Weddings are big business, with the average couple plunking down between $9,000 and $15,000 for the venue alone. If you open your own wedding venue, you can get a piece of that pie for yourself.
But running a wedding venue is hard work. You have to have a great location, market yourself to stand out from the competition, buy the right equipment, offer the right facilities and amenities, and work hard to make it all come together. Here’s what you need to know to cash in.
Research Local Laws
Your first step in starting a wedding venue should be to research the local zoning laws and building codes to make sure you’re in compliance with all relevant ordinances. This will be essential for getting financing and insurance, and it will protect your new business from the costs of lawsuits and fines.
Knowing the zoning laws and building codes that apply to your would-be venue is especially important if you’re planning on tapping into the market for rustic wedding venues. Some rustic venues violate local ordinances; often, barns and other rural properties are zoned for agricultural, not commercial, use. Even if zoning isn’t an issue, bringing your new venue up to code might be. A barn can easily require $250,000 worth of upgrades in order to bring it up to code, and that’s not even counting further improvements, like installing additional lighting or putting in a new dance floor. Some requirements might include a certain number of restrooms, running water and other utilities, a space for food preparation that meets local regulations, and more.
Know Your Startup Costs
Before you start shopping for venues or even looking for financing, know your startup costs. Take stock of your current financial situation. Do you want to buy or lease the location for your venue? Do you have enough money for your down payment? What improvements will you need to make to the property to get it ready for events? How much will you need to borrow, and how will you borrow it? Will you be able to qualify for a small business loan, or will you need to take out a personal loan, open a business line of credit, or get a small business credit card?
You can begin to assess your finances by making connections with wedding vendors in your area and asking them questions about startup costs for a new venue. They can also help answer other questions you might have, such as where the best location for a new wedding venue might be. Find out what your venue will need in terms of facilities and amenities, not just to comply with local laws, but also to make your guests happy. For example, an outdoor venue needs some kind of shelter for a foul weather plan. While you might start out with a large event tent, a more permanent structure should be in the works.
Find and Prepare a Venue
With an accurate estimate of your startup costs, it’s time to find a venue. Location is just as important in choosing a spot for your wedding venue as it is in any other real estate transaction. Research your local wedding market to see what customers want the most from location, whether that’s rustic barn weddings, sunset beach weddings, or church weddings.
The amount of prep your new venue will need is going to depend on the size, type, and location of your venue. If you’re buying a rural property, you may need to invest a significant amount into renovating existing structures, building new structures, installing parking, and more. But if you choose a downtown location, you’re going to need equipment and supplies to host weddings successfully. You’ll need to buy at least a few hundred folding chairs and tables, for example, as well as a stage, DJ equipment, a dance floor, equipment for serving food and drink, and so on.
Get the Word Out
Once you’ve chosen your venue, renovated it, and stocked it with equipment and supplies, it’s time to reel in the first customers. Create a user-friendly, attractive website, and write regular blog posts on your site to draw in traffic from search engines. You can hire web designers and bloggers to handle this aspect of marketing if you don’t know how to do it yourself.
Go online and search for other wedding venues in your area – analyze their services and facilities to learn how you can set yourself apart. Use Google to come up with the best search keywords to draw potential customers to your venue’s website. Definitely set up Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites for your new venue – start posting about your venue before you even host your first event, to start generating buzz early.
Opening a wedding venue can be a fulfilling way to earn a great living while helping your guests make lasting, cherished memories. With a little research and some judicious choices, you, too, can operate one of your area’s most successful and popular wedding locations.