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Micro-weddings — weddings with 50 guests or fewer, that feature many wedding traditions but on a smaller scale — started trending during the pandemic as a way to stay safe. Now, rising inflation prompt more couples to keep their guest lists small as a way to save money (and stress).
Enter the restaurant wedding: perfect for couples seeking a classy micro-wedding and for business owners seeking a new revenue stream.
“The pandemic really shook up people’s idea of what a wedding could be and made people think about what and who was important to them,” said wedding planner Jenny Serwylo of Three Lights Events in Toronto. “Along with friendships changing during those few weird years, we saw people having babies, buying property. Priorities shifted, and suddenly those big 200-person parties weren’t the biggest thing on their minds.”
Diversifying sources of income is key for restaurateurs, with around 65% focusing on non-core offerings as necessary for growing their brand, according to the 2023 Future of Restaurants report. Breaking into the wedding scene can be a great way to leverage your space and your knowledge of the hospitality industry. But even if you’ve hosted events or catered weddings in the past, hosting weddings in your restaurant comes with a new set of considerations.
Here are 10 tips for hosting a successful wedding at your bar or restaurant:
1. Have a wedding package prepared to show couples
Most couples aren’t professional event planners (and they may or may not be working with one for their wedding). Many will expect their chosen venue to offer guidance in the planning stage. Consider creating a wedding package to let couples know what would be included in their event from start to finish.
“Be sure to include logistics FAQs in your information package,” Serwylo said. “Do you have AV equipment the couple can use? What time can they get into the space to set up? Is there space to store decor overnight before and after the wedding? Do you allow candles in the space? Is there parking? Is there a private room or office they can escape to? Cover all of your bases by anticipating your clients’ needs on and around their big day.”
“Really advertise it as an ‘all-in-one’ package,” Serwylo said. “Couples don’t need to get tables, forks, glassware, staffing, rent ovens, etc., which means they can put all that money they were going to spend on rentals towards great food and drink.”
2. Try to think of everything when coming up with your quotes
Premade wedding packages can also streamline your process and make it more easily repeatable in the future. For example, when you’re initially coming up with rental cost quotes, consider the fact that you may lose some glassware in the festivities. Allow for a margin of lost supplies in your calculations.
Assess what you can cover in-house and where you may want to partner with other vendors in the wedding space. For instance, are you able to provide a traditional wedding cake, or should you look to partner with a local bakery?
3. Consider the layout of your space
Can you accommodate both ceremony and reception within your physical space, or can you only hold receptions? If you want to offer both, think ahead about the logistics. Will the ceremony and reception be in the same room? If so, will you need time to rearrange the room (seating, tables, etc.) to create an “aisle” —and then quickly convert it for dinner and dancing after the ceremony?
Some venues navigate this by dedicating a separate room or bar area for the cocktail hour, where guests can mingle and enjoy drinks as the venue staff turn the ceremony layout into a reception layout.
4. Take great photos of your space
To attract clientele, you’ll need to help people envision their dream wedding in your space. In this, the value of good photography cannot be overstated.
Hire a professional photographer to stage photos of your space. If possible, set up the space as it would be for a wedding so clients can see themselves getting married there. Use the photos on your website, social media, and other marketing collateral.
5. Assign or hire a day-of coordinator
A day-of coordinator is important with any event, but even more so with a wedding. For the soon-to-be-married, their wedding day may be the most important event in their lives. Give your clients a single point of contact to turn to for all questions, requests, or concerns.
If you don’t have someone on staff who’s a good fit for this role, consider contracting out a day-of wedding coordinator. If you build a good relationship with a third party, you can even make this part of your wedding package.
6. Avoid food waste by using the wedding menu to inspire your next specials
Sourcing ingredients for the wedding menu may look a bit different than your usual needs, so inventory management is key. Leverage your inventory management tools to plan your specials for the following week around the ingredients you’ll need for the wedding menu. For example, serving chicken at the wedding? Save unused crudité and uncooked chicken to make your soup special chicken noodle the following Monday.
7. Staff efficiently
Consider the staff you’ll need to prep for the event, for support during the event itself, and to clean up at the end of the night. Stagger shifts to reflect when you’ll need more hands on deck.
Keep in mind that your staffing needs will look different if you are closing your business fully for the private event versus only closing partially with a portion of your business still open to the public. Tools like Square Team Management can help you schedule the right people at the right times.
8. Communicate with your regular clientele if you will be closed for a wedding
While a wedding is all about the happy couple, don’t forget about your other patrons. Communicate to your customer base in advance that you will be partially or fully closed for an event. Share on your social media, website, and within your online booking system so reservations aren’t made on top of the event. It’s also a good idea to place a clear, polite sign on the door for those who may turn up on the day of.
Be realistic when determining how long you’ll need to close. Even if the wedding is in the evening, you may find it’s best to close your venue to the public for the day so your team can focus on preparing. If you will be open during the early part of the day, build in buffer time to move all regular clientele out the door before it’s time for wedding bells.
9. Unplug restaurant phones before the ceremony and during speeches
The last thing you want is to have your restaurant phone line ring in the middle of a toast. Remember to turn off your regular business phones and send everything to voicemail during the event.
You can even set a special voicemail message for those hours, explaining your business is closed for a private event and advising when you will be open to take calls. Tools for taking and tracking orders digitally may be helpful if your business will be partially open during the event, allowing your team to continue handling orders without any interruption to the nuptials.
10. Find ways to personalize the menu
The key to delighting the couple is personalization. The couple likely loves your food already; take it one step further to make the menu feel truly special to them.
For example, you may design a signature cocktail in honor of the newlyweds or a specialized menu item or dessert that feels unique to them. Food and drink is what you’re great at, so use this to your advantage.
“Couples want an authentic wedding, something that represents them, their relationship, and their community,” Jenny Serwylo reminds businesses. “Restaurants and small spaces can offer something unique that really matches that vibe.”
Get the right tools to open up new streams of revenue
Micro-weddings aren’t going anywhere, which is great news for bars and restaurants who can offer a unique, intimate setting to say “I do.” Many couples are willing to cut their guest list rather than skimp on their food, drink, and the atmosphere of the venue. Getting into the small wedding scene is one way to be future-thinking for your business, opening it up your business to a new audience and a new channel for revenue.
Square offers a full suite of tools to help you manage the logistics, planning, and operational tasks needed to transform your bar or restaurant into a part-time wedding venue.