In this article, Michelle Greene explores practical steps to help you prepare for hosting your Wedding Fairs and open days.
Before I worked at WeddingDates, I worked in Hospitality, and most recently in Sales at a Country House Hotel in Northern Ireland. Weddings were a key revenue earner, and Wedding Fairs and Open Days were just one tool in the kit bag.
Open days, fairs, showcases, whatever you prefer, wedding events are the backbone of your sales kit when promoting to couples. An event is a great way to welcome new couples to your venue, captivate your currently booked couples and to show off the venue fully dressed. It’s important that couples can visualise themselves on their wedding day.
Preparation and organisation is key to maximising opportunities for your event as ultimately, to secure wedding bookings for your venue is the main goal.
Begin with the end in mind…
The first question to ask yourself is what type of event are you hosting, and what will you call it? Naming the event correctly can help to set up the expectations for visiting couples in advance.
Generally, an Open Day is showing your wedding venue fully dressed, whereas a Fair or Showcase can also involve several local third party approved suppliers such as florists, photographers, stylists and more.
What is your why?
Why have you decided to host a wedding event?
Are you just following the pattern of previous years? – We’ve always done it.
Or, perhaps you’re following a directive from Senior Management? – Our competitors are doing it.
It’s a good idea to really think about what results you want to achieve for the event – beyond something vague like “more bookings”. You need to get specific, and define what success looks like for your event. For example:
- 5 wedding bookings for Q4 next year
- 30 signups to your venue newsletter
- 15 showround appointments
It’s important to set specific goals for the event in order to measure its success.
Here are some other ideas around goals you might consider:
- Fill specific calendar dates – push last minute bookings, or Autumn bookings.
- Increase revenue in off-peak months.
- Drive attention to your venue away from competitors.
- Show off a recent refurbishment, function space or outdoor area that you wish to promote.
- You are inundated with wedding appointment requests, get everyone there on the same day.
- Defining and displaying what you can and cannot offer at your venue.
- You’ve recently been licensed for ceremonies and want to let people know.
Your goal or goals will help you decide the theme of the event. And the theme will help you define your marketing strategy, and the look and feel of the event.
Choosing the theme of the day and subsequently, defining clear promotional messaging to potential couples is key to your event success.
When is the best time?
The peak engagement season of the Christmas holiday period means that many events happen in the early months of the year. However, if you’ve defined your goals, really, they can happen year round. In choosing a date or dates for your event, there are some important practicalities to consider.
For example, when I worked on property I did try to be clever about choosing the wedding event date & planned a wedding fair to coincide with the completion of a bedroom refurbishment at the hotel. Couples were interested enough to visit the hotel, stay overnight and attend the wedding event the following day. Definitely a win/win scenario.
- Does the date align with your goals? For example, are you trying to get Autumn wedding bookings for next year. Dress your event in autumnal décor and allow your couples to see the space as it would be at that time of year.
- Are your event spaces and break out spaces available on the day (and the day before) for set up?
- Do you have less bookings (and more time) in your wedding diary ahead of the date so you have time to prepare?
- What other events by competitors, or other conflicting local events in your area are happening at the same time?
- Will you offer a special overnight package for engaged couples to attend, and do you have bedroom availability?
- Does your team have availability – are there enough people to help with the set up and to meet and greet on the day itself?
- If you are having suppliers, are they available?
Weekend or a weekday date?
There are pros and cons to the day of the week you decide to have your event.
Here’s my thoughts on weekends vs weekdays. You might decide to do both.
The decision whether to have suppliers at your event will make more work for you but definitely has its advantages. They can add a different dimension to your offering, and they can be really instrumental in promoting the event to their networks.
Suppliers to consider include: Florists, Cake Specialists, Photographers, Wedding Cars, Musicians, Stylists, Bridalwear, etc. You could also include other entertainment options such as Photo Booths; Candy Carts, Performers, Roulette etc.
Of the utmost importance is that you choose trusted & recognised suppliers, who you’ve worked with before or that come highly recommended. It is important to understand their offering and ensure it aligns with your venue offering. Remember, if you are showcasing them, you are endorsing them.
If you decide to include suppliers, be very clear what is expected of them on your event day, and what you will provide from your side. It’s useful to have an estimate of people attending so your suppliers can prepare: e.g. cake samples & tasting sets. You might even consider having suppliers who cater for different wedding budgets.
Get commitment from the vendors well in advance, and send them pre-arrival/setup checklist. Allow time in the schedule for them to set up well in advance of opening your doors.
When I was on property I worked with a budget of somewhere between £500 – £2000 to host an event. Return on investment is what’s important and that will be linked to the goals you have set out to achieve. Remember to factor in any additional payroll expense if you need to bring in extra colleagues to help you deliver the day.
As an example, if you have 30 couples attending your event and you obtain 4 bookings on the day = 4 deposits paid = expense of hosting your event already covered.
Fail to prepare, Prepare to Fail
Reflecting on fairs that I’ve arranged in the past, the most successful ones were the ones where we locked in appointments on those days. Couples would be required to pre-book an appointment in advance. The advantage is that this allows you to manage your time more efficiently on the day and have an advanced gauge of interest.
Ten to Fifteen minutes per couple is sufficient and this helps to also manage the footfall for your event. It works even better if you have some people on your team who can solely handle these booked appointments.
It’s also a great idea to have Operations or Duty Management team on hand on event day, to show around your already booked wedding couples who arrive with Mum & Dad. They are really interested in the setup of your function room and are likely only interested in seeing the Venue or speaking to suppliers. Always be prepared to welcome these booked couples – they still want and need as much attention as your newly engaged couple, and if they are getting a consistently good experience, they will be great advocates for you and your venue.
I’ve covered many types of events when I was on property and I’d be happy to chat with you about your event or any challenges you are having with your wedding bookings. I’m here to help!.
Next time, I’ll cover how to promote & advertise your Wedding Fairs and Open Days and I will share some checklists – Keep your eyes peeled!