The insider’s guide to booking your wedding venue.
We all understand that it’s your special day, but the reality is to a wedding venue it’s one of dozens if not hundreds of weddings they service every year. Put simply the wedding business is just that – a business – and you should treat your approach in the same way.
We all know weddings are expensive, but if you want to treat a hundred or so of your nearest and dear-est to a slap-up meal (including drinks) at any high street restaurant, you’re going to be facing bill reaching into the thousands. Add to this all the other items you’ll need to make your wedding special, it’s no surprise the bill rises well over the £10k mark within a few days of starting your plans.
As with everything in life there is a huge variation in prices — from tea and sandwiches at the village hall to a Michelin starred banquet at an exclusive wedding venue. The key drivers for the bill will be a mixture of quality, quantity and date. Here’s a guide on booking your wedding venue and some useful tips on how to get the best deal.
The most popular venues tend to be the most unique and aesthetically pleasing and will hit that dream wedding venue button. Clearly, the venue knows this so will undoubtedly charge you accordingly. Venue hire for the whole day can push you into the thousands of pounds before you even factor in the food and drink options; those too tend to be designed at the pricier end of the scale. This is a no-brainer, but the list below will work with any venue and help you.
It’s a simple numbers game, the more guests you invite, the bigger the bill will be. This is the easiest way of managing your budget and getting the balance right between who you invite to the ceremony and wedding breakfast and those just to the evening reception.
Food and drink will likely be the biggest ticket cost for most couples. Your guests will need to be fed and watered throughout the day so if you’re planning an-all day bash then you’ll need to consider a drinks and canapes reception, a three-course wedding breakfast and of course the all-important evening buffet. Most venues will have a rule stating that there will be a minimum number of guests and it can be difficult to get this cost down if you love the venue and want to invite everyone. It’s often at this point that couples decide to delay the wedding for a year or so to save the money required to get the venue they want and invite a full list of family and friends.
The wedding business follows a classic supply and demand model, with the majority of weddings taking place between April and September on either a Friday or Saturday. Venues and suppliers will advertise their rates based on the busiest days knowing they are likely to sell these dates well in advance at full asking price.
Wedding venues and suppliers are very reluctant to advertise lower rates for different times of years as this devalues the peak rates they are holding out for at busier times. However, the reality is they are very happy to talk one-to-one and offer reduced rates at quieter times of year and even for certain peak dates that either haven’t sold or have been cancelled at the last minute.
Key points for negotiation
Day and date – Day of the week and time of year are the key things here. If you’re lucky enough to be looking to book a venue in January or February on a Wednesday, you are in a really strong position to negotiate the best deal possible with a venue. They will see it as a great bit of business on a day they would struggle to get any revenue. Weddings are always a higher spend per head than any other form of business for hotels and venues, so put on your bargaining hat to see how much you can save. You may not have as much luck with food and decor suppliers, but there’s no harm in asking.
Saving in numbers – On average, a wedding venue will normally ask for a minimum of around 60 guests to make it worth their while. However, if you’re planning on inviting 120 guests for the day and 200 for the night, your wedding will be worth much more to that venue than another enquiry for lower guest numbers. The bar spend for the party and room sales for guests staying over will mean a lot more on top. The bigger your number, the more likely you’ll be able to negotiate. Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re the only couple on the venue’s books; they’re looking to make as much profit as possible so it’s likely you’re going to be one of a few pitching for a particular date.
Timing – When you book is also a key driver, if you’re looking at a date that’s 2-3 years away you will have the greatest choice of venues and availability. However, if you want the best deal 12-16 months prior would be a perfect time to book — you might not have as many choices, but you will get the best price. Wedding venues will have targets to meet and the sales manager will see your wedding hitting the bot-tom line sooner, so margins will be sacrificed for sales.
Flexibility is key – If you’ve found the venue you love but it’s looking out of your price range, be honest and tell the venue you are flexible with dates and they are likely to offer you a date that suits them at the price you can afford.
Be nice – Your point of contact will often be the venue’s own wedding planner who conducts the show round and takes you through the options. They will rarely be authorised to offer a discount or negotiate on price, however they will be the person feeding it back to the owner or sales manager.
If they like you and you don’t come across as too high maintenance, they will want to work with you and encourage the boss to give you the deal you want. Planners will have a picture in their head about you very quickly – they will be able to tell if you will be asking questions every day for the next couple of years! If you’re easy-going, friendly and well organised, you are going to be just the people that venues love to have as customers.