MIA chief executive Jane Longhurst looks at how boutique and lifestyle hotels can capitalise on changing trends in the wedding market.
While the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex had the eyes of the world on them for their royal wedding last month, it seems the timing of Princess Eugenie and Jack Brookbank’s nuptials in October are more on trend, according to our latest research.
When it comes to the time of year to get married, our vital intelligence tool – miaTouchstone – revealed more couples opted for autumn and winter weddings than summer celebrations last year. October proved to be the most popular month for couples to say ‘I do’ trumping the more traditional months of July and August. Interestingly July dropped from first to seventh place in the more recent figures.
The report, which allows venues to implement smarter pricing strategies based on factual data and make bolder decisions to increase profitability, revealed the traditional months of June, July and August as the top three months for wedding bookings in 2016, however in 2017 October was the top month with June and September taking the second and third spots.
Festive weddings have also become increasingly popular with December moving from tenth to sixth ahead of both July and May. These changes may well be as a result of couples looking, not only to keep costs lower by avoiding the traditional summer months, but also seeking something a bit different and moving away from the norm. It could also be down to marketing improvements and venues focusing on filling weddings all year round.
Venues who can cater for year-round weddings certainly benefit, especially if they can maximise their offering during these colder seasons. Thinking outside the more traditional wedding box can allow venues to create bespoke packages to attract couples who are looking for something a little away from the summer gardens as a backdrop for their big day.
For autumn and winter weddings venues need to consider elements such as providing an eye-catching setting indoors that will capture the day in the photographs, as the weather may well mean that the usual outside settings are not an option. It is also important to think of the guests at weddings in the colder months, a roaring open fire and possibly warm welcome drinks will help create a more memorable occasion for all those involved.
Though marriage is still popular, many couples are breaking away from tradition for many aspects of the big day. Firstly, Saturday is no longer a must for weddings. There has been a marked growth in Friday and Sunday weddings with many venues offering function rooms on other week days. Though these are often at a lower rate than Saturday weddings, they are still a great way of utilising rooms that may otherwise have been left empty. Midweek weddings are popular for the smaller weddings enabling more boutique style venues to capitalise on this area of the market by offering the intimate, more casual setting that some of the larger hotels find harder to provide.
Smaller, boutique venues benefit from being able to be more creative in what they can offer for their weddings. With less restrictions on catering when hosting smaller numbers couples will be able to put their own twists on their day. Hog roasts, afternoon teas or even à la carte can be a nice change from the traditional wedding breakfasts.
The number of weddings is also on the rise by 30 per cent in 2017 compared to 2016 figures. This is great news for all those involved in the wedding industry but especially venues. Every size of hotel and venue can benefit from this increase. The larger establishments with function rooms able to hold over 100 guests can host the more traditional weddings of wedding breakfast and dancing and, with the average cost of a wedding now being over £27k according to Hitched.co.uk, it appears that this format is increasingly popular.
Offering weddings, whether with a license to conduct ceremonies or for stand-alone receptions, can bring in more than just the revenue on the big day. Venues who offer special discounts for guests requiring accommodation can see higher occupancy levels, especially if it includes a two-night stay – before and after the wedding. Smaller, more boutique venues with less letting rooms than the big hotels, also benefit from being able to offer exclusive use, an option that is very popular for weddings. Hotels can also include the added incentive of a discount for a night’s stay for the couples’ first anniversary, this ensures their continued link with the hotel, but also can start a tradition that could see them return each year.
Whatever size your venue is, weddings can make up a great source of business and with their popularity growing, it is important to keep developing your offering to ensure you are providing couples with exactly what they are looking for all year round. Though not every wedding can take place in a castle, each bride should be able to feel like a princess whatever venue, day or month they choose.
Jane Longhurst is chief executive of the Meetings Industry Association (mia) – the largest association for the meetings industry for the UK and Ireland.