Guest Post by Act Studios
Weddings in Vacation Rentals
Recent COVID-19 restrictions make it harder for vacation rentals to prosper, especially owners of larger properties. Harder to prosper, but not impossible. Now is the time to think outside the box and to adapt to the times. Weddings are a hot topic at ACT Studios HQ at the moment! Could you host weddings at your vacation rentals to boost profits?
Like many industries, the wedding industry has been virtually non-existent this year. A lot of disappointed couples have had to postpone their big day till next year. For the majority of summer, restrictions meant weddings could not take place. Luckily, near the end of summer, restrictions were eased in the UK and weddings (with small numbers) were allowed. This has led to many hopeful couples opting for smaller weddings. We believe this is a prime opportunity for vacation rental owners to utilize their lovely properties, all whilst keeping in-line with current restrictions. This blog will delve into our experience on the matter and give you an insight into how it could work for your business.
Our team’s experience of vacation rental weddings
In the past few months one member of our team got married and another hosted a wedding on her vacation rental property. This highlighted weddings as a prime business opportunity to us. It can be the perfect diversification venture for your vacation rental business. Here’s a bit more on ACT Studios’ current experiences:
Experience as the bride
Emma, our Social Media Coordinator, was set to get married on the July 4th, 2020. They planned to have 250+ guests. For obvious reasons, the wedding did not go ahead in July. Emma and Ross postponed their wedding until October 2020. But it became apparent that date might not happen either. As a result, they postponed until August 2021. Like a lot of couples, Emma and Ross eventually decided that they would do the ‘legal bit’ in 2020, and have a party later when it is safe to do so. Fortunately, Emma’s in-laws have a vacation rental in the south-west of Scotland. The wedding took place in August 2020 at the vacation property, with 20 people at the ceremony and 15 people at the reception (adhering to the rules at the time.)
Emma and Ross loved their wedding day. Emma explains,
“When we got engaged, it wasn’t what we had planned, but it turned out perfect! We attribute this to the unique venue and the total flexibility given to us in terms of set up and decoration. Ross and I hired a small marquee for the evening meal and had the ceremony on the lawn. The small marquee took about 1.5 hours to build and everything else took around 3 hours to put together (that includes tables and decorations, the ceremony and the bar). All-in-all it took 8 people to put everything together for us.”
Takeaway advice from Emma and Ross:
- The land that they held their ceremony on belongs to the groom’s parents. However in different circumstances, Emma and Ross would not have expected any help from the home owners and would have provided everything (including crockery) themselves.
- From extensive research into marquees beforehand, they discovered that you can pick up a brand-new marquee for a reasonably low cost. Their marquee was 12×6 meters and had an abundance of space for 15 people.
- If they could travel back in time, they would set up the day before, rather than the day of the big event.
Experience as the host
The wedding at Woodend of Glassel in August was organized at the very last minute. The original venue the couple had booked closed due to a local lockdown. They arranged a small marquee outside BenMacdui Lodge and used an external caterer (The Deesidedly Tasty Company). The couple had a Humanist Minister and their photographer Danny Birrell Photography travelled up from England. Woodend of Glassel is owned by Ursula George (ACT Studios Managing Director). She had never thought of using the space for a wedding. They have 6 acres of grass and woodland so it provides a very rural, picturesque backdrop. The bride’s dad made a lovely wooden arch that the couple stood under for the ceremony.
Ursula was on vacation in the run up but called in on her way back (just after the ceremony had happened) and was actually moved to tears. She explains why,
“The whole set up was beautiful. There were candles, fairy lights and bunting around the lodge; barrels, rustic tables, a cocktail bar and flowers everywhere – quite magical! The bride and groom looked amazing and both sets of parents insisted on speaking to myself and my husband to tell us how fantastic the venue was! The groom’s mother changed into her slippers and cardi – perfectly informal! Such a relaxed, intimate feel to the occasion and even more special to be part of such a tiny gathering. This experience has really made us think about offering both lodges (3 bedrooms each) with the grounds for small, intimate weddings going forward. You don’t need a license in Scotland, but you do need to consider parking, damage to grassed areas, toilet facilities etc. but this is all absolutely sortable. Watch this space!”
What you need to know to host weddings at your own vacation rental
1. The legal part
Make sure you approach this in a safe and legal manner. Here are some of the things you should think about before embarking:
You must have public liability insurance, which you should already have in place for your vacation rental property. In the first instance, contact your supplier to check that your insurance covers you to host weddings. If not, ask how much it would cost to add this to your policy. Be sure to shop around for the best deal. Speak to your chosen company over the phone and tell them your exact plan, make sure they cover you for your exact offering.
At the time of writing (September 24th, 2020) , the restrictions in each of the British nations are as follows:
- Scotland allows 20 guests to attend the wedding ceremony, but the reception should be in-line with current social gathering restrictions.
- England has recently cut numbers to 15 guests. Guests can attend the ceremony and reception. Consult government guidance for specific inclusions and exclusions.
- Wales is currently allowing weddings of up to 30 guests. Further guidance may be put in place in light of restrictions announced on September 22nd, 2020.
- The Northern Ireland government website currently suggests that 30 guests are permitted at the ceremony and the reception. Similar to Wales, it is expected that further guidance will be released in coming weeks.
Becoming a registered venue
This varies depending which part of the United Kingdom your property is in. This section specifically refers to the location of the wedding ceremony. The reception/party is just like hosting any event and you don’t need a specific license for small ceremonies that are not providing alcohol.
Scotland: uniquely, weddings in Scotland can be held anywhere. The onus is on the couple when applying for their marriage certificate. There is a section that asks the couple to state the ceremony location, if that is your vacation rental property then they’ll need that address.
England and Wales: to become a registered wedding venue you should apply under the gov.uk website or with your local council jurisdiction. There are criteria clearly set out on the government’s website.
Northern Ireland: wedding venues in NI are bound by similar rules to that of England and Wales. You must apply under the gov.uk website. The key difference for venues in NI is you can apply for a license for a set amount of time, rather than a standard 3 year term.
2. What the couples need
It is really up to you what you want to offer. Couples like Emma and Ross would actively want you to do nothing, apart from provide the space. Other couples may want you to take a hands-on approach to help prepare for their special day. This list is a good starting point when considering what may be required for a wedding ceremony and reception venue:
- seating for the ceremony and reception
- potentially a marquee for the reception
- a bar – remember you’ll need to apply for a drinks license if you intend to offer a paid bar
- suitable heating – especially for autumn/winter
- crockery and glassware
- appropriate lighting
- restrooms (sometimes supplied with the marquee)
- access to electrical mains
- adequate parking
If you plan to offer this full-time, then it’s worth investing in the above. However, if you’re only planning to host small and intimate weddings for a short amount of time (i.e. whilst COVID-19 restrictions are in place), it might be more economical to look at hire options. Working with local vendors is also a really good opportunity to boost your business’ profile locally. Having a ‘little black book’ of suggested vendors will take the pressure off you to provide everything, whilst ensuring your guests have the perfect day. We recommend having some really honest chats with potential couples to find out what they expect. Find something that works in sync with your client-base and your current business model.
3. Promoting your vacation rental as a wedding venue
Your online social presence is key to increasing visibility and building relationships. Certainly when promoting a new business venture that will appeal to a different audience to your current social followers. This is a great way to gain traction and attract potential couples. ACT Studios has recently launched a social media management service. We can manage your social media pages on your behalf. Moreover, we will curate unique and engaging content for your followers, all in keeping with your business goals. We will be able to create really special content to launch your 2020/2021 wedding venture too.
An astounding 87% of purchases stem from an online search engine search. This is true for all purchases, be it a UK staycation or buying a new sofa. Having an up-to-date website that is informative and sales-conscious is so important. Not only that, it is vital your website is SEO friendly. Your website should clearly show what you plan on offering in terms of weddings as well. When couples are searching for venues, you’ll no doubt be one of countless venues that they’re considering. So, clearly stating what you are providing and paying close attention to how you market your venue is pivotal.
ACT Studios specialize in creating bespoke websites for businesses with property at the heart of their offering. We create websites that beautifully and uniquely compliment your vacation rental property and encourages guests to book direct. Our team create stunning sites that are user-friendly and showcase everything that is special about your business. Take a look at some of our recent projects.
Photography and 3D virtual tours
Experiences last for mere moments, whereas photography and memories last forever. People buy with their eyes, more so when buying an experience like a wedding. Couples need to be assured that your venue will provide the perfect backdrop for their special day. They need to see high-quality and informative images of your property and land to be confident you can provide the right wedding experience for them. Professional photography is extremely important on your website and social media too. People immediately switch off if the visual marketing is sub-par. Where actual viewings aren’t always possible due to COVID-19 restrictions, providing a virtual tour is the perfect solution.
If you are looking for UK-leading professional photography and 3D virtual tours, look no further. Our expert property photographers have extensive industry experience and capture what’s special about your property and the experience you offer. They take the time to get to know you and your business. So they can create a portfolio of images and 3D virtual tours that works perfectly in-sync with your website (and other marketing platforms).
Want to find out more?
We’d love to have a chat to discuss how we can work together to deliver the perfect marketing tools for you. Please get in touch.
Photography credit: Thank you to Danny Birrell Photography for allowing us to use their images in this article.
About ACT Studios
ACT Studios help vacation rental owners build their online presence and tell their story.
Their niche team takes the time to find out what their clients and guests love about their vacation rental property and the experience they offer. ACT Studios create and deliver specialist property photography and 3D tours, bespoke web design (including SEO and content writing); and a tailored marketing service for individual vacation rental owners.
Everything they do is focused on helping their clients to stand out and increase engagement to get more bookings. Please do get in touch to find out more.
VRScheduler is a leading software platform for managing vacation rental staff and operations. The software is built around powerful rules to automate the scheduling of just about any task based on booking dates. Additional features include a drag-and-drop scheduling calendar, employee dashboards, time tracking, payroll support, maintenance tracking and more. VRScheduler provides operational efficiencies for thousands of properties worldwide. For more information, please visit https://www.vrscheduler.com.