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The future of UK weddings and events.

The past 18 months have been unprecedented and the hardest any of us working in the wedding and events industry has ever known. I am proud of our perseverance and resilience to adapt, finding new ways to operate under the restrictions, keeping our staff and customers safe and ensuring a return to some normality. It has been heartwarming to see venues re-open and witness the return of full size weddings and events as our industry slowly bounces back. We are an industry used to evolution and change. We are not adverse to trying new things. In fact we embrace innovation and novelty, always looking for the next unique experience and opportunity. New trends come and go, advances are made in technology and with them the needs of our customers. As we continue to adjust to life with Covid and make plans for the future with more certainty, what does the landscape look like for weddings and events?

future of weddings and events

Virtual Technology

Before lockdown #1, I had never heard of Zoom or Microsoft Teams.  I had a familiarity with Skype and Facetime from my years living overseas and welcomed then, as I do now, the opportunities it created to maintain face-to-face contact with people from a distance.  Virtual meetings are now the norm and, although not necessarily liked by all, they have enabled venues to maintain client contact and engagement throughout lockdown.  Many of us are raring to embrace (literally!) the opportunity to meet in person again but for many, time poor or unable to travel easily, this opportunity to meet face-to-face remotely will continue to be invaluable. 

Many venues have already been capitalising on virtual-tour technology and this has been crucial in enabling sales activity to continue throughout lockdown.  This will also continue to be a valuable sales and marketing tool, enabling venues to be accessed by customers based overseas or further afield.  Make sure your tours are up-to-date and show your venues at their very best with crisp clear imagery.  

virtual weddings and events

I have also been impressed by the technology available for creating virtual events.  Venues, production companies and entertainment suppliers have collaborated to create some innovative virtual event platforms enabling all manner of events including exhibitions, conferences and parties to be successfully transferred into the virtual arena.  Venues have been recreated digitally to create an immersive experience without guests having to leave their house.  Food and drink can be couriered to your home so that you can enjoy a live culinary experience, guests can network with each other remotely in chat-rooms, guests can participate in live presentations from 1000s of miles away and watch live entertainment from their sofa.  Whilst it is not cheap, this technology negates the problem of managing social distancing and enables a much larger guest list and participation.  This technology also has the capacity to be used to create hybrid events allowing guests the choice to attend in-person or remotely but still participate fully.  Corporate events organisers will be keen to continue to access this technology to reach overseas customers and associates, particularly whilst travel remains limited.  Now is the time for venues to reach out to their technical suppliers and continue to explore virtual event opportunities. 

As we become increasingly geographically spread out, the ability to unite people wherever they are is very powerful.  So many couples miss the opportunity to have overseas friends and family attend their marriage celebrations yet now we can livestream the day for all to see.  Venues with the technology and connectivity to enable this will be increasingly in demand as travel restrictions continue. 

streaming live weddings and events

Outdoor Spaces

For many, the ability to get outdoors for exercise, gardening, working or socialising has been a lifeline over the past year.  Outdoors is safer, less-restricted and confined, with more space to circulate and breathe fresh air.  The outdoor creates a feeling of wellbeing.  If your venue offers outdoor spaces, make sure you promote it as much as your indoor spaces.  Value and maintain your outdoor spaces as much as your indoor spaces.  Show clients how they can optimise their weddings and events with use of your outdoor spaces.  An outdoor wedding ceremony, a picnic or BBQ, garden games, alfresco music.  The great British weather will always require us to make a ‘Plan B’ but enabling people to take their event outside whenever they can will be worthwhile.

outdoor weddings and events
Venetia Norrington/ Tipi Spaces

Planning laws have been relaxed this year lengthening the usual 28-day period for temporary structures without planning permission to 56 days or longer in some circumstances (speak to your local council).  This has sent the demand for marquees and other temporary structures through the roof.  Not only do they enable hospitality venues to open under current restrictions in all weathers but they also enable smaller venues to increase their capacity.  A small country home with limited indoor capacity but a large garden can considerably increase their capacity and develop their share of the wedding market with the addition of a Summer marquee. 

Landowners are increasingly exploring ways to diversify and may not yet be prepared to convert a farm building into a wedding venue.  This is a great opportunity to put up a tent and test the market.  This also opens opportunities for venues to provide overnight accommodation in the form of glamping.  Or glamp-sites to offer a party venue for their glampers.  Speak to your local marquee suppliers about a collaboration or maybe it’s time to invest in your own marquee structure?

accommodation for weddings and events

Anticipated changes to the marriage laws are also likely to create more freedom for venues to utilise outdoor spaces for marriage ceremonies.  The Law Commission has proposed reforms to the current laws that will enable more flexibility for couples to marry how they wish without the constraints of a registered or licensed venue.  No date has been confirmed but the pandemic has certainly identified the need and increased public demand for this change.      

outdoor wedding ceremonies

Overseas Travel

Sadly we will have to wait a while longer before we are able to travel without restriction again.  This gives the UK wedding and event market an advantage.  An inability to plan overseas weddings or corporate events means that there will be an increased demand on the domestic market.  Many people have been working remotely and whilst for some this has worked well, I foresee a need for companies to bring their teams together to raise morale, restore mental wellbeing, team-building workshops, corporate away days and conferences.  Businesses will be looking for unique experiences for their clients and teams.  What experiences can your venue offer onsite or off-site nearby?  Orienteering, archery, sailing, survival challenge, treasure hunt, escape room, obstacle races etc.  Do you have the technological capability to facilitate conferences?  Screens, PA systems, projectors etc. 

With tropical beach weddings off the cards for now, couples not prepared to wait, will also be looking for unique and unusual UK wedding venues to fulfil their dreams.  How can you inspire a couple with wanderlust to book your venue?  An intrepid menu? A waterfront ceremony?  A yurt in the garden? Exotic entertainment?     

exotic wedding cocktails

Micro Weddings and Events

The economic consequences of the pandemic are also likely to have an impact on consumer spending around weddings and events.  There will continue to be a strong desire for people to meet and get married however it is likely that they may continue to embrace the smaller, more intimate nuptial event.  How can your venue continue to meet this demand for micro weddings and events?  Do you have a smaller space that you can offer to more intimate gatherings which would otherwise be lost in a vast barn or hall?  Couples are also recognising that micro weddings create an opportunity for more extravagant wedding plans.  Instead of limiting their spend to essentials they can incorporate more luxurious styling elements, expand their Wedding Breakfast menu, upgrade their beverage choice etc.  What ways can you enable your couples to enhance their wedding at your venue?      

micro weddings and events
Venetia Norrington / Tipi Spaces

Digital Agility

The biggest outcome of the pandemic is the realisation that we are living in a digital world.  We still need personal interaction from time-to-time but technology has created the convenience of being able to take action remotely.  Venues must make sure that they are up-to-date with their digital communication methods to access their remote audience.   Up-to-date websites and communication methods, digital booking processes, a strong social media presence and continued investment in digital technology is required if you are to continue to find an audience in an ever expanding and advancing wedding and events market. 

digital communication

Our world is constantly changing and our customers ever evolving.  Being able to adapt, change, pivot and flex is crucial if we are to keep up with changing consumer demands.  Venues must continue to work with their customers, listen to their needs, compromise where possible and adapt when necessary.  The customer is king and only by acknowledging this will we truly be able to ensure we give them the best experience.

More information about how I can help your venue to adapt in this changing landscape can be found here.

Do you need support with your venue or events?

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Outdoor Events

Outdoor Events: Business development opportunities for landowners

If you are fortunate to sit on a significant piece of land then the opportunities for outdoor events are boundless but before you start planning your very own Glastonbury Festival there are a few considerations you must make.

As with any new business venture it pays to do your homework and make a PLAN!  Planning a public event is definitely not for the feint-hearted but it is a lot of fun and the euphoria at the end of a successful event is hard to beat.  Do not underestimate the amount of work that goes into planning any size of event.  Administration, sales, marketing, coordination, operations, security, health and safety, legal liability, infrastructure etc.  The larger the event the bigger the workload but smaller outdoor events do still require plenty of planning, particularly if you have not hosted a public event before.  How much involvement will you make?  Do you have the capacity to take on an event yourself or should you consider hiring a professional event organiser?  Should you consider simply renting your land to an event organiser?   

Outdoor events

1. Choose your business model.

Before you start you need decide on your business model.  Renting your land to an events organiser is certainly the most simple route and will be preferable if you are already very busy and are just looking for a straightforward income supplement.  The income you achieve from renting your land for outdoor events will be determined by a number of factors.  The size and type of event, the attractiveness of your event site, the location, what existing facilities you can offer and the competition.  Before you enter into any discussion with an event organiser, decide how much you need to derive from each event to make it worth your while.  Speak to other local landowners about their experience and find out their hire rate.  You will still carry some liability for public safety but essentially you are simply the host and the event organiser is responsible for everything else. Agree a hire fee for the use of your land and consider adding a refundable damage deposit.

If you are hosting and organising the event yourself then you may achieve a better income; however, with this comes increased investment in both time and money.  It also brings increased risk.  Outdoor events are notoriously high risk.  The British weather is increasingly unpredictable and it can often take several years for new events to turn a significant profit.  

You may want to consider profit share with the event organiser though this partnership also carries similar risks.  

If you are entering into a contract with a third party, find out as much as you can about the event organiser beforehand.  As the landowner you still carry liability and duty of care over members of the public visiting your land.  It is also your name attached to the property and your reputation as a future events holder that you need to protect.   Who are they?  What experience do they have?  Where have they worked previously?  Do they have all the correct licences, insurances, policies etc?  Don’t be afraid to ask for a reference from another landowner.  If you are already in possession of a Premises Licence then it may also be wise to ask the event organiser to make their own licensing arrangements.  You do not want your future license jeopardised by the activities of another event organiser.     

Before entering into any formal arrangement, I strongly advise seeking legal advice and asking a lawyer to help you to draw up a Licence To Occupy.  This is a contract for an events organiser to use your land for a set period and purpose under specific terms and conditions.  Make sure your contract defines limits of liability and obligations of responsibility relating to health and safety.  It should also specify required insurances, indemnities and recovery of costs in case anything goes wrong.   

Outdoor events

2. Business interruption

Outdoor events are seasonal; spring, summer, early autumn and Christmas.  Will the event interrupt any other business activities such as weddings or holiday letting?  Will your other business activities have an impact on the success of the event?  

Are you farming the land?  How long can you feasibly set-aside land?  No-one wants to be dancing in cow-pats or sitting on stubble!  A freshly mown, soft, grassy, dry meadow is ideal! 

How can you partition your land or premises to ensure that one activity does not infringe upon the other?  How can they operate in tandem?  Can you temporarily cease one activity to allow for another?  Do you have the acreage to isolate activities from one another?  Consider health and safety as well as simply the enjoyment of visitors and guests.

3. Field fit for a festival.

Assess the suitability of your land.  Does it have a steep gradient?  Though hilltops can supply amazing vistas, they are not always ideal for building temporary structures. What happens when it rains?  Does the field turn into a lake or do you have good drainage?  What is going on overhead?  Trees and overhead power lines are not helpful for large temporary structures.  Likewise, underground utilities need to be avoided.  A plan of your land showing the location of the event site in relation to power lines, trees and any water pipes is vital.  

What existing infrastructure do you have in place for outdoor events?  Do you have access to mains water? If not, then you will likely need to hire additional fresh water.  It is also likely that you will require an additional temporary power supply from a generator.  You will need to speak to everyone involved and calculate their power requirements in advance to gauge the power supply needed.  You will also likely require a contractor to remove excess waste.  

If you are intending to promote a ‘green’ event then you will also need to look at ways to minimise waste, discouraging the use of plastic and looking at ways to separate materials for recycling or composting.  

Conduct a site risk assessment.  Are there any hazards that could impact the safety and wellbeing of visitors, event staff or suppliers?   

 

Outdoor events

4. Play to your event audience.

Who is your audience?  What’s their demographic?  Where are they coming from?  How long will they be on site at the event?  What will they need whilst they are on site? Answers to these questions will impact the facilities you will need to provide.  

If visitors are coming from far away then they may bring a car and will require parking.  Do you have good road access?  How close are you to public transport?  Can you offer adequate car parking space?  Can you offer on-site accommodation?  Camping, holiday cottages, glamping, hotel, bed and breakfast?  You will certainly need toilets and drinking water.  

You should also consider the type and timing of the event.  Daytime events are a different animal to night-time events.  Daytime events are more family friendly and attract a broader demographic.  They are less likely to attract the risk of alcohol related incidents.  Night-time events are less sociable for your close neighbours, particularly if there is loud music involved.  They also require additional infrastructure in terms of lighting after dark.  

Outdoor events

5. Outdoor events admin.

Organising public events requires plenty of administration in terms of licences, insurances, assessments, plans and preparation.  Make a detailed plan early on.  Include what the event is, what will be needed to organise the event successfully, who will be attending, who will be involved in delivering the event, when the event will take place and any other deadlines, where will the event take place including a detailed site plan, how you will deliver the event including any actions that you will need to take to prepare the site or your business for interruption and impact.  

It is a good idea to speak to your Local Authority early at least six months before the event to check what permissions and licences you will need.  Depending on the nature of your event, you may or may not need a Premises Licence.  A Premises Licence is required for all licensable activities including the sale of alcohol, live and recorded music, the performance of a play, film screenings and indoor sport.  

If the event is a one-off, you can apply for a Temporary Event Notice (TEN).  This allows you to temporarily conduct licenced activities for up to 499 people including the sale of alcohol.  Please note that you can only apply for a limited number of TENs each year.  More information can be found on your local council website.  

Other licences you may need, depending on the nature of the event, are an Entertainments Licence which allows you to play live or recorded music, Single Title Screening Licence which allows you to screen films and an alcohol licence for the sale of alcohol.  

Before granting licences, the Local Authority may want to know about your event.  What activities you have planned, what Emergency Planning is in place, your Health & Safety Plan, Risk Assessments and Insurances.

All events and activities involving members of the public will require some form of Public Liability Insurance.  If you are directly employing staff, whether on a permanent or temporary basis, you will also require Employers Liability Insurance.  

It is good practise to notify the emergency services of your event in advance and also provide Advance Notice to the public.  If you are intending to stage fireworks then you will also need to make an application to the Fire Service.

Event Admin

6. Event legacy.

If you are planning on holding successive events then make sure your neighbours enjoyed the first one!  How close is your nearest neighbour?  What impact will the event have on them?  Are there any covenants on your land which may preclude the Local Authority granting permission or give your neighbours cause to frustrate the event.  It is wise to keep an open dialogue with your neighbours from the beginning.  Listen to and acknowledge their concerns.  What measures can you put in place to mitigate their disturbance or inconvenience?  They have the right to object if the event is deemed a nuisance and this could cause the council to limit the scope of the event or even revoke your licence in the future.  

Who else could the event impact?  High traffic volume in an otherwise quiet part of the countryside can cause immense problems to all road users.  Plan how visitors will access the event site.  You certainly don’t want frustrated visitors arriving (or not arriving!!).  If narrow roads surround your property, can you put in place a one-way system to avoid congestion?  Is there good access to public transport?  Can you encourage people to walk or cycle to your event?

How will the event impact your land?  Is there risk of damage to good pasture or arable soil? What environmental impact could it have on waterways and other fragile ecosystems?           

Outdoor events

7. Tell them and they will come.

Last but not least, sales and marketing.  An event is nothing without a crowd of people, small or large.  Amidst all the planning and preparation you will also need to be talking about the amazing outdoor events you are planning.  How are people going to hear about your event?  How will they book tickets?  Having an event website is a good idea as it gives credibility and authenticity to your event.  It is also a great communication device for answering questions, providing information and helping people find you.  Social media is also very powerful at helping to tell the World about your event.  Choose a platform suitable for the audience you are trying to attract and focus your attention here.  Make sure you set aside the resources to manage sales and marketing, whether this is your time or anothers, it is fundamental to the success of the event.  

Equally if you have decided to go down the route of hiring your land to other event organisers don’t expect the phone to start ringing as soon as you have made a decision to do it.  You will need to go out to market and tell people.  Build a website, add photos of your event site, highlighting all its attractions and virtues.  Communicate what types of events are best suited for the site, give people an idea of the cost of hire, explain if there are any specific hire conditions eg. no fireworks.  Also, use social media targeting the audience you are looking to attract eg. festival organisers.  It is also worth reaching out directly to events organisers and inviting them to visit your site.  The Association of Festival Organisers (AFO) is a great resource for finding festival and event organisers and also seeking advice and support.     

As you can see, there is plenty to consider when deciding to open up your land for events but there are certainly rewards. The first event is always the hardest but like most businesses, once you have a good system and process in place then it will become easier.  You will also encounter unexpected problems which are usually solved with a supportive team around you, calm, patience and good humour.  

I offer new and existing outdoor events venues business development advice and support. For more information about how I can help your events business, please click here.

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Events in 2021

Planning Events in 2021: What to expect.

I am watching the latest wave of Covid play out in the UK and tentatively planning events in 2021.  The effect of Covid on events in 2020 was catastrophic and no doubt we will continue to feel the pain throughout 2021.  2020 took us by surprise.  We were not prepared.  This year we are experienced and we know the score.  Vaccines are being rolled out and, provided this momentum continues and we can get the all important R-number under control, it is expected that restrictions will begin to ease by March.  I am optimistic.  Testing is quicker and more widely available and tracking systems are more robust.  The number of events I am seeing being planned for later this year shows others are too.  I also see a strength of public will.  No one wants another year stuck at home.     

Events in 2021
Stephanie Stevens Photography

How events in 2021 will look.

Any event takes a reasonable amount of planning.  The size and complexity of the event dictates how much.  Whilst we wait to hear when and how far the government intends to lift restrictions we must be strategic in our planning.  Until we have securely controlled Covid, and its variants, and vaccinated sufficient numbers, we are unlikely see a return to the free-spirited events of pre-2020. 

Whilst I do not have a crystal ball, the likelihood is that events in 2021 will continue to look a lot like they did in 2020 with similar restrictions:

1. Testing/ vaccinations/ temperature checks. With testing becoming more widely available we may see event organisers asking attendees to provide proof of a negative covid test prior to entry or evidence that they have been vaccinated.  This will help give confidence that events are safe and not potential covid spreaders.  Temperature checks of all staff and guests on arrival will also continue.

2. Track and Trace. As part of the registration process, organisers will need to ensure that they are continuing to record contact details of all participants. 

3. Masks. If you are a planning an event indoors then, as we have seen within retail, travel and other hospitality, masks will continue to be obligatory clothing.   

Events in 2021
Stephanie Stevens Photography

4. Social distancing. Venue capacities will continue to be restricted to allow for social distancing.  Staggered start and end times and one-way systems will be the norm to assist safe crowd control.

5. Food and drink service. Consideration will still be needed on how you safely serve food and drink.  Pre-plated food, pre-poured drinks, tray service and table service will continue to enable reduced contact.      

6. Hygiene. Strict hygiene protocols have always been a factor in event planning but we have seen an increased necessity for hygiene amongst event attendees as well as staff.  Planning sufficient hand washing stations and providing plenty of hand sanitiser will continue to be essential.

Events in 2021

7. Outdoor. Planning outdoor events is always problematic in the UK.  The weather is unpredictable at anytime of the year however Covid has increased problems for planning indoor events.  Outdoor events now seem more attractive for gatherings as they considerably reduce the potential spread of Covid. This helps instill confidence too.

8. Entertainment. Performances will still be restricted in size in terms of the number of participants.  Staging to allow social distancing between performers and the audience will continue to be a consideration and ensuring all performances involving singing take place outside or in a well ventilated space.  Dancing shoes will still be regulated to the back of the wardrobe.     

9.Virtual. Lots of us have embraced the virtual world, creating ingenious platforms to stage entertaining and engaging events and stream them live into peoples homes.  These will continue to be an important player in the events market as some members of the public may still feel wary about venturing out to live events.  It also creates opportunities to reach overseas audiences without leaving our shores.  Travel may still take time to open up as other countries around the world take longer to roll out vaccines or tackle Covid.  The rising environmental consciousness can also be met by continuing to provide virtual event opportunities.  I look forward to seeing how technology and ideas evolve to support this new events market.

Events in 2021

10. Festivals. The cancellation of Glastonbury came as a blow but not a surprise.  It is more than likely that other festivals will follow suit.  It will be difficult to stage large-scale festivals whilst maintaining the level of hygiene and social distancing required.  Like many other events, festivals rely on an economy of scale.  Cutting capacity to meet social distancing requirements whilst still providing participants the same level of experience would simply not be cost effective.    

11. Weddings. I expect weddings to continue to be restricted to smaller numbers this year too.  It has been heartening to see so many couples embrace their micro weddings.  2020 was so disappointing for all of us yet I feel that 2021 is the year we accept our fate and be grateful for the opportunities we have.  Weddings are what you make of them. Small or big; your wedding day will still be a memorable occasion.  Let’s keep the parties for when we can dance freely, unadorned by masks, and hug all our loved ones with self-abandonment.   

Events in 2021
Nova Photography / Upton Barn

Surviving 2021

Measure your expectations.  Live events will be able to open fully by 2022 if we cooperate now, get vaccinated, keep our distance and remind others to do the same.  Use your experience of 2020 to plan a strategy to survive 2021.  I would like the UK Government to offer the events industry compensation and insurance against further cancellations and will continue to raise my voice with the rest of you in demanding this funding.  However, I ceased long ago to have any expectation of our government doing the right thing.  Therefore it is down to us to support one another where we can, combine our collective talents and resources and together find a way through another year of Covid and look forward to a brighter tomorrow. 

Events in 2021

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Event Admin

Business plan for 2021: Learning from 2020

Happy New Year(?)

If you are an events business and have survived 2020, firstly well done.  We weren’t expecting that! No doubt you have pivoted multiple times, tried alternative revenue streams, invested, streamlined and adapted until you are blue in the face amidst a sea of cancellations and postponements. A what point did you throw your business plan for 2020 in the bin? If nothing else, 2020 has certainly been a learning curve. What learning have you taken from it and how will these shape your business plan for 2021?  

Setting goals for 2021.

Have you set goals?  Do you have a vision of where you want your business to be in 3, 6, 12 months time? My goals are not as ambitious this year.  Life has always been unpredictable yet Covid has taken this to a new level.  I thrive on making plans and setting directions. I can still do this but like all of us I have had to adjust to the fact that survival is based on our ability to flex and adapt.  Acknowledging that sometimes the best laid plans can come to nought and somethings are outside of our control.  Being too fixed on an end result opens the door for disappointment.  Building resilience and being prepared for set backs can help us recover more quickly.         

https://www.stephstevens.photos/

Learning from 2020.

2021 is going to be bumpy but this time we are prepared.  Learning from 2020 and setting the ground work now will help you to ride out another unpredictable year. 

In order to create a business plan for 2021, you first need to audit where your business is now: 

  • What went well last year?  What didn’t go so well? 
  • What external factors are affecting your business now? 
  • What internal factors are affecting your business now? 
  • What opportunities are available? 
  • What resources do you have available? 
  • What is the state of the market now?  How is the market likely to change over the next 12 months? 
  • Are there any known events that are likely to affect your business? 
  • Will you need to make any investment this year? 
  • What actions do you need to take to achieve your goals?

Write your business plan for 2021.

By thinking about these questions and answering them, this will help you to construct a business plan for 2021; a workable strategy that will support your business to achieve its goals and see you through another turbulent year.

Document your plans, display them, review them regularly and adjust if necessary. Don’t flog a dead horse. If it’s not working then go back to these questions and ask them again. The most successful entrepreneurs have all suffered setbacks and failures so there is no shame in admitting defeat and going back to the drawing board.       

Good luck and god speed! 

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