Upton Barn Walled Garden

Wedding Venue Marketing – Creating a successful marketing plan for Upton Barn & Walled Garden in Devon

I met Claire and Richard Down in October 2017.  After growing their family, they needed help with their wedding venue marketing.  I stepped in to help create a successful marketing plan for their wedding venue, Upton Barn & Walled Garden, in Devon. 

Wedding Ceremont
Nova Photography

The Background

Claire and Richard are a formidable couple who have grown their wedding venue literally from the ground.  Whilst looking for a venue for their own wedding in 2013, they realised that there was nowhere quite as special as home and decided to restore their old kitchen garden incorporating an oak-framed arbour which could be licensed for outdoor wedding ceremonies. 

After their own memorable wedding day, they wanted to share their experience and create an opportunity for other couples to marry at Upton. They developed an old cider barn into a stunning venue and began marketing the venue for weddings. After trading for two successful years they expanded their wedding venue by incorporating The Stable Barn.  Once stables to father Chris Down’s racehorses, the barn has been transformed into a spectacular space for Wedding Breakfasts allowing Upton to increase their capacity from 120 to 156 guests and increase their flexibility. 

Whilst also developing their business, they were also growing their family and needed some more help with their wedding venue.  Having already recruited a strong team of support staff including an events coordinator they also realised that they needed some more support in creating a successful marketing plan.  

Upton Barn - The Stable Barn
Russell How
Russell How

The Marketing Plan

I stepped in to help them by developing a successful marketing plan that would build brand awareness and drive more wedding enquiries. 

  • Developing their social media engagement through their existing platforms on Instagram and Facebook
  • Working with their web designer to developing their website, updating images and content and adding a blog page
  • Updating their online listings
  • Producing editorial content for online and print publications
  • Creating a timely online virtual tour
  • Produce some successful promotional events including an opening party for The Stable Barn and A Wedding Salon.
Yeti Photo

The Result

Within a year we saw a significant increase in the number of enquiries and confirmed wedding bookings had doubled from 40 in 2018 to 80 in 2019. 

To read more about my success stories click here or if you would like to discuss ways I can help you create your own successful marketing plan and win more bookings for your venue, then please get in touch.

For more information about Upton Barn & Walled Garden, click here.

How Photography

Yeti Photo + Film

Nova Wedding Photography

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Events in 2021

12 top tips for choosing your perfect wedding venue

You’re engaged!!!  Congratulations!  Now for the fun to begin as you embark on your wedding planning journey.  First on the list, finding a wedding venue.  There are so many amazing wedding venues to choose from, where do you start?  Here are my top ten tips for choosing your perfect wedding venue to get you underway.

  1. Budget.  When it comes to weddings, it is easy to spend money and your venue will be one of your largest expenses.  Sit down together early on and agree an overall budget.  Then decide on your priorities: food, entertainment, outfits, number of guests, location etc and do some initial research into their costs.  This will help you allocate a budget for each.  You can often reduce venue costs by choosing a mid-week day or a less popular Autumn or Winter date.  Check with the venue what days they are open.    
  1. Date.  Couples are booking their wedding dates earlier and earlier.  If you have a special date in mind, then book your venue as early as possible to avoid disappointment.
  1. Numbers. Draft a guest list before you start venue hunting.  If you know you have at least 100 of your nearest and dearest to accommodate then this can help narrow down your choices. 
  1. Ceremony.  Church ceremony or a civil ceremony?  If you are favouring an all in one venue for your ceremony and reception then check your venue has a licence for civil ceremonies.
  1. Location.  There are many stunning wedding locations to choose from. Not just in the UK but around the World. One of the most important questions to consider is accessibility.  How easy will it be for you and your guests to get to? Or will you need to factor in additional accommodation costs before and after your wedding?
  1. Accommodation.  A solution to isolated locations a long way from home may be to consider venues with accommodation on site or near-by for you and your guests.
  1. Furnishings.  Ask the venue what they are able to supply, what is included in the hire cost and what is extra.  You will be surprised.  Some include everything: tables, chairs, linen, glassware, PA system etc.  Others may just offer the building and little else which means you will need to factor in this as an additional cost.  There are plenty of furniture hire companies, audio visual companies and caterers who can help.    
  1. Suppliers.  Ask the venue if they use in-house suppliers or if you will be required to work with their approved suppliers.  Some may say yes which means you will be tied to working with a particular caterer, florist etc.  This has its benefits.  It saves you trawling the internet to find someone and usually means that they are highly recommended and know the venue intimately.  The downside is this means less choice for you. 
  1. Season.  You may be imagining a glorious outdoor Summer wedding however be prepared!  The great British weather is notoriously unpredictable so make sure you love your venue inside and out.
  1. Flexibility.  This is your day so don’t feel restrained by convention.  Choose a wedding venue that allows you the freedom to design a wedding personal and unique to you.  Other than the legal bit, the skies the limit!  Historic country houses and stately homes may impose certain restrictions.  This is usually for conservation reasons.  Almost all will have licencing restrictions which will govern when the music stops and the drink service ceases.   
  1. Experience.  Venues offering an in-house wedding coordinator can offer help and advice throughout the planning process.  On the day, your coordinator will manage suppliers, prepare the venue, assist guests and keep everything on schedule so you can get on with enjoying your wedding day.  If your perfect wedding venue does not have an on-site wedding coordinator then it is worth considering hiring an independent wedding planner.
  1. Instincts.  When you know, you know!  If you are getting butterflies in your tummy and envisaging your perfect day right here, then you’ve probably found your perfect wedding venue.  Trust your inner feelings.  Ultimately you want to feel relaxed and confident that your wedding day will be perfect.

I hope this list has helped. Choosing your perfect wedding venue and planning your wedding day should be a joyful experience but I understand the pressures it can also create. If you would like any more help, support or advice then please do get in touch.  I have over 20 years’ experience planning events in London, Sydney and Devon.  Wherever you are in the World, I can help with anything from venue finding to support on your wedding day itself.  I will ensure you have a happy and stress-free wedding experience.

Do you need support with your venue or events?

Let 's start a conversation today


21 Tips To Make Your Wedding Venue COVID Secure


How to prepare your venue for weddings and events in a socially distanced world…

As venues start opening again across the UK and begin hosting smaller more intimate weddings and events, if you haven’t already, now is an important time to ensure you have planned and prepared to make your wedding venue Covid Secure.  I am optimistic that we will see a return to larger weddings and live events in 2021 but the evidence suggests that we will be doing so with COVID 19 looming in the background.  If we are to ensure the survival of the wedding and events industry then it is vital that we keep our venue staff and guests safe and avoid another lockdown. 

Over the past few months I have read and listened to advice and guidance from a number of different sources and have prepared a checklist to help you make your wedding venue Covid Secure and keep you, your staff and your guests safe.  Links can be found at the bottom of the page.    

  1. HSE Guidance – The Health and Safety Executive1 exist to keep us safe at work and play.  Their website is filled with advice and guidance to help you to make your wedding venue COVID Secure.
  1. Risk Assessment You are responsible by law to protect your staff and anyone affected by your work (eg. guests) and have a duty to manage all risk associated with the services you and your employees are performing.   To do this you must undertake a risk assessment which will now need to be reviewed to ensure you have considered all the additional health and safety risks associated with COVID 19.  The HSE has templates2 available on their website to help get you started. 
  1. Certification – Accreditation goes a long way to reassuring your staff and the public that your venue is safe and that they will be protected whilst working and visiting your premises.  There are a number of industry organisations who offer recognised accreditation including MIA (Meetings Industry Association)3 and Visit Britain4.
  1. Policies – Make sure all your policies are up-to-date (eg. health and safety, evacuation, PPE, staff hygiene) and incorporate any new social distancing or hygiene measures.  Changes must be communicated to your staff and all documents should be accessible to them.  
  1. Insurance – Does your insurance cover you for any loss of business arising from future lockdowns or event cancellations due to COVID 19? Is your public liability insurance up to date?  
Wedding venue covid secure
  1. Emergency Planning – Update your evacuation policy, considering how people can safely exit the building with social distancing measures.
  1. Staff Communication – Communicate with all your staff and ensure they are aware of your policies and procedures both when selling your venue and delivering events.  Update them of any changes you have made to make your wedding venue COVID Secure as soon as possible.  Provide training as necessary and appropriate written and verbal guidance.  Work together and be open to their feedback.  Well placed signage will help serve as a reminder to procedures.  Consider additional language, cultural and physical needs.
  1. Guest Communication – Ensure that all guests visiting your venue have information in advance explaining your social distancing, PPE and hygiene policies.  Reassure them that you will do your utmost to keep them safe and that your wedding venue is COVID Secure.   Provide well placed signage.  Consider additional language, cultural and physical needs. 
  1. Contracts – Examine the terms of your contracts and ensure they are up to date including your cancellation policy and any changes to your other policies including contact tracing and statement of health requirements.  With so many events cancelled and postponed, clients will want reassurance that they don’t stand to lose money in the event of another lockdown.  This will also stand as further evidence of your due diligence in ensuring their safety.  
  1. Venue Cleaning and Disinfection – Make sure your venue is cleaned before, after and during the event.  Schedule regular cleaning procedures throughout the event and document a detailed disinfection regime before and after each event.  Public Health England gives further advice5.
wedding venue covid secure
  1. Venue Capacity – Consider your safe capacity for all types of events that you offer whilst observing social distancing guidelines.  
  1. Temperature Checking – Invest in a temperature gun that can read staff and guests temperatures on arrival.  A high temperature of 38ºC or above is a symptom of COVID 19.  
  1. Social Distancing – Consider all guest and staff routes around your venue.  Put in place one-way systems using floor markers, stanchions and other furniture.  Consider all entrance and exit routes and ensure all staff and guests can observe social distancing safely and securely.  
  1. Personal Hygiene (Staff) – Document a detailed personal hygiene regimen for all staff including regular hand washing.  Provide hand sanitisation stations and hand washing facilities. Provide all necessary PPE equipment and instructions on how to use it.  Limit unnecessary contact with potential contaminants.  
  1. Personal Hygiene (Guests) – Provide hand washing facilities and hand sanitiser as well as signage to remind guests to regularly clean their hands.  Consider providing face masks and other PPE equipment.  Limit unnecessary contact with potential contaminants.
wedding venue covid secure
  1. Food Service – Avoid all self-service of food and drink.  Wherever possible, provide staff to serve pre-plated food and drinks.
  1. Track and Trace – Ask the event organiser to provide an advance guest list including name and contact details of all participants.  Check these details with guests on arrival and retain for 21 days so that you can notify them in the event of a subsequent COVID outbreak.  All contact details should be destroyed three weeks after the event.
  1. Review – Regularly review all your policies and procedures.  Discuss with staff and clients after each event and ask for their feedback.  
  1. Stay Flexible – The situation is constantly changing.  Stay up-to-date with the latest guidance and advice and be prepared to adapt and alter your policies and procedures to keep your wedding venue COVID Secure. 
  1. Event Suppliers – Ensure you have notified them of any relevant changes to your policies and procedures and review theirs to ensure they are COVID Secure.  
  1. Contingency – Are you prepared for another lockdown?  Many businesses were unprepared for the lockdown in March.  As restrictions ease, temporary localised lockdowns may occur.  What procedures can you put in place now to prepare for this scenario?   

wedding venue upton barn

This is by no means a complete or exhaustive list but based on my own judgement, reading, research and experience.  Hopefully more guidance will be provided by the Government if and when restrictions ease further(!).  The policies and procedures you need to put in place will be specific to your venue and the type of service and events you offer.  Now more than ever it is good to talk.  Speak to your colleagues across the industry.  What are their plans?  What measures are they implementing to make their wedding venue COVID Secure?  How are they intending to re-open safely?  We are all in this together so let’s help one another.  

If you would like any further advice or support then I am available to help.  Please do get in touch.

  1. https://www.hse.gov.uk/index.htm
  2. https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/assets/docs/risk-assessment.pdf
  3. https://www.mia-uk.org/AIM
  4. https://goodtogo.visitbritain.com/
  5. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-decontamination-in-non-healthcare-settings/covid-19-decontamination-in-non-healthcare-settings

Here’s to hosting events again very soon.

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Wedding Venue

2020 and the Impact of COVID 19 on the Events Industry

The impact of COVID 19 on the events industry has been wide sweeping and deeply felt. 

None of us have ever experienced anything like this and hopefully we never will again. 

All of us have been affected emotionally and physically by COVID 19 and many of us will continue to feel the effects for a long time to come.  

The impact of COVID 19 on the events industry has been particularly bad.  Venues have been forced to close indefinitely, events have been cancelled and postponed and livelihoods put on the line.  The events industry contributes over £50 billion pounds to the UK economy every year.  We employ 570,000 individuals full time plus additional self-employed, freelance and part-time staff.  Everyone who works in the events industry does so because they are passionate about what they do.  It is not a particularly highly paid pastime and the hours we work are certainly not very sociable.  But we love it.  Like a highly addictive drug, we get a thrill out of spreading joy by giving people extraordinary experiences through our musical and theatrical entertainment, culinary expertise, unique venues, audio visual displays and floral creations.  We are brilliant at it, world leading in fact.  But we have been stifled and it has caused us all an immense amount of stress.  

© Kathryn Clarke-Mcleod

It has also severely impacted our wonderful clients who have been planning their wedding or celebration for months or years only to have to cancel or postpone without any guarantee if or when their event can take place.  

The impact of COVID 19 on the events industry has also been felt financially. Many of us have been unable to access any of the Governments highly lauded financial support and have been struggling to make ends meet as we juggle ongoing business expenses without any income.    

But that hasn’t stopped us.  Our caterers have been dishing up food to NHS heroes, our florists have been delivering home arrangements and our entertainers have been putting on free virtual shows.  After all the show must go on.  But this doesn’t pay the bills and virtual events can really not replace the multi-sensory human interaction you get from attending a live event.  

© Kathryn Clarke-Mcleod

So what’s happening to get the show back on the road?

The whole events industry breathed a sigh of relief on Friday 4th July 2020 as the UK Government finally announced a date for business events and wedding receptions to return.

After much lobbying from the events community, the UK Government finally gave us the green light to start planning events from 1st August.  Indoor performances, larger event pilots and wedding receptions for up to 30 guests were planned.  

But then we received another bombshell.  On Friday, 31st July, the Prime Minister announced that the number of COVID 19 cases were rising.  The Governments response to this was to change their strategy, causing wedding receptions and indoor events planned between 1st and 15th August to be cancelled.  

This announcement has caused yet more stress, fear and disappointment not only to me and my colleagues across the events industry but to our clients also.  The decision of the Government seems to me nonsensical.  How is it fair to allow holiday makers to travel by plane, train and bus; to allow tourists to travel around the country and stay in hotels; to allow us to eat out in pubs and restaurants in indiscriminate number; and yet not be allowed to gather our families and friends (our bubbles) together for a celebration within a controlled environment?  

© Kathryn Clarke-Mcleod

So my colleagues and I continue to lobby Government in the hope that they will see the impact COVID 19 is having on the events industry and allow us to fully open for business again.  We are also campaigning for additional funds to support the events businesses which will struggle to stay afloat into 2021.  

As an industry, we are well rehearsed in adapting to challenging circumstances.  We are practised at managing risk, crowd control and all matters of health and safety.  All of us have been working hard to put in place any and all measures needed to keep our guests and our workforce safe.  PPE has been ordered, new cleaning regimes formulated and social distancing strategies prepared.  We are just waiting to be told when we can start.    

In the meantime, you can help us.  Be sensible, protect one another, wash your hands and wear face masks and help us avoid a second wave.  The wedding and events industry cannot afford to hang on any longer.  When we do finally get the go-ahead: plan your wedding, set a date for your party, call your colleagues together for a face-to-face conference and design your exhibition stand.  But please listen to the advice, ask your guests and colleagues to follow our instructions, adhere to the guidelines and follow the rules.  

We are ready to open and we can’t wait to see you!

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