No matter what kind of event you’re planning, from a conference to a wedding, an exhibition to a fashion show, there’s likely to be one big question on your mind: should I choose a dry hire venue or one that comes with all the bells and whistles included?

Here, we’ll help to guide you through that decision, looking at everything from cost to logistics. But first...

What is dry hire?

Dry hire is when you only pay for a venue to provide you with the space for your event. In other words, your venue won’t provide you with any of the other elements, such as catering, AV or branding. This means that as an event organiser, you’ll have to source suppliers yourself and deal with the logistics of getting them to your event venue on the day.

This is in contrast to all-inclusive venues, which are also known as ‘wet hire.’ Wet hire venues will generally have their own go-to suppliers that are tried and tested, removing a lot of the stress of organising your event. These suppliers will be included in the total cost of your venue hire.

Some venues will only be available to book as dry hire, while others will only be available as wet hire. However, there are also venues that will be happy to work with you either way.

Similarly, you’ll find some variation in the level of what is included in a dry hire or wet hire venue. For instance, some dry hire venues will be happy to include their furniture in the space, while others will come completely empty. Likewise, some will let your source your own caterer but require you to use their staff. Even all-inclusive venues will have limits as to what they can provide you with – anything on top of this, you’ll generally need to arrange yourself.

The Auditorium at St Mary's Venue, available for dry hire

Dry Hire - Pros & Cons

Dry hire and wet hire each have their benefits, which can make it hard to choose between the two. Here are the main pros and cons of dry hire, to help you understand whether it’s right for the event you're planning.

Pros

  • Keep costs down. If you’re on a budget, a dry hire venue will allow you to try and keep costs down by choosing your own (cheaper!) suppliers or using your own staff to carry out pivotal roles on the day.
  • More control. If you want things done in a certain way, a dry hire venue will allow you to take control of every aspect of your event, from the logistics to the budget. You’ll be in charge of running the day, rather than an in-house coordinator.
  • Bespoke. Events hosted at wet hire venues will generally be less unique than those hosted at dry hire venues. This is because every event held at a wet hire venue will use the same few select suppliers.
  • More flexible. A dry hire venue is a real blank canvas that comes with many fewer restrictions that wet hire venues. You'll have the flexibility to prioritise what's most important to you and the freedom to be creative!

Cons

  • Costs can spiral. Events held at dry hire venues aren’t necessarily cheaper. It’s easy to forget to include things in your budget, meaning costs can quickly add up and spiral out of control. In contrast, if you hold your event at a wet hire venue, you’ll know exactly how much you’re spending from the beginning.
  • Stress. With dry hire, you’ll need to book every supplier separately and handle all the logistics of your event yourself. This might also make it harder to relax on the day, as you’ll have to deal with any issues, such as suppliers not turning up, yourself.
  • Time-consuming. It’s much more time-consuming to organise an event at a dry hire venue, as you’ll need to spend time trying out suppliers, negotiating with them and working out all the timings yourself. So, it might not be ideal if you have a tight timeline or a lack of resources available in-house. On the other hand, a wet hire venue will sort this all out for you.
  • Hire isn’t always cost-effective. Although you'll be paying your venue less overall with dry hire (because you're not paying them for anything other than the space), you'll often end up paying more for the space itself. That's because the venue won't be able to supplement its income through extras such as charging you for catering or making sales at the bar.
Shoreditch Studios, available for dry hire

Which is best for my event?

As you can see, there’s no simple answer in terms of whether dry hire or wet hire is better. Instead, the right choice for you will depend on a number of factors, such as your budget, timeline, event format and more. Here are some key considerations that will help you to decide between the two.

Budget

If you’re on a tight budget, dry hire could be the cheaper option for your event. With dry hire, you can attempt to save money by negotiating good prices with individual suppliers and using your own in-house team to cover key roles rather than paying for the use of your venue's staff.

However, bear in mind that dry hire won’t always be the cheapest option. You may be charged more for the space itself than you would with wet hire, as you won't be hiring it as part of a larger package. Plus, if you’re negotiating deals with individual suppliers, it’s easy for costs to spiral. This means that even though dry hire venues have the potential to be cheaper, there are more unknowns.

With an all-inclusive venue, on the other hand, you’ll know exactly what you’re going to be paying for your event from the very beginning, so you can rest safe in the knowledge that it's going to fall within your budget.

Ultimately, the better option for you will all depend on what spec you want your event to be, and on how confident you are that you can source suppliers yourself more cheaply than what an all-inclusive venue is quoting.

Event size and format

Your event size and format will also influence whether dry hire or all-inclusive venue hire is the better option.

There are no hard and fast rules, but dry hire could be the better option for more creative events, such as fashion shows and brand activations. That’s because dry hire will give you the flexibility to bring in your own suppliers who can help you to turn your event space into somewhere completely unique and bespoke to your clients or brand.

In contrast, an all-inclusive venue might be better for big corporate events such as large-scale conferences. That’s because all-inclusive venues designed for such occasions will have all the necessary equipment and facilities in place to ensure a smooth and seamless experience, as well as tried-and-tested suppliers who are used to delivering events of that scale.

The bigger your event, the more scope there is for things to go wrong, and so dry hire venues that don’t have the facilities on hand to cater to such large audiences will tend to be a riskier option.

Logistics

Dry hire requires a lot more organisation from your side than wet hire does. If you opt for a dry hire venue, you’ll not only need to negotiate deals with and book individual suppliers, but you’ll also need to work out loading times and access to a loading bay for each supplier, get staff on board who can help at the event, and organise cleaners to clear up afterwards. And that’s not to mention all the logistics you’ll have to consider for your guests (parking, toilets and arrival times are just a few examples).

An all-inclusive venue will take care of all of this for you, so you don’t have to worry about sourcing everything yourself and potentially forgetting something. You'll also have support on the day so, if there are any hiccups, your venue will be invested in resolving them so that your event runs smoothly.

When you’re working out whether a dry or wet hire venue would be right for your event, you’ll have to think about whether you have the time and resources needed to sort out everything in-house. Things like your timeline, the scope of your event and its location will all have to factor into your decision.

Flexibility

If you want to plan a truly bespoke event, a dry hire venue will likely give you more flexibility to do so. With dry hire, you’ll be able to choose all your own suppliers, rather than picking from a list of suppliers partnered with your venue. In doing so, you’ll be able to create an event that’s completely unique, from the branding to the catering and technology.

That said, you might assume that if you have specific theming and styling in mind, you’re best off doing it yourself, but this isn’t always the case. Some all-inclusive venues will have good branding opportunities and space for you to make your mark.

If you’re umming and ahhing between dry and wet hire for this reason alone, you’re best off talking to individual venues to find out exactly what they offer. If an all-inclusive venue has the right in-house event coordinator, you may find you have all the room you need to make your event feel as bespoke as you want it, without having to choose your own suppliers.

Devonshire Terrace, available for dry hire

Ultimately, the right choice for you will depend on a whole range of factors, from your budget to your event format and resources. If you can't make your mind up, get in touch with our venue experts who'll be happy to recommend some venues suitable for your needs.

 

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