Every year we conduct the most trusted wedding industry survey of its kind (12K couples!) called The Knot Real Weddings Study. In so doing, we also learn a lot about wedding venue booking trends. For example, the average couple spends 2-3 weeks researching and touring venues (from start to finish) and on average books their venue 9 months out from their wedding.
And as wedding trends shift, so do couples’ priorities in a wedding venue. That’s why we’re making it our business to bring you the wedding venue trends and stats (pulled straight from our Real Weddings Study 2016). Here, the latest wedding insights -- plus tips for the taking!
1. It’s all about the backdrop and scenery.
We asked couples to tell us the top must-haves for their venue and at the top of the list was a “scenic backdrop/locale.” In fact, not only was that the number one must-have, the percentage of couples that named that as a top must-have has gone up 4 points since 2011 from 44% to 48%.
What To Do About It: Whether your venue is sells-itself scenic or not, knowing that this is a priority for today's couples should inform your marketing materials. Try using images of your venue that are a bit pulled back -- the more scenery the better. If it’s not exactly scenic inside your venue because you’re say, in the middle of a city, try mixing in photos of your couples taken on a neighboring street nearby and using those in your online portfolio, on your website and social channels. It’ll help future couples see your venue as a destination with a real sense of place.
How Hotel Baker in Illinois is doing it right:
Couples want scenic options for amazing photo ops. Hotel Baker makes a point to showcase their garden space throughout the photos on their storefront on The Knot so potential couples know it's available to them.
2. They’re willing to spend more than ever for custom.
Couples spent on average $1,300 more on their venue in 2016 than they did in 2015. Add to that, the number of couples that said “willingness to work with their budget” was less of a priority for them -- just 23% of couples cited that as a priority as opposed to 27% in 2011. Another stat to drive home the importance of highlighting your space's uniqueness? Having "flexibility and options in customizing the space (decor, floor arrangement, etc)" is up 2 percentage points since 2011.
What To Do About It: Instead of talking budget and money, talk about customization and the uniqueness of your space. Help them understand and visualize what it means to get married in your space, rather than talking numbers. Talk about lounge areas and other custom elements by giving them an idea as to where they might add in those areas to the space. And make sure that the first thing couples see isn't an empty room. The key is to make sure your landing page and storefront showcases images from real weddings with unique arrangements and options. Once you set the state, the budget conversation will be a lot easier and perhaps you’ll find couples are willing to budge a bit once they’ve had time to understand what it looks like to marry in your space.
How the Waldorf Astoria in Florida is doing it right:
These photos showcase two very different reception area setups in the Waldorf Astoria ballroom. Examples like this show prospective couples that the sky is the limit when it comes to customizing their space.
3. The bar matters (a lot).
The number of couples booking full-service premium open bars is up year over year. In fact, the number of couples with a bar at their wedding is up across the board. What’s not hot? Cash bars. Just 9% of couples cited a cash bar in 2016. That’s down from 10% the year before. (Cue the claps!) And signature cocktails have doubled since 2008. Couples want their bars to be totally stacked, and customized to a tee.
What To Do About It: Promote weddings at your venue that showcase cocktail hours and creative bar setups. And when you're talking to couples about catering options, tell them about past clients that have done really creative bar set-ups.
How Meadowood Napa Valley in California is doing it right:
Meadowood Napa Valley constantly features fun photos of cocktails served at their events on Instagram. Why? Because they know their bar services are a big appeal for potential couples stalking their account.
4. Also top of the venue must-have list? Use of indoor and outdoor spaces.
The percentage of couples looking for a venue that had both indoor and outdoor spaces has increased 4 points since 2011. And it’s no surprise that the outdoor spaces are topping priority lists for venues. Stylistically, semi-casual weddings are still growing in popularity and especially black-tie weddings are down. Add to that colors like blush, gold and champagne still reign (we know you’ve all seen it!), while the more formal, indoor colors like moody blues, purples and greens are not quite as big.
What To Do About It: Whether you have a big, expansive lawn that can host 300 guests or a tiny little patch of greenery or rooftop deck, put that outdoor space front and center on your website and in your portfolio on The Knot. And optimize around those keywords. Couples are no doubt searching for “outdoor venues in [your city]” so make sure your website and photos are all tagged and described that way so that Google knows to associate you with those keywords! No outdoor space? No problem. Make your ballroom take on the look and feel of a garden with hanging florals and branch centerpieces.
How the Plaza Hotel in New York is doing it right:
These images are from the Plaza Hotel's storefront on The Knot. They totally transformed their indoor reception and ceremony spaces into airy, garden environments with moody lighting, draped floral and bold greenery.
5. They need to be able to see it to believe it (photos).
The number one thing couples look for when browsing for their wedding venue online? They’re mostly looking for pictures of recent weddings held at the venue (not empty rooms or diagrams and definitely not a series of couples shots). We know this gets tricky because you’re beholden to the photographers who shoot in your space to provide you with images of your real weddings but the more beautiful, recent real wedding photos of your venue, the better!
What To Do About It: Whether you’re just starting out or you just have had a tough time getting images from recent weddings, it’s time to make this a priority. Create close relationships with the photographers who work in your space and find out how to make it as easy as possible for them to send you photos. You could even look for ways to incentivize them to send you great photos of your space or pay them to shoot a few extra venue shots for you on the day-of. If you feel like the most recent real weddings don’t do your space justice, consider teaming up with some of your favorite wedding pros to create a styled photo shoot of your space. Try doing a one glance test at your website and social media. You have one second to spot real weddings photos (or the option to view them). Would your site pass?
How Stonehouse Villa in Texas is doing it right:
The team at Stonehouse Villa takes the time to blog about every wedding that takes place at their venue. So not only are they constantly featuring real wedding photos, they're showing couples the time and care they put into every wedding, pre and post event.
Header Photo: Switzerfilms