What's the benefits of a hotel package?
Why might an outdoor wedding marquee be better choice?
How do you make the right choice for your wedding?
What are some of the pitfalls to be aware of?
Here we explore the pros and cons of a package deal versus doing it yourself (with a little professional guidance where necessary, of course)
Choosing a Hotel or Package Deal
Having your wedding in a hotel or choosing any kind of package deal can seem really appealing and for lots of reasons it makes sense. In a hotel everything is all under one actual roof, with all the basic ammenities included; it can seem like less thinking is required when all the planning is done for you; and that all-inclusive price can seem really attractive when it comes to working out how much the wedding is going to cost you.
Hotels in particular dedicate entire teams to their wedding department, hosting site tours and enabling your guests to book a room on site (useful for older guests, certainly). Often they have built a specific picturesque courtyard or pagoda within the grounds for you to have your ceremony or take photos.
Marquee companies have warehouses full of specific stuff that they know sells. For example, the average marquee wedding caters for 50-150 people, often at banquet tables, with a dance floor, bar and perhaps a stage. Invest in those things, work out how many weddings you need to do per year and for how many years in order to pay it off, and you're quids in. Simple.
There are photos of other happy couples doing the exact same thing that you'll do so you can easily see what it'll look like and start to feel what it'll feel like. To some people it even seems more professional to have a package deal - like that is some kind of marker to show that you know what you're talking about and that as a provider you know what works.
How they make it work
It's simple. They don't have to think either. It's more efficient to cost something, know what your profit margins are and churn that out over and over again.
That's why the parameters are so slim and you can only have a certain number of guests who will fit in the function room or a certain type of flooring or specific tables or chairs. The lighting design is the lighting design and the corkage charge is 'unavoidable I'm afraid'.
It's also easier to hide costs within things. Paying £30-50 per head for a meal seems reasonable when you think about feeding everyone all day for both a 3 course meal, buffet or hog roast in the evening. Likewise, the takings on the bar are down to your guests, as are booking hotel rooms, so that's one way to recoup some funds without directly impacting on the couple.
For a marquee company a lot of it is down to efficiency and training crew. Building a complete wedding can take 5 people two days if the wedding is intricate enough. With regular training you could cram that in to one day and save a whole days wages. Not to mention the sales process. It's enormously quicker (and cheaper) to send someone a pdf brochure of what you offer and have the client pick out their favourite bits, rather than taking the time to talk to them and find out what they want, why they want it and the things that will make them most happy on the day. Instead it's all about finding efficiencies and new ways of speeding up putting on the same event, week after week.
They're relying on their customers choosing not to think either. Life gets busy and sometimes a wedding simply gets in the way. There. I said it. You want a lovely day with family and friends but it shouldn't consume you and all your time. And you're right. It shouldn't. But there is another way...
An alternative solution
Getting married is a once in a lifetime occurrance and I believe it should be treated as such. My wife and I pulled off planning our wedding in 3 months and we had absolutely everything we wanted for a very reasonable amount of money.
- A pink champagne made especially for the wedding which I drove down to the south of France to collect
- Self-catered tapas of all of our friends' favourite dishes from around the world - curry, chilli con carne, dolma, pies, macaroni cheese. It was frankly ridiculous
- A games corner for the children so the parents could relax
- Arts and crafts so that our different friendship groups and family members had a joint task and reason to mingle and chat
- Decor plans that reflected us as a couple, using images, lighting and even fireworks to create a very specific party and community atmosphere.
- Our own DJs playing tunes that they knew we'd love, at the right time of the day (chillout throughout dinner; motown, pop and some hip-hop for multi-generations boogying after dinner; and then some stonking classics later in the night once the older generation had given up and we all had some French Fizz to work off before bed).
A lot of those aspects which made our wedding day so spectacularly special wouldn't have been possible with a package deal. We did check and we simply weren't allowed some of that stuff within a package deal. The food, the wine, the painting mess, the fireworks, the music choices all fall within certain limitations with package deal providers. Certainly with hotels.
Moreover, the one thing that our guests took away from the occasion was how memorable it was and that it was 'unlike anything else they'd ever been to' (my mate Gary said drunkenly on the dance floor). It reflected who we are as individuals, as a couple and what we hold important with our family and friends.
And please don't for a second think that we're the only ones. Big Top Weddings only exists because of wedding couples like you who choose to break away from package deals and do what they want to do. We've had Glastonbury themed weddings, weddings where the couple get married on top of a double decker bus, a Black Tie Extraveganza with stilt walkers and a fire show, Ceilidhs and Street Food.
The list goes on and on but most importantly the list exists because the happy couple understood that their Wedding Day meant in was Their Day, and they treated it as such.
By all means do both. Find a hotel with some land and strike up a deal with them to use their field on the promise that they'll make some money on the bar or hire out some rooms. I can even point you in the direction of some who agree to such things. That way you get to do whatever you want inside the marquee and aren't restiricted by their function room size. It's worth noting that certain venues do have strict licensing and hygeine rules with bring-your-own booze and having food on site which hasn't been prepared in their kitchen by their chefs. So often it's just easier to hire a field as a blank canvas. Which I can also help with, by the way.
If time is your biggest constraint then get someone to do it for you. Wedding planners aren't as expensive as you might think and if you're set on having a big top then look no further for a built in wedding planner right here. You can still get 'the package deal feel' but something which feels personal to you both. The only important aspect is having an idea of what you want so that you can communicate that to the Wedding Planner. For more information about the services we offer ping me an email with some of your ideas and I'll give you a brief plan of attack.
You could a minibus and take over a local hotel anyway. You and your guests don't have to camp. There are so many fields which come with built in power, toilets and even kitchen cabins. You just need a quick google search of a local area to find them, or ask us.
Leave yourself plenty of time but with specific deadlines for each aspect. One task a month can help to keep you on track but not allow it to consume you or take over your life - 'find a venue' in January, 'decide the guest list' by February, 'book the tent' by March, etc...
Share your budget concerns. There's no harm in deciding how much you're willing to spend on each aspect of your wedding and communicating that to suppliers. They'll probably be grateful for the extra information and knowing early on how best to help you.
Choose economy of scale. Feeding 100 people isn't actually that different to feeding 50 when it comes to costs and outlay so why should the price double? Planning your own wedding means your guest list can grow without getting out of control. We started off as wanting a pie and pint with 30 people and ended up with 200 guests sharing a tapas. Once the excitement started building we wanted everyone to share it with us. Doing your own thing means you can monitor actual costs a lot easier and decide which elements to share the burden of, like bring your own bottle rather than paying at a bar; buffet food or a hog roast rather than a 3 course meal. You get the idea.
Hopefully this has been helpful in showing you a little behind the scenes of the wedding industry and served to remind you that it's Your Wedding Day, done Your Way. If there's anything we can help with please do get in touch.