The Dark Side Of Owning A Wedding Venue

By Shannon Underwood, Conference Director Wedding MBA

DARK SIDE OF OWNING A VENUE

You get blamed for everything.

Other wedding pros think you are controlling. They don’t understand that any misstep will reflect on your venue.

Twenty minutes before the first guest arrives, your venue’s preferred caterer unloads his truck and takes a shortcut through the ceremony location. He drops his chafing dish full of Swedish meatballs and gravy onto the white custom aisle runner.

The mother of the bride stops smiling for the camera when she sees the catastrophe. She bursts into tears. You pull together your staff to spot clean the runner. Your staff is being abused because “you have ruined the wedding.”

Your staff cleans vigorously, but to no avail the spots are not budging. You send your sales manager to the grocery store to buy bunches of flowers so the petals will cover the mishap.

Solution: Fix the problem when you can, whether it’s your fault or not. Ultimately, everything that goes wrong at your venue is your fault.

Guests/Brides/Moms/Drunk People are always losing stuff.

The phone can’t be found. Money goes missing. Sunglasses, wallets, earrings, and jackets scatter everywhere.

Last week, our nine-year-old son had five of his friends over to go swimming. The next day, I noticed a towel, hat, and sock were left at my house. If I had 200 people over every Saturday, I’m sure the lost and found pile would be enormous.

Solution: Offer a locker with a key to the VIP guests. If a locker won’t work in your venue, try a storage solution with labeled bins. To avoid being over-run with other people’s stuff; donate non-valuables 30 days after the wedding once you have contacted your brides and grooms. Make sure to write it into your contract.

Real Stories from Real Owners

From: harold@thewindmillwinery.com
To: shannon@WeddingMBA.com

Hi Shannon,
This is a great topic for wedding venues I wish someone was talking about the pitfalls of owning a venue when we started. I will say that the objective is not to have our guests, especially the bridal party, aware of the issues that go on.
You are spot on with the idea that we get blamed for everything, and your examples have all happened to us over the years. Vendors, guests and even some of our staff think a wedding happens magically.

We have seen the biggest change in the industry as the millennial generation has evolved.
The expectations are amazing to see. It starts with the initial contact. If we don’t answer an inquiry in the first few minutes ,we lose them as they go on to another venue. It doesn’t seem to matter what our contract says… our brides and grooms have expectations the expectation that all add-ons are free of charge.

We have had groups book for 150 people and 170 show up. It’s our fault that we were not prepared for them and of course the caterer is devastated because he runs out of food; which also become the venue’s fault.

Last quick story. We had a great couple with a themed wedding, Dr.Seus.The maid-of- honor came up to me and asked that I tell the bride’s mother to leave because she wasn’t invited. Other guests overheard and thought that I kicked her out. It took a while to get everyone to understand that it was a family issue.
OK, one more. We had a New York photographer hired by the bride for their wedding. The photographer disappeared after the wedding with the pictures. You can guess who was blamed. We had never met the photographer, but we ultimately tracked him down and shamed them into giving the photos to the couple. Brides wonder why we have a preferred vendor list, this is why.

I don’t know if this helps much. I’m heading to the winery to cool off. Looking forward to the Wedding MBA. I love what you are doing for wedding venues everywhere!

Cheers.
Harold Christ
The Windmill Winery
www.thewindmillwinery.com

Solutions to your venue problems to be continued…

To hear the rest of the stories, come to the Wedding MBA, October 3-5th in Las Vegas. The venue track is filled with content driven problems and solutions.

Register today for your wedding venue discount!


17 Responses

  1. Lisa Myers-Smith says:

    The best part about this article is how true it is. I feel like I am in constant battle mode and it’s nice to know I’m not the only one. I love the Wedding MBA because of the people I meet that do what I do daily.

    • Hi Lisa, So happy that you made some lasting connections at the Wedding MBA. Make sure to make it to the two happy hours on Monday and Wednesday this year to continue the conversation. Shannon

  2. Kim Nord says:

    I’ve gotten so tired of being held responsible for EVERYTHING that goes wrong that I am closing my venue November 1st. I’ve been told I’m nuts by all of our vendors. We are very popular and do over 80 weddings a year. But I’m so tired of the millennium generation’s expectations and lack of courtesy that it is just not worth it anymore.

    • Kim, I am so sad to hear about the closing of your business. I can’t even begin to fathom the amount of stress you are under right now. Did you sell the business or just close down? We are dedicated to helping our attendees stay in business. We wish you the best in your new business adventures. The frustrations associated with being responsible for everything can overtake the joy of running a business. Shannon

  3. Deb says:

    I did weddings for over 10 years at another venue and then opened a restaurant with my kids and we decided NOT to do weddings, just bridal showers and rehearsal dinners which are sometimes just as bad but doing weddings keeps getting crazier and crazier all the time and it’s just not worth the money you can make to keep your sanity.

  4. Deb,
    What was the hardest thing you had to deal with when you worked on weddings? Was it the expectations were too high? Lack of respect? What was the biggest issue? Shannon

  5. Carl says:

    Thank you for understanding how hard it is the run a venue and provide good customer service when you do get blamed for everything.

  6. Drew says:

    I love the locker idea. It’s a drag having to carry around your belongings during an outdoor wedding. Thanks for the tips!

  7. Renee Tucker says:

    I own a venue (reclaimed church) with two spaces, often used for dual receptions or ceremony/reception. Each space offers dressing suites, restrooms, and a bar.
    I manage and schedule 5 studio managers, 4 in house bar vendors, and 1 maintenance man. I have averaged 52 weddings/year for the past 4 years. I’m on event #204 this weekend. I currently have 27 weddings booked for 2017. I AM NOT BRAGGING, I HURT!

    Besides marketing in tandem with my husband who gets me noticed on Google, Facebook, and YouTube and makes my website pretty, informative, and mobile compatible with a chat window (MILLENNIALS DEMAND IT) making me glued to my phone at all times….
    I am also the wearer of all hats. I show the venue, write the contracts, compile and send preferred vendor lists, send event readiness guides for simple planning, collect final payments and sell rental items/décor, and answer questions via email, text, skype, Facebook, and Pure Chat, every day….allllll day!
    I hold event readiness meetings 30 days in advance to gather vendor info/set up times, table layouts, decor info, timeline, I even record info like…… the names of the bride’s mom, mom’s lesbian wife, dad, and his 24 year old girlfriend, the groom’s mom, stepdad, and dad who can’t go within 5ft of mom. All so our studio managers don’t get maimed for calling someone the wrong name!
    I launder linen, and set up every single event making sure everything is EXACTLY how the client wishes. I also pop in and check on clients during decoration or event. Sometimes I manage events, but I have three teenage daughters who will……eventually get married…..and I need to spend time with them before they’re gone.
    After the event I gather the lost items, I send closeout forms, I mail return deposit checks, and finally I ask for a review.
    Imagine my shock and awe when a client bashes my venue on Wedding Wire because the caterer spilled half of their dinner in the parking lot. The client had 20 extra guests attend causing us to scramble and add to an already full room. They complained it was 100 degrees in the room…..c’mon…..everyone would leave. The client forgot to tell us about their last minute add of a champagne toast blaming our bar vendor. After cussing because he had to take stairs, the DJ screamed at the venue managers because the bride kept taking down his tacky easel listing his package offerings. At the end of the evening the bride bashed our venue to all 120 of her guests who will likely tell 100 of their friends….and then of course there’s the disastrous review on the interwebs of which I will need 10 more 5 star reviews to offset.
    I feel like this article is speaking directly to me. Is it January yet?

    • Shannon says:

      Renee, I love your comment. It is so true for so many of our venues. Sometimes it just feels good to know you are not the only one! Shannon

  8. Brittany Thirtyacre says:

    Good afternoon,
    I appreciate the sharing! I’m 31 years old and have been married one year as of yesterday. My husband and I planned our entire event. At the age of 16 I began working as support staff at a small wedding venue (well small town, venue was mid sized-up to 150 guests). I have in all 10 years in the hospitality industry, several years in real estate, and am coming up on my first year of project coordination. I’m unhappy working in an uncreative field and want to put my near business degree and decade of serving/event management to real use for myself and of course my husband/family. I’m looking at 20-40 acres of raw land (yes, I understand the expense and challenges associated with raw land, endangered species/wetland delineating, and the cost of bringing water, electric and so on). My question to the seasoned vets is: assuming a venue that holds 200 guests: how many restrooms would you suggest and do you feel a bed/breakfast feel would be a valuable addition or a hindrance? I’d like to run the venue 7 months out of the year outdoor and the remaining months indoor as the area gets cold in the fall and winter. Thank you in advance for your suggestions and invaluable insight. With gratitude, Brittany

    • Shannon says:

      Hi Brittany, I feel like our speakers at the Wedding MBA will do an amazing job answering these questions at the convention. As for the bathrooms, how many stalls will you have in each restroom? If you have 4-5 stalls you could most likely get away with one men’s and one women’s. As for the bed and breakfast, this is truly a second business that you must factor in all the elements. I would have to know more about your venue and your area. Hope to meet you in Vegas this year. Shannon

  9. Tristan Spann says:

    I have purchased some family property 47 acres is mine and there is an additional 100 acres connected to my property thats all family owned. Im in central florida. I have a 40×60 barn on it now and im thinking about making a wedding venue out of it. I just had my wedding under the barn in november and had 150 people and it was nice and everyone loved it. My question is what would be some tips in opening it up as an open barn then later on enclosing it all and spending a lot of money on it to make it unbelievable.

    I would have some little cabins and bathrooms on the property all rustic and country decorated.

    Would it be smart to just leave it open and start from there with the bathrooms and cabins and invest 30,000 instead of investing over 100,000 on it?

    Thanks for the help

  10. Kayki says:

    Wow!!! I’m horrified to hear these stories, as I am a millennial! I understand Brides and Grooms pay tens of thousands of dollars for this one special day, but come on, No one is perfect! Everyone is only human, including wedding venues! I’d tell them if they can’t handle the idea of a few hic-ups on the big day, to hire robots and see how tht goes! 😂

  11. Kayki says:

    Fyi, I’m not getting married, I’m exploring the idea of starting my own wedding venue…. so far, I’m not impressed


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