Why do wedding venues cost so much?

You’re engaged, how exciting! The first step in wedding planning after posting the news on social media is usually venue shopping. Have you ever found yourself wondering, why do venues cost so much? 

Wedding venue sticker shock is a real thing, we get it. If this is your first time planning a wedding, you are probably wondering why four walls cost so much. In our most transparent blog post ever, we are going to explain the why to you. We believe an educated consumer is the best type, so hopefully this will help you understand what’s behind your venue costs and make you feel a bit better about booking your venue, wherever that may be. 

The truth behind venue prices. Pepper Sprout Barn. pc: Megan Hobbs Photography

The truth behind venue prices. Pepper Sprout Barn. pc: Megan Hobbs Photography

Venues are so much more than four walls

Most have no idea what goes in to the overhead of a wedding venue. What’s overhead you ask? It’s ALL the costs that it takes just to keep the doors open and the building running. Every venue is different and we all start out in our own way, so this list isn’t exact for every venue but we can pretty much guarantee most incur these costs or something very similar.  Overhead costs are the bills that are paid every month. 

Let’s start with a bank or builder loan that needs to be paid back in monthly installments—someone had to pay to build the venue and most don’t have that much already saved up. 

Next, every building has the following needs, the more buildings or more land your venue has, the higher the costs. 

  • Property Insurance: every venue needs insurance.  

  • Property taxes: every county and state wants their share of taxes.

  • Landscaping: the grounds need to pretty and well-kept for all those wedding pictures. This is often a weekly task. Mowing, weeding, trimming, blowing, planting and fertilizing just to name a few. Don’t forget mulch and tree trimming. 

  • Utilities: water, electricity, cable, phone/wifi, etc. Everyone expects the basics to be provided. 

  • Equipment: think big ticket items like HVAC, plumbing, septic, kitchen equipment. 

  • Pest Control: we need to make sure the buildings and grounds are as bug-free as possible. Creepy-crawlers, rodents or mosquitoes are not welcome on a wedding day. 

  • Maintenance: depending on the need some are monthly, some are yearly. Outside has to be pressure-washed, repainted and repaired and inside needs new paint, repairs and updates. It’s important for everything to look fresh, new and up-to-date. 

To host events with many people there are inherent risks. As a venue owner, we need to protect ourselves against such risks (damage, fire, injury, weather damage, etc) and to be protected, you need insurance. As you probably know by owning a car or house, insurance is expensive. Liability, property and worker’s comp insurance are hefty bills but required by law. 

Don’t forget Uncle Sam wants his share…if a venue is fortunate to make a profit, at least 25% of all profits are going to Uncle Sam and the State department. 

Details of a venue are what make it unique. pc: Photography by Zelda

Details of a venue are what make it unique. pc: Photography by Zelda

So that’s just the basics, there is more! Does your venue have staff on site? 

A well staffed venue will make your life SO much easier. They are helping hands to ensure your day runs smoothly. They work many more hours than just your event. Before, during and after your big day they can do any or all of the following: 

  • host tours, after all you need to see it before you book

  • move & set up equipment

  • maintain the grounds & make sure the venue is ready for you and your guests

  • clean…everything. Bathrooms, windows, mirrors, floors. Just like a hotel room (only much bigger and a lot more rooms), you want to feel your venue is clean and well-kept when you arrive.

  • park and greet guests

  • haul trash

  • assist vendors

  • organize your day (think timelines, meetings and decor) 

  • work the event to buss tables, maintain bathrooms and pick up spills. 

  • at the end of an event, they clean, breakdown, store items and get ready for the next event. 

As I am sure you guessed, a quality staff costs money. Those that work at a venue work weekends and that can be tough to staff consistently, so you have to pay them well. In addition to their hourly staff, venue owners have to pay for: 

  • full-time employees & their salaries

  • worker’s comp insurance

  • payroll taxes

  • payroll fees

  • accounting & scheduling programs

  • banking services and fees

  • uniforms

  • possible paid benefits

It’s important for venues to maintain a high level of cleanliness for both the buildings & equipment. pc: Julie Schandolph Photography

It’s important for venues to maintain a high level of cleanliness for both the buildings & equipment. pc: Julie Schandolph Photography

So we’ve touched on the humans in the building. Does your venue provide tables, chairs, decor, linens and other items for you to use? 

If it’s built into your price, that’s a huge savings for you because renting those elements can add up FAST but keep in mind it all costs us money too. 

What each venue provides can vary but one thing is the same, high costs. We have to buy the items then we have to store them. Take a minute to consider that on average 100+ people are using the equipment each weekend, so with that comes constant upkeep, repairs and replacement. We want to ensure that every seat your guests use is safe and clean so after each event we inspect and clean each item. That takes a lot of time and manpower. 

If we don’t own it, we have to rent it. Renting costs a pretty penny too. 

Pretty things aren’t cheap, am I right? Ever furnish an apartment or house? Curtains, towels, decor, furniture, rugs even at a discount store is a costly amount and likely those purchases are being replaced every 2 years because of wear and tear. 

When shopping for venues, remember multiple buildings mean higher owner costs. pc: Brooke Miller Photography

When shopping for venues, remember multiple buildings mean higher owner costs. pc: Brooke Miller Photography

Upkeep on a venue is no joke! 

We often say owning a venue is homeownership on steroids. Things break all the time and repairs need to happen immediately. Things have a funny way of breaking right before a wedding. Costs for a repair person to come on a Friday night or Saturday morning is quite eye-opening. Even new venues have repairs: AC units, plumbing (septic, toilets and leaky sinks to name a few) and equipment breaks down (ice machines, refrigerators, ovens etc). If your venue provides these items, it’s important that they are available and operable when it’s your turn to rent the venue. After all, you are paying for it!

Everyone thinks owning a venue is glamorous but there are some not-so-glam parts of the job too! 

Does your venue have a dumpster? Sure, it’s not pretty but not having to haul the drippy, smelly trash off in your car at the end of the nights is a HUGE bonus but renting and servicing a dumpster costs a lot of money, each week! 

Septic tanks—not fun to think about but with 100-300 people using the facilities each weekend, they need maintenance much more often than a home with 4-6 people. The last thing anyone wants is to smell a septic tank during a wedding. 

Cleaning after 150 people takes multiple staff not just one person and trust us, guests go everywhere so all the grounds, buildings and rooms need to be cleaned not just bathrooms and floors. 

Owning a venue can sometime feel like a 24/7 job. A lot goes on behind the scenes. pc: Taken by Tate

Owning a venue can sometime feel like a 24/7 job. A lot goes on behind the scenes. pc: Taken by Tate

Our job is so much more than just the wedding day

From the time you tour to the day you walk down the aisle, we are working on preparing for your event. Below is a short list of all the things we do during regular business hours: 

  • provide tours to newly engaged couples

  • daily upkeep of the venue.

  • paperwork, phone calls, meetings with client and vendors

  • preparing for each event. Setup, inventory, documents and more paperwork.

  • Scheduling staff, paying bills, creating timelines and designing floor plans just to name a few. 

  • advertising, marketing, social media (this takes a lot of time and money).

  • post-event we have more paperwork, more cleaning and more emails. 

All in all, we estimate that we put about 75 hours into each event and every person that plays a role in your day, either upfront or behind the scenes has to get paid for their time. 

Ceremony sites require equipment and upkeep too. All contributing to venue costs. pc: Taken by Tate

Ceremony sites require equipment and upkeep too. All contributing to venue costs. pc: Taken by Tate

Did you scroll to the bottom? No worries, we get it. There is a lot of info to consume! 
You want to rent a venue, not own one so you don’t want to hear about all the specifics. The summary of all our thoughts above is that there are a lot of factors and costs that go into a venue. There are costs involved with everything, the buildings, the staff, the equipment and all the time it takes to put a wedding day together. Your wedding day is the biggest party you will likely host in your life and as a venue owner, we want to be sure where you choose creates a welcoming, clean and safe environment for you and your guests. 

The level of service each venue offers can vary but at Pepper Sprout Barn, we want to reduce as much stress and work for our clients as possible but to do that well, we need to have the best staff and of course all that work takes time. Less stress equals more money but also more time for you to do all the other fun things happen during your engagement: parties, showers, registry shopping and all the planning. 

every element of a venue takes manpower and funds. pc: Julie Schandolph Photography

every element of a venue takes manpower and funds. pc: Julie Schandolph Photography

This is by no means meant to be a complete list of all the costs of running a venue but it’s a good start. Most couples getting married and starting off on their journey of life don’t own a home yet so we know that it’s hard to understand why venues cost so much but a venue is not a home, it’s a business and running a business is not a cheap endeavor. 

Venues like ours, with more than one building and multiple acres have even higher costs. To provide you a beautiful space to host the most important day of your life, costs a lot of money and it’s not as simple of a business as one may think! Not to mention, venues usually only host a certain number of events a year, often grouped in peak seasons, but bills are due each month.

Like with all things in life, you get what you pay for!. A venue that charges what they are worth is going to provide you quality service, nice amenities, clean environment and a helpful staff. All of which will make your day run smoothly, make a great impression on your guests and are much more likely to still be in business when your wedding day rolls around! 

Time for a BONUS TIP

Our bonus tip: when venue shopping remember that comparing just package prices between venues isn’t always comparing apples to apples. Don’t just look at the big price. Be sure to check out the details, see what all is included and more importantly what is not. All those “add-ons” add up fast and before you know it, your venue that was such a deal ends up costing more than the higher priced, more inclusive one. 

As we tell all the couples that tour Pepper Sprout Barn, your venue is one of the biggest, most impactful decisions you’ll make for your wedding day. Above all else, we want to be sure it feels right to you! 

If you have questions below about venue costs or venue shopping, leave a comment. We’d be happy to share our thoughts and answer your questions. Our mission is to help all couples have the perfect wedding day!