Wondering how to host elegant private parties at your inn? All types of private parties may be hosted at your inn, depending upon your inn's location, accommodations, amenities, and space. Another factor in determining which types of parties to host can be the number of rooms or areas (indoor and outdoor) that you have to offer your party guests.
It is important to specify on your website and in your marketing materials the square footage of each space as well as the number of guests you can comfortably accommodate. Indicate if there are handicap-accessible areas for your guests. Also specify your policies on catering and access to your kitchen. Do you want to cater the events yourself or do you have a "preferred list of vendors" that you work with?
Rental rates depend upon the time of year, the type of event, and the length of their visit. It is important to NOT specify prices IF you want to give yourself some flexibility when it comes to pricing. Some types of parties are more expensive to host than others. Also, some guests can be "harder to please" than others.
Let's talk about parties that typically take place during the day time. This could include the following:
Baby showers: Have you thought of hosting baby showers for expectant parents?
Tea parties: Do you have a tea room or host afternoon tea parties for your guests?
Wedding showers: Even if you do not host actual weddings, could you host wedding showers for soon-to-be-married couples?
Parties that typically could take place both day time and night time:
Book signings: Do you have famous local authors interested in you hosting their private book signing party?
Family reunion celebrations: Is your inn located in a centrally convenient place for families from several popular areas to meet?
Fundraisers: Do you host parties for non-profit organizations raising money for good causes?
Graduation parties: Are you located in a city known for its local colleges and universities?
Now, let's focus on parties that typically take place during the evening. They include:
Dinner parties: What organizations (profit and nonprofit) would potentially be interested in you hosting their dinner party?
Formal dances: Perhaps your local Historical Society or Chambers of Commerce would like you to host a formal dance?
Murder mystery parties: Even if you have not hosted them before, what about arranging for a murder mystery party at your inn?
Wedding receptions: Do you host weddings and/or receptions?
Have a different checklist of items, depending upon the type of party:
Beverages: is this an event that typically serves alcohol?; do you have a license to sell alcohol or do you allow guests to bring their own libations?; non-alcoholic beverages include: punch, juice, non-alcoholic fruity drinks (a.k.a. "mocktails"), soda, tea, and water
Date and time options: list available dates and times for each type of event (this is why you must keep a very organized calendar)
Decorations: of course the decorations will depend not only on the type of gathering you are hosting, but also if it has a particular theme; you may have some decorations that you can buy to regularly display (such as a lacy antique baby buggy as baby shower decor for every baby shower you host)
Flowers: consider coordinating all of your floral arrangement requests with one particular florist (so in exchange they give you a discount for your exclusive business)
Food: if you are catering, offer a variety of menu choices for each type of party; consider accommodating particular dietary needs or preferences of your group (such as gluten-free, low cholesterol, low sugar, non-dairy, vegan, vegetarian, etc.)
Location: specify the places on your property that will be reserved strictly for the party guests for each party type you host as well as how many people each place can accommodate
Music: provide a list of music (either a selection of live performers or recordings of musicians) that guests have the option of hearing; the music you play at a baby shower will be different than the music played at a wedding reception
Party events and games: fundraising parties may feature an auction whereas baby showers may have a variety of fun games for the expectant parents
Pictures: if possible, take lots of pictures of the event to share with the people who arranged for the event to take place at your inn; always ask permission before sharing photos of guests attending private parties at your inn with the public (through your website, blog, social media, or in photo collections for potential clients to see)
Price: of course you should make a profit from hosting private parties; think about potential costs associated with different events (including the cleaning and not being able to use the inn for other events at that time)
It helps, but it is not a requirement to have a professional wedding or party planner on your staff. You may want to work out an arrangement with a local wedding or party planner to handle all of the planning details given your specific list of requirements (including costs, caterers, etc.). In addition to renting out rooms, you can make a pretty profit hosting events (even when you have to give a percentage to a professional party planner who manages all the details for you).
For even more suggestions, please watch the Professional Association of Innkeepers International (now the Association of Lodging Professionals) webinar where I gave a presentation of how to host elegant private parties at your inn.
Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography