Linda asks:

As a regional celebrant I am struggling with travel and how to incorporate this into my fees. I have an “anything over 200km round trip” clause which may seem a lot but its realistic to where I live. My problem is more about inquiry meetings, extra meetings and rehearsals. Obviously I cant charge for an inquiry meeting but do I just have a set higher wedding fee which kind of covers longer distances overall whether the wedding is near or far? Hope you can help!

Travel fees are a controversial topic in the wedding industry. Whether to charge or not, how much to charge, and how to administer the travel fee if the venue changes, or what if it’s just inside or outside of a certain boundary?

I’ll cover Linda’s direct question beneath but I have also been wanting to talk about travel fees so I’ll do that first.

What is the travel fee for?

So let’s try and attack this issue pragmatically?

Who is the travel fee for? What is it supposed to do?

I know in my business a travel fee can serve two purposes:

  • To encourage couples a little far from home to not book me, or
  • To actually cover the extra cost of travel.

This whole conversation is one about boundaries. Setting boundaries, respecting boundaries, and knowing when to relax boundaries.

To dissuade bookings far from home

As most of my articles are, I’m writing this in an airport lounge, because the style of business I have chosen for this season of our life is one of travel. I barely book any weddings near home and people far from home seem to like me, so I travel.

But if I wanted to create an incentives structure to keep me home more, I could choose a travel fee for weddings outside a boundary I was prepared to work within, and really make it worth my while to leave that boundary.

So an example for me might be that if I’m charging $1000 for local events, weddings more than 200km away incur a $500 travel fee.

When setting a boundary like that, you need to communicate it well.

You don’t want to burden people with a ruler and a paper map, so for me I might say, weddings outside of the Gold Coast, Brisbane, Byron Bay, and the Sunshine Coast regions incur a travel fee. An example of areas that incur this fee include Toowoomba, Noosa, and Yamba.

Many people include wording here about cents per kilometre and I believe that you are really asking too much of couples when you start with confusing language that requires couples to have a lot of information about you before they have even chosen you.

I would also recommend against charging a low cents per kilometre rate, or a multi-tiered travel rate, because while it makes sense to you, your couples just want to book a bloody celebrant and you’re making it far too hard and far too confusing.

Sales psychology would tell you that more people would rather pay a $500 travel fee than a $184.30 travel fee that they have to work out.

Plus, if the travel fee is small, in the sub-$100 range, just include it in your actual price as a cost of doing business.

To cover the actual cost of travelling

This is a different kind of travel cost, but my principles remain: keren it simple, keep it easily understood, and help couples make their decision to book you.

I believe that the best foot forward in this regard is to have location-based pricing. Instead of quoting a $1000 fee and a $230 travel fee for Betoota weddings, just say Betoota weddings cost $1230 totally inclusive.

I calculate the cost of getting there, the cost of accommodation, and will often roughly add $50 for food and fuel, depending on circumstances. So Sydney weddings I charge $600 travel, because that will cover me being there.

Enquiry and sales meetings

You would be hard-pressed to get me to travel more than 30 minutes for a sales meeting. I’ve just had too many be wastes of my time.

So my advice Linda is to make three offers to couples not close to you:

  • A meeting close to you, at a cafe or if you have an officer meet there. ?Just offer a series of three times or dates you could meet at that place, and leave it with them.
  • A meeting over the internet, using Facetime or Skype, or Zoom. Do it on your laptop so your video is stable and try and get a place with good lighting and audio.
  • They could book you without meeting you. Just offer it in the email, you can book me this way, or if you’d prefer to meet, then let’s organise that.