Times may be tough, but they've brought us all together in unexpected ways. In this edition of our new weekly blog series, Good Works and Great Ideas, which we publish every Friday, we highlight how wedding venues are adapting offerings in light of COVID-19 with innovative packages and new safety positioning. And we explore a handful of wedding venue promotion ideas to guide you through this downturn and to help you prepare for the future.
Explore wedding venue promotion ideas that accommodate couples' needs
1. Lincoln Financial Field offers special wedding package for couples with canceled weddings
Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia has a special offer for couples who had to cancel their weddings due to the coronavirus pandemic. Couples can get married on the sidelines and have their guests watch from stadium seating. It’s a unique selling point, as no ceremonies have been held on the sidelines before, and only one wedding has been held on the field itself.
The venue is covering the $30,000 site fee, with the purchase of one of their wedding packages – which are being offered at a reduced rate. The Linc has three different packages to choose from, depending on the couple’s budget. The offer also covers all costs of the ceremony: rentals, A/V setup, and cleaning.
2. Wedding venues in Montana adapt wedding offerings and event spaces
Camelot Ranch – a 20-acre ranch and barn that hosts weddings – in Billings, Montana is devising a way to incorporate high-quality live-streaming of ceremonies over social media. Owner Lynn Tucker plans to partner with DiA Events to offer live-streaming packages with the necessary cameras and audio equipment. Half of the couples already booked at the ranch plan to have their ceremonies on the scheduled date, with the venue providing a free reception later in the year when gatherings are possible again.
The Billings Depot, a former railroad depot turned events space, invited health officials to tour the venue and provide advice for future gatherings. “Right from the very beginning we were looking at what are our procedures for cleaning, what are our policies are for rescheduling, and how can we be a more supportive partner,” said executive director Michelle Williams.
They’ve developed seating plans, sanitizing stations, and social distancing indicators so that larger groups will be able to celebrate at the venue. Seating plans help with contact tracing if someone does get sick, says Williams. The Depot is also using elevated body temperature scanners. Based on these new processes, the venue will be able to host gatherings of up to 75% of building capacity (225 people) beginning June 1.
3. Missouri venue helps couple have intimate ceremony
Missouri couple Paxton and Paige Smith had planned to wed at Greenhouse Two Rivers on March 29, but the pandemic upset their plans. After more and more restrictions on gatherings were put in place, the Smiths’ venue came up with an alternative for their 200-guest ceremony and full weekend of reception and celebrating. The couple could still get married on their original date as planned with 10 people in attendance, and then hold an additional ceremony and reception at a later date, allowing their original 200 guests to celebrate the matrimony.
“Our venue was truly amazing throughout this entire process,” said bride Paige Smith. “The owners stayed in close contact with us the entire three weeks leading up to our wedding. They gave us a few different options to choose from and tried to ease some of the pain the pandemic was bringing.”
Discover wedding venue promotion ideas for venues reopening
1. Cater to micro weddings, pop-up weddings, and elopements
Small weddings could become more of a trend – not just because of social distancing and safety requirements, but because coziness and intimacy might organically become trendy.
Smaller weddings are more cost effective, and they leave the couple with more room in their budget for personalization and other creative details, like customized food and beverage or opting for a more destination-style wedding. As we shift into reopening phases and smaller events and gatherings become possible again, venues can offer packages for micro weddings, pop-up weddings, and elopements to cater to these kinds of couples.
Some couples, rather than waiting to get married, are opting for a “minimony,” which is similar to a micro wedding — a ceremony where it’s only the couple or with a few local loved ones at a socially safe distance. They’re then planning to reschedule the larger celebration whenever it’s allowed.
By focusing on smaller packages as a wedding venue promotion idea, venues may see an uptick in interested couples during this time. Offer up your space for couples who are looking to elope, but still want some features like a photographer and a picturesque venue for their ceremony. Consider partnering with a local pop-up wedding vendor to provide these types of experiences for couples who still want to tie the knot in a special way.
Partners like Pop The Knot bring the couples to the venues – they match couples looking for venues for their pop-up wedding and venues looking to fill vacancies in their schedules. "We already were quite busy, but sadly we have been receiving a ton of emails from clients that had their weddings canceled due to COVID and are now wanting to do a small pop-up," said owner and wedding planner Michele Velazquez.
The Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio is partnering with local pop-up wedding vendor Haus of Cool to offer the Pop-up Park Wedding package. Made to accommodate ten total guests, the package includes the venue, photographer, officiant, and all the details needed for the ceremony, along with cake and champagne for a mini-celebration.
Las Vegas is seeing a surge in elopements due to the coronavirus. “We’re seeing a lot of the kind of traditional, old school elopements with just the couple,” said Melody Williams, executive director of chapel operator Vegas Weddings. “They’ll get back to their big to-do at a later time.” Offering an elopement package with ceremony space, officiant, and a photographer could be a good option for venues looking to appeal to couples looking for alternative, no-fuss arrangements.
- Look at your current wedding packages and see how they can be modified to accommodate a smaller guestlist, an elopement, or a micro wedding.
- Share your new packages on social media, send to your email lists, and post the options on your website.
2. Offer private wedding receptions
Some couples are opting to elope, have a backyard wedding ceremony, or a micro wedding, and then celebrate with a big reception later when large gatherings become safe again. Even now, smaller, private wedding receptions are ways couples are looking to celebrate their marriages with close family and friends while still being safe and adhering to health guidelines.
In Ohio, banquet halls and wedding receptions resumed on June 1, with up to 300 people allowed to attend. The regulations are similar to those in restaurants, with only ten people per table and tables placed six feet apart. If gatherings of this size are not yet permissible in your area, consider offering private receptions on a smaller scale that is allowed under current restrictions. If your venue has outdoor space, even better – this will make social distancing practices and adhering to health and safety standards easier, and guests may feel more comfortable being outside in small groups.
SKY Armory in Syracuse, N.Y. is proposing reopening only for private weddings ceremonies and receptions, where all of the contact information for every person entering the building is known. Their plan involves strict cleaning and contact tracing protocol to reduce the risk for those attending the private events. With these precautions in place, SKY Armory hopes to accommodate couples that still want to get married and have a celebration with a small guestlist of family members and close friends.
- List your private wedding receptions on your website homepage and send an email announcing that your venue is open for these kinds of events.
- Update your Wedding Spot profile to say you offer private, socially distant receptions, or that you have outdoor venue space available.
3. Provide flexible cancellation and postponement policies
As a venue, being understanding and flexible can go a long way when it comes to working with couples who need to reschedule or cancel their wedding. These couples are not only having to possibly shift the date or downsize the guestlist, but they’re also having to juggle contracts with other vendors and realign everything for a later date. The more flexible and helpful you can be as a venue, the more likely a couple will choose to reschedule instead of cancel – or, the more likely you’ll be to attract couples who are still trying to get married even now.
"This will be a year when flexibility is key, not only with date and location but also guest count," admits Alison Laesser-Keck, event producer and creative director at Alison Bryan Destinations. "We’ll basically be combining two seasons into one, and I know every other venue and vendor out there will be doing the same.”
If possible, waive or reduce any rebooking fees if the couple chooses to postpone their wedding to a later date, and allow them and their guests to use their hotel room credits for the new date. Be as flexible as you can with things like payment due dates and refunding deposits. It’s worthwhile to have the conversation with the couple and be negotiable and transparent about what’s doable for everyone.
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong is urging wedding venues in his state to work with couples to reach a compromise. “Every contract is different, and some make it very difficult to change plans and obtain refunds—even during a global pandemic. But that doesn’t mean that venues and vendors can’t be reasonable and flexible,” said Attorney General Tong.
Consider being open to accepting partial payments from couples who are unable to make 2020 work for their wedding, but who are interested in rescheduling for 2021. Washington, DC-based wedding planner Lauryn Prattes suggests working out an arrangement where couples will pay 75 percent or more of their contract now and then the final balance next year when the wedding takes place. “These vendors were counting on that as income for this year — this arrangement not only helps take care of their vendors, but also may make a vendor a little more likely to be accommodating of the contract change when they know that they are still going to earn that income in 2020,” says Prattes. It’s a way for the venue — and the couple — to mitigate losses during this time.
- Update your Wedding Spot profile with your cancellation and rescheduling policies.
- Reach out to couples with weddings still on the books and make sure they feel comfortable with any adaptations to the ceremony, or if they are considering moving the date of their wedding.
- Be flexible, preemptive, and transparent in your communications.
4. Offer weekday or work-night wedding packages
Many couples are rescheduling their weddings for the same weekend in 2021, but those exact dates might not always be possible. Wedding planners interviewed for a recent article in Bloomberg agreed that couples should be open to weekday weddings as 2021 fills up with rescheduled weddings, new weddings for newly engaged couples, and weddings that were already on the books before the coronavirus emerged.
To keep up with demand, it’s likely that venues will need to start booking weddings on Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Some couples might even be willing to consider a mid-week wedding if they want to get married sooner so they can start a family, or to have a small ceremony for a better price.
As Ashley Fetters writes in The Atlantic: “A weekday or work-night wedding is almost inevitably a smaller and more intimate affair than a Saturday wedding: Not everyone can or is willing to take the extra time off, especially if they have to travel.” In addition to flexible cancellations and rescheduling, venues should consider offering smaller weekday wedding packages as an option for couples who are looking to reschedule, or couples who still want to get married now and postpone their reception until later.
Even without constraints on things like the number of guests and the types of ceremonies they’re able to have, the issue of venues being mostly booked through the end of 2021 is enough to push couples toward simpler, smaller, and easier-to-plan weddings — and, they’d be open to doing it on whatever day is available.
- Update your website and Wedding Spot profile with the new wedding package.
- Make sure to mention it as an option if couples call to cancel or reschedule their wedding.
Put these wedding venue promotion ideas into practice!
For more great venue ideas, check out how wedding venues are helping couples during COVID-19. And discover the latest group business booking trends and a deeper dive into differences by market size and location. Then, be sure to check back next Friday for the latest edition of this series.