Brides and grooms who have just begun wedding venue hunting quickly become familiar with a whole host of terminology and policies that they’ve never encountered before. It’s quite an educational experience for them. Many couples come away from their first venue hunting experience asking why some venues charge more for weddings than other events. Today, I’m going to attempt to explain that.
No, it’s not a myth. And it’s not your imagination. It’s true. The vast majority of venues who permit weddings and receptions charge a higher premium for those events. That’s because weddings are higher maintenance than other events, even the major ones. The venues aren’t sneaky about it – they’ll tell you up front what the wedding cost is – but don’t bother wasting your time to try to negotiate that part of the cost down. It’s almost always based on the number of guests and it’s non-negotiable. If you need to save money, look to save money in other places.
Wedding venues have created their pricing based on their own experiences managing and executing events. Here are some of the reasons and criteria that venues use to determine what to charge for weddings:
- Coordinating the details of a wedding requires lots more time from the venue’s banquet manager than confirming plans for a luncheon or a fundraising dinner. Banquet managers say that their bridal clients call them 10 times more than “regular” clients. Some claim the amount of contact is even higher. And every time a bride calls or emails with additional questions, changes, tweaks, and worries, it takes time. Time is money. If being the point person for a private event at the venue usually takes a manager five hours, they can count on spending closer to 50 hours dealing with a bride planning her wedding. The longer the lead time, the bigger the time suck. Brides confuse the banquet manager with the role of a wedding planner. They’re supposed to give you options and write down what you want – not discuss your color scheme and help you plan your big day. But some brides don’t get that. They think everybody involved in their wedding should care what color the napkins are. Reality check – they don’t.
- Insurance companies require venues to carry extra insurance for events, and even more for weddings. A wedding client who is displeased with a venue is far more likely to sue after a wedding than somebody who was disappointed in the venue’s performance at a business event. Add to that the fact that the venue’s liability exposure increases dramatically at a wedding where guests have access to an open bar for an extended period of time (and let’s face it – those are the most entertaining weddings). Most sensible people will not overdrink or behave a fool at an awards dinner or an 80th birthday party. The same cannot be said for wedding guests. The chance of a wedding guest getting injured on the property is far higher than the odds for any other kind of event. Drunk wedding guests believe they’re invincible – some even seem to believe the rule about not diving into the 3-foot-deep pool at the venue doesn’t apply after midnight.
- Wedding setups and teardowns take significantly more time than any other event. Don’t play – you know you’re feeling super picky about your wedding décor. Most couples want the tables set up just so, and the décor put up exactly as indicated on the chart or diagram provided to the venue. Even if you’ve hired a florist or other vendor to do all your decorating, the venue has to supervise the construction of your wedding, and be there during the teardown to make sure nothing was broken. If the venue is responsible for the décor, they have to repackage everything that must be returned to the clients, too. It takes a lot of time. Time is money when people have to do the work for you.
- Things get broken all the time at weddings, and everybody just tells the person who broke whatever it was, “don’t worry,” like they own it. Well, once it’s broken, the bride and groom may well own it. When you pay the replacement cost for the table somebody danced on and broke, the venue will be happy to give you the broken one to take home as a souvenir. Guests often take centerpieces home with them, even though they haven’t been asked to do so. Frequently, those vases and other décor are owned by the venue, or by another wedding vendor, and will be counted at the end of the night. Anything missing or broken will be billed to the wedding couple, and not at the rate it actually costs to replace something. I’ve seen literally hundreds of linen napkins leave venues wrapped around pieces of cake at the end of the wedding, as if the guest thinks nobody will notice. Theoretically, everything gets counted, and the bride and groom will be charged for anything that’s missing. But it’s really hard to keep exact track of every glass that gets broken, and every fork that leave in a purse with a piece of wedding cake. So there’s some padding in the fees to make sure the venue doesn’t take a loss when all is said and done.
I’ve seen brides and grooms hit the ceiling over the replacement cost of items broken at their weddings. Just because you wouldn’t want to pay that much for whatever it was doesn’t mean you won’t pay much more than that to replace the item. You have to factor in the time associated with tracking down an exact replacement, purchasing it, etc. There’s no negotiating – your contract probably spells that out for you. But if it doesn’t, let me clarify. Unless you intend to go to court over it, you are obligated to pay whatever the venue charges for replacement items when your guests break something.
Renting a big private villa out for a wedding causes more mess and damage than a rental to a family. There’s more wear and tear, damage to the lawn, extra trash, extra electricity, extra water, and extra everything else that’s associated with having the venue open and operational. Most private home rentals have a graduated fee schedule based on the number of guests attending.
Sometimes venues don’t mark up the fee for brides and grooms, they simply add on an “event fee.” You’re more likely to see this if you’re renting a private property or home, but we see it with boutique hotels, too. The event fee covers the cost of their additional insurance, planning time, additional staffing, additional trash removal, additional wear and tear, as well as anything else that’s above and beyond what’s normally used by an average client. That may even include the cost of keeping other guests happy while yours are wreaking havoc all over the place, if there’s overlap with your group. Most of the time, event fees are non-negotiable. They’ll have a price for X-number of guests, and a price for Y-number of guests, and what they charge you will depend on your final headcount. However, you can certainly ask for a discount if you have a compelling argument for why you won’t be costing them more time and money. Event fees are non-refundable, and shouldn’t be confused with potentially refundable security deposits you put down in case something gets damaged or broken.
End of the day, weddings are tough on a venue – they take more time, energy, and attention to detail than a conference luncheon, or a family reunion. So yes, when you tell somebody that you’re having a wedding, frequently, you’ll find out the rates are higher than for another kind of event.
Don’t let that be a non-starter for using that venue – do your research before you cut off your nose to spite your face. Most wedding venues have appropriately adjusted fees, and stomping away from your first choice because you don’t want to pay an event fee will feel pretty stupid later when you end up paying the same amount via marked-up rates at another venue later on.
Until next time, good luck and happy wedding planning