A little bit of a change of pace at our end, more of an article for wedding professionals, “how to start a wedding venue?”
Starting a wedding venue has many challenges. However, it can also be awesome and massively rewarding. Unlike many businesses, the rewards aren’t limited to financial benefits. Seeing a newly married couple, walk hand in hand down the aisle you curated, is a truly magical experience.
After 15 years in the wedding industry, we understand those intrinsic rewards. They can become a hugely powerful motivator in your business. Moreover, we have worked with hundreds of wedding venues, and had the experience of discussing their project with many wedding venue owners. Kind of puts us in a position of expertise. We think so!
So what will be covered in this guide to starting your wedding venue? Well, to begin with, a checklist of jobs that you absolutely must complete on your way to wedding venue perfection. This will cover everything from finances to styling. Everything you need to create and market the dream wedding venue. Furthermore, we take a look at the pros and cons wrapping it all up into the complete guide on how to start your wedding venue.
Without further ado, let’s begin!
Checklist: How To Start A Wedding Venue
A checklist seems like a cracking place to start. A step by step guide to tasks that will help you start a wedding venue successfully. In addition, it may also help you decide whether starting a wedding venue is right for you. This is going to take hard work, a little bit of luck and a whole load of confetti. Ok, not sure that really works but you get my wedding drift.
Step 1: Ask Yourself The Tricky Questions
Long before you are planning your growth forecast, looking forward to tying the bows on your ceremony chairs, you need to get real! Yes, you heard that right! Get real! Ask yourself the real questions. Questions that might ultimately lead to you deciding starting a wedding venue isn’t for you. Don’t just get whisked along in a frenzy of excitement and anticipation, yes they are going to be a key driver in your business success, but you also need to ask yourself the tricky questions.
Below we have put together a list of questions that we think are important, at least to consider before you start your journey.
- Why do you want to do this? What are your goals?
- Are you in the right mental state to begin this stressful (more than likely) project?
- Are you in the right financial state to make this work?
- What is your experience in the wedding industry?
- Do you have enough time to dedicate yourself and your energy?
- Is the reward worth the risk? (Hint, it definitely is!)
- What do your family and close friends think of your plan?
Step 2: Market Research & Competitor Analysis
You’ve asked yourself the hard questions and ultimately you’ve decided that starting a wedding venue is the right choice for you. Great! Now the hard work starts! To begin with, let’s dive into market research and competitor analysis.
Identify your target market
Anyone that has ever started their own business, will know that the initial stage always consists of identifying your target market. Essentially, who are the couples that are going to use your wonderful wedding venue for their big day? What are their needs and requirements? What style of fixtures and fittings inspire them?
The chances are, if you’ve already started researching your target market, you have some idea of the type of wedding venue you are looking to start. If so, identifying the target market does become quite a little easier. Take this example… You are planning to start an outdoor barn wedding venue in Cheshire, UK. A simple search into google “outdoor barn wedding cheshire” will likely reveal a hundred articles showcasing outdoor barn weddings, couples that chose the venue, the style, their budgets etc.
Simply document what you find and you’ve put your first step on the ladder to starting your venue. Yes it can be a little more complicated and analytical than this but Google is always a good place to start.
What types of wedding venues are there?
While you may already have an idea into the type of wedding venue you are planning on launching, it’s vitally important to understand the industry, specifically all the different types of wedding venues out there.
You can be forgiven for thinking that churches and hotel venues are the only type of wedding venues. In reality there are dozens of different styles of venues available from fully outdoor countryside residencies to historical palaces. Below we have listed just a few.
- Converted Barns
- Rustic Former Working Barns
- Traditional Hotels and Venues
- Modern, Contemporary Spaces including museums and art galleries
- Converted Warehouses
- Outdoor Street Venues
In all seriousness, the scope of different types of venues is rather large. It’s very important you understand what types of couples prefer each venue while research can also lead to inspiration in creating your wedding venue.
Find a location
The old adage… location, location, location. Even in today’s ever connected world, location still features high on the importance scale for your wedding venue.If you are reading this article, it’s likely you already have a location in mind, however, perhaps you are considering somewhere entirely new.
You should consider a range of various aspects, obviously starting a contemporary space in Soho is going to have different implications than a homespun barn in New Hampshire. You will need to consider supply (amenities and logistics) and demand (is there a big enough customer base) in your chosen area.
Moreover, there are other aspects you need to determine including customer preferences, market opportunities, nearby hotspots etc. Generally speaking, understanding the area you are planning to launch your venue, will allow you to make major decisions further down the road.
How much do wedding venues charge?
How long is a piece of string? No seriously! Asking how much a wedding venue charges can produce such a varied answer, it’s important to get more specific.
In this case, it’s important to research similar venues in your area. Comparing and contrasting with your own venue opportunity will give you a ballpark on what to expect. You then need to dive deeper into the situation and assess whether you will provide catering, in house vendor services as well as what particular amenities and selling points you have to make you stand out.
Just a side note, the average couple spent on wedding venues in 2023 was just above $13,300 in the US. This is according to ValuePenguin’s wedding cost survey in 2023 .
How much do wedding venues make?
There is no point knowing how much wedding venues charge, if the bottom line isn’t positive! So how much profit is actually in running a wedding venue? Well we’ve actually deep dived into this before, so have done our due diligence when it comes to how much venues make.
Generally speaking, the amount of profit in owning a wedding venue is highly dependent on several key factors including location and offered services. If pushed for a figure, a conservative estimate would put the amount somewhere between 8-14% according to various reports including The Wedding Report.
Related Reading: Are Wedding Venues Profitable?
Knowing the industry size might seem a little “big picture” rather than focusing on your own personal situation, however should you come to request financing or investment, investors will want to know what they are getting into.
While it is of course important to understand the size of the industry you are jumping into, provided the industry is big enough, knowing the demand in your area is much more important than the overall contribution to society.
For those interested, according to Grand View Research, the wedding industry is valued globally at somewhere between $800m and $1.4 trillion . We have been quite loose on our estimation due to the current factors impacting the industry. Obviously with weddings being canceled across the world, the industry has shrunk in recent years, however is expected to recover and grow from 2023 onwards.
Following on from the above, growth forecast is an imperative aspect that needs to be considered if looking for financing, or of course, starting your own business from scratch. That being said, with the current uncertainty, it’s important to conduct your research at the specific time, any current estimates are likely to be highly volatile. Prior to Covid, the industry was expected to grow considerably as couples spend more and more on their wedding days.
Business Plans & Financing
Let’s get one thing straight, putting together a competent business plan before starting your wedding venue is absolutely imperative. You can’t just open your venue, put a sign up, and watch the couples roll in. No, running a wedding venue requires a lot of energy and effort put into all aspects of business, from marketing to sales and everything in between.
Determine your products or service
You might be thinking, “Why do I need to determine my services? I’m a wedding venue”, well in 2023, wedding venues are much more than just a location to host your big day. You may need to offer a variety of wedding related services to compete and stand out. Below is a selection of services that many venues offer.
- On the day wedding coordination
- Venue decor and design
- Music and entertainment
Analyzing your competitors will allow you to make an informed decision on services you may need to offer as part of your wedding venue packages.
Wedding Venue Start-Up Costs
Start up costs for any type of wedding venue can be expensive. You can expect to pay anywhere between $10,000 – $200,000 depending on the type of venue you are starting and the services you offer. Obviously if you are offering catering, the cost of a fully fitted industrial kitchen will be in the 10’s of thousands.
The start-up costs associated with your venue will be highly dependent on your current situation, you may need to renovate your property, spend money on the trimmings or even fees to lease the land.
You will need to complete a thorough cost analysis before starting your venue. While there are sure to be surprises along the way, having a better understanding of associated costs is fundamental to a successful start up of any business, particularly wedding venues.
Pick a Financing Plan
Depending on your financial situation, you will have to decide on a suitable finance structure for both starting and operating your wedding venue business. Depending on which structure you choose, the level of documents you produce will vary dramatically. As an example, if you are looking for financing from an investor or bank, it is likely that your business plan will have to be much more detailed than if you are planning on financing your own venue. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do your due diligence however.
Secure the venue, apply for permits & gain zoning permissions
So, you’ve got your venue all planned out, you’ve put together a comprehensive business plan and strategy and finally you’ve got the finances all in order… Now the real work begins!
If you don’t own the venue already, it’s kinda important that you get that sorted. Secure your venue via your chosen method, whether that’s rental or purchase. Once you’ve got that sorted, it’s time to get all the correct licenses and permits in order.
What zoning is required for a wedding venue?
The chances are that if you’ve put together a complete business strategy, you’ve already researched all the specific licenses and permits you will require when starting your venue.
The exact zoning, permits and licenses you will need, are highly dependent on what services your venue offers, as well the exact location of your wedding venue. To give an example, the chances are low that you will need a drinks license, if you don’t plan to serve alcohol on the premises.
It’s important to research the exact requirements for your venue and area, however, as a handy guide, we have put together a list of probable licenses you will require if starting a venue in New York. Of course your situation will likely vary, however a rough idea is a good starting point.
- Business Permit – A general operation permit for running a business in NYC.
- Building Permit – For any major building work or structural changes.
- Zoning Permit – Required to ensure you are able to start a wedding venue in the specific area.
- Food Service Permit – Likely required due to the serving of food and drinks.
- Liquor License – What’s a wedding without a few glasses of bubbly?
- Signage Permit – If advertising your venue via signage.
- Fire Safety Permit – May be required depending on capacity of venue.
- Music License – For when The Beatles tribute act starts playing.
Please ensure you check with the relevant party on the exact permits you will require for your wedding venue.
Put Together the Infrastructure – Repairs & Building Work
As we’ve mentioned above, you will need to apply for building work permits for any major undertaking on your wedding venue. Once you have received the permits required, it’s time to put the critical infrastructure into place in order to run your venue successfully.
Water & Utilities
If people are intending to visit your venue (hint, they will be), you will need to put the appropriate water and restroom services into place. This can be a major undertaking in a venue remote venue, however for city based venues, you should be able to just plumb straight in.
Remember to accommodate for the number of guests you can host and the services you offer as part of your wedding packages.
Catering Space & Appliances
As a wedding venue, the chances are high that you will need to provide a dining service for a large number of guests. At most venues, catering is added to any venue hire package and often forms the bulk of the expense for any couple. As a result, you will need to ensure that you budget and put into place the relevant appliances to make mass dining possible.
A commercial, industrial kitchen is usually at the forefront of the expenses you should expect. Furthermore, you will also need to accommodate cleaning and washing services for use after service.
Alongside a commercial standard kitchen, you will also require on-site fridges and freezers as well as generic grocery storage locations.
As with every decision you will find you make, every financial aspect is highly dependent on the style of venue you are offering. A DIY rustic barn is unlikely to require a commercial kitchen. However a city center based wedding venue is highly likely to need to serve food as part of the wedding venue package.
Story Amour Tip: One unique selling point that many couples like to see from their wedding venue is the use of locally sourced produce. If you can advertise how you partner with local suppliers to deliver their meal, this could go a long way to helping your chances of them choosing you as their wedding venue.
Venue size is actually one of the most important considerations you will need to make when starting your wedding venue. Being the only venue in town that can accommodate 200 guests can be a massive selling point, however having to cater to that many people can also have negative implications. Getting the capacity figured out early in the process can help open up a lot of opportunities for future investors and of course, your business.
While capacity is one consideration to make when looking into venue size, you will also need to consider other aspects such as lounging areas, dancefloors, hotel space etc. While the main banquet hall is a major aspect, other areas will need to be looked into before selling your service to a couple.
Parking & Other Logistics
Ensuring your guests happiness goes way beyond the perfect venue building. There are several other key logistical aspects you will need to consider. Take parking for example, hundreds of guests having to walk 3 miles to your venue… An instant mood killer. Most importantly, a sure fire way to put couples off before they even visit the venue.
Depending on the venue’s location, there are several alternatives you may be able to offer, whether that’s shuttle services or as simple as providing adequate directions and transport advice. Most city center wedding venues won’t offer nearby parking, however will provide detailed instruction on the best approach for guests and the bridal party to take.
Another crucial aspect to consider is disabled access. You need to make your venue accessible to all, especially as weddings often include a wide variety of wedding guests from young to old.
Finally, you will also need to work closely with other wedding vendors, listen to their accessibility needs (think giving back room access to wedding photographers so they can deliver amazing photos to their couple) and requirements to ensure their job runs smoothly. If they are successful, chances are the couple will be happy. A happy couple can lead to tremendous word of mouth marketing.
Finishing Touches – Business Name, Branding, Style, Marketing
So, you’ve got your plan, you’ve sorted your logistics, you are pretty much ready to go. Now it’s time to start building your brand. Think names, styles, marketing, all things that will help entice potential couples to visit your venue, and perhaps book for their big day.
Below we have put together key areas of branding, marketing and sales you will have to put together in order to achieve business success.
- Your Name – Getting your name right is key to future successes. Remember to choose a name that reflects the type of venue you are offering.
- Branding – Design and branding is an important aspect of your business to get right. The right branding can help tempt the right couples.
- Getting the word out there – Share with everyone. From press releases to local wedding communities.
- SEO – Getting to the top of Google for wedding venues in your area, is a great way to start generating interest in your business.
- Social Media – Over the last 10 years, social media has arguably become the most important marketing tool in the wedding venue marketing playbook.
- Bridal Shows & Expos – Hosting bridal shows and expos at your venue can be a great place to garner attention for prospective couples. You can also showcase your venue at other expos.
Launch Your Wedding Venue
It’s all come down to this very moment. It’s time to launch your wedding venue and start welcoming in hoards of couples ready to tie the knot! Maybe not that quick but you never know!
As a venue we would actually recommend two launch nights. A business launch night where you invite industry people, plus an open sample evening where both industry professionals and potential couples can come visit the venue and get a taste for what it will be like for their wedding day.
Furthermore, it’s time to start shouting from the rooftops. Be positive and let’s get your name out there!
Pros & Cons of Starting a Wedding Venue
While we understand that pros and cons don’t exactly tell you how to start a wedding venue, they can be a great guide to follow to understand some of the problems and positives when running your own venue.
Pros of Owning a Wedding Venue
- Money – If you can get the right balance and get the word out there, the income potential for wedding venues can be high. Couples spend tens of thousands on their wedding venue,
- Freedom – Freedom is perhaps the wrong word, however owning your own business allows a certain amount of flexibility with your time. Furthermore, weddings tend to be quite seasonal, meaning that you have long periods of time off.
- Happy Couples – Without doubt, the number one positive of owning a wedding venue is the happy look on couples faces as they tie the knot and get hitched. You get to be a part of that every wedding!
- Notoriety – It may seem a little silly, however owning a venue in your local area will gain your tiny little bit of fame. You will be known in your local area as the person that owns the beautiful venue.
- Personal Development – Starting a wedding venue will help develop your personal skills. While we dont want to throw around the term jack of all trades but a master of none… it just might be applicable to a wedding venue owner.
Cons of Owning a Wedding Venue
- Be prepared to stress – Owning any business will result in some levels of stress, but when it comes to weddings, things tend to just get amped up a little.
- Investment – Generally speaking, you will need to invest a substantial amount in start up costs, long before you start welcoming couples into your venue.
- Weddings are seasonal – This could have gone on either the pros or cons list. Yes, weddings are seasonal, this is great when you are relaxing on a beach in the Maldives during the off season, right up until you realize you haven’t booked enough weddings for the busy season.
- Fierce Competition – The wedding industry is highly competitive. Moreover, couples only get married once. This means you only have one opportunity to entice them in!
- Responsibilities – Starting a wedding venue means you will have a lot of responsibilities. Responsibility to make sure the couple has a wonderful day. Responsibility to ensure your staff have an income. The wedding venue ownership model means you will have a lot of people relying on you to get it right.
So there you have it, the Story Amour guide on how to start a wedding venue. The joys and mishaps you will face along the way. The hoops you will have to jump through to gain your permits. Finally, the money you will have to spend to get your wedding venue off the ground. However, the highs you can experience when owning a venue are hard to match. The sense of achievement seeing happy couple after happy couple come through you down, is a feeling like no other. Trust us! We’ve been part of the wedding industry for nearly 15 years. We know how it feels.
To summarize, start by putting in the research. Come up with a detailed plan of attack before putting the correct financing in place. Begin the market, brand and get the word out there before you start offering an unrivaled wedding venue service. Easy really…
Thank you to David Lindsley for showcasing his wedding photos at Beverly Barn as used throughout this article.