Are you thinking about turning your property into a wedding venue? We have worked with so many clients that were just where you are today. People that had a property they could imagine hosting weddings at have worked with us over the years to do it right.
Because yes, it’s way harder than you think.
Instead of pouring money into a pipe dream, our clients invested with us to help them every step of the way. From deciding what the best purchase is, to where to invest in upgrades, all the way to the end when we bring in the best team of vendors and help design their packages, there is nothing we don’t plan together.
In this blog are a ton of tips for turning your property into a wedding venue…for free!!! So, if you’re thinking of going down this path, you need to read this whole thing first.
Still looking for advice after the blog? Hit us up here to ask about our consultation packages!
Turning Your Property Into A Wedding Venue 101
Ever since the rustic farm trend swept the nation years ago, people started looking at their own homes as potential wedding venues. But starting a wedding venue on a farm, or turning your backyard into event space, is not something to do on a whim.
There used to be this huge problem of not knowing the first steps to take, or what mistakes to look out for, because who would know the answers to these questions?
Well, how about a wedding planner that frequents spaces like these and knows exactly what works, what doesn’t, and why?
Since that’s me, dozens of property owners across the country have reached out for consulting either before they bought or right after to find out what steps they should take to convert their property into a wedding venue.
While there are plenty of tips for success that will depend on your own personal situation, there are some basics that apply to every situation. What state you live in, the type of structure you have or want to build, and many more details, will influence the type of advice or consulting we would give you…
…So in this blog, we were sure to only include keys to success for anyone turning their property into a venue. Whether you’ve got a barn or a backyard, here are 10 free tips you can use!
1. Can I Turn My Home Into A Wedding Venue?
That’s the biggest question you need to answer either before you purchase a property, or immediately thereafter. Obviously, there are some of you reading this that already own the property, so if that’s the case, don’t worry…you still need to know this.
Just because you want to convert your property into a wedding venue, doesn’t mean you are allowed to. There are endless hoops to jump through, so if this part of the process is exhausting to you already, click here to look at pretty pictures of weddings you’ll never do.
Because if this is overwhelming, you can’t handle owning a wedding venue.
Great…now that we’ve weeded out the wanna-be’s, let’s talk about the rules behind owning a wedding venue.
The obvious thought is about your neighbors, right? How many of you are saying you don’t have neighbors for miles or that your neighbors won’t care?
Guess what? None of that matters. What does matter are the town ordinances including the one about noise and the other one about parking.
Spoiler alert: We’ll talk about parking later in the blog…
Speak with your town to find out what their rules are. What time does the music have to be turned down or turned off? Is there a decibel level you need to respect? Are tents and outside structures allowed and how do you file the correct permits?
You will likely spend a fair amount of money filing the paperwork, but it’s way less than what you would spend paying fines later on.
2. Is Owning A Wedding Venue Lucrative?
OK, now that you have gotten through the part of the blog about whether or not you can do this, let’s talk about the biggest reason you are here…
You want to know if you’ll make money on this.
Let me say this: If you are only interested in making a ton of money, regardless of whether you are in the event industry or not, this is not for you. Doing this for the money is the wrong reason. Period.
Now, will you make money off of this investment? It’s likely. Obviously the more you know the more you’re going to make, but yes, this is an investment you can make money on.
Just like any other investment though, it’s the whole investing part before making money part that throws people off. If you don’t own the property, you have to decide if you’d still want it should you find out once in it that you cannot turn it into a wedding venue.
If the answer is “no” and you’re solely looking for a property investment in order to flip it, then you need to consult with us over here.
If the answer is “yes” then you have no risk here so go buy it. And keep reading…
There are plenty of avenues to explore in terms of ways to make this investment lucrative. What you offer to your future clients in terms of services and more is a quick way to start seeing a return on your investment.
Before figuring out the numbers you’ll need to get in order to see a profit in the first two years, figure out what the investment cost is going to look like. Are you buying a new property? Are there things that need to be fixed first?
What will your finances look like after all of that? If you have potential investors, what will that mean for them and for you? How long can you stand not making a paycheck?
Don’t anticipate a boat load of tax deductions either; keep that cart way behind your horse. Know your numbers and then decide.
3. Wedding Venue Business Plan
Do you have a vision for this space yet? Once you have the green light from the city, it’s time to get crystal clear on that vision. Where will the ceremony take place? Is there an indoor option for the reception? What is the general flow that the guests will take as they move from the ceremony to the reception?
There is a lot to think about when it comes to designing your property as an event space.
First things first, will you be able to offer a space on-site for the bride and her bridesmaids to get ready? If yes, can you extend the same amenities to the groom and his groomsmen? Anytime a couple and their wedding party can get ready on site, they will do so almost 100% of the time.
Can couples host their ceremony on site, in addition to their cocktail hour and reception? What about an after-party? The longer you can keep the couple and their guests on site, the better your chances of booking them.
Next up is deciding the best vendor partners to work with on a consistent and regular basis. If you need a tent for wedding receptions, it could be in your best interest to work exclusively with a company that can provide everything you need. Another option would be to purchase all of the basics and partner with a vendor for upgrades.
Depending on your location, catering services could cover everything from staffing, to food and alcohol, plus service and breakdown. You could consider partnering with a few different caterers and allowing your couples to select, or go with one or even none! I’ll talk more about catering considerations later in the blog!
There are countless other vendors that could be part of your turning your property into a wedding venue dream, but exactly whom you need and whom you might just want, are very different things. Your business plan needs to factor in the costs you need to spend first, before figuring out how other costs from wants would make an impact.
4. How Much Does It Cost To Build A Barn Wedding Venue?
The chances that you have a property that can seamlessly turn into a wedding venue, are very low. You will likely have to build or construct something, or you could have some removal work to do.
Many of our inquiries ask “how do I turn my land into a wedding venue?” and the thing is, it all depends on just what you have on that land. Just because you have a standing structure, doesn’t mean it would make the perfect venue. Sometimes, buying land and building from the ground up will actually be cheaper.
Whether you are working with a clean slate or a space that already has a structure, it’s important to work with a professional who can tell you what needs to be done in order to make the area perfect. For instance, are there areas that should be flattened? Which trees need to be cleared in order to give you the most space?
There are plenty of questions to ask in order to figure out how much the cost would be to build a barn wedding venue. But, even with all the variables that affect the number, you can expect to spend around $400,000 to build from nothing.
The costs for turning your land into a wedding venue when you already have existing structures is going to wildly vary. Things like commercial kitchen space and restrooms are essentials you will need to budget for one way or another. You might include the kitchen cost in with the catering per person cost, and you might choose to provide restroom trailers for your couples at an additional cost. There are a lot of options here, but it all depends on what you have and what you want to do.
5. If You Build It, Call A Caterer First
Whether you are building from scratch or looking to modify the structure on the property, speak to at least two caterers first. It doesn’t matter if you are planning on having one or a handful of in-house caterers, or allowing couples to bring their own, what a caterer needs must be factored in.
For instance, while you are figuring out the general flow of any event, it’s essential to know what the caterer thinks. You might envision the cocktail hour in one space, but the caterer might have many good reasons why it should be elsewhere on the property.
You’ll also need to consider all kitchen and prep areas for events. Consult with a caterer who can tell you exactly what you need to create a complete kitchen for them. One of the last places you want to shop short on is anything associated with catering.
In terms of working with caterers for your packages, if you have one in-house caterer, there will only need to be one “package set” for couples. But, if you have a few caterers for your couples to choose from, it’s best to charge a site fee and keep it separate from the per person packages your caterers will offer.
Even if you are planning to allow couples to choose any outside caterer they want, it’s very important to consult with a caterer before making any big decisions about your kitchen and other details!
6. Pipes and Plumbing Options
While it might seem wonderful to be starting this journey with a structure already built, you could be in for a surprise when it comes to the plumbing issues.
Older homes and barns were not built as wedding venues, and thus, there are specific modifications that need to be made. At the top of that list are the restrooms.
Odds are, your property will not have the right amount of restrooms for a 125 person wedding. There are two options here that are on opposite sides of the budget spectrum.
You can look into what options you have in regard to adding restrooms. Determine where you would place them, how the plumbing would be changed, and what all of this would cost you. If this is a cost that you can recoup easily through booked business, I’d recommend going with this option.
If it’s simply not possible to add restrooms, your other option is to use rental bathroom trailers. You can either work exclusively with one company and have them set up on your property during wedding season, or you can allow couples to bring in the company of their choosing.
Obviously, if you are providing a restroom trailer, you can recoup those costs through your fees, but if you let couples bring in someone on their own, that’s money you will see no part of.
7. There’s Lighting and Lighting
I have frequently been called to potential wedding venues by clients to see what everything looks like before we decided to work together. Daytime tours are great, but I always want to see it at night as well…especially since it’s likely to be dark for at least half of the wedding.
From where guests enter, to where they either valet or park, to every place they will have to walk, what lighting is available? Believe me, a quaint home out in the country is a beautiful backdrop for an outdoor wedding, but someone might break their ankle if they trip over a rock once the sun goes down.
Work with an electrician to figure out where all of your lighting would need to go and how much it would cost. Along with outdoor spaces, if you have a barn for instance, you will need appropriate lighting inside the structure. You’ll want to make sure that the lighting options you select are complimentary to your property.
Once you have provided the lighting necessary to keep people from getting injured, it’s on to the cosmetic lighting every venue has. You can keep it completely basic and provide wall wash and uplighting options in your package, or you can have an in-house lighting designer.
If you have the option to upgrade your venue by including fancy lighting options in-house, this is something I would strongly recommend. An exclusive lighting designer will know the space and be able to keep their lighting materials there as well.
8. Parking Details
Often overlooked is the parking situation and how to make that work. Even if you assume you’ll only host smaller, intimate weddings, you’ll still need space for 25 guest cars at a minimum, plus staff parking.
Honestly, the best option here is to create a specific area for parking. This means you’ll be able to have a paved area with marked lines, and for the exact size you need.
The next decision that comes to mind is whether you will allow guests to self park or provide valet instead. If your parking area is a distance from where guests need to be for the ceremony, then put a valet station up absolutely. But, if the parking area is in a convenient spot you can choose to have guests self park with a valet option.
Having valet is also a great idea if your parking area is anything other than asphalt. Even if your couples tell their guests to wear appropriate shoes, understand that will never happen and heels will break off in grass.
One thing not to do in regard to parking is to tell couples to have their guests simply park at a hotel and take a shuttle over. Many hotels will not allow people to park their cars in their lot unless they are also staying at the hotel.
9. Tent Necessities
Even with a structure for a wedding reception, if you don’t have an indoor option for the entire wedding day, you’ll need to look at your tenting options. Can you tell couples they can bring their own tents? Sure, but it’s really not something you should do…more on that shortly.
The main tent for a backyard style wedding will need to be big enough to accommodate your maximum guest capacity. Sidewalls, standard lighting, and all flooring should also be included.
By having an exclusive tenting partner, you will already have the tents your couples will need, on-site. You’ll be able to enter into a contract where the tenting company will handle all set-up, breakdown, and maintenance during wedding season.
Another way to recoup these costs is to offer upgrades to your couples. For instance, if they want a clear-top tent, you can rent that style to them from your vendor at a marked up cost. Work with a tenting vendor that has a significant amount of ways to upgrade in order to offer your couples more than they’ll get elsewhere.
Most tenting companies will also be able to handle your lighting, flooring, and possibly even furniture needs. In your most basic wedding package, you should include the most basic tent necessities. This means that couples booking with you will have everything they need in terms of tenting, flooring, and lighting even with the lowest package.
Do your best to incorporate these costs directly into either your rental fee or package price. The less line-itemizing, the better the price will look to prospective couples.
Which brings us to…
10. Include As Much As Possible
The biggest problem couples have with selecting a non-traditional venue is knowing they will have to bring in everything. At first, it sounds alluring because couples (brides mostly) love the idea of creating a unique wedding look…
Then, reality catches up with them and pretty soon they want your preferred vendor list and are calling you for even more recommendations. The more you include in your packages, the less they will call you for help.
If couples have to bring in the most basic of rentals like tables and chairs, they are going to see their costs with your venue go up. Even if you have a low rental fee, when they start stacking up costs for rentals, food and beverage, restroom trailers, etc. they won’t be so comfortable with your venue cost anymore.
Everything a standard banquet hall includes, should be included in your wedding package price. Add-ons need to be upgrades and not basic necessities.
Having one exclusive caterer is a great way to have a firm package price that includes the venue and all food and beverage. Offer 3 basic packages that couples can choose from, and plenty of add-on options to enhance their menus.
Valet parking, standard lighting with upgrades available, ceremony chairs, restrooms or trailers, and many other things need to be included in the all-in price. When couples see how much is included, that sells a lot faster than when they see all of the prices broken apart.
Even if your wedding venue isn’t affordable, that’s the way you make it look like it is.
10 Rules When Turning Your Property Into A Wedding Venue
Those are the ten tips I give people who are looking to turn their property into a wedding venue. Of course, there’s a ton more to talk about like how to sell weddings when you’re brand new, and how to create an affordable wedding package…
…and everything depends on your specific situation. So, if you want to take the next step and work with us to consult on your property, contact us over here and let’s talk more!
You never know…this time next year you could have a booked solid wedding venue in the very property you live on!