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Selling weddings more profitably

10 February 2003 by
Selling weddings more profitably

More than 50% of all non-church weddings in the UK now take place in a hotel. In England especially, the relaxation of the restrictions to allow weddings in a wider range of locations has been excellent news for hoteliers.

And the news gets better. In 2000, the number of people getting married rose by 2%, the first increase in eight years. This upward trend is expected to continue at least until 2011, fuelled by a predicted 10-25% increase in marriages between those aged 30-59 who have never married before.

So with positive news all round, what are you doing to either enter the market or manage your wedding sales more profitably?

Here are some tips that you could implement. They do depend, though, on your own style of management, and won't suit all types of hotel.

1. Maturity gives confidence Who is representing your hotel when the prospective wedding party arrives for a show-round? The party is usually made up of the engaged couple and one or both of their mothers. To nurture confidence and understanding, leading to a buyer/seller relationship, especially with the person holding the purse strings, you need a more mature member of your staff. If you know in advance the potential business from a particular wedding, involve the chef in the discussions.

2. Value the business profitably Have you valued the wedding business by total spend, by month and by days of the week? It is all too easy to say in a business plan that you want to increase the number of weddings you host from, say, 35 a year to 45 a year. But is this profitable growth?

Go back over your function diaries and calculate:

  • the total revenue from weddings by size
  • itemised spend on food and drink
  • rooms sold
  • additional bar revenues.

Look at the times of the year. Keep a denial chart. If you know you are turning wedding enquiries away for ten Saturdays a year, calculate the minimum spend you will accept for those days.

For example, local weddings may not be as profitable as a party made up of guests coming from a long distance away or from abroad, where a greater number of bedrooms may be required for more than one night.

3. The bride's mother is your sales manager
Whose day is this? To all intents and purposes, it's the bride's mother's. So let her sell the hotel for you.

Offer her the special room rate. Through your own desktop publishing, present her with some cards she can send out to her guests saying: "I have arranged a special room rate…" They won't dare book the guesthouse down the road. And remember, the card or call comes back to you, so you can manage your own inventory.

For Saturday weddings, add a Friday night offer. It is quite remarkable how hotels provide a Saturday night rate and fail to capitalise on Friday, leaving them with a "dead" night.

Remember to sell the benefits. Talk about spending more time with old friends and family, less travel hassle on the Saturday, making more of the weekend. If the room is already booked by the wedding guest for the Saturday, offer Friday night at a greater discount as an incentive. Tackle the negatives, such as arriving late, by offering to prepare a late-night supper.

4. Opportunities from the second wedding market
Those wedding statistics mentioned earlier offer more possibilities to the hotelier. Of the increase in weddings, 20% are second or third marriages for both parties and 25% are second or third weddings for one of the parties.

Second weddings do not necessarily take place on a Saturday, so you can win business on other days of the week. They tend to involve fewer but more mature people, fewer children, more friends than family. Perhaps little or no confetti to clear up!

In short, they can be profitable, high-spend lunches or dinners involving people with a good personal disposable income. They may want to impress each other by their knowledge of your fine wines and ability to book the best rooms.

by Stuart Harrison Stuart Harrison, formerly managing director of brands and franchising at Premier Hotels, now runs his own consultancy, the Profitable Hotel Company. He is also a visiting fellow of Oxford Brookes University.

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