The Wedding Lifecycle – Part 1: WOW Your Couples During the proposal, initial enquiry and showround stages
The WeddingDates team and their WedPro toolkit are just back from the much-anticipated 2023 National Hotel Marketing Conference at Burton Upon Trent. We’ve been attending this event for 10 years now and a highlight this year was hosting a workshop on The Wedding Lifecycle. The CEO and Founder of WeddingDates Ciara Crossan, and Mark Godfrey, Managing Director at Deer Park in Devon, an award-winning, exclusive-use wedding venue, teamed up to bring an engaging and interactive session to conference attendees.
Sharing best-in-class examples and drawing on the expertise of the participants in the room, the collective ideas and energy has resulted in a checklist of excellence for venues at each stage of the couple’s journey.
Our team of wedding experts put together some best practices for what venues need to do to nurture enquiries along the essential touchpoints of the process and truly cater to modern couples’ needs.
Capturing Hearts: Engaging with Couples During the Proposal Stage
You don’t have to wait until a couple is starting their wedding venue search to start attracting them to your venue. Ideally, you want to be in their minds before they enter the wedding lifecycle right at the proposal stage. If you can help them create memories early on, it can have a significant impact on their decisions further down the line.
- Can you provide an attractive option for couples to capture their special engagement moment? Think picturesque backdrops for engagement photoshoots. Highlight your property’s unique features, such as a beautiful garden, a mountain or lake view, or a grand entryway, that will create unforgettable memories for the couple.
- Consider offering packages specifically designed for couples who are planning to propose. This can include romantic setups, private spaces, and other amenities to create a memorable moment.
- Plan open evenings or offer pre-engagement tours: give couples the opportunity to view the venue in all its glory, and have your set-ups firmly focused on creating the romantic dream.
- Promote your venue’s availability for proposals during popular engagement periods such as Valentine’s Day or Christmas/New Year’s on your website and social media platforms. By creating awareness of this offering, you can capture the attention of those in the early stages of wedding planning and potentially become their top choice for a venue.
- Highlight your venue’s unique wedding/engagement features on social media and other marketing channels, such as your website and your third-party listings. It helps to attract potential couples and starts building the relationship early on. You can reach couples who are not yet engaged but seeking inspiration. Position your venue as the perfect aspirational wedding location.
“The engagement is a special moment for any couple. By offering unique experiences and resources for those in the proposal stage, you can build a strong foundation for a lasting relationship with the couple,” says Alix Matania-Allerton, WeddingDates Sales Manager and former wedding planner.
Initial Contact: Mastering the Enquiry Stage
“We’re Engaged” – two words that are music to the ears of every wedding venue. Your couple have started to seek out their dream venue and they’ve come knocking on your door. This is your chance to impress and win them over. You have targets to meet and conversion rates to improve, but that is meaningless to them, you must win their trust and make it easy for them to choose your venue.
- Create an online quiz to help couples plan their dream wedding, this is a great way to showcase your venue’s personality, drive traffic to your website and engage with interested couples.
- Train your team to be knowledgeable and confident about weddings, this will help build trust with the couple from the get-go.
- Create an engaging introductory video showing your team, venue and wedding details. The video can be hosted on your website, sent to interested couples along with the brochure or shared on social media.
- Design a luxury wedding package that includes a helpful checklist or downloadable wedding planners that can be sent to interested couples.
- Showcase photos from real weddings and testimonials from other happy couples that got married at your venue. This will help them create a vision for their own wedding.
- Simplify and streamline the process from initial contact to booking a showround. WedPro allows venues to capture leads directly on their website with an embeddable tool. Couples can check availability for their specific wedding date, or book a showround at the click of a button. And, importantly, it sends an instant personalised first response with a digital wedding brochure.
- Make your initial response relevant: When sending your brochures make sure they are based on the year and season of interest including the wedding rates brochure (providing an initial guide to pricing structure), sample seasonal menus and details of special offers and packages.
- In the response email be sure to invite couples to book a showround and indicate your availability to answer any further questions.
- Enquiries received via direct email or telephone are invited to provide contact details for brochures to be sent. Ensure front-of-house staff have a process to direct enquiries correctly and promptly.
- Walk in your couple’s shoes and send the odd test enquiry to your team. When couples are doing wedding research does your venue make it easy to enquire with you, typically out of office hours? Ask yourself these questions: Are you able to send a prompt response? Is it personalised? Does it give them the information they need? How do you compare against your competitors?
When couples are enquiring with you they’re excited and it’s to your advantage to capitalise on this and respond quickly or they will move on to someone else who bought into that excitement with them which most likely will be one of your local competitors… says Carys Duckworth, our Sales Manager and wedding venue expert.
Some further touches that Deer Park’s team implements is an invitation to their ‘Planning Portal’ providing further information, e.g. Canape Menus. Deer Park also sends a copy of their “Weddings Broadsheet” (featuring imagery of the House and Grounds) and a personal invitation to book a showround appointment. It is received by the couple within 2 to 3 days of downloading the brochure and is infused with their signature Deer Park scent which will help trigger their olfactory memory when they do attend the viewing.
Creating Lasting Impressions: Mastering the Showround Stage
At WeddingDates, we strongly believe that the key to a successful showround is building a genuine connection with the couple. Rushing them through the process won’t cut it; they want to feel valued and heard. Therefore, it’s important to be prepared, attentive, and engaged in heartfelt conversations with them. Here are some ways your venue can improve the showround stage of the wedding journey.
Before the couple arrives at the venue:
- Obtain both partners’ names prior to the venue tour and provide them to reception staff and the senior team for a personalised welcome. Have a welcome sign with their names at the door.
- Take time to listen to the couple, learn their story and use personal touches during the showround and future communication.
- Prepare pre-showround content and relevant questions to ask the couple including price and estimate guest numbers.
- Send a showround appointment reminder to the couple 2 to 3 days in advance. Remind them of the location and the name of the Wedding Coordinator they will meet upon arrival.
- The Coordinator conducting the tour should be ready 15 minutes ahead of the tour start time to ensure a first impression of preparedness and should ideally be waiting for them at reception.
- Designate senior staff as “wedding specialists” who are knowledgeable about the venue and its offerings. This will be of benefit as you walk around with the couple, building their trust that their big day is in safe hands.
- Thoroughly check the property and grounds in advance to maximise the showround experience. Ensure the venue is well-presented and dressed to showcase the wedding offerings. Make sure the venue smells nice and the lights are turned on in advance.
WedPro Feature: With WedPro couples can book a showround directly on your website at the click of a button. With our Showround Calendar, you can effortlessly manage your appointments in the WedPro dashboard.
The Showround itself:
- Warmly greet the couple outside the front entrance to the venue. Have umbrellas at the ready in the event of poor weather.
- Where possible, follow a chronological route during the showround for how the wedding will unfold – this allows the couple to glean a feeling for the ‘flow’ of the day and envisage the relaxed running of their own event.
- Ensure the showround is bespoke to the couple in question; for example, a couple looking at hosting a more intimate event will use spaces in a different way to a large wedding.
- Create a sensory experience. At Deer Park, the couple is invited to walk through the Italian Gardens featuring an outdoor speaker system and Mediterranean Florals/ Lavender. They are taken to the Walled Garden where vegetables, fruits and herbs are harvested from the Kitchen garden for the wedding breakfast or drinks. Couples are invited to sample in-season produce such as peaches/apricots/tomatoes during the Summer season. The Deer Park team also go to the next level by including a speaker system playing the official Deer Park playlist, and aromatise scent boxes are activated.
- Play up your assets – is your food locally sourced and seasonal? Are you an eco-conscious property with green energy sources? Whatever it is – make sure you tell them.
- At the end of the showround tour, invite the couple for tea or coffee to gently discuss any questions. This provides another opportunity for personalisation – like their names on cookies or custom napkins.
- When they leave – what can you give them to take away? At Deer Park, the couple is presented with a copy of the Deer Park Wedding Book and a sample of Deer Park’s own Apple & Fennel Gin, featuring botanicals from their Walled Garden.
“As the wedding coordinator, you need to create an emotional connection with the couple during the visit. Present genuine warmth and interest which will help a couple buy into you,” says Carys.
After the showround
- During the venue tour request permission to contact the couple via WhatsApp in future communications.
- The Coordinator must follow up on the same day with an email thanking them for visiting and providing any additional information requested. Deer Park includes a link to a virtual tour they’ve created for the couple to view at their own leisure or with family.
- Indicate your availability to answer any further questions they might have, and be sure to respond in a timely manner when contacted.
- After the showround send a feedback request to the couple – this will help your team learn from each experience and continuously improve.
- Invite the couple to an open evening or wedding fair should you have one coming up at the venue.
- Over the following fortnight attempt to send a maximum of three follow-up emails to the couple. If no response is received, give them a call to ensure the emails haven’t landed in their junk folder.
- Keep the couple up to date if another couple is considering their dates of interest. It’s worth noting at Deer Park, no provisional holds are permitted to prevent confusion or disappointment.
Looking for more ways to WOW your couples during The Wedding Lifecycle? Take a look at part 2 of our series where we explore strategies to exceed expectations from the moment they sign the contract to their wedding day.
The 2023 National Hotel Marketing Conference is a must-attend event for anyone in the hotel industry and is at the top of WeddingDates’ list each year! We look forward to next year’s conference taking place on the 25th of April and the opportunities it will bring to continue improving the wedding industry.
During the conference, we partnered with ANON Drinks to provide guests with non-alcoholic beverages. ANON spirits combine natural botanicals and flavourings to create delicious non-alcoholic libations. This is ideal for wedding venues that are looking to improve their non-alcoholic offering for wedding drink receptions – use our discount code WEDPRO20 for 20% off their full range.