The Future of Weddings | Marketing Advice for Wedding Venues

The Future of Weddings

Written by Emma Hla
Image by The Curries.
I write a wedding trend feature for couples every year, usually published around November time as a pre-Christmas, pre-engagement treat! In this report, we base our trends on what we see emerging in the market and what we personally feel is going to be big for the year ahead.

Whilst the feature is always just a little bit of fun meant to inspire, I do think it would be a prudent exercise to have a think about the future trends we might see post-coronavirus – not in a ‘we think millennial pink is going to be big’, but from a how will the new landscape affect you as a wedding venue?

I’ve popped some thoughts below (as I write Tuesday 11th May), but I’d love to hear from you if you have any insights too, so we can assist one another in navigating the future of weddings.

Immediate rush of new enquiries

When the news of Covid-19 first hit, we saw many of the large insurance companies pause all new policy requests. The venue is usually the first purchase of any wedding and it’s always the largest outgoing, so this would have had an immediate affect and knocked buying confidence.

As a dedicated wedding venue platform, I feel we have an unique position in really understanding the venue buying process and when we saw a -41% drop in our traffic over the first two weeks of the crisis (from Tuesday 17th March) we felt this was a very fair reflection of the buying mood amongst newly-engaged couples.

Fast forward 7 weeks and, although the likes of John Lewis Insurance are still firmly closed to new couples, we have seen enquiry levels and traffic rise again. Confidence is returning and thanks to the pivot to virtual viewings, some of our venues have even managed to secure bookings during this time.

Once couples are able to get out to view venues in person I would expect a rush on enquiries and showround requests as some searchers have been holding back from getting in touch – so start thinking about how you will manage these enquiries whilst maintaining a high-level of communication with your current booked and postponed couples.

Smaller weddings

Smaller weddings, or ‘micro’ weddings, have been growing in popularity. However, I think many more venues should now be actively looking at and working a package around catering for smaller weddings with a shorter planning lead-time.

Over the last few weeks the capacity search filter for ‘Simple (40-60 guests)’ has increased by +14% in comparison to the previous period and +46% on the previous year.

I’m very aware that as we exit the current situation and gatherings are restricted to a certain number, venues will need to weigh up the costs and profitability of hosting small weddings. I’m also certainly not suggesting venues need to be offering a Saturday during the summer season to a couple planning a wedding for 20, but I do think it’s worth looking at how your venue can cater to this possible new market?

Do you create an off-season weekend ‘micro wedding’ package? Or perhaps a luxurious mid-week romantic escape? Do you work with a group of trusted suppliers to provide everything a couple would need to ease their planning?

Our ‘Party (60 – 150)’ capacity search has also seen an increase indicating a desire for normal gatherings, but both our ‘Grand (150 – 300)’ and ‘Epic (300+)’ capacity searches have dropped significantly in comparison to the previous period and year, perhaps showing an understanding for the possible restrictions that may be in place for some time and of course indicating a consideration to budget and costs.

Bespoke, personal and luxury

Getting married on a smaller scale does not always necessarily mean a smaller budget – indeed couples may want to create a more luxurious, bespoke and personal experience for their closest friends and family – a true celebration of their love and life.

Think about what you can add to your current offerings to really make couples feel their wedding is truly bespoke and personal to them. This might mean a certain level of flexibility, extra nights or a fully bespoke and curated menu.

Mid-week weddings

Weekday weddings are significantly cheaper and this may sway future couples to consider this as a viable option when choosing their wedding date.

Venue availability is also much more likely when choosing a weekday wedding and with many 2020 postponements filling the 2021 calendar some couples may be open to a Tuesday or a Thursday rather than wait another year. Another consideration for couples might be availability of their most-coveted wedding suppliers, with diaries becoming booked for 2021 they might be flexible if it means working with that florist of having that photographer.

The pressure on registrars is also having quite the affect on wedding day timings for postponements, so by opting for a weekday wedding it might mean the registrars will be much more likely to have available and workable ceremony time slots.

Shorter engagements

Engagements are still happening during lockdown and couples who got engaged over Christmas will still be planning their weddings, so what will their big day plans look like now? As restrictions lifted across China and Italy, we saw some couples marrying immediately and I think we can expect a similar trend here.

For some, it’s being married that’s most important. So, instead of waiting until 2021 or beyond to have their big day they may instead choose to have an intimate wedding now with their closest friends and family with a larger celebration at a later date.

For this lockdown period (Sunday 22nd March 2020 to date) the search for ‘Town Hall’ on our Venue Finder has increased by 24,000% vs. the same period last year! Could this indicate the desire for an immediate ceremony post lockdown? Of course, this will only be able to happen with the local councils and registrars being available for weddings post-corona and it seems that currently each local district has it’s own timeline and restrictions in place.

Other increases can be seen across our Bar-Restaurant venue style category at +21%, indicating a more-relaxed, cost-friendly post-ceremony celebration.

Longer engagements

The financial implications of the lockdown and Covid-19 has touched everyone and this may have an impact on the immediate funds available to couples planning their wedding. A longer engagement will mean that they can save some extra money to have the wedding they want.

This will mean couples getting engaged now will naturally be looking at 2022 and possibly 2023 wedding dates. With 2021 now looking full due to postponements, couples deciding on a longer engagement may still feel the need to secure a date and a venue now, leaving the rest of their planning to a later point to allow them to save.

A longer engagement may also be considered where couples are concerned about the impact on their guests – whether this is a gathering restriction, ongoing social distancing, issues around travel or older/vulnerable friends and relatives not being able to attend.

A return to tradition

Church weddings have been on the decline for a few years, couples now preferring either a civil ceremony or a celebrant-led ceremony.

However, over the month of April searches for ‘Church Onsite’ increased by 21% vs. last year. Our ‘Country House’ filter also saw an uplift by +34% and our ‘Garden’ wedding search saw a whopping +9,000% increase, so could the traditional quintessentially English wedding be the order of the day?

With reports around the transmission of the virus being relatively low in open spaces, this may be influencing couples to look at outside options for their big day.

Sustainable weddings

Big weddings will still happen, because boy will we all need a blow-out party on the other side of this! But I firmly believe there will also be a shift and a re-focus to what’s really important – sustainable and considered celebrations.

As predicted for the retail sector where consumers will be looking for quality over quantity coming out of lockdown, I think couples will follow a similar path with their weddings. Everywhere you look and every feature you now read about weddings, there’s at least one reference to sustainability in the wedding industry (for good reason) and I can only see this increasing.

Couples are now more environmentally aware, and suppliers in the wedding industry are also increasingly conscious and sustainably pro-active. Over the past few years there have been some real and significant positive changes, with suppliers working behind the scenes to review practices, policies, solutions and products moving forwards. From carbon calculations and offsetting to foam free florals, local and organic produce to ethical fabrics and production process.

We’ve also seen a selection of venues leading the way with their eco-message – look to Elmore Court, Mount Pleasant, GreenAcres and Casterley Barn. What does your venue currently do to be more environmentally aware and how are you communicating that message to your couples?

Embracing tech

Whether it’s virtual showrounds, 3D tours, getting to grips with Zoom or considerations for celebrations post-lockdown, we can’t deny technology is going to have a huge impact on your business going forward.

Start to think about what you’re currently missing from your sales collateral – should you invest in a 3D virtual tour of your venue? An interactive brochure? A beautiful styled brand film showcasing your venue? Perhaps in-house services so couples can stream their wedding to loved ones?

Also look at how you’re currently working online, is there an opportunity to streamline your working practices once you are back in the office? This could be qualifying couples via a Zoom chat before booking a showround (you can read more on the virtual showround best practice here), looking into a CRM to manage your leads correctly or investing in an events management software such as Hostology to nurture your couples through the planning process.

Life celebrations

It might be time to think beyond weddings and perhaps look at how you can cater for life celebrations – christenings and naming ceremonies, engagement parties, milestone birthdays and more. Once we are through this, people will want to come together to celebrate life and all the things we may have taken for granted prior to this. Parties and gatherings will be big news, so how can you perhaps advertise this to your previous couples and local community?

Smaller life celebrations are a great way of filling the diary or pushing dates that may not have historically been popular amongst wedding couples. If you have late availability dates for this coming autumn/winter still, then do think about being open to the types of celebrations you can host.

Your brand reputation

Venues tend to get a tough time, pandemic or no pandemic, and this has been clear to see with the recent coverage on the BBC. We choose not to get involved with press like this, or to share their views. Instead we do what we do best – we focus on supporting our venues and helping the couples using our platform right now.

However, the way venues are communicating and reacting during this time will be noticed by potential future couples. So use any marketing channels to communicate clearly, honestly and with transparency. We mention this in our feature all about being visible during the coronavirus crisis.

Go back to your brand roots and make sure your venue is leading from the front, this will matter more now than ever. Couple’s won’t just want a pretty barn or a beautiful ballroom, they will want to resonate with you as a team and your ethos as a venue.

Credits

Venue Sibton Park at Wilderness Reserve

Photography The Curries

Wedding Planner Katrina Otter Weddings

Florist Moss & Stone Floral Design

Furniture Wedhead

Production Dreamwave Events

Stretch Tents Tentickle

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