As a twenty-something, the changing of the seasons is made more poignant not by the freezing temperatures of Chicago, but by the changing content of my social media feeds. Late fall and early winter are marked by engagement announcements galore. Spring ushers in formal wedding invitations. And my bank account whimpers a bit when I actually attend the happy days in summer and early fall.
In a digital age, it is easy to know who is getting hitched without needing to ask your local gossip girl—after all, 62% of couples announce their engagement on social media within 24 hours, with an additional 26% announcing within the first week (as reported by The Knot’s Social Media Survey 2016). Wedding planning, from the proposal to the honeymoon, has gone digital.
Cute story. But why should this matter to hotels?
Because the wedding industry is a powerhouse.
In the U.S., weddings are a $72 billion industry according to AdWeek. More importantly for hoteliers, couples allocate most of their big day budget on the venue, with an average spend of $16,107 as reported by The Knot’s 2016 Real Weddings Study. Plus, the hype for weddings in this digital age has only bolstered the industry. It should come as no surprise that, according to a study conducted by the website, 81% of Pinterest users admit to searching for wedding ideas before even getting engaged.
Because hotels are becoming increasingly accessible venues.
Gone are the days where couples hosted their ceremony in a church followed by a big reception with the standard dinner and dancing. Today, non-religious institutions are growing in popularity for ceremonies, with only 26% of couples choosing a religious establishment as noted by the previously cited The Knot study.
In addition, smaller venues have a stake in the game now. Couples are focusing on the quality of the guest experience over the quantity of guests with the average number of wedding guests dropping in the past seven years (a point highlighted by The Knot). Even if you can not host the wedding in your smaller event space, you can host related wedding events like bridal showers, next-day brunches, or the rehearsal dinner at an average cost of $1,378.
Because wedding season is approaching fast.
As explored by The Knot’s 2016 Real Weddings Study, 40% of couples are now planning their wedding for the fall, with September and October ranking as the most popular months for nuptials. Given that December is the most popular month to get engaged, and most engagements average 15 months (according to the same study), couples are starting to search for their 2018 wedding venue like, now, if not yesterday.
Those are some pretty substantial numbers. So what can we do?
Have a dedicated weddings page on your website.
Or at least have a weddings section on your events page. If booking more weddings is a focus for your hotel, invest in a page dedicated solely to wedding information. But if booking more weddings is a secondary sales goal, make sure to still have a section on your events or meetings page dedicated to wedding-specific information. Make this page or space easy to find and effortless to navigate. More on what information to include later.
Make sure your page is mobile-friendly.
Couples can now plan their weddings from anywhere and everywhere with smartphones. In fact, 90% of couples report using their smartphones to plan their weddings according to The Knot. And 51% mentioned using mobile time to research vendors. Your whole site has to be mobile-friendly, or you do not stand a chance at even being a venue option for that couple’s wedding.
Provide all the details you can.
Start with answering the questions couples are asking.
This may seem daunting, but you do not have to contract a market research company to figure out what people want to know. Shoot an email to your events manager or sales manager or team member that handles wedding inquiries and ask them what questions they get most often.
Answer these questions directly on your page without using ‘fluff’ such as unsolicited advice or abundant strings of adjectives. If you are a relatively new property with few weddings thus far, keep reading for some essential points you will want to include as requested by real-life married people.
Include pricing and packages information.
When I was researching for this blog post, I decided to reach out to my recently married/engaged friends and BMIers. Whether engaged or married, they have all been through the (often long) process of finding a wedding venue. When I asked them what they wanted to see on a page, every single one of them responded with pricing.
While it is understandable that you can not give an exact price without knowing the details of the wedding, giving a general range of what the average wedding at your hotel costs can entice couples to look further at your space or submit an RFP. As one of my coworkers put it, “Weddings are expensive, and comparing venue and food costs is a reality to most people.
It would save everyone time if the packages and pricing were available on the wedding landing pages.” If your venue is way out of budget for a couple, do not waste their time or your time.
Including pricing information directly on your website also helps prevent the spread of pricing misinformation. Many couples start their venue hunt on the OTAs of the wedding industry such as The Knot or Wedding Wire. These sites, much like OTAs, list multiple venues that users can filter and leave reviews on.
Sometimes these sites provide price estimates, but these price estimates could be outdated or inaccurate. Having updated pricing information on your independent website corrects any inaccuracies by weddings OTAs.
Get nerd-level with specs.
Weddings Page Worksheet
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A wedding venue has a lot of things that get put in it. So, it is natural for couples to want to know that all the stuff they want to bring (including people) will fit in your venue. Capacities are a given, but here are a few more specifications you should include:
- What your space can serve as: Ceremony space? Reception space? Cocktail hour space?
- Capacity information: Smallest number of people you can accommodate, largest number of people you can accommodate, and the average wedding capacity for your venue.
- Layout options: How can your space be set up? Include photos and floor plans (with measurements!) when possible.
- Additional rooms: Is there a bridal suite? If so, does it cost extra? If the couple were to have a photobooth, is there a side room they can put it in? Include information on any extra rooms that are included or options for including additional rooms.
- Catering restrictions: What caterers can the couple use? If there is a specific list, include that list (and include it in HTML format, not PDF).
- Other restrictions: Do you have decor restrictions? Are you a strict no-confetti venue? What about entertainment? Include any restrictions you have enforced in the past, just in case.
Photos, photos, photos.
Photos are one of the most important elements on your weddings page. Without photos, it is almost impossible for couples to imagine what their wedding will look like in your space. To ensure your photos are helping your page instead of harming it, follow a few basic principles.
Keep your photos as updated as possible.
One of the recently engaged BMIers told me a story that emphasizes the importance of updated photos: “I was looking at one specific hotel wedding venue online, but did not end up scheduling a visit because I hated the carpet. I then saw an acquaintance got married there and the carpet was upgraded to a much more modern look. I probably would have scheduled a tour if the venue had updated their images online.”
Have a variety of photos.
Couples should be able to view photos of the space both empty and in assorted set-ups/layouts. A recently married BMIer elaborated on this, saying “There are ten millions different kinds of lay-outs, chairs, chair covers, up-lighting, etc. but a lot of venues really lacked variety in their photography. I wanted to see more than ten photos of what a reception could look like at any given venue.”
Avoid stock images if possible.
This is difficult if you are a newer hotel or have yet to host many weddings, but change out stock photos for real photos as soon as possible. Make sure to ask the couple and their wedding photographer if you could use their photos on your page and if given permission, make sure to credit appropriately. Here are some good guidelines to avoid copyright infringement.
Make it easy to contact you.
Clearly state your preferred method to be contacted. This can usually be achieved with a call to action button such as ‘Request More Information’ that takes couples to an RFP form or ‘Contact Us’ that opens an email to the right person. Whatever your preferred method, make it as simple as clicking a button.
If you do prefer RFPs, check that your RFP is mobile friendly and tested often (so you are sure it is going to the right person). After a couple has submitted an RFP, a thank you page confirming the submission should generate. This thank you page should also indicate how soon the guest should expect to be contacted back.
Take your page to the next level.
Your weddings page should be as cool as the weddings you get to help host. If you have met the best practices above but want to add some extra flair, you can try incorporating these ideas or work with your events manager to brainstorm additional ideas.
Incorporate new technology.
From GoPros attached to handles of whiskey to custom Snapchat geofilters to drone videography, today’s couples are mixing more technology than ever into their big day. (The Knot found 22% of couples incorporated some type of technology into the actual day, but with how fast technology is advancing, this number will only rise.) Our suggestion: integrate 360 video of your venue. 360 video gives guests the feeling of walking through your venue without leaving the comfort of their couch. It can turn out pretty cool, and we even got geeky and wrote a step-by-step guide on how to implement it.
Promote your page on social media.
It is a well-known fact that the internet eats up wedding content. As of writing this post, a search for #wedding on Instagram alone produces 93 million+ posts. And according to AdWeek, 82% of couples create a custom wedding hashtag. Since the internet loves wedding stuff, sharing similar content across channels is actually encouraged. Ultimately, this all means there is more opportunity to promote your weddings page! A few tips from one of our social-media BMIers regarding wedding content:
- Share a link to your page only when appropriate.
- For example, if re-posting a photo of the happy couple or offering congrats on their special day, a sales pitched attached to the post will make the rest of the content seem insincere. It is ok not to include a link back to your page on every post, the post is still helping build your reputation.
- Use photos.
- Get in the habit of having someone from your staff take your own photos (with the permission of the couple).
- An easy content idea is to take pictures of the event set-up before guests arrive. This prevents that feeling of “stalking” the actual wedding. Time-lapse videos of the set-up are an even cooler way to showcase the transformation of your space!
- As a backup, you can always reach out to the event photographer. Make sure to ask for permission to use their photos and always include a photo/video credit.
- Pick appropriate photos.
- A good rule of thumb is to avoid photos of people other than the happy couple; try not to use photos with kids in them especially. Instead, create content that showcases your space and services such as catering capabilities, floral images, etc.
- When in doubt, reach out.
- Always ask a couple if they are comfortable being posted about on social media. If you are hesitant about copyright or privacy infringement, make sure to contact the affected parties. Doubtful about creating social media content in general? Get in touch and let’s talk social media.
Manage recent wedding-specific reviews.
Hoteliers are no stranger to the fact that reviews matter. While it is not as likely to see wedding-related reviews of your hotel on traditional OTAs (TripAdvisor or Expedia), the OTAs of wedding plan such at The Knot or Wedding Wire allow guests to post reviews of venues much like traditional OTAs. Just as managing the regular reviews on traditional OTAs is important, managing your reputation as a wedding venue on wedding OTAs is crucial. You can use many of the same principles for responding to reviews and creating value from reviews as you do with traditional OTAs with wedding OTAs.
That all sounds a little crazy.
Weddings are kind of crazy, but also an immense opportunity to build your hotel’s reputation and create lifelong guests. A weddings page provides space to digitally pitch your venue. To attract couples, make sure your weddings page is easy to find, detailed, and full of photos. Daunted by creating a beautiful weddings page? We can help.