Preparing for a Busy 2021 - Advice for Wedding Venues

Preparing for a Busy 2021

Thanks to Covid-19, 2021 is looking like the busiest year on record for most wedding venues.

The majority of couples have naturally opted for a new postponed date and with these transferred dates it means you are going to be stretched. Here are my top tips on how to get ahead of the game and prepped for this busy time.

 

Look at the diary

Get a really good understanding of what the diary is looking like.

What back-to-back weddings do you have? How many weddings do you have each month?

I would recommend purchasing and putting up in the office a large set of white boards which shows an overview of 2021 as a whole. This gives you a great visual snapshot of where you are. Just make sure you add new bookings/make amendments where necessary. This is a really quick way to check availability/set rotas when required.

It’s also great to see where the gaps are on the selling side.

Your organisational structure

Now is a good time to look long and hard at your organisational structure – your team may just consist of you or you may have a sales manager, marketing manager, wedding co-ordinators, event/admin assistants. You may have to consider assigning slightly different tasks to your team going forward, for example; someone could focus entirely on dealing with 2021 couples and their questions and making sure you have all the information early and stored securely.

You may have another employee focusing solely on new business (you can’t forget new business as lead times for weddings are generally between 8 months and 2 years). You need to safe guard your future business for the latter half of 2021/22 and beyond.

Make your team aware of any changes and at all times use good communication so everyone knows what their focus is. You’ll of course want a strong team of operational staff to run the back-to-back weddings – more on this later.

Outsourcing

Certainly if you are a small team or even a one woman/man band then I would really recommend that you hire in some help – you will not be able to do this alone.

If you thought it was tough enough before then it’s going to become doubly challenging, potentially causing you real burnout. You won’t be able to do the job you want to or serve your clients in the best manner. You’ll feel like you’re chasing your tail constantly.

The benefits of hired assistance is that you are not employing an individual so do not have to deal with holiday pay, PAYE, pensions etc. Instead the chosen supplier works for you on a freelance basis and you generally pay their invoice at the end of the month. It’s always a good idea to put together a sound working agreement to safe guard both parties and to know exactly where you/they stand.

Examples of hired help include:

  • Book keeping / accountants – so you’re not dealing with the dreaded tax return and running several weddings at the same time
  • Virtual Assistant or PA – someone that can take calls, send emails, respond to enquiries, does research, sets up tech, admin tasks
  • Social Media Manager – someone that can deal with all your content planning and posting
  • Gardeners and grounds – people to keep your outdoor space looking tip top
  • Wedding planner / co-ordinator – to take on show rounds, meetings with couples and running the day itself

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system

Something that’ll really help you both at enquiry level and operationally is investing in a system to keep you organised. Systems like Dubsado, Event Temple, Aisle Planner and Events 500 are all well respected but each have their own styles/processes in place. You can request a demonstration of all of these.

A brand new management platform called Hostology has recently launched and I’ve had the privilege of seeing how this works first hand. It has been designed by a collection of successful privately owned venues from across the UK and you can tell. Currently, they are offering a free trial.

For me the best feature has to be the fact it has a customer interface, meaning the couple can log in and have access to their function sheet, meetings, messages, table plan and accommodation details all in one place. This keeps everything together and you can set reminders to chase payments, meetings, information so you don’t forget anything when the time comes and you are running back-to-back weddings!

You can of course manage your bookings manually by using a spreadsheet. I would list all your 2021 weddings with headers such as names, date of wedding, numbers, ceremony, then payment fields, meetings booked in etc, so you know where you are.  This will need to be updated regularly though.

Book in meetings now

I would use the systems I’ve just spoken about to book in any outstanding meetings from the big final meeting to the day before drop off and of course the menu tasting if you provide catering in-house.

If you don’t provide this in-house, talk to your caterer to ensure this has been arranged just so you have the menu set and can work on dietary requirements and special requests. I would spend a day going through each individual wedding and booking in slots so you don’t have to think about it!

Also, ask for suppliers PL docs if you require them, table plans, current numbers and update anything and everything you can! You could even have the final meetings virtually right now if they were due to get married this year. A good opportunity to update details if anything has changed slightly, like a supplier now not being available.

Automation

The use of automation is going to be so useful when in the midst of a never ending wedding season next year!

Automation is a great way of dealing with those initial new enquires and booking in showrounds. One tool you can use for this would be Mailchimp which is an email marketing platform that links up to your website’s enquiry form. As soon as a couple submit the form they get a lovely (personalised) response from you within seconds with all the information they need initially.

You’ll need to make show rounds a big call to action in there and link to a calendar system such as Calendly. This will sync with your diary and voila the enquiry and show round has been dealt with without you having to do a thing.  It would then be up to you to follow up by phone/email if you haven’t heard from them. This method will free you up during the peak time and beyond.

Maintenance/repairs

Get on with any maintenance / repairs whilst you can now, don’t leave it until next year as you won’t have the time.

FAQs

Make sure you have an FAQ page set up on your website that’s up to date with everything from capacities, sample timings and payment schedules to deter couples from sending lengthy essay style questions. You can simply direct to this should they have a question.

If you are actually delivering a wedding then make sure you use your out of office and point them in the direction of the FAQs – same with a voicemail if required.

Advance rotas and teams

Organise your rotas for your “on the day” staff in advance. You will know in pretty much all cases when your weddings and events are taking place many months in advance. Setting your rotas like this is beneficial to you as the owner or manager so you know staff have been organised and also for your employees who can then plan their days off and down time. Make sure hours and shifts are fair and that breaks and days off are given properly in order for each staff member to fully recharge before returning to work.

If at all possible, have two separate teams or at the very least two separate function managers. One could do days – the morning prep, ceremony and drinks and then the two managers cross over for the wedding breakfast and then the night manager looks after the evening reception until the end. Or you could have one manager on one day and another manager on the next. Whatever works for your situation.

Ensure that you, without fail, have a weekly operations meeting to discuss the following weeks events and to just recap on the events taking place that weekend. Function sheets can be issued at this point too. Any earlier than this it’s all going to get too confusing, one wedding will blend into another!

Put together a ‘best practice for back-to-back weddings’ plan

You may well now have back-to-back weddings when perhaps you have never experienced this before. You need to come up with a operational plan on how you will manage this.

For example; in the morning the Day Manager arrives, briefs the staff who are on the early shift, spot checks the venue and deals with any cleaning issues.

Day porters/staff set out chairs for ceremony and the wedding coordinator puts out place cards and table decorations. Chairs should be stacked after the ceremony and reused in wedding breakfast room.

Then into the evening, the  night porter arrange furniture for the following day’s wedding, breakfast to be served prompt at 8am until 9.30am with guests to vacate by 10am giving enough time for everything to be set up and prepped for the next wedding!

A lot of these things can be implemented now to get you ahead of the game.

Wishing you all the best for a busy and well organised 2021! You’ve got this!

 

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