How to turn your pub or restaurant into a wedding venue – Bar & Kitchen

How to turn your pub or restaurant into a wedding venue

Each year, the number of people opting to tie the knot in more intimate, relaxed locations – like pubs and restaurants – is growing, with almost 2 million people choosing quaint pubs over grand country hotels and marquees in 2022, according to research from Caterer.com

What’s the benefit of turning a pub into a wedding venue?

Given the setbacks of the past two years, it’s no surprise that wedding demand is higher than ever. The good news is that pubs and restaurants are becoming increasingly popular, as couples look for smaller places. If you are lucky enough to be near to a registry office, be sure to put up sandwich boards outside
your venue and mention it on your website and social media channels. Many couples plan their wedding one or two years in advance, so you should start to market 2023 and 2024 right now!
We spoke to event planning expert Jessie Westwood, from Studio Sorores, who has more than a decade of experience creating destination weddings and events, to find out her top tips for transforming pubs and restaurants into a wedding venue. From the licensing to the decor; the food to the drink.

NEW Planning a wedding in a pub brings many benefits. The obvious one is that it’s a fantastic way to increase your turnover, as well as it being relatively easy to do. Most places will have a fully stocked bar and operating kitchen, with caterers already on site, so that’s two big jobs already taken care of. Secondly, pubs and restaurants are usually quite small, so there’s less you can do with a space, which means decor is more minimal and it’s likely the guest list will be smaller too than the typical wedding, which is a lot easier to manage.

What are the key challenges a business should be aware of?

A wedding timeline is much more complex than any other type of party, with a lot of moving parts. Communication will be key. Whoever’s running the show at your venue will need to ensure they communicate well with both the couples and suppliers, creating a detailed itinerary that includes everything from the guest arrival times to photo slots, speeches, and coordinating the food and drink – just to name a few.

If pubs or restaurants would like to off er legal ceremonies, then they will have to obtain the correct licences first, which can usually be applied for through your local council. Most venues of this kind will only host the reception however. Another thing to consider is your alcohol licence and opening hours licence. Most couples will want to party until at least midnight, and will want alcohol served throughout.

pub decorated for a wedding reception venue

How easy is it to become a venue that can host weddings?

Very! It’s not hard to host a wedding at your venue… but it is hard to do it really well. You’ll need to hold couples’ hands a lot and be aware that most people getting married in your venue likely won’t have a large budget or a wedding planner, so they’ll be looking to you for advice. If you aren’t ready to start drawing up floor plans and managing suppliers, why don’t you get an event manager for your venue instead – or choose someone in your existing team to be the lead contact.

What are your top tips for transforming a venue into a wedding-ready venue?

Start with the space. How will guests move around, is there space to dance and eat? A cosy outside area? When it comes to the interior decoration, try to choose neutral colour schemes and allow room on the tables for flower arrangements. And if you do one big change, remove any carpets – stone, tile or wooden floors only. Perfect for dancing and easier to clean. If you have a large venue, what about pop-up bars outside? It’s helpful to create floor plans for each area so they can picture how the wedding and your space will look. Finally, it’s always best to close your venue to the public for the day: your team can focus on the wedding and it’s nicer for guests. If you don’t have an event space and will be closing your pub to the public, give plenty of notice and date closures to your online booking system or website. A clear, polite sign on the door will be well received by those who turn up without a booking (increasingly rare these days). Limit how many you take on in peak season, and encourage weekday bookings at lower hire prices to save your weekend trade.

Wedding reception venue view of dance floor from dj deck

What’s the best way to serve food at a wedding?

Avoid the buffet at all costs, unless it is a relaxed BBQ or small number of guests – they are logistically a nightmare to manage. Plated, table service, and possibly family-style sharing is best, even if the setting isn’t formal.

Should we buy or hire special tables and chairs?

It’s easier for couples if you’re able to provide the furniture and tableware, but ideally allow them to hire in their own preferred styles if possible. It might be worth making contact with local companies you can confidently recommend who are reliable and able to work with your delivery and collection schedules.

What can venues do to offer a point of difference?

Focus on local, seasonal food and an exceptional drinks list, be ready with FAQ documents and recommended supplier lists.

If you can, try to find local suppliers, such as breweries, farmers, distilleries and cake makers.

People always enjoy buying local and it’s another way that couples can make their wedding unique.

Wedding reception venue table set up

What sort of dishes should be served?

British or European-style fresh, seasonal menus are recommended with local food producers featured. It is by far the most preferred choice for couples, and I would avoid any ‘fun’ themes unless offering street food-style options or BBQ service.

Think vibrant salads with farm-to-fork bright, beautiful vegetables, flame-grilled showstoppers such as lobster or tomahawk steaks cooked outside in front of guests, local wild garlic gnocchi, or even a modern take on classics such as prawn cocktail and shepherd’s pie.

Use local fruit farms for delicious rhubarb or strawberry tartlets, or a light and simple chocolate mousse. Dining is a huge part of a wedding experience and pubs should absolutely make it their biggest selling point.

Does transforming your venue have to be expensive?

No, it doesn’t have to be expensive, but it will certainly make things easier if you invest from the start, by creating a plain yet characterful canvas for guests to build on, should they wish. All direct costs will be paid for by the bride and groom, so it’s really the initial makeover, should you need it.

Think you’ve got what it takes to host a wedding?

No matter how grand or intimate your venue is, whether you want to host legal ceremonies or not, planning a wedding can be incredibly exciting. You just need to get the basics right first, and that comes down to checking licences, making sure you have a trusted team, and maybe giving your interiors a bit of a refresh too.

Wedding reception venue glasses clinking
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