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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?

Let 's start a conversation today

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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Win Venue Bookings

How To Win Venue Bookings: Don’t be openly critical of your rivals.

I have had two experiences over the past couple of weeks where the salesperson has been openly critical of their competition.

The first incidence happened when I was in the market for a particular product.  This product is only sold by a few companies in the UK.  I made it known to the salesperson that I was speaking to another company.  He immediately wanted to identify who that company was and it wasn’t hard from him to guess.  Before he had started telling me the virtues of his product he was criticising the flaws in the other company’s product and in the people themselves.  I didn’t buy his product.

The second incidence occurred when my husband and I happened to be passing a pop-up electric car test-drive centre.  My husband expressed interest in the cars and mentioned we were would be in the market for a new car next year.  The car we drive at the moment happens to be a direct competitor.  Again, before the salesperson had even persuaded us to book a test drive or tell us anything about the benefits of his car, he had been dismissive of OUR car.  My husband and I love our car for multiple reasons.  So we walked away without even touching the alternative car.    

These two separate experiences lost two potential sales and significant revenue.  

This tactic of being openly critical of your competition troubles me greatly.  It is not the first time I have experienced it and I expect you have too.  I have probably also been guilty of it myself in the past.  

Tentipi

Here are 5 reasons why being critical of your rivals fail in the competition to win venue bookings:

  1. Being openly critical of your competition in my opinion is lazy salesmanship.  It is too easy to list the faults of your competitors.  It highlights to me that you are not confident in your own business enough to simply talk about the benefits of choosing your venue.  Focus on actively listening to your customer’s needs, match their needs to your services and highlight the virtues of your venue.  Certainly ask them if they are considering any other venues.  If you know your competitors well and where you out-class them then it can be straightforward to simply draw attention to your own particular assets to win venue bookings rather than criticise the limitations of other venues. 
  2. As a customer, hearing criticism of someone or something I respect and admire can leave me feeling personally injured.  Neither of these sales people took the time to understand my opinion of their rivals. The fact that I might have already been won over and was just doing due diligence did not register with them.  They were not mindful of the fact that I had already struck up a good relationship with the other companies, that I had received excellent service and was satisfied that their products met my needs.  Trying to persuade me to buy from them by insinuating that my decision to buy from another company was flawed was a personal insult.  As a reasonably intelligent human, I am capable of analysing and evaluating the benefits and shortcomings of products and services to make my own decision.  Don’t take that away from me.   
  3. When I am investing a lot of money, like engaged couples, I like to shop around to make sure I am investing in the best place for my needs. I tend to do a lot of research before reaching out to companies and venues and often I have already made a decision before engaging with the salesperson (the importance of a good website folks!).  That final engagement or site visit is often simply to verify a decision before making a final commitment to book.  If your customer is taking the time to engage with you verbally then they are keen.  It might be a tight race between you and one other venue.  It will likely come down to the all important personal interaction and customer service. Good customer service is often the ability to use discretion.  By criticising your competitor you are not displaying any ability to use discretion.  This does not evoke trust and client trust is fundamental to win venue bookings.       
  4. Alternatively, by praising the virtues of your competitors you can help win trust and win venue bookings.  I prefer modesty over arrogance.  Do not draw out your shortcomings but give praise where praise is due.  If your customer mentions something that they particularly admired at another venue, hear that and express your own admiration and then draw their attention to your own.  For example; ‘I loved the view at ….’ ‘Yes they do have an amazing view.  Come and have a look at our view!’ Remember, no product or service is perfect for everyone.  You have an ideal customer and not all customers who contact you will be ideal.  Trying to persuade a customer who is looking for an extravagant and sophisticated wedding that your charming but rustic barn conversion is the right venue for them might not be worth your while.  But recommending a more suitable venue might win their favour.  All customer interactions provide an opportunity to create a memory.  This couple might not book you but they might tell their friends about you and they could be your ideal customers.    
  5. Be outward facing.  Talk to your competitors, get to know and understand them.  Business associations are set-up with the intention of sharing best practise, driving quality, encouraging collaboration and mutual support.  Respect your competitors, don’t fear them, particularly if they have been in the business longer than you.  You each have your own unique qualities and no doubt certain similarities.  You have already decided that there is space in the market for your venue.  This doesn’t mean stealing business from other venues.  If it does then the market is saturated and that’s not a good place to be.  You might be more innovative and maybe cheaper but businesses that have been trading successfully for a long time have established trust and reliability through their longevity.  This is invaluable to you particularly if you have a good relationship with them.  Often well-established venues are turning away business because they are too busy.  Give them a place to turn the business too!    
Win Venue Bookings
Kathryn Clarke-Mcleod

Unless you have invented a completely new, unique product or service, the likelihood is that you will encounter competition in your business, particularly as a wedding venue.  Competition is what drives us to be the best we can be, to out-class the rest.  Knowing our competition is crucial in understanding the marketplace and how we position ourselves within it.  Know your competition but don’t treat them like the enemy.  Respect your competitors, respect your customers and you will gain their mutual admiration and, most importantly, win venue bookings.

I have over 20 years experience managing venues and events and offer consultancy services to venues across Devon and the South West. For more information about my services, please click here or get in touch for a no-obligation chat.

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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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Outdoor weddings

Advice for Venue Owners – How to help your venue survive Covid 19

These are unprecedented times.  No one quite knows what is around the corner or how long we will be living with COVID 19.  What we do know is that the UK wedding and event industry is being severely affected by the continued government restrictions on social gatherings.  Following the devastating government announcement this week, maximum number of guests who can attend a wedding is 15 and all other gatherings are limited to a maximum 6.  Food and drink can be served whilst guests are seated.  Mingling is not allowed and dancing is out of the question.  It looks like weddings and events will be restricted for many more months to come, so how do you help your venue survive Covid 19? 

Bride and Groom with a bouquet

1. Check the guidelines

What can you still do?  How can you continue to host weddings and events?  What special measures do you need to put in place?  Do you need to make any further investment to make your venue Covid Secure?

2. Talk to your customers

Contact your customers.  How are they feeling?  What do they need?  What do they want?  Do they want to proceed with their wedding with limited numbers? Do they want to postpone their wedding? Check your terms and conditions, particularly your refund policy.  If your customer cancels their wedding, can you afford to offer them a full refund?  Do you have dates available in 2021 if they ask to postpone?  You don’t need to give them an answer straight away but you do need to listen to them and collate all the information.  This will help you formulate a plan and help your business survive Covid 19. 

3. Make a plan

We work in hospitality and our business is to delight our customers.  Our business thrives on our ability to do this.  Our hands are tied through no fault of our own and our customers are disappointed.  How can you turn this around?  You need to fulfil your customers’ expectations as far as possible without jeopardy to your business, reputation or future custom.  This might mean offering them alternative dates or even providing them with a full refund.  Once you have spoken to all your customers and understood their needs, you need to work out how best to match their expectations whilst ensuring you help your venue survive Covid 19. 

4. Minimise your outgoings

It is important that you understand your financial position.  How much cash you have on account, any debts or income still to accrue.  Write a list of all your expenses for the rest of this financial year.  Your fixed costs and your variable costs.  Are any costs negotiable?  What financial help is available to you?  Speak to your financial adviser or accountant.  What is your income vs expenses?  Will you break even?  Will you return a profit?  Will you make a loss?    

5. Maximise your income

Once you know your position look at the gaps.  What dates do you still have to fill this year and next?  What opportunities do you have?  Do you have accommodation available?  Do you have an in-house chef? Do you have a big garden or outdoor space?  How can you diversify your existing business to recoup any lost revenue and help your business survive Covid 19?

6. Talk to your colleagues

Speak to your fellow venue owners and suppliers.  Share insights, experience and skills.  Yes they maybe your competitors but they are not your enemy and this is a time to help and support each other.  Are any struggling to accommodate weddings or events?  Do you have an opportunity to recommend their venue to customers you are unable to accommodate?  By helping others you may help your venue survive Covid 19.

7. Stay engaged with your customers

Keep in regular communication.  Keep up your social media engagement.  Regularly update your website.  Show the world you are still in business, that you want to welcome guests again and that you are following the guidance.  Post relevant positive news, show your customers how hard you are working to re-open your venue.  Remind customers of happier times with images from past weddings or events.  We will be back!  

8. Keep the pressure on the government

Right now it feels like our industry is being ignored so we need to collectively voice our concerns and our needs and make them aware of the situation we are facing and the help we need to survive.  Write to your MP.  Write to the media.  Tell people.  Talking and sharing helps raise a collective consciousness.  We cannot survive alone so let’s work together and help your venue survive Covid 19.

Cheers guests toasting the bride and groom wedding speeches

2020 has been a terrible year for the whole wedding and events industry and it looks likely that the current situation will continue over the Winter.  But I am optimistic that we will return and Summer 2021 will be a bumper.  So just hang on in there.  Stay positive.  Work together.  Listen to and communicate with your customers.  Reassure them that you are there for them.  Support one another and we will ride out this storm and help your business survive Covid 19.

For more tips on how to make your venue Covid Secure have a look at my earlier blog post here.

Do you need support with your venue or events?

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