Wedding venue pricing – the low-down and the price rise!
Pricing and cost is on everyone’s lips these days in all areas of life and wedding venue pricing is no exception.
How do we best handle inevitable price rises with couples? How do we quote so far ahead and not run the risk of running at an eventual loss? How do we present our pricing without it overloading couples at the early stage of their planning?
This and more I’m tackling in this feature – thank you Tally and team for asking me to shine a light on this important subject.
Starting with eating the biggest frog, in my view, I’m here to set out my advice on the importance of transparent pricing in the wedding venue sales process as this is a subject that is much discussed, not just recently in line with inflation but for many years before.
What do I mean by pricing transparency then? Essentially, how easily available to potential clients/couples is venue hire pricing or package pricing for your wedding venue?
Is it available from your website easily for anyone to see, is it available via a download upon giving personal data such as an email address or is it only available “upon request” i.e. by making an enquiry and having a conversation, either online or by phone with a member of the venue team?
Here’s where I sit on the best approach for couples planning in 2022 and beyond. Make that pricing easily available in all the places – clear, transparent and easy to read and interpret.
Gone are the days when couples are prepared to pick up the phone and/or go through your full enquiry process before they get any kind of pricing or what’s included idea from you.
Quite honestly young millennials (and some of your clients will soon be Gen Z ) do so much research, decision making and shortlisting online before they raise their hands and let you know they are there.
Think about the world that we live in now and how with a few clicks you can find, purchase, order and have delivered almost anything you desire. Customer behaviour is very different to even two years ago, certainly different to five years ago. Whilst it used to be sound advice to entice couples in with more minimal information and then start a relationship build/sales conversation with them directly before handling pricing, that’s now a model that isn’t working so well for most wedding locations, except perhaps those whose business model is to be deliberately unobtainable and very high-end.
Young millennials are increasingly private about sharing their personal data (so email addresses to obtain a download) as well as being reluctant to like or comment on social media posts for fear of their likes and plans being viewed by friends/family or ads being pushed to them. And as many of you will certainly know they are more reticent to have conversations with you until they are empowered with some knowledge and information to know if you’re aligned with their thinking and their style.
Unless they already have a connection to your wedding venue, couples are lining you up against other venues and want to know if you are in their budget ballpark. If they can’t get to your offering(s) and associated pricing easily, they are very likely scrubbing you off the shortlist and onto the next. Particularly if they are doing their wedding research on a Sunday night and want to book in their showrounds then and there, which they might be able to do with your competitors.
A wedding is not a usual purchase so most people have no idea what items like venue hire cost so don’t make it harder for them by putting them through a lengthy customer funnel and making them wait until your team are in the office to reply to their enquiry (if they bother to send one) or until they get to speak to you. It’s much discussed how young millennials do not like the phone, so as much as you might like it, if we want to do business with our customers, we have to communicate how they want to. I hear it loud and clear that couples want to be empowered with clear information to help them make their shortlist and early stage decision making before they get in touch.
Now I also hear you… “but our pricing isn’t straightforward Kelly and is variable depending on what the customer wants.”
If your pricing has a lot of variable factors (this is usual for many venues) then my advice is… On your website, your shop window that most of your marketing points to, give at least a guide pricing – ‘from’ pricing or sample pricing. I’m not a fan of ‘from’ pricing that is based on a Monday in January – give some example pricing based on the top three types of wedding you typically attract if that’s a summer midweek for 80, winter intimate for 50 and summer Saturday for 120 for example. It is about doing the work for them, making it clear and transparent and educating what is often a highly inexperienced audience as to how this works.
Make it simpler and compelling for them to move to the next steps where you get your chance to shine via a viewing or showround.
A need to explain
Now I also hear you… “but Kelly our pricing may seem very high and we like to explain it after they have spoken to us or even seen the venue?”
Yes, I get you, you will put off some couples by not having a chance to showcase your venue before sharing pricing but if they really are not in your pricing range at all, then you are in my experience best to focus your often-limited time into enquiries that stand a chance of converting. I see too many venues using a scattergun approach, trying to appeal to everyone, run ragged dealing with a high volume of unsuitable enquiries and viewings instead of focusing on their niche sector of the market who really are spot-on.
Less is often more in my experience and smart venues are focusing their efforts just as much on their methods of converting enquiries as creating and generating new ones.
Inflation and price rises
Now it wouldn’t be a feature about pricing in 2022 if it didn’t cover the current inflation and price rise situation we face so I’m answering a few questions I’m asked regularly of late by my private clients in our consulting sessions.
Q: We are reluctant to fix our pricing for 2024 due to so much uncertainty in pricing. Are we missing out?
A: It’s very individual and it does depend on your client type. In general most venues have held off longer than usual this year before releasing forward pricing but most released this by April in many cases with quite a large price rise to attempt to cover future increases. Some venues still have not released pricing for 2024 but that is dependent on lots of factors, most notably if their client type tends to plan for a shorter time frame or not and also depending on how much that business can withstand covering any eventual lack of profit that would come from quoting and fixing too low. In general the smaller the business the more reluctant to fix the forward pricing.
I have encountered a number of clients, particularly those with couples looking at 2025 at this point, who have offered to hold dates without obligation and without contracts being signed but to revisit 18 months to two years out to agree exact pricing and give the opportunity to confirm or release.
Q: Can we adjust pricing as we go?
A: Essentially yes, as a business it is your decision to price your products and services as you see fit – it is only a more difficult area when a contract is signed and agreed. I find that some venues are reluctant to adjust pricing because they know what an increase it is on previous pricing and feel awkward about it. This I do understand but a point to note is that most couples are coming at their wedding planning from fresh so haven’t been looking at your pricing for 2018-2022 whereas you are aware of it. A confident approach and selling on value rather than price is key to wedding sales success in my opinion.
One extra tip: To simplify and avoid varied pricing being out in public my advice is to ensure your pricing is only updated on a single live website link rather than a PDF. This means that every time you update pricing, the live link updates it so that somebody looking at that pricing from an email for example will always have the most up to date pricing and there is not the risk of old pricing appearing.
Q. Can we adjust pricing once a contract is signed?
A. This is where understandably it gets more difficult. I will say at this point that discussing your specific T&Cs with your legal adviser is your best route, however what I am seeing in the industry is a range of approaches relevant to the quite unique situation we are in with extreme inflation and energy price rises in the frame.
I am seeing most venues fixing a venue hire fee for 2023/24 at this point but agreeing with couples via T&Cs that the food and beverage costs related to the wedding be flexible at this stage until approximately six months before the wedding where choices are made with an understanding that costs may go up. This isn’t that unusual and for some it’s always been that way, but sometimes just not implemented or with minimal past price rises.
This is of course different for those with package pricing, many of whom have had to fix and make a commitment.
In some cases if they want the clients to agree to use a single approved caterer/bar arrangement then they have set a parameter for that so saying that current prices may go up by up to 5%. Of course, right now as I write it’s looking like 10% is a more real inflationary rate so a venue fixing at only a 5% rise is probably already losing out but if the venue hire has been raised significantly separately perhaps there is some wiggle room here.
Ultimately I believe that full and frank conversations with clients on pricing increases is the best way to help them understand your situation and be accepting of your approach; as was the situation during the peak of pandemic postponements, it’s often about good and clear communication at each step, honesty, transparency and having those conversions with clarity as well as empathy.
About the Author
Kelly Chandler Wedding Consulting is a well-established diversification-into- weddings consultancy helping the teams behind unique venues to thrive in the modern wedding market. Kelly supports clients in a very bespoke way, consulting to help them create their best wedding offering, find their niche ideal wedding clients, sell more effectively, streamline systems and grow sustainably. www.kellychandlerconsulting.co.uk