This topic is fresh on my mind as my oldest daughter, Elizabeth, was married this last Saturday at our farm. She, like many other brides these days, want a venue that is unique. They want their wedding to stand out and be remembered. Offering your farm as a wedding venue can be very profitable, if executed properly, or can be a stressful disaster if your process is broken.
To get started in the wedding business using your Agritourism venue doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to have a huge Amish-built barn from the 1800’s, but you will need to take inventory of what services and resources you have that would fit this niche.
Wedding Venue: Do you have the facilities and space to host the wedding ceremony? This could be a big barn, simply and tastefully decorated with lights, or even an outdoor area such as an orchard, the edge of a lake, or another picturesque area of your farm.
Rehearsal Dinner or Reception: Maybe you don’t have the facilities to host the ceremony but you do have the ability to host the rehearsal dinner or reception. Those Agritourism businesses that have the facilities to do both the ceremony and the reception can really maximize profit and provide their wedding party with an exceptional experience for their big day.
Rental Facility or Full-Service: Do you want to start by offering your facility to rent (much less hassle but less profit), or do you want to offer a full-service experience, including coordinating all the necessary vendors & setup?
Before taking the plunge, there are some other things you need to consider that may be different than what you provide at your venue during the rest of the year:
Restroom facilities. Many of us still rely on the use of porta-potties for our normal seasons. This is a little more acceptable for an outing at the farm to pick fruit or go through a maze, but not so much at weddings. If you are one that does not have permanent facilities, it does not mean that you should not offer weddings. Although this will be a deal breaker for some brides, there are plenty that will be OK with the high-end flushable portable units, or may even pay for a full-blown restroom trailer.
Rainy Option. Many brides these days are also looking for an outdoor venue. If you have a spot on your farm that would make a great outdoor location, be sure to make it known. If you ONLY have an outdoor option, this doesn’t mean you can’t be in the wedding business. Just be sure to purchase or rent a large wedding tent to use as a rainy-day option. They have great looking tents that will seat hundreds of people. A solid backup plan for an outdoor wedding is a must.
Sound system. You will need to provide a good sound system for a wedding ceremony and/or reception. High quality cordless mics are also a must.
Alcohol. Many weddings want to offer alcohol at the reception. That brings other concerns along with a potential for a myriad of local regulations. If you are hosting receptions, you will need to research this ahead of time and decide if you want to:
Only offer alcohol-free receptions (significantly limiting your clientele)
Allow them to hire-in their own bar service through a 3rd party (simplest)
Offer that service yourself (most profit but most headache)
If you decide to get into offering wedding services at your Agritourism venue, it is critical that your documentation and communication is extremely thorough. A detailed contract of what you will and will not provide should be signed by you and the bride or wedding planner.
The rental fees you can charge for your wedding venue varies greatly, but generally speaking are between $2000-$4000 as an average. Of course, if you offer other services on top of just renting your wedding venue, that will increase your bottom line.
Offering weddings at your farm is not for everyone. It may sound simple enough but there is a LOT of effort that goes into each and every wedding to make sure their special day is extraordinary. Friday night rehearsals and Saturday or Sunday weddings can get old very quickly, and you want to make sure that you have the necessary staff in place so that you aren’t trying to do it all yourself.
If you are considering adding this to your venue, I would suggest doing your homework. Check out our podcast episode #8 where we talk with Mark Saunders of Saunders Farm and discuss some of the things he does for his wedding services. Find others out there in Agritourism that have successful wedding businesses and see if they would be willing to have a phone call with you.
An Agritourism business is, in a sense, like a stock portfolio. You don’t want to have everything invested in one stock or in our case – season. A few rained-out weekends in October can really impact our bottom line or even potentially put us out of business, not to mention making us question our sanity for even being in the Agritourism business. Diversifying into other revenue streams, like offering wedding services, can help make sure that your Agritourism business can survive long term.