Small is Beautiful

Kelly Chandler runs us through wedding trends that favour the smaller venue.

Bride and groom posing in front of barnDon’t think you have the space to host weddings? Think again… The wedding market has changed, boy, how it has changed. The industry of my 2003 start-up wedding planning business bears no resemblance to its 2018 sister and I couldn’t be happier about that.

The wedding rule book has most definitely been booted out and has heralded such an exciting array of options and experiences for today’s millennial couples who are knocking down doors (and tents and outdoor spaces!) to get at them.

So this month’s feature focuses in on a few of the big and little things about weddings you may not know, or may have skipped over, that could bring more revenue into your places and spaces.

Small and beautiful

While you’ll read a lot about weddings having become large, complex and detail-oriented you may not know that there is in fact a second trend for small and beautiful celebrations.

A lot of couples are looking at doing things differently and what feels right for them. For many this is a smaller and more intimate wedding ceremony and celebration. 20 guests is not unusual, 40-50 guests very customary and there is very much a small but growing market for the cheeky elopement, usually somewhere gorgeous and luxurious or quirky and adventurous where a couple can just be themselves and celebrate their union a deux.

I’m hearing from more independent wedding planner colleagues, who used to report guest lists of 100+ as the norm, that they are being asked to plan weddings with 50-70 guests much more often. It is of course sometimes a question of budget restrictions but not always – it is not a new trend that couples decide to invite fewer guests to a destination wedding, spending the same amount but over multiple days or in funding and hosting different things than perhaps a traditional wedding day.

I’ve written before about the trend for multi-day and weekend weddings, and the trend for small and beautiful goes hand in hand with this. A growing number of millennial couples are seeking more quality time with their special guests over a longer time period and cutting down their guest list to accommodate this.

So if you have spaces that don’t tick the 80+ guest list, this doesn’t mean you can’t host weddings. You can play to your strengths and market options for those smaller celebrations – it’s most definitely not just the second timer, older or budget conscious couple thinking this way now. Be careful as you pitch and present that you don’t make assumptions on who your ‘smaller’ wedding customer will be. Create options that your 20 somethings can enjoy and aspire to as well.

Winter weddings

Weddings are absolutely year round and have been for a long time now. While our good old British weather does provide some challenges for truly outdoor ventures, a lot of venues have taken major measures to heat, weatherproof and otherwise make their spaces usable year round, and with great success. December is one of the most popular months and, while cost adjustments are usually needed for the likes of November and January to March, weddings do happen and should be considered.

You do however need to work harder at attracting winter business, so if you want to develop things think seriously about the following:
1. Ensure you produce winter related images. You may need to stage a winter photo shoot if winter weddings are new to you – summer images don’t cut it
2. Talk about winter specifically and reassure clearly and proactively in all of the text about the sorts of things people will worry about like heat, light, weather and what you have in place to overcome these things
3. Inspire couples with the benefits of a winter wedding – delightful food and drink, gorgeous warm lighting, and how they don’t need to rely on the weather to create their dream day

You need to work harder at selling this but it’s well worth doing, particularly if you need to balance out your bookings, your cash flow and make your space work harder across the year.

Other Trends

Here’s a list and some quick explanations on other wedding events that you may well be perfect for and can add on to your existing offers or create new ones for new spaces:

Pre and post wedding days

We’re talking rehearsal dinners (the night before the wedding), and post-wedding day brunches. Weddings today can be multi-day and multi-venue so be sure to look out for opportunities to host these activities and proactively promote them. You might for example be able to partner with a local venue that hosts larger numbers to be the ideal location for their couples’ pre-wedding rehearsal dinners (perhaps 20-30 guests) or relaxed outdoor festival brunch

Mini moons

Very much in favour by the couple of today. They will put the big honeymoon on hold to allow themselves more time to recover from the spending on the wedding day and instead of heading straight off on honeymoon will plan a mini-moon. This might be a two night UK stay somewhere lovely and cosy where they can have a get-away and time together. It doesn’t always have to be super-luxe – gone are the days of the bride dressing in her “going away” outfit and associated wedding formality. The 2019 couple is more likely to fancy a two night stay in a cosy shepherd’s hut where they can be at one with nature, relax, not worry about appearance and can reminisce over their brilliant wedding day. Can you create a specific mini-moon package with some extra treats and spoils at your location?

Proposal planning

Yes, this is very much a thing. Weddings are all about the personal and all about the detail, and this starts earlier than you might think. More effort than ever is put into getting the proposal just right to elicit that all important ‘yes’.
With our lives increasingly covered on social media it’s hardly a surprise that there is more pressure for that setting, backdrop and moment to be perfectly planned and considered (I certainly can’t say my own marriage proposal 20 years ago fitted this description).

There is even a growing trend for hiring in professional proposal planners (the likes of The Proposers to execute a truly “one in a million” experience. Whether it’s a money can’t buy backdrop, jaw-dropping décor, or a proposal that requires a thousand helpers to execute, this could well be a market to explore for your venue.

If you have special places and unique spaces, then you could consider opening up your doors and marketing for unique wedding proposals – often these are very short and rewarding events in every sense.



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 to prior experience in international conference and event planning, over 15 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 the trade body The Alliance of Wedding Planners, Kelly is a well-regarded innovator, mentor, trainer and industry spokesperson on and in the wedding business.


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