When it comes to getting married during times of social distancing, travel restrictions, and limits on gatherings, couples are looking for alternative options. Some are choosing a simple elopement, going to the courthouse, or postponing their wedding to a time when large gatherings might once again be possible. Other couples who don’t want to wait have embraced a new option: hybrid weddings.
In this blog post, we cover everything venues need to know about hybrid weddings, as well as how to be prepared to accommodate them.
Discover everything venues need to know about hybrid weddings:
What is a hybrid wedding?
Like hybrid events, hybrid weddings combine in-person and virtual elements. Couples may choose to elope or have a micro wedding with a limited number of guests and a small wedding party. The virtual part of the experience is a livestream broadcasted to other invitees.
Hybrid weddings might come into play if the couple is unable to reschedule or doesn’t want to wait to get married. These types of weddings offer a way for couples to still utilize their venue for their big day. As long as all health and safety guidelines are met, the couple, the officiant, the photographer, the video crew, and a small number of guests can attend in person, while the rest of the guests can view the ceremony virtually via a live stream.
Why are hybrid weddings important?
Hybrid weddings – and hybrid events – are important for a variety of reasons. For starters, they will help hotels restart group business. Necessity driven by COVID-19 has brought to the forefront this fusion of technology and in-person engagement. It’s likely that in the future, in-person events and even weddings will still require this kind of hybrid technology, so the investment in these capabilities for short-term solutions also provides long-term benefits.
For suppliers, this demand for hybrid weddings opens up new revenue opportunities. For example, providing couples with in-house expertise when it comes to virtual ceremony setups and on-location technology support is just one way to create incremental revenue. Given your team’s knowledge of hospitality and familiarity with the property, think of how you can help couples put together the ultimate wedding experience. From room configurations to on-location AV and connectivity, there is much to do – and most of it is within your team’s expertise.
Explore 6 ways venues can prepare for hybrid weddings:
Accommodating hybrid weddings will be an adjustment, but it’s one with long-term benefits for your venue. Here are a few ways you can make sure your venue is ready.
1. Invest in fast, reliable Internet.
First and foremost, make sure you have ample Wi-Fi and a reliable, dedicated hardline connection to the Internet. Livestreaming requires more bandwidth, so invest in a strong connection that can handle the additional load. If the bridal party is doing their own separate stream or a behind-the-scenes live video for social media, they’ll need a reliable Wi-Fi connection no matter where they are in your hotel or on the property.
Even better if you can provide a dedicated Wi-Fi network, meaning no one else from the venue can use it and it is solely dedicated to the wedding. As a venue, you must be able to offer a connection that won’t bog down or fail during the livestream.
2. Become livestream capable.
Once you get your Internet and Wi-Fi capabilities squared away, the next thing to focus on is the livestream itself. Make sure you’re prepared with the necessary equipment for livestreaming and the A/V needs associated with it – either have your own, or work with a vendor to provide it. Couples may also have their own streaming service they’re already working with. Get in touch with their vendor to assess their A/V needs and make sure they’re compatible with your technology infrastructure.
If you can, supply some basic A/V equipment like high-quality microphones, a camera, tripods, and lighting if the ceremony is indoors. For pulling off the actual livestream, build relationships with vendors who are experts in this area, so you can recommend them to couples. Or, have a robust in-house audiovisual team to handle the wedding broadcast.
WebWed Mobile is a vendor that offers a package to couples that includes a livestream of their wedding with a court wedding officiant and a marriage license. This kind of vendor could be a great option for couples who want a quick and easy elopement at your property.
Wedfuly is another virtual wedding vendor that offers various Zoom wedding packages and add-ons, depending on the couple’s needs. It can be as simple or as extravagant as the couple wants. In the base package, Wedfuly MC’s the entire ceremony and handles muting, switching camera angles, and playing any music or videos. One of their add-ons, for example, is for equipment rental, which includes tripods, a high-end camera, and a bluetooth speaker/microphone.
3. Update your wedding packages to include hybrid weddings.
Offer an all-inclusive package where you (or vendors) provide everything the couple needs, like A/V equipment, lighting, photography. Have different tiers of packages that include different levels of service and amenities. One tier can include just the livestream add-on. The next step up can include a livestream and photographer. The third tier can be all-inclusive. Offer each service as an add-on or à la carte so couples can create a custom package that suits their needs.
As an example, The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston’s virtual wedding package offers an overnight stay with a mimosa breakfast, a champagne toast, and a wedding cake. The hotel’s audiovisual team will set up multiple cameras in the ceremony space and take care of the livestream portion.
In an article for Forbes, Leo Hamel, director of special events at The Post Oak said: “I think it’s something we will continue to do down the road and make it an offer for people, even after (the pandemic) is over.” Hamel also said that so far, all of the couples who have opted for the virtual wedding package are locals. “The very first one we did, they made it a little weekend and they stayed a couple extra nights. They had a small dinner for six people after the wedding in our restaurant.”
While a hybrid wedding will have a smaller number of guests and typical F&B arrangements won’t be required, a small reception celebration or a champagne toast with pre-made snack baskets for the bridal party is a good add-on option. A weekend honeymoon extension or an overnight stay can be another add-on option for those couples who want to celebrate their marriage with a staycation-style honeymoon at your hotel. Have these kinds of enhancements available and make connections with other vendors so the couple can add on as many extras as they like.
4. Offer virtual tours and walkthroughs.
For couples who are sourcing venues for later in the year and in 2021, offer virtual tours of your property or post videos of previous weddings held at your venue on your website. Work with 3D walkthrough technology vendors, videographers, or conduct the tours via Zoom or FaceTime.
As an example, some DC wedding venues worked with a videography team to offer virtual tours and ramp up their virtual offerings. Videographer Tom Bowen of Bowen Films and a handful of venues throughout the Washington, DC area are working together to provide virtual venue tours for couples, as an alternative to on-site visits.
“We not only film the empty venue, but include footage from real weddings we have shot at that venue so couples can see both a blank canvas and executed event,” Bowen said, via Washingtonian. “This enables (couples) to envision what their wedding could look like in that space.”
Hybrid weddings are a new concept, and couples will have a lot of questions. Post photos and videos on your website and social media accounts from other hybrid weddings you’ve hosted so couples can get a feel for your venue without having to visit in person. It will help them to see the possibilities for their wedding in your space and feel confident in their choice to go hybrid.
5. Be prepared to offer a socially-distant and safe experience.
Venues can focus on a few key areas in order to provide the requirements needed for safe weddings: health and safety protocols, social distancing arrangements, and safe food and beverage.
A few things to incorporate on the day of the ceremony are:
- Social distancing and protective equipment for anyone staffing the wedding
- Temperature checks at the door
- Sanitation and disinfection of common and high-traffic areas
When it comes to room and seating configuration, use event diagramming tools to ensure you can deliver safe experiences for all guests and employees. For food and beverage, seated dining can be an alternative option to self-service buffets. Or, have pre-packed meals for guests to pick up. These kinds of extra steps could tack on added costs, so it’s in venues’ best interests to offer cost-effective solutions for F&B.
6. Market your hybrid wedding packages.
Social media plays an increasingly significant role in venue discovery. Fifty-six percent of couples who responded to a SkiftX survey said social media platforms were most useful in their wedding venue search. Additionally, Brides’ 2018 study found that 82 percent of brides turn to social media —particularly Pinterest and Instagram — instead of wedding magazines for inspiration.
Today, couples seeking out wedding venues are very visually focused – especially now that it might be difficult for them to imagine what a socially-distant, hybrid wedding will look like. It’s essential for venues to showcase the possibilities with strong imagery and video from specific angles – such as the layout of any banquet space or outdoor reception area, and the ceremony space and where the limited guests will be. These images and videos should be shared on your website, as well as Instagram and Pinterest.
Many couples use Google to search for wedding venues – according to SkiftX’s survey, it’s 62 percent. To gain efficient exposure on Google, venues should consider partnering with a third-party vendor that can help with search engine optimization of their website and content. It’ll help you gain a higher search ranking and make it easier for couples to find your venue.
In addition to seeking outside help, consider publishing a series of blog posts about your new offerings and available wedding packages. Center the posts around keywords like “small weddings,” “hybrid weddings,” “virtual weddings,” or “wedding livestream.” Or, use Google Trends or Google Keyword Planner to conduct your own keyword research to determine what other topics are relevant to couples who are sourcing now.
Now you know all about hybrid weddings!
Flexibility will be key during times like these, and as a wedding venue, it’s paramount that you do everything you can to help couples implement their hybrid weddings. Investing in hybrid event technology will not only grow your wedding business in the short-term, it will prepare you to accommodate other hybrid events in the future as the events industry as a whole recovers.
We understand that every venue is facing its own unique challenges during these times. The important thing is to do what you can to adjust to the changing landscape of events, so you can set yourself up for success now – and in the future.
Up next, check out wedding venue marketing tips to increase bookings.