The Drivable Destination Wedding Has Arrived

Weddings are a $73 billion industry—and despite the pandemic, that figure is expected to surge. People are still getting engaged, and with a backlog of cancelled 2020 events, there will be no shortage of weddings business going forward. But, weddings as we knew them are a thing of the past.

Couples are still looking for idyllic, destination-like settings—without the need to grab a passport or hop on a plane. Enter the drivable destination wedding.

In a recent MMGY survey, 67% of respondents noted driving as their preferred method of travel, and one in five travelers is willing to drive up to 500 miles each way for a vacation. Add in the ability to see loved ones tie the knot in person, and you’ll find attendees willing to make the drive to your property.

Location, Location, Location

The ability to avoid public forms of transportation, like airplanes, is only part of the appeal that drivable destination weddings offer.

Properties featuring expansive outdoor spaces have an advantage: They can offer couples and their guests privacy and seclusion away from the outside world, as well as other guests on-property. Because of the pandemic, space away from others is more valued than ever.

Another draw: individual accommodations. While travelers still chose to stay in hotels over the past year, there has been a sharp uptick in guests opting for their own space away from others, such as private homes and villas.

Catering to Couples

F&B remains an essential element of weddings, but because of concerns caused by the pandemic, it’s crucial to rethink how to serve guests. Gone are the days of traditional buffets and crowded plates of passed-around hors d’oeuvres. Instead, think plated dinners, attended buffets and self-contained appetizers.

Buffets have been a hot topic lately—while traditional self-serve buffets are out, they can still be pulled off during and post-COVID. Attended buffets, in which staff serve guests, help reduce the amount of hands touching utensils. Stations can also be spread out to avoid overcrowding, and implementing a system for calling guests up to be served prevents lines from forming.

With many couples opting for outdoor nuptials, the possibilities for F&B are increasing. If your property has an outdoor wood-fired oven, consider offering a pizza station. Or break out the grills for flank steaks, barbeque chicken and more. Food trucks have also gained popularity with couples over the last year, so consider partnering with local vendors.

Customization is also key. Smaller, more intimate weddings mean couples don’t have to please a large crowd, and can instead focus on adding unique, personalized touches. Perhaps they want to offer a dessert they shared on their first date, or a meal based on a family recipe. Being open to this kind of customization will go a long way for properties.

Experiential Add-Ons

Drivable destination weddings can be a multi-day affair, and couples want to offer their guests fun experiences beyond the ceremony and reception. Think cooking or mixology classes, outdoor adventures and art classes.

Mix Up Your Marketing

Properties located in destination-like settings may have targeted faraway couples in the past, but now is the time to shift to more regional couples. Additionally, highlight the availability of smaller packages and the variety of wedding spaces.

Promoting your wedding offerings on social media is also crucial—75% of couples use social media to plan their big day, with Instagram and Pinterest being the most popular.

There are even more wedding trends on the horizon…

Weddings via Wi-Fi

Meetings aren’t the only events to get the hybrid treatment. With smaller guestlists a necessity at the moment, many couples are using the power of the internet to share their special day with loved ones unable to attend. To make this happen, offer a livestream component for guests to attend virtually. (If you offer a hybrid option, adequate on-site Wi-Fi is crucial.)

Repeat Nuptials

Before 2020, weddings were considered a once-in-a-lifetime event. But many couples are opting for smaller, intimate weddings with close family and friends now, with the goal to have another event with an expanded guestlist down the road. This can mean repeat business for properties—capitalize by offering Now and Later packages.

The “Now” can mean a microwedding or minimony—the former a small ceremony and reception with 50 guests or less, the latter a ceremony with fewer than 10 guests—trends that are expected to last beyond the pandemic. Couples are seeing the value in keeping the guestlist small in favor of a more intimate feel—and it often opens up their budget to include high-end touches, like a top-shelf open bar or decadent meal.

On-Site Honeymoons

Because of travel restrictions, many couples are choosing to stay closer to home for their honeymoons. If a couple is holding their wedding at your property, work an extended stay or weekend getaway and special amenities—like exclusive spa services, special dining options, complimentary champagne and more—into their event package.

You can also target local couples that got married elsewhere, but still want to experience a destination-like honeymoon.

Think Beyond the Weekend

With so many 2020 events cancelled—and couples continuing to get engaged—there is a higher demand than usual for weddings. Because of this, weekend dates are filling up fast, which means couples are opting for mid-week weddings. Be sure to flaunt all the perks of mid-week weddings, and create an appealing package around that fact.

Reap the Rewards

By integrating these valuable strategies above, wedding business will boom, and as the newlyweds ride off into the sunset, it will mean happily ever after for your drivable destination, too.

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