Even when you think you know everything; something is bound to surprise you during your wedding venue business setup. But even if you manage to navigate the minefield in the early days, once you are up and running, something else could pop up that you had not expected.
So, what are the biggest shocks that I hear venue owners gasp and talk about when it comes to starting and running their own wedding venue?
1. The renovation costs are higher than they expected.
Unless you or someone you know has been involved in the early stages of a construction project, you may be surprised by some of the upfront work that is required to convert farm buildings to wedding venue structures. Most people focus on the cost of the labor and materials for the actual renovation work, but don’t know that in order to get a permit for your venue to legally operate and do business, there may be more than you realize.
For example, you might need to upgrade your septic system to handle the additional bathroom visits, which could be $10,000 or more. Your well might have to have the filter and pump system improved to keep up with the drinking water standards and for all the extra toilet flushes, handwashing, and stuff (add another $5,000.) You may need to hire an architect to help with the permit drawings to be reviewed ($2,000). And then there are the permit fees themselves which can be a $1,500 or more. And will you need sprinklers? Ugh. That can be another $40,000 you didn’t plan for.
See how that got scary high, scary fast? That is why I always suggest that you find out early everything that will be required and put a plan together that let’s you figure out when you can open and how much money it will take to do that. There is nothing worse than getting started and being surprised once you are way down the venue planning road.
2. The hours are really long.
Like really long. Even when it’s not wedding season, you might find yourself working a few hours every weekend on just answering emails, returning phone calls, and doing tours with prospective couples. And then when it is wedding season, if you have your weekend fully booked out, it’s not unreasonable that you will work 30-40 hours in just a 3-day period doing prep work, chaperoning the event, and cleaning up your property afterwards. Plus, figure in time for rehearsals and the fact that you will also still be doing tours for new bookings.
So, unless you only want to do (1) one wedding per weekend, you need to figure that running your own venue is a legitimate full-time job. And if you don’t have it worked into your financials to get yourself a little help along the way, you may find yourself burning out really fast.
3. People can be jerks.
For the most part, people are not jerks. But when one shows up to the wedding, either in the form of a narcissistic mother or ego-maniacal best man, it can catch you off guard. In fact, it can take one emotionally exhausting person to ruin a whole event for you and make you rethink whether you want to do this.
The solution to this, however, is to not assume everyone will be a jerk and that it’s your job to parent them. Instead, just be prepared to take extra time for yourself when you do encounter one so that you can maintain your composure and give yourself some breathing room to allow you to handle them as diplomatically as necessary.
4. Running a venue is expensive.
Now this is a “shock” that I have intentionally placed quotes around because I have an opinion about this. If you have read my book or taken my online financial course, then you know that understanding the costs of doing this business is key to making money at it. And if you are the type of person who avoids the money work in running any business venture, you are apt to find yourself either undercharging or overspending.
The reality is that it takes some money to run a venue business HOWEVER, it can only seem expensive if:
You aren’t charging enough to begin with, or
You aren’t booking enough events to breakeven, or
You are spending more money than you actually need to
So, this is a shock that, again, if you plan ahead, you don’t need to be surprised by.
Now, this list isn’t inclusive of every little surprise that owning your own business will give you, but it does capture the ones I hear and see the most. But again, preparation matters and the more you do your homework, the better the chance you have to make sure that you aren’t caught off guard and you can have a business you truly love.