The Venue Owners Working Vacation New Orleans: 30 wedding venue owners came from all over the country to meet up in New Orleans for inspiration, motivation and venue owner to venue owner education! We arrived on Sunday and hit Bourbon Street to meet up at The Drinkery for Cocktails & Contracts. Valery Ramos oversees sales & operations at The Drinkery, working with her to plan this event was a pleasure! Valerie & her team made sure our venue owners had the absolute best time and that we were able to use her beautiful 2nd floor event space for our meet & greet. The cocktails were flowing, the streets were full of excited party goers and the venue owners enjoyed the best view from The Drinkery Balcony! We got to know one another and learn some incredible insight on wedding venue contracts as we….well, the rest is best left on Bourbon Street.
While in New Orleans we stayed at The Chateau Lemoyne in the French Quarter walking distance to some of the most incredible bars, shops, restaurants and entertainment. We toured 7 wedding venues and enjoyed hours of wedding venue owner to venue owner education, inspiration and motivation! Keep reading to see the top 20 business insights from this trip and the top 10 favorite moments, these are just from my experience as the official venue tour guide. Our venue owners got to ask hundreds of questions on this trip, imagine the massive amount of valuable information flowing on this working vacation! Scroll down to see some of the highlights.
Our next venue owners working vacation will be held in Austin TX April 25 – 28th! DO NOT miss out on your chance to attend and learn so much for only $299 per person! Bring your crew, bring your spouse, bring your team! Contact email@example.com to get signed up today, space is almost sold out. Click here to view upcoming Wedding Venue Owner Working Vacation dates.
My Top 20 Fav Wedding Business Tips, Practices or Insight Shared During New Orleans Venue Owners Working Vacation:
These are the top 20 that came to mind first, it would be impossible to feature all the incredibly valuable information shared on this trip. EVERYONE contributed so much, this is just a small portion of the top moments that stood out to me.
- Dressing of the Bride – this is a serious part of the New Orleans wedding traditions. Typically the bride is attended to by a knowledgeable staffer from the venue who will assist the bride with all her preparatory needs, in lavish quarters amongst her closest confidents. Results: a relaxed, well prepared, unstressed, happy bride. This attendant is NOT a wedding planner, they provide an expert level of hospitality and service. Gents, no need to worry, the best wedding venues will provide a dressing of the groom as well, just ask The Degas House.
- Day of MOG/MOB Attendance – along with the extra care provided to the couple, New Olreans hospitality extends to the Mother/Father of the Bride, Mother/Father of the Groom by providing attendants to dole out special care to the parents of the couple to ensure that expectations are exceeded. These attendants are there for the parents comfort, needs and whims all day! When parents are happy, everyone is happy. This is certainly a cure for momzilla or dadzilla.
- NO seated receptions/plated receptions, instead its cocktail style with only 60% seating. This saves time, money, space and tons of stress and hard work. This is a standard at NOLA weddings.
- 2nd Lines: A second line invites crowd participation. The term “second line parade” refers to those who join in the strolling celebration through the streets. These wedding parades march down the French Quarter streets with a police escort, a master of ceremonies and a brass band! YES, YES, YES!!!
- Day weddings – this idea was pitched by Elizabeth Leighton of The Riverview Room. Elizabeth has some compelling reasons for the wedding industry coming together to encourage more late morning/early afternoon weddings including: time to book another evening event, time for guests to leave the wedding & enjoy after hours events in The French Quarter together (wedding bar crawl, HELL YES), cost savings, convenience, guest satisfaction and many more. Why does a wedding have to be in the evening? Would you offer your wedding couples a deal if they were married & had their reception earlier in the day? Please answer in the comment section below.
- Upselling – if you offer multiple packages what do you do to successfully encourage a client to move from basic packages to premium packages? We discussed this frequently on the trip, one of the venues owners on our tours shared: “A tour is our best chance to show the different packages and how options in the packages relate to their best wedding experience. All couples will have the reception area in a standard package. On the venue tour we take extra time to show our beautiful bridal suite to get ready on site. Once a couple books that room the sales manager then shows how much more comfortable her bridesmaids and attendants will be if they book the adjoining room at an additional fee. It is not about just trying to sell, the couple has to imagine the grand experience they could have if they upgrade. We know they won’t be as comfortable with one room as they could be with the adjoining room. We want them to envision that day seamlessly, space is a valuable commodity on your wedding day. When we take time to focus on their comfort & vision for the day and how that relates to the upgraded package the couples are more likely to opt for the upgrade and in the end they have a better experience and we get better reviews.”
- Non Refundable Date Retainer – this came up at every venue tour. No more deposits, its all about the non refundable date retainer. Many venues are no longer accepting this fee from credit cards and if you change your date guess what, another non refundable date retainer is required.
- “Boundaries are my best friend” says Sarah Worsley of Race & Religious. There is not enough room here to share all the incredible insight Sarah provided on our tour. This statement stood out to me because I recall how I bent over backwards to please clients when I started my business because I thought I had to. I answered calls all hours of the day, night and weekend. I responded to 2am emails, I gave away too much and began to resent it and get fatigued. Setting clear boundaries and sticking to them is a gift to your clients and to yourself!
- How to get reviews? David Villarubia of The Degas House informs his clients from the beginning that he offers 5 star service and would like a 5 star review at the end of their experience. During the event when the couple pulls him aside and excitedly says they had a “wonderful time and enjoyed everything” — right at that moment he hands them pen & paper and asks for them to write that down. He has some other awesome follow up tactics that help him ensure he gets most of his wedding clients to write up and share 5 star reviews but those are Venue Owner Working Vacation privileged and I don’t want to give away all the ingredients to his recipes for success. Providing 5 star service is just one step in getting clients to provide a great review, there are many more steps required and David has mastered this process.
- Not everyone is requiring the couples to get wedding insurance, how is this possible? These venues feel confident in their screening process and charge rates that eliminate risky clientele for starters. What tactics do you use to properly screen and appeal to the type of clients that will value your services and your venue? Join us on the Austin Wedding Venue Owners Working Vacation to find out!
- Tastings provided quarterly only: Usually brunch/lunch time, about 60% of the menu is offered (NOT everything), 4 guests maximum per tasting group and usually about 20 couples attend. This eliminates the need for weekly tastings, no shows and other time consuming issues surrounding tastings.
- “Don’t make yourself a $10 an hour employee” — this was quoted by Nick Rodriguez who I believe was quoting another venue owner from the tour. Whomever started this quote, thank you!
- Downtown venues are masterful when it comes to make the best use of limited space.
- 17 Hats & Honeybook were tops with this group for choices of CRM. Nada Smith of The Templet House was quite vocal for her love of a 17 Hats & Square combo.
- Some of our most successful venue owners are not using a CRM but opting for Google docs instead!
- One of our venue owners books about 170 weddings a year (owns two venues) and spends about $10,000 a month advertising on various platforms. Most of our venue owners book about 35 weddings a year and spend $0 to $500 a month advertising! At least 30% of our group said they spend zero per month on paid advertising.
- One of our venue owners has a wedding open open house twice a year, she doesn’t charge the vendors anything to participate, this is her way of showing vendor appreciation and developing a strong vendor relationship with the most talented local wedding professionals.
- Venue to Vendor relationships, one venue has such a great relationship with their tent company, the tent company custom designed a tent for their venue!! Now couples can pull the trigger on a rain plan just a few days before the event, not a month out! This valuable vendor relationships saves clients time, stress and money! No other venue in the area has a relationship like this, a great selling point for the venue!
- Popl App – this awesome little app is a simple way to stay connected with valued colleagues & clients without trying to jot down names or exchange business cards (does anyone still do that?). Brittani Rodriguez of Something Blue Events shared this time saving tip!
- Abandonment Rate – Nick Rodriguez of Something Blue Events brought up Abandonment Rates as an important website stat venue owners should know. I am a numbers nerd & seriously encourage you to know the numbers data from your site!! The abandon rate is the percentage of tasks that are abandoned by the customer before completing the intended task on your website. Example: you may have received 20 web inquiry forms last month but how many of your site visitors left the form before hitting send? The answer to this question could surprise you and have you adjusting your forms and lead capture structure. KNOW YOUR NUMBERS! There is a lot more to the value of knowing your website data, conversion rates, etc… if you want to know more please join us on the Austin Wedding Venue Owners Working Vacation as we will be reviewing website success on this trip.
- BONUS – you may not be surprised by this but many of the New Orleans Wedding Venues enjoy about 60% of their business from destination weddings. What is your city tourism department doing to increase destination weddings? Seriously, what are they doing, please post in the comments, I would love to know.
- BONUS – quote from Joseph Kelly of Argyll Abby Estate, “There is no such thing as a perfect plan only perfect intentions. In my years of training and leading in the Army has taught me to develop multiple courses of action…. plan A, B, C etc. We had various plans for various situations like weather, pandemic, money etc… This allowed my team to synchronize our efforts. This provided an opportunity instead of an obstacle. There was no shock value when it was time to execute. This reduces stress and builds good professional relationships. We often think we build a perfect plan, but we often forget the variables that cannot be predicted. Most businesses fail b/c we at a minimum do not develop contingency plans, or at a minimum assume someone else is taking care of it. In my mind there is no such thing as over communicating. In the Army we would simulate scenarios on what action the enemy would take and then plan around that. What does this mean? If you know the market, you understand what all brides want, and you listen to their needs (the little details) you will be very successful. These three things will allow a head start on planning the perfect venue. I would say better than your competitors. I am often amazed how many people, companies, industries have poor leadership. Most are reactive and not proactive in life. Having standard operating procedures and creating a system will allow you to sleep at night. The small stuff that keeps you up at night will be minimized if you work at this.”
Top 10 Favorite Moments
- Seeing all the incredible venue owners at The Drinkery instantly connecting & bonding! We had been emailing and social media connecting but to meet in person and see venue owners excited to meet other venue owners from all over the country, actually made me tear up!
- Cheers – celebrating in the French Quarter with new friends. No one was a stranger, these venue owners were so cool!
- Hearing our venue owner spouses praising their partners wedding business success! In business sometimes you have to go it alone, but wow, its absolutely incredible when you have your life partners support! The award for most vocally supportive spouse was Joseph King of Argyll Abby Estates who could not stop raving about his wife Kelly!
- Eating Turtle Soup at Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar. Rita Falk of The Columns at Tangarray shared this delicacy with me and as a Walking Dead fan, I was into it (those of you who know, know, “just survive somehow”). It was actually…..delicious!
- Sitting next to Becky Sigurdson of Deer Ridge Estate on the venue tours charter, this venue manager is incredibly smart, knowledgeable & hilarious.
- Getting to know each venue owner as they graciously shared their lives & venue stories.
- Karen Massey Moise of The Ma Maison speaking to our entire group and sharing incredibly valuable insight on running one of the most successful venues in Austin, Texas.
- Stepping off the Riverbend Charters Shuttle in the pouring rain to see David Villarubia & The Degas House team greeting us with umbrellas and champagne as we exited the shuttle! They got soaked making sure every one of us made it to the entrance under an umbrella! The experience we had at The Degas House was absolutely incredible. We enjoyed an authentic New Orleans lunch with champagne, bloody Mary’s, delicious desserts and later a snack of gourmet grilled cheese!
- Chiara Gledhill of Windy Hill Farm suggesting we plan an overseas trip! Agreed, now Chiara (and those of you reading this) please post your suggestions on where our first Wedding Venue Owners Working Vacation to another country should be in the comment section below.
- Listening to James Derbes of The Benachi House sharing all the inside info on the sale of his wedding venue! This is such a rare occasion where a venue owner will share this information it actually shocked me a bit! He also shared that rather than being listed as an LLC he has a homestead exemption because he provides lodging. Mr. Derbes has been in the wedding biz for 40 years and is also an attorney. So, this may be something some of you want to look into.
- Seeing all the images floating around social media of our venue owners after hours fun in The French Quarter, they all hit it off so well they were eager to continue hanging out together until the early morning hours!
The Degas House
The Benachi House
The Elms Mansion
The Beauregard – Keyes House
Race & Religious
The Riverview Room
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