Kelly Chandler explains how to win over couples by speaking their language
It’s commonly agreed that people do business with companies and people they like and key to liking them is often in feeling that their own desires and needs are understood. In the arena of weddings this is never truer. Couples want and deserve to feel special at every step of the way in what is such a unique and unparalleled life event. You need to speak their language and give couples what they need before they even know they need it. So, do you speak bride?
Remember your audience is inexperienced. Yes, they’re excited, but they’re also nervous and sometimes worried, emotional and overwhelmed. You therefore, as a venue and the biggest and most pivotal wedding supplier they will hire, need to fill them with confidence and guide them from the start.
Here are some tips on how you can speak a couples’ language and tap into what they are really thinking. You might think this comes later on in the co-ordination and detail and that you don’t need it in the initial sale but that would be wrong – today’s bride and groom expect to be able to see and experience big parts of their wedding day before it all actually takes shape. Remember today’s couples have been using Pinterest for ideas and inspiration gathering for years, they are very savvy and very regular readers of wedding blogs and are sponges for soaking up wedding ideas and creativity.
Tell the wedding story
While you would be right to encourage couples to make their own mark on personalising their wedding day, make sure that in a bid to mark yourselves as bespoke and flexible, you don’t forget to share your knowledge and experience. Tell them in a storytelling, logical manner how things can work on their wedding day.
The best websites and marketing materials I see tell the story in a clear and easy way showing typical wedding day options and possibilities both in text and in photos. Make sure you cover the entire story, not just the parts that directly impact you. While you may well only host receptions and parties in a tented structure in your grounds, before a couple will book with you they need to work out how their entire celebration will flow. This will mean working out details that as a minimum will involve bridal preparations, the wedding ceremony, overnight accommodation and, in most cases, pre-wedding day activities. Most weddings attract a very international guest list these days and often the direct bridal party are not local to the venue either so the logistics of a wedding day go beyond purely a meal and a party. Make sure you showcase what’s available by yourselves and also locally, whether it’s an awareness of your local church, the civil ceremony route or outdoor symbolic ceremonies. Detail local options for a late night after-party, group accommodation and next day brunch. Work hard to paint the entire picture to make it very easy for a couple to see that you speak their language!
Anticipate their needs
As an extension of that, make sure you pay attention to the little things which make all the difference in the wedding market and set you apart. Brides (and grooms to a certain extent) like detail, so while you may not want to cover all details on your website, make sure that in your brochures/PDFs or showround materials you give them a ‘little white book’ or equivalent showcasing some of the special touches you have installed and can make happen. This will put you a step above the rest and in weddings the small details really are the big ones.
Here are some of my add-ons I think you should either be including as standard or have available in your venue as extra paid for services:
- Microphone and PA system for speeches and ipod and dock for ceremony or dinner background music
- Availability of Wi-Fi and frames/chalkboards/plasmas for displaying wedding hashtags, names of couples or some personalisation
- Selection of garden games such as Jenga, score four, quoits etc.
- Basic uplighting package of key features (columns, pillars if inside or key shrubbery and trees, buildings if outside) for the evening
- Bridal party lunch options (with champagne) for the all-important getting ready part of the day
- Attractive easel and board for seating plan
- Options for hire of upgraded tabletop items such as linens, glassware, crockery and cutlery
- Options for hire of alternative furnishings such as dining chairs and bar units.
Don’t wait to be asked for these things; produce an e-brochure that you send out early in the enquiry or planning process so couples know you can help (or that your excellent tried and trusted suppliers can help) with these valued extras. Give them a shopping list with images; the detail really matters with weddings. A bride/groom and/or wedding planner really cares how the easel looks, so good quality products and good images are key.
Be part of the wedding community
Increasingly, couples really do their homework before they buy. I used to show couples a portfolio of my wedding work when I first met them to talk about my wedding planning services. These days they know more about me than I know about myself! Social media is huge in the world of weddings and young couples marrying now see your presence on social media as a very vital extension of your website and look into this heavily before they get in touch. Make sure that what you are putting out there is reflective of the efforts you put into your website, your printed marketing materials and more.
It’s not just about putting your content out there either, it’s how you interact with others in the wedding community. Modern couples want their venue to be highly regarded among wedding professionals whose style and opinion they rate (remember they may have selected their perfect cake designer or their stationer before your venue), so make sure that you interact both on and off line with wedding professionals in your area and that you’re supportive of their creations in your venue and elsewhere. Make sure you are a genuine part of the wedding community; this is incredibly important to many couples choosing their wedding location.
Watch your words
A final recommendation is more along the lines of words and expressions to avoid with the bridal market, and speaking the wrong language. This is especially relevant for those venues and locations that serve other markets in events.
Any mention of ‘sales’, ‘revenue’, commercial’ or similar words, whether in terms of job titles, functions or anything else, is a major no-no in the wedding world. While your couple might themselves work in a commercial world, nobody wants to think of their wedding in business terms or in terms of generating revenue even though that is the reality. Avoid these terms where possible.
Similarly, pay attention to things like ‘theatre style’, ‘breakout rooms’, ‘function suites’ and so on – all terms borrowed from the conference and corporate events market. They might be understood by events professionals but they often don’t mean a thing to a couple or have negative associations. Instead, focus on talking about ‘bride’s boudoirs’ or ‘dressing rooms’, ‘crèche areas’, ‘after-party chill out areas’ and ‘ceremony set-ups’.
Last but not least, show your friendliness and approachability at every opportunity – it goes a long way.
Refine and Shine
If you’re an established wedding venue looking to improve both the quality and quantity of your weddings, you may like Kelly’s signature three month ‘Refine and Shine’ consulting programme. Details can be found at www.kellychandlerconsulting.co.uk/consulting-services/refine-and-shine-service
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kelly Chandler is a long-term preferred service provider for exclusive venues such as Syon Park, Highclere Castle, Spencer House and Stoke Park Club. Kelly’s consulting services to wedding venues draw on prior experience in international conference and event planning, over 13 years of business management, and working directly with discerning couples planning their weddings in diverse locations and forging successful relationships with all components of the wedding industry. A former director of trade body, the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners, Kelly is a well-regarded innovator, mentor, trainer and industry spokesperson on and in the wedding business. www.kellychandlerconsulting.co.uk