Updated: Dec 31, 2020
Understand how wedding venues break down their pricing
Everyone knows that wedding costs vary hugely. The largest expense in your wedding budget is almost always your wedding venue and associated catering costs (unless you own the venue - lucky you!). If you are planning a destination wedding or a home wedding, venue costs can be quite complicated. There are different package types and confusing jargon make it harder to compare venues. How do you know if you are getting a good deal?
In today’s article, we are going to break it all down. What are venue hire fees? What is a “minimum spend”? How does accommodation get integrated into the mix?
I am going to debunk it all today. We’ll then talk about best practices when budgeting for a wedding venue.
How wedding venue fees work
It is safe to say that there are generally four main ways that venues charge their clients for use of the space. Let’s break them all down.
A minimum spend pricing structure means two things:
The venue exclusively offers catering services in-house
In order to hire the venue, you need a minimum number of catered guests
An example could be that to host your wedding at a venue on a Saturday in high season (May - October in Europe), you need to have a minimum of 100 paying adults.
In this example, if you have less than 100 guests attending your wedding day, you will still need to pay for 100 guests in order to meet the minimum amount.
Children and babies are not counted in this minimum number of guests.
Many venues are quite flexible with minimum guests on weekdays and low-season dates. You can always negotiate should you have slightly fewer guests than their advertised minimum.
Many venues will be willing to make a custom package for you with a negotiated price per person.
Venue hire fees
If a venue decides to charge a venue hire fee and the catering is separate, they tend to follow one of these two package structures.
Venue hire + Exclusive caterers
This is when the venue has an exclusive partnership with one or more caterers.
The venue will have a certain flat hire fee to rent the space.
Catering is then calculated per person with the associated catering company.
In this scenario, you have to work with their partnered caterers. It is also less likely that you will have minimum guest numbers to host your wedding at the venue.
If there is a minimum number of guests, it will likely be quite low e.g 20-30 guests.
Dry hire means that the venue is hired with no extra services.
This means that the venue will not be providing catering, furniture, planning or any other elements of your wedding.
You pay a flat fee to use the space and perhaps have some cleaning staff on the day.
You will need to hire your own catering, decor, and planning team.
Dry hires can be great for adventurous couples who want to customize everything from the ground up.
Airbnb/villas would be considered dry hire venues.
Dry hire venues can be more challenging to work with, however, because you have less support from the venue. If you are getting married abroad, you may want to consider hiring a wedding planner for a dry hire venue.
Integrated venue packages can include many things. Some venues can include a whole host of services in their packages. This could include:
Sometimes, venues offer these packages as all-inclusive or you can pick and mix.
For example, you may want to choose your own decorators rather than use the venue’s own. You’ll need to negotiate with the venue if you want to take these items out of your package.
Some venues have accommodation on-site, such as B&Bs, guesthouses, and hotel wedding venues. These can be super convenient as you and/or your guests can stay the venue overnight.
Venues price accommodation packages in two main ways:
Exclusivity of accommodation
A venue may choose to impose exclusivity of the entire hotel in order to host your wedding there.
This will be a flat fee, usually equating to the full cost of all of the rooms for the number of nights you intend to stay.
This can be charged back to your guests if they stay in the hotel or you can cover the cost and offer the accommodation of your guests for free.
Non-exclusivity of accommodation
Some hotels have a separate event space that do not require accommodation to be rented as part of the package.
This can save some money on the exclusivity of hire, however, it is likely your wedding will need to end earlier in the night if you don’t have full use of the hotel.
This is so as not to disturb the guests at the hotel.
Budgeting for a wedding venue
So now you have an idea of how wedding venues price themselves, let’s talk about the principles of budgeting for a wedding venue.
It is important to note that I am speaking from my experience of working in Portugal and the UK. Budgeting for the venue will vary from country to country, but this is a good starting point of how you should be thinking about venue budgets.
Tip 1: Start with 100 per person
€100/$100/£100 per guest that you have is a good starting point for budgeting for a wedding venue with catering.
So for example, if you have 100 guests, it is reasonable to expect the venue hire and catering to cost around €10,000.
There are often fluctuations with more luxury locations or more rural (and therefore cheaper) locations, but this is a good place to start when building a budget.
I would say that for historical and luxury venues, you may want budget for 120-160 per person.
Tip 2: Venue, food and drink should be maximum 30-40% of your budget
You should aim to spend 30-40% of your overall wedding budget on your venue and catering costs combined.
If you spend over 50% of your budget on this area, you’ll have less fund to spend on other key areas such as planning, photography, decoration, entertainment etc.
If you choose to have an integrated “all-inclusive” package with the venue that covers every aspect of your wedding, then this percentage may be closer to 80%.
In this particular example, the venue is providing everything in a complete package so you shouldn’t need to spend funds in other areas. However, if you want to customize things outside of the venue’s package, you’ll want some flexibility in your budget.
I hope this article was helpful for you to understand how venues are priced.
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