By Johannes Tromp
*Weddings celebrated at inns can be a great source of extra revenue and a significant contributor to the bottom line.
*To protect your property and reputation, innkeepers need to participate in the wedding planning and be fully informed of all the event details
*A poorly planned wedding or miscommunication between the contracting parties can result in loss of future business and unnecessary damages.
Unlike the average guests, who comes to the inn for its ambiance, amenities, and special brand of hospitality, weddings are family events where the guest’s interests are on the bride and festivities, not on the inn.
This different guest’s focus could force the innkeeper into the roles of traffic cop, gate keeper, and property security director unless the wedding has been sold the “Smart Way”.
To sell the “Smart Way” Innkeepers need to pre-determine what type & size of functions can be hosted within the perimeter of their property and neighborhood. Consider parking limits, bathrooms facilities, and maximum capacities for different types of setups such as ceremonies, standup receptions, dinner dances, buffet dinner receptions etc. Be sure to contact your local fire department and discuss maximum allowed attendance and emergency egress requirements.
Selling the “Smart Way” also requires established house rules and regulations for the conduct of the client and their guests, caterers (if applicable), entertainers, decorators, rental companies, and all other contracted service providers. These rules should cover items such as bridal photography prior to the wedding, ceremony rehearsal, bridal dressing room, deliveries and pick-ups, smoking policy, parking, rental equipment, decorations, tent(s), bathroom usage, serving of alcohol, use of your kitchen by the caterer, cleanup, trash removal etc.
To protect your property and business reputation, make these rules and regulations part of your standard event contract, which should be customized with details such as event date, event spaces to be utilized, expected number of guests, rehearsal time and place, guest arrival- and departure times, closing-of-the-bar time, last dance time, overtime rates, rain clause, security deposit, payment schedule etc. pertaining to each individual wedding. Have your lawyer review your standard contract.
Once you’ve reached an agreement, obtain a signed contract along with a deposit and security deposit.
Do NOT undercharge for weddings. To arrive at these charges, innkeepers need to consider the event’s impact on their business and property. A wedding scheduled from 1 pm to 4 pm means, in real terms that the bride, bridal party, and vendors will be invading the property from 9:00 am till 6:00 pm or later.
Therefore wedding clients should be required to book all guest rooms for the preceding night and the night of the wedding. It is bad business to let regular guests be disturbed by commotions caused by wedding activities. Also remember that even a small wedding will take up much of the innkeeper’s time during site-visitations, negotiations, planning, and monitoring during the event(s) itself. Do not sell yourself cheap and be consistent in adhering to your policies.
If the catering is provided by an off-premise caterer, require a copy of the catering event order. This event order should list all the set up and menu details of the wedding and other agreements between the caterer and your client.
Allow only caterers and vendors pre-approved by you to work on your property. Only approve those vendors who are professional, licensed, insured, and established. I strongly suggest inspecting the caterer’s kitchen(s) and preparation facilities as part of the approval process. Require a certificate of insurance naming your business as an additional insured on the vendor’s policy.
Once you’ve done your homework, you can actually enjoy the results of your labor and the wedding itself.
Johannes hails from Holland, where he was trained in the classical European manner to be a chef. He immigrated to the USA in 1973, where he started his own catering business. After moving to New York City in 1979 he was director of Catering at the Rainbow Room on top of Rockefeller Center and later became General Manager of the Windows on the World restaurant complex on top the World Trade Center. He settled in Lancaster, South Carolina in 1998 to oversee the restoration of Kilburnie.
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