Winery Weddings — I Do or I Don’t

By. Neil Williamson, Grumpy Marketing Guy

Wineries, like any other business, are often looking for ways to diversify their income by maximizing their assets.  Vineyards and wineries tend to be romanticized and provide a great backdrop for a wedding where the goal, not unlike wine, is for the relationship to grow better over time.

Photo Credit: First Colony Winery

Constructed properly weddings (and other private events) can add significantly to the bottom line of a winery.  A quick review of the central Virginia wine market found  banquet room rentals can be between $2,000 and $8,000.  This is before you add in any wine minimum.  Several wineries do over forty weddings a year, this can generate over $200,000 gross revenue annually.  Even just one wedding a week in the three summer months would equal $60,000.

In addition, you are introducing a large number of individuals to your property, selling a large amount of wine (many wineries have a minimum), all during time your tasting room would usually be closed.

Residual sales also benefit as folks marrying at the vineyard tend to return and purchase.

So it is clear there are several reasons wineries consider doing weddings.  Why would a winery not want to serve as a nuptials host?

Winery location is too remote
Not enough space vineyard for a tent
Staffing demands
Wear and tear on facility
Security issues
Neighbor concerns
Fear of Bridezilla
Does not fit personality of the owner
Takes away from other guests’ experience

In my years in the wine business, I have often found that the very characteristics that make a great winemaker are not always the same features of an accomplished wedding planner.  The most successful “wedding” wineries tend to have dedicated staff willing to work with the Bride [and the family] for a year or more prior to the event and most comfortable holding their hand through the planning, decision making and the actual event.

If you are planning a winery, determine if you believe your personality fits hosting events, if not, can you afford someone on staff with these skills?  Then prior to even laying out the vineyard, no less the winery, visit several wineries that do weddings.  Read their websites, meet with their approved caterers, understand their challenges and try to build your venue to be both different than theirs but learn from their comments.

Just as with marriage, weddings aren’t for everyone.  The best way to minimize risk, is to go in with eyes wide open — that’s pretty sound matrimony advise as well.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson, Grumpy Marketing Guy

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