David B Townsend
Become an Event Destination- An Asset to your Community
Looking to cash in on the growing Wedding business in Northern California? There is a set of fundamentals to learn vastly different from general hospitality practices in order to create a special events venue. With growing competition, Event Management takes specific skills in marketing and logistics planning. If you're a restaurant, B & B or winery there is a potential niche market if you have open land, large banquet space or unique facilities which could be used for special events, in particular, weddings.
Beyond preliminary basics of researching and obtaining county permits and licensing one key to success is consulting with someone who knows the market nuances to develop marketing, planning, and best utilization of the event space. Working at times with a dozen 'team-players' in the event idiosyncrasies of logistics and time management, along with the benefits of restrictions and preferred vendors to create parameters for running a successful venue. Having great people skills is also a plus.
If you've gotten beyond your local hurdles in the permit process you will need to develop specific plans for a variety of scenarios to create a top-notch wedding/event venue. Consider the following as a sampling of areas to explore:
Marketing- connecting with local planners, non-profits, event/wedding websites. Providing prospective clients with planning guides, preferred vendors, and logistic support.
Operations- Pricing: deposits as guarantees. Daily Tasks: scheduling walk-throughs with clients, event set up procedure, maintenance, vendor calls, and staffing. Contracts: limitations on use of buildings, grounds.
Equipment/Amenities- purchasing some items for added rental (vintage decor, flowers from your garden) vs. amenities provided in price (i.e. table, chairs, heat lamps)
Vendors- every event requires the use of multitude outside vendors from caterers, to lighting, dinnerware rentals, etc. How to establish relationships with your particular needs, ie. delivery times, pick-up, and other restrictions which dictate operational impact.
Rules / Terms of Contract- what your suppliers can and cannot do, what your event restriction entails from local codes on music volume to following ABC regulations and other rules pertinent to your situation- (i.e. no glassware in certain areas, use of open flames) Rules, and restrictions are critical for keeping public safe and your property in good condition.
Although sometimes perceived as deterrents, restrictions are actually a means to create a working pallet for creative event planners. As to one of those 'hospitality practices' I referred to above, in event planning, the customer is not always right. In fact, they usually don't know what they want nor how to organize an event. They need parameters. If you leave everything up to them, they will do damage to your venue and your reputation.
To begin the long process of turning a space into a working event venue you need to start asking questions of local vendors, research your local codes, and then hire someone who knows the ropes. There is a growing market in special events, and if done right can benefit the entire community by bringing in new revenues for hotels, caterers, florists, planners, transportation services and more.
Consider a Wedding as an example for 100 guests. Using industry averages, (*1)
your venue equals only a 20% portion of the overall cost and the caterer is another 25%. With the dress, groom's attire and ring purchase most likely near the Bride's home at 12-15%, that leaves your local community businesses directly supplying day-of services with 40% of the revenue you anchor as the event venue. For a typical $15,000 wedding, that means you help bring in around $6,000 per wedding to other business in your community, NOT including hotel rooms.
If you explore the possibilities of converting your open space into an events venue you might want to start by exploring your local competition and check in with your local Business Association or Chamber of Commerce for feedback. Once you're sure you want to develop your site for events, talk to someone who has the experience to cross the many bridges you will encounter.
Not only can this provide your business with new growth potential, it really will add to other community businesses who provide on-site services such as catering, flowers, and hotels. So, in your dealing with the vast paperwork you will encounter to get permits and allies in the community. There is usually a very positive outcome for more than you alone in creating an Events Venue.
*1- source: TheKnot.com