Top tips when considering having a Ladies Festival/Weekend

Matt Devine from Square Events reports:

With many Lodges having not hosted a Ladies Festival since 2019, or for some even longer, there is understandably a lot of nervousness involved in taking the plunge and making plans. Contract terms and rates are a huge concern, but there is plenty to do before even reaching that stage.

Time is perhaps the biggest commitment ahead of making a decision with a thorough venue search, chasing for responses, haggling best rate, visiting the shortlist and negotiating the contract, all to do before the hotel is even booked!

Combine that with a busy lifestyle and everything that is required of a Worshipful Master, and it’s not hard to see why many Lodges settle for a night in the local Masonic Hall.

At Square Events, we are here to make the process as simple as possible. We’ve put together some top tips to get you started:

Step 1 – Survey the Brethren

Confirm that you have the required support to run the event. Will the Brethren support you, and can they bring a party? Having an approximate expectation of numbers is really helpful in narrowing down suitable venues. If the Lodge has hosted Ladies Festivals in the past, then previous masters should be able to offer guidance.

Step 2 – Draw up a wish list

A specific date and/or location is hugely beneficial, although this can often narrow the list too much. We ask new enquirers if there are alternative dates or locations of interest so that we can suggest as many suitable hotels as possible. Setting a budget is also a good idea and, in the current climate, the best way to narrow a list of potential venues. 

Step 3 – Finding a venue

Beginning your venue search may feel like a daunting task, especially if this is the first event you’ve organised since your wedding! Masonic events are a niche sector, so it is worth using a specialist to provide you with a proposal of all suitable venues that fit your brief. Thanks to a combination of negotiation skill, local rate knowledge and buying power, Square Events are able to secure better rates than contacting the hotels directly. You also get our experience and support throughout the life of the event and all for free. It’s the chosen venue that pays us a commission post-event. At the very least, we’ll save you many hours of searching the internet, contacting venues, chasing for responses, and haggling on rates. 

Step 4 – Choosing a venue 

It is essential that you visit your shortlisted venues before making a decision. Images online could be years old, and social comments on hotel booking sites tend to be frequented by those with an axe to grind. When visiting your shortlisted venues, be sure to make lots of notes and don’t be afraid to have a haggle!

Step 5 – The small print

If you are not using a Masonic specialist to help book your venue, you will need to carefully consider your venue’s contract and ensure that you fully understand their terms and conditions. Check the contract for cancellation terms and any penalties for a shortfall in numbers. Single surcharges can be a stumbling block. If the hotel is charging extra for sole occupancy, ask if they can include a few without the supplement.

Step 6 – Event delivery

Once you’ve confirmed your event, your attention will turn to adding the finishing touches! Lodges with venues booked via Square Events have the choice of two service options. A complete event management service can be provided, which includes managing your guest list, invitations, supplier engagement and management of accounts and payments. Alternatively, Lodges can simply utilise our venue search and booking service and then receive a ‘Knowledge Pack’ which contains suggested timelines, templates, checklists and lists of Masonic suppliers local to the chosen venue.

This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 49 August 2022 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons – Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.

Read more articles in the Arena Issue 49 here.