Weddings are the cure for weekends full of empty hotel rooms, and they can turn a farm or turn-of-the-century farmhouse into a money-making event destination. In order to grab a piece of the wedding business for your hotel or event space, you’re going to need a business plan.
Read on to learn how to craft a wedding venue business plan that gets couples to choose your venue over the competition.
How much can a wedding venue make?
According to ValuePenguin research, the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is approximately $25,000, give or take. The potential is there for a significant revenue stream. Be proactive in researching your local demand and competition to avoid surprises when starting a wedding venue business. Set realistic financial goals based on how your particular venue can generate money:
- Rent your facilities for weddings and receptions. Think about couples spending over $2,000 on ceremony venues, and more than $15,000 on reception spaces. Multiply this out based on how many weddings you can host each week/month/year for a baseline revenue.
- Give guests a place to stay. Weddings can vary in size, and many couples opt for destination weddings. Whether they’re inviting dozens of people or hundreds, those guests need a place to stay. Hoteliers are uniquely positioned to host these special events and provide rooms for an entire wedding party, all under one roof.
- Build all-inclusive packages. Couples may think they can handle an à la carte reception until they see the list of things they're expected to bring (and pick up). A well-priced deal where you provide everything — from tables and chairs to linens, décor and even centerpieces — will save your customers time and hassle.
- Add more revenue with food and beverage. Food at a wedding is extremely important. Whether in-house or through a vendor, consider rolling in catering to your all-inclusive packages.
- Go the extra (revenue) mile with valet parking. Whether in crowded cities or bucolic remote locales, some couples will look to cover the cost of valet parking for their guests. At approximately $15 a person, this generates a decent amount of extra revenue while showcasing your desire to enhance the guest experience.
- Get listed on Wedding Spot. Wedding Spot is the only directory exclusively showcasing venues, meaning no distractions or barriers to couples finding your venue. Wedding Spot processes 200,000 requests each year, offering a new way for special event venues and hotels to attract wedding business.
Understand the elements of a successful wedding venue
What do couples want from a wedding venue? As you start to conceptualize your business plan, take a hard look at what you already have in place and what you may need to invest in to give your customers what they want.
- You’ll need a charming location with the right capacity. If you're a hotelier with multiple ballrooms, you’re able to cast a wider net for different size weddings. If you run a unique wedding venue with less space, like a farm or barn, you need to target your marketing more narrowly. Investments in décor and furnishings may come into play as well.
- Experienced, friendly staff is key. One of the top priorities for couples is making sure their guests are well taken care of. Remember, you're offering more than just a physical venue — you’re offering a memorable experience. Emphasize customer service with your staff training, or choose outsourced event staffing agencies with a critical eye.
- Hook up couples with in-house services or a trusted vendor network. Become a lifesaver for busy brides and grooms by coordinating the logistics (and costs) of a photographer, band or DJ, florist, bakery, and catering team. Strengthen your vendor partnerships by sending couples their way, or package everything together.
- Provide accommodations for friends and family. Aside from offering convenience for on-site wedding guests, position your hotel as an option for couples using other venues for their special event. They will still need wedding guest accommodations, usually under 30 minutes away. If you're running an independent wedding venue, make an effort to build strategic partnerships with area hotels, bed and breakfasts, and vacation rental companies to minimize a pain point for your customers.
Build a wedding venue business plan that makes sense for you
When writing your plan, think of your wedding venue business as a separate, independent entity, even if it’s part of an existing business.
This is an organic document, meaning it's meant to be updated on a regular basis as you experience ups and downs. In crafting your business plan, be sure to focus on these key sections:
Whatever your value proposition is, this is where to spotlight it. Go ahead and list your mission statement as well as a condensed version of every other business plan section listed below.
2. Company overview
Think of this as a high-level view of your business, explaining what you’re all about and what customers can expect out of you. Focus on your background, facilities, key resources and offerings, and your strengths and weaknesses.
3. Market analysis
Summarize all your research here so you can update it as you experience ebbs and flows in your local wedding marketplace. Be sure to include information and data on:
- Customers. Segment your target customers, such as couples and event planners. Use this to personalize marketing messages to maximize your R.O.I.
- Competitors. Evaluate the businesses that are going to give you a run for your money. What do you do better than the competition? In what areas do you need to play catch-up?
- Potential growth. Project what the wedding marketplace will be like for the next year, three years, and five years.
4. Sales and marketing
In order to enter your local wedding market successfully, you’re going to need to position your business the right way to attract customers. To do this, detail a sales and marketing strategy that includes:
- Goals. Determine how many weddings per week/month/year you're looking to host. Also include how you plan to turn wedding guests into future customers.
- Lead generation tools. List all your online and offline marketing resources. This includes your wedding venue sourcing software, email marketing packages, websites and social media, direct marketing, advertising, sponsorships, partnerships, wedding industry memberships, and public relations efforts.
5. Organizational structure
Pay attention to your behind-the-scenes and public-facing management and staffing teams, which are essential to your operational success. List names, titles, and responsibilities to keep tabs on who's doing what. This is also the place to include the legal status of your business (sole proprietorship, limited liability company, corporation, S corporation, partnership, nonprofit, etc.).
As the old saying goes, you need to spend money to make money. Focus on what you need to spend on launching your endeavor, along with what you'll generate in cash flow and income.
- Funding. Clarify whether you own your building or will need to pay rental or lease space. Include details on any lines of credit or loans needed to purchase property, kitchen equipment, and other fixed assets. Do the same thing if you need cash to cover startup operational costs.
- Revenue projections. Include your forecasted income statements, cash flow statements, and balance sheets if and when you have them.
- Expense projections. Cover any capital expenditures you'll need to purchase items such as your building, land, and equipment. Incorporate any operational expenses you’ll be incurring on a regular basis like staff salaries and climate control.
Clearly define your critical milestones and timeline to launch your wedding event venue business. Challenge yourself with these, but be sensible and balance your enthusiasm with realistic expectations based on research.
Example: Barn wedding venue business plan summary
Check out this fictitious example of a wedding venue business plan for the Azalea Gardens Farm. Even though this is focused on barn weddings, you can adapt it easily to your own outstanding event space. Remember to flesh out each section in your complete business plan, adding numerous details as appropriate.
1. Mission statement
The vibrant colors of azalea blooms bring joy and hope. Our mission at the Azalea Gardens Farm is to bring that same feeling to your special day.
2. Company overview
Owners Stacy and David Dean bring their three decades-plus of service industry experience to bear on creating memorable wedding ceremonies and receptions. The Azalea Gardens Farm centerpiece, our 75-year-old refurbished barn, accommodates up to 150 wedding guests. Couples have use of our historic main house for rehearsal dinners as well as wedding-day prep for the bride and groom and their wedding parties. Photographers love our country setting, in addition to our convenient location just 15 minutes from the beautiful beaches of Topsail Island, North Carolina.
We provide several options for couples:
- Rehearsal dinner: $500 - $1,200 (depending on size)
- Wednesday-Thursday à la carte wedding rental: $1,000
- Weekend à la carte wedding rental: $1,500
- Weekday wedding package: $2,500
- Weekend wedding package: $3,000
3. Market analysis
The wedding services industry is experiencing increasing per capita disposable income from couples, enabling them to spend more on weddings. Industry revenue is expected to expand to $78 billion in the U.S. Locally, the growing population and vacation popularity of the southeastern North Carolina coast is leading to an increase in 25- to 55-year-olds visiting and moving here. This provides us a market for traditional and non-traditional weddings.
Our main competitors are vacation rental agencies in North Topsail Beach, Surf City, and Topsail Beach who leverage their properties as destination wedding locations. Secondary competitors are event venues in Wilmington, North Carolina, including historic mansions, craft breweries, and a handful of boutique hotels. Third, we compete locally with Belvedere Plantation for indoor/outdoor combo weddings. There are no other farm-oriented wedding venues in a 50-mile radius.
4. Sales and marketing
We are looking to host five to seven weddings a week during the peak wedding season of May through November, and one to three per week throughout the rest of the year.
Leveraging our unique, picture-perfect venue and customer service-focused guest services, we will appeal to unmarried wedding guests who want a similar experience. We also plan to use visual-oriented social media channels like Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to grow our presence organically. In combination with a vigorous content marketing effort via our popular blog, we plan to drive website traffic with online PPC advertising on Google and YouTube; banner advertising on regional travel websites; and geofencing for area beachgoers and other tourists.
5. Organizational structure
Owners Stacy and David Dean are co-founders, with David serving as CEO and Stacy as COO. General manager Heidi Kipp will coordinate all events as well as wedding planner and vendor partnerships, working with event coordinator Steve Antonsen, who will run wedding day operations.
The Deans own their facilities outright and have appropriated a $50,000 SBA loan to begin operations in the spring of 2021. Azalea Gardens Farm is uniquely positioned, with its fixed costs and low overhead, to reach $300,000 in revenue by Year 3 with a 75% gross margin.
The leadership team is currently cementing partnerships with vendors and wedding planners. Facility upgrades are complete, with plans for purchasing tables, chairs, linens, and other equipment in summer 2021. A photographer has been hired to shoot the facilities in June 2021 with actors for use in marketing efforts which will begin July 2021. We will book our first weddings in the fall of 2021, with positive cash flow realized the following summer.
Use this wedding venue business plan information to get started!
Managing your event venue and tracking sales are as important as building your business and generating the sales themselves. Software solutions from Cvent save you time and money while freeing you up to follow through on pre-qualified leads to grow your wedding venue business.