Coco Wedding Venues’ Emma Hla discusses how COVID-19 could affect destination weddings and how UK venues can respond.
2019 was a pretty tough year for venues in the UK – political uncertainty hit an all-time high which created wedding planning hesitation among couples. It stopped brides and grooms forging ahead and making buying decisions and it also made couples a little more budget-aware, focusing in on what they really wanted to spend their money on.
The announcement of the general election in December extended all the unrest and sadly this super romantic festive month, which usually sees the highest number of engagements, all felt a little flat.
Now 2020 is upon us and, with a global pandemic in our midst, it’s all looking rather scary again for brides, grooms and the industry alike.
The media storm feels relentless and I think everyone is susceptible to the noise, hysteria and the COVID-19 scaries. While all the facts around the virus are still to be confirmed, it’s hard for couples currently planning their 2020/21 wedding to ignore the news. In fact, it’s downright upsetting, frightening and frustrating.
When something big like this happens we naturally pull in closer to home and for those couples with destination wedding dreams currently venue searching, or for those who have already booked their destination venue for spring/summer this year, a UK wedding alternative could now be an option.
While people may or may not be in fear of catching COVID-19, I believe couples are fearful of elements that are out of their control, such as travel restrictions, guests not being able to attend and supplier chains affecting their big day.
Is there any evidence?
Destination wedding venues are popular among our venue searchers with our collection stretching to France, Italy and Spain.
While the feedback from our destination venues indicates they are yet to be affected by a drop in enquiries, we ran analysis on visitors to Coco Wedding Venues for the month of February 2020, looking specifically at the percentage of visitors that were searching for an international wedding venue. We found that there had been a 31 per cent reduction in people searching for a wedding venue abroad compared with 2019 and 2018.
This could just be a natural dip in venue trends, but it could also give us a little insight into how couples are currently viewing destination venues.
How can UK venues respond?
If couples have no choice but to bring their wedding back to the UK then now is the time to be shouting about your late availability for this coming year. Ensure your website, third-party directory listings and social media have all been updated. While some couples may just postpone their celebrations, others will want to forge ahead with new plans including a new UK venue.
Woodland, garden and outdoor ceremonies are increasingly popular search terms on our Venue Finder and now more than ever it’s vital venues are showcasing all of the possible options available for outdoor weddings as an alternative to destination locations – from blessings and Humanist ceremonies, tipis and marquees to alfresco dining and dancing.
Make sure your website and brochure visuals show your outdoor options and use your copy to tell the story of what an outdoor wedding could be like at your venue. Look at licensing options; do you have somewhere suitable for outdoor weddings and do you carry a marriage licence for these areas? Due to the good ol’ British weather, make couples feel confident there is an equally beautiful Plan B to their outdoor Plan A should they need it.
Couples often choose a destination wedding venue for the guaranteed weather, but also for the three day wedding option and accommodation onsite. Can you offer this at your venue? Perhaps look at easy ways of creating a destination-style offering/package.
While there is an opportunity for UK venues to pick up some additional enquiries/sales this year, it’s also important they are also fully prepared for any possible affects the virus could have.
Consider additional protocols and staffing and ensure heath and safety procedures are up-to-date and that key suppliers such as caterers have their own practices in place.
At upcoming open days/showrounds have anti-bacterial hand gel available at certain points throughout the venue.
Lastly, be aware of how this might be affecting current enquiries here in the UK – some wedding insurance companies have paused new policies and insurance options until things become a little clearer. This could have an effect on couples making some big buying decisions such as booking a venue – whether abroad or here in the UK.
If this is the case, then you might want to think about how the wave of delayed bookings could affect your workflow. With new bookings possibly coming in later this year during high-season, many venues will be time-poor so put plans in place now to streamline your responses ensuring each new enquiry receives your full attention.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Emma Hla is founder and curator of Coco Wedding Venues, an award-winning website, showcasing 550+ wedding venues across the UK and abroad, with more added weekly. Split into eight categories (Bohemian Beats, Coastal Cool, City Chic, Classic Elegance, Rustic Romance, Modern Vintage, Luxe Edit and Delicious Destinations), it’s simple for visitors to quickly find the perfect location to suit their style. Emma personally selects each featured venue and provides styling inspiration on the Coco Wedding Venues blog. www.cocoweddingvenues.co.uk