Trax says everyone works to together to introduce new and creative ways of presenting an event.
“Nobody at The Townsend ever has an attitude of ‘This is the way we do it.’ They are impassioned as much as the planners to present unique options that add value to the overall experience,” says Kretchmer, noting that the introduction starts with the valet service. “You are always greeted with a smile, and that’s the perfect first impression for the hotel. They hand off that service baton to the administration and those people understand the culture that they are trying to present. We are here for you and want to help out. It should be expected from a high-end hotel like The Townsend, but they deliver.”
The Townsend Hotel
100 Townsend St., Birmingham
For event inquiries, please contact Director of Catering Joanie Sams at firstname.lastname@example.org or 248-642-5191.