Supplier Stories: London Wedding Venue QMUL Shares Insights on Staying Unique in a Changing Industry?
Saran from venue Weddings at QMUL's talk to Bridebook about her insights into the wedding industry
Welcome to this week’s Supplier Story! ‘Supplier Stories’ are an original Bridebook Business article series, where we go behind-the-scenes and into the wedding world through those that know it best – the experienced and talented venue and supplier professionals across the UK.
So whether this is your first story or 10th, enjoy as we look into the industry as a whole, and celebrate a true story in itself! Who says couples have all the fun?
Weddings at QMUL’s Supplier Story:
Today our featured supplier is Saran, wedding co-ordinator at Weddings at QMUL (Queen Mary University of London). QMUL is a hidden gem in the heart of London that offers something a little bit different. University campuses aren’t considered a common venue choice, but with a beautiful library reminiscent of the iconic scene from Beauty and the Beast and an excellent wedding team that keeps everything running smoothly behind the scenes, QMUL proves that they should be.
So without further ado, Saran over to you!
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m Saran and I’ve worked at Queen Mary University London for 6 years now. My official job title is ‘Sales Executive’ – but when it comes to weddings I double up as our in-house Wedding Coordinator.
Photo credit: Emmie Scott Photography
2. Share the story of yourself and Weddings at QMUL?
I was thrown, head first, into the world of weddings to be honest. Shortly after I joined the team at QMUL, we were hosting one of our first, if not THE first, wedding celebration in the Octagon – our signature venue. This was way before we ‘officially’ hosted weddings and so I was tasked with the challenge of being the event coordinator for that wedding. Of course, I was terrified. New to my role and being given something so important was very daunting – it meant that one of the most important days in someone’s life was in my hands. But determined to make the event a success, I rose to the challenge. The day itself went really smoothly and the sense of achievement afterwards and knowing ‘I can do this’ gave me a thirst to do more!
Photo credit: Jessica Reeve
3. What drew you to the wedding world?
Having successfully delivered my first wedding, I was keen to develop this new found skill and I worked with my team to officially launch our weddings product back in 2012. We soon realised that we had such a unique offering, that we should really shout about it. ‘Weddings at QMUL’ was born in February of this year. We contacted couples who had previously hosted their weddings with us and basically asked them to be honest and tell us what they really felt about their experience with us as a venue. This was invaluable information for us and it formed the foundation of our new wedding offering.
As a venue, our objective is to offer an extraordinary experience in a historic venue that is relaxed and beautiful. Our new branding is clean and simple and more importantly, our new packages are transparent and easy to understand. Planning a wedding comes with so much stress as standard, our role is to ensure that we take a lot of that stress away from the couple so that they can focus on each other and their guests for a truly unforgettable wedding day.
4. What do you see as the biggest challenge in the wedding industry currently?
Every space is becoming a wedding venue – from warehouses to pubs and roof gardens, so for us, as a venue, our focus is to remain unique and attractive to prospective brides and grooms. We are very fortunate that we have such a beautiful, unique and versatile venue. But for our team, that is just the foundation. We continually look at ways we can offer an amazing experience for our couples that they won’t get elsewhere. This all starts with me and making sure that I support them through the entire process, from the moment they first enquire, right up to the wedding day and sometimes beyond!
Photo credit: Jennifer Adams
5. What wedding venue trends are you seeing in the industry?
I’ve noticed that one of the key trends is shorter lead times. Of course, we still get those couples who plan their big day months, if not years ahead of time. But we are seeing a greater demand for weddings with much shorter lead times, sometimes even as short as a few weeks.
We have also seen an increase in year-round weddings. A couple of years ago we only ever received enquiries for summer weddings, a cluster of dates between June and August that were in high demand. Now we are hosting weddings in what we used to class as ‘off-peak’ season.
6. What is the biggest challenge you face on the wedding day itself?
Anyone working in the wedding industry knows that weddings NEVER go 100% to plan. The biggest challenge I give myself on a wedding day is to make sure that when things go wrong (like we all know they do) that the couple and their guests know nothing about it. My priority is to make sure that the couple has the most wonderful wedding day, free from anything that could cause them any stress.
Another challenge for us is that we are a university, not a purpose built wedding venue so sometimes logistics within our facilities can be challenging. To ensure that this doesn’t impact on the big day, I make sure that everything is planned out from the moment of booking, right up to the day itself. I have my own ‘checklist’ that I have designed and I use it to ensure nothing is missed and everybody who is involved from the venue is briefed and aware of every last detail.
Photo credit: Jennifer Adams
7. How do you feel technology is changing the industry?
Today, everyone has a smartphone as an extension of their arm, so everything is just a click away from a social media platform or a Google search. As a result guest expectations are higher and there is a lot of pressure on the bride and groom to try and think of something innovative to make their day different and memorable. On the flip side, it does make it really easy to find new and quirky ideas with just a scroll, a click or a quick chat with Siri.
8. What has been your biggest time saver this year?
Our new packages for sure! When we re-branded to Weddings at QMUL, the first thing we did was look at what we offer and how accessible that information was. We realised that it was really difficult for our potential couples to find out how much it would cost for them to host their wedding with us. So we designed brand new packages that were transparent and allowed couples to see exactly what is included in each package and the costs associated with it. No little surprises later down the line. This saves me so much time as I am not constantly playing ‘ping pong’ with lots of questions from couples and it reduces their levels of frustration in having to ask so many questions.
Photo credit: Jennifer Adams
9. How do reviews affect the industry?
It’s human nature to seek validation in something by hearing about something from someone else who has experienced it first hand. Couples planning their wedding are no exception – they want to hear more about ‘real life’ wedding stories and read first-hand recommendations in order to make an informed decision about something they are going to spend a lot of money on. For us, word of mouth recommendations and reviews are really valuable.
10. How do you get to know your couples before the big day?
When I meet a potential couple I like to think of them as a friend and not a client. I spend a lot of time with them through the wedding preparation process, so when a couple comes in for their menu tasting session with our chefs, I make sure I am there as well. It’s a really nice relaxed environment and I find it gives me a great opportunity to get to know the couple even better. We form a partnership and it allows us to work together to ensure their day goes perfectly.
11. What do you think makes Weddings at QMUL unique?
Our signature venue is our Grade II listed Victorian ‘Octagon’ venue. Anyone who steps inside for the first time is always blown away by just how extraordinary it is. We call it ‘The Hidden Gem in the Heart of East London’ and it really is! It’s the only venue of its kind in London. However, as a team, we wanted to ensure that we didn’t get complacent and expect that the venue would sell itself. As lovely as a venue can be, after all it is only a ‘room’, albeit a pretty one. For us it’s all about the additional services and support we provide as a venue. From having myself available as a point of contact throughout, to the transparency of the new competitively priced packages and the complimentary extras we include at no additional cost, we have designed a truly unique offer for all potential couples.
Photo credit: Lauren Page
12. What do you think makes for the perfect wedding?
The people. If you have the most important family and friends around you, you will have memories that last a lifetime. Therefore, making sure that everyone attending is happy on the day is the number one priority. If they are happy, I am happy!
13. What’s your favourite wedding memory?
My own wedding – it was an incredible day that was filled with so much love from family and friends. It was a colourful Indian wedding with an abundance of food, drink and LOTS of dancing! My friends said that they had never been to a wedding where the dance floor was packed from beginning to end. It was also a great learning curve for me too – to be the bride was the most important lesson ever. It made me experience first hand what our couples at Queen Mary University London are going through when they are planning their big day. It’s very stressful, but now I make sure that I do whatever I can to help them and put their minds at rest.
14. What do you love about Bridebook?
The app is brilliant! It’s great for couples who do not know where to start when they are planning their wedding. Having a resource like the Bridebook app is a great tool for them.
Photo credit: Jessica Reeve
A huge thank you to Saran for sharing her Supplier Story. Check out the stunning Queen Mary University of London in their Bridebook profile.
Want to feature in your own Supplier Story? Get in touch with Beth at firstname.lastname@example.org.