Holkham Hall, Norfolk

How to set up a successful wedding and events venue

Setting up a weddings business takes hard work, creativity and commitment – but get it right and this type of business can be highly profitable and rewarding.

Firstly you need to assess your assets – can you accommodate up to 150 people in large rooms within your house, barns or converted outbuildings? These days 72 per cent of all weddings involve a civil ceremony, therefore those venues that can provide the complete package, including facilities for civil weddings, receptions and overnight accommodation, are particularly successful.

You will also need a kitchen area, bar, guest WCs, storage, on-site office, service areas, parking and attractive gardens for drinks receptions and outdoor ceremonies. Providing guest accommodation, often as part of the wedding package, is another lucrative option and will help attract couples from further a field.

Consideration should be given to whether you have the skills and appetite to run a successful trading business. Running a weddings business in-house means recruiting staff to market, sell, administrate and deliver events. Some landowners chose to outsource the operation and management to a third party, with an easier arm's length agreement.

Doing your homework is key. Know who your competitors are and what they offer to help differentiate your venue. Understanding your target market, local population size and local demographic profile will also help determine the offer.

To operate any venue for weddings and events successfully you will need to obtained the correct licences. An Approved Premises Wedding Licence is required for civil wedding ceremonies and partnerships and a Premises Licence for the sale of alcohol and the provision of ‘regulated entertainment’ (for example, live or recorded music and performances).

You will also be responsible for carrying out a general Risk Assessment of the entire site and a Fire Risk Assessment for the all areas covered by the Wedding Licence and Premises Licence by a qualified independent consultant. You will need Public Liability Insurance in case of injury and accidents.

As flexibility is valued in this market, venues should offer the choice of three or four nominated caterers who typically pay the venue a 10 per cent commission. Once the business is established many venues take control of all drink sales as the profit margins are so high.

The emphasis for marketing and promotion should be on digital channels. An excellent website, containing informative concise text and good quality images and videos that showcase the venue will help to attract more high quality enquiries.

An effective Search Engine Optimisation (S.E.O) service is essential to improve the visibility of the website and ensure it is well positioned in Google. It is also important to use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube accounts and keep them regularly updated. Expensive print advertising should be kept to a minimum.

Demand for weddings is less seasonal than it used to be and therefore offering permanent facilities that can be used throughout the year is preferable. Furthermore, many couples are getting married mid-week or in low season to save cost and promoting the venue for mid-week corporate events, helps to generate useful additional income.

Further information

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