How to Get the Best Out of Exhibiting at a Wedding Fair

I’m just gonna come out and say it…as a general rule, I’m not a huge fan of the wedding fair. A little controversial I know. My reason for this is not because I find them boring or a waste of time but because the people exhibiting aren’t making me want to love it. Often they simply sit at their stands with a ‘take it or leave it attitude’ or they’ll just thrust leaflets and samples at me like they’re going out of fashion. This is both annoying as hell and a little bit terriflying.

I don’t think the wedding fair is dead just yet. There are hundreds of thousands of brides (and poor poor grooms)-to-be that attend these shows during their engagement. So, this week, I thought a little discussion and a few tips on how you can make wedding fairs work for you would be in order.

Thank you to Heidi from The Alternative Wedding Fair, which is taking place in London this Sunday, for putting together this article. I’ll be wandering around the fair with Roo – please don’t throw things at us.

♥  ♥  ♥

Ever wonder why some suppliers have unbelievable success as a wedding fair exhibitor and others never see a return? Well, there is definitely a formula to making wedding fairs work for your wedding business and I’d like to share it with you. In this article I’ll reveal my top strategies that will affect your overall success attending wedding fairs so that you can get the most out of your exhibit.

Consider the types of couples the show is targeting

In the past I have found that when wedding fairs target a niche they attract brides who want what you do. That is if you fit into that niche. Be sure to ask the show organiser who their target market is. If they say ‘brides’  then I’d personally run a mile. Do you want to just attract all brides or do you have a specific kind of bride and wedding you’d really love to work with? You need to know your specific target market and gear everything towards making your business attractive to that kind of bride.

Find out how and where the event is being advertised

Couples are now using social media as a tool to help with their wedding planning, more now than ever. Brides turn to Facebook to ask for friends recommendations and to Twitter to see what the suppliers they like are up to. Does the fair have a strong social media presence? Are they advertising on relevant blogs and publications?

You want to make sure the fair you choose is being promoted so that you will get a healthy amount on traffic on the day. Ask the show organiser how the show is being advertised and marketed online and offline. Does this line up with where your target market is?

Research what is included in the cost of the exhibit space to ensure value

Your exhibit space can be anything from empty space to a shell scheme so be sure to ask so that you can plan your costs accordingly. Ask if electricity, wi-fi, tablecloths and basic furniture (trestle table & chairs) are included or how much extra they will cost you. Be sure to figure your marketing materials and giveaways into your budgeting as well!

Make sure to get a list of couples who have agreed to be contacted afterwards

A list of couples who attended is nice but you can’t market to them via email because of CAN-SPAM laws. You can only legally email couples who have agreed to be contacted. If you market to couples who have not opted-in to receive your emails they could report you. Ask the show organiser if their list complies with CAN-SPAM laws. If they say ‘CAN-what?’ run away! Remember, it is better to have a smaller list of people who want your specific service than a large list of people who don’t want anything to do with you.

Review the contract

Contracts for wedding fairs can contain a list of items that are prohibited and list anything that is required by you such as a copy of your insurance policy. As with all contracts, be sure to review it before you sign on the dotted line.

Invite prospective and current clients

You will appear to be on top of what is going on in the local wedding industry if you personally invite these people along. Even if you have already booked a client they will appreciate knowing there is somewhere to go to find their other suppliers. It’s all about making yourself look good!

Promote the fair on social media and blogs

You’re on Twitter and Facebook right? Use this space to discuss what you are doing in the run up to the fair and connect with other exhibitors. The networking opportunities a fair offers are often just as valuable as the potential clients you might book.

Network

Does the fair you booked offer a networking event for suppliers before or afterwards? If it does be sure to participate as it never hurts to have friends at the show and you never know who might refer you! If there is no pre-fair networking event make a point to set up early and set aside time to have a chat with other suppliers at the fair. Making friends with your competitors can be a good thing because then you have someone to refer couples to when you are booked solid… and everyone needs friends!

Take advantage of promotional opportunities during the show

Many fairs will allow exhibitors to sponsor certain aspects of the show to gain brand exposure. Think of everything you could possibly sponsor and then ask if you can do it. Does the fair offer a sponsorship spot for the bags – can you put a small sample in each one? What about for the fashion show – can you get your products in the show or help in any way? E.g. The music if you are a DJ.

Put your best foot forward

Never put your table out in front and sit behind it and watch people go by. You need to be on your feet and giving people a reason to stop at your stand. Get in front of the table and don’t sit down, don’t play with your phone, don’t eat at your stand! People make judgments on you and your business instantly and if they see someone playing with their phone and eating a sandwich and they will think ‘Wow, will they do that at my wedding too?’

Create eye-catching displays

You are given a specific floor space for a wedding fair but have you thought about using the space above you? Try to hang a sign, above your stand or create a large, tall piece that will draw attention to your stand. You need to make yourself and your display stand out from the crowd. Especially at larger, national shows where you might have ten direct competitors just a few metres away. You want brides to see you first!

Try to come up with something eye-catching so people will have to stop and talk to you. If you are a florist, invest time in creating a large elaborate piece for your stand. If you are a dress designer, put your most attention-grabbing design out front for people to see. Be sure to use an image of this piece in your marketing materials so that people remember you for your work!

Put the freebies in the back

Make those brides and grooms work for those freebies and put them at the back of your stand! You should be giving these to potential clients not just window shoppers. Maybe ask them for their details in exchange for a more expensive promotional gift that they will actually use.

A list of brides and grooms that you collate yourself will always be more beneficial than the one which the show provides because your list is full of warm leads (people you have broken the ice with) as opposed to cold leads (people you have not had contact with).

Be strategic about giving marketing materials away

There is a variety of marketing material available to you for a reason – you can give a business card to a window shopper and a more detailed DVD of your portfolio to more serious potential clients. You will want to ‘qualify’ each couple, in other words, make sure they are a good match for your business before you give away the more costly (to you) marketing materials. After all if they can’t be bothered to stop and give you a few minutes of their time they probably aren’t that interested to begin with.

Take into consideration their level of interest, time left until their wedding date and location when deciding which piece of marketing material to give out. Don’t make the common mistake of simply shoving everything you have into each attendee’s hand.

Make yourself memorable

If you can engage a couple in a short activity at your stand they will remember you. A friend of mine, who is a wedding photographer, recently made quirky cut outs for people to put their heads into and have their photos taken. She took their email addresses and emailed them the photos after the show. What a brilliant idea!

Set Goals

It is important to know exactly what you want to get out of the fair before you start. Do you want a certain number of leads to follow up on? Setting these goals will not only keep you on track during the fair but will also help you to determine if it was a worthwhile investment afterwards.

Be informative not ‘salesy’

Using an email marketing service, I love MailChimp personally, import the details of the couples whom you have been given permission to contact. Then you will need to set up a series of auto responders with informative, fun and useful content for them.

At the end of the day people don’t like to feel like they are being sold to. However by keeping it informative and fun you’re doing the exact same thing but in a less pushy way. The idea here is to establish yourself at the expert in your field by showing the potential client how much you know so they want to book you.

Know that direct mail is not dead

If you have collected addresses make use of the ‘lumpy mailer’ technique. The lumpy mailer technique is simple: Put something relevant that is lumpy or bulky into a big brown envelope and send it to your prospects. Wouldn’t you open a piece of mail like that? It can be anything from a chocolate bar to a branded mug, the point is to make it look intriguing from the outside so people want to open it (and it doesn’t just get lost in a sea of bills and junk mail). Remember to include a letter about you and your business (and a quick FYI – personally address your cover letter with the couples names, it shows you have made more of an effort).

Get outrageous with marketing

Essentially, you need to narrow down your very best prospects and then throw your entire marketing budget for the month at them in a clever way. For instance, if you make cakes, send a box of cupcakes or cookies to a few select prospects; I guarantee they will remember you! If it fits your business, why not have an invitation-only event for your prospective clients?

Track ROI

Be sure to always ask how people heard of you so that you can track your return on investment (ROI). This way you will find which fairs and which marketing techniques work best for you. If something doesn’t work for you, get rid of it and try something new at the next fair.

I often hear from suppliers that wedding fairs don’t work. A wedding fair is just an oppourtunity, much like a job interview, and is what you make of it so make the most of it!

♥  ♥  ♥

All photos taken at the last Alternative Wedding Fair. You can apply to exhibit at the next event here.

All Photography Credit: Tux & Tales Photography

44 comments

  1. We had so much fun doing the Alternative Wedding Fair! I just wanted to mention that it was equally great to meet other fantastic industry folk there as well! Heidi organised a get-together for the exhibitors the night before and we all had a nosh and a gab and it was so great to go into the fair the next day already seeing friendly faces.

    The cut outs in the pics that we used on the day at the Alternative Wedding Fair were so popular with our brides and grooms that Matt has made many more of them and we offer them as part of a photo booth service to our clients. (We call them Cutout Capers). People love a good cut-out!

  2. A good post, Kat – and I do agree with you about wedding fairs generally. I’d like to add something to your advice (which is really good, as a supplier I think it’s really useful).

    Your first paragraph includes “Often they simply sit at their stands with a ‘take it or leave it attitude’ or they’ll just thrust leaflets and samples at me like they’re going out of fashion. This is both annoying as hell and a little bit terriflying.”

    I think there’s a lot to be said for a friendly smile.

    Depending on the size of a wedding fair or show, it’s not just daunting and new for brides and grooms. It can be scary as hell for new wedding suppliers. It’s so easy to slink behind your stand or table (as I know you’ve mentioned) because you’re nervous.

    But putting a friendly face on, chatting, ASKING people about their wedding plans, ideas, dreams will help you.

    Getting chatting will help you relax. Think about tips for starting a friendly conversation. Listen as well as talking. Try and have a nice day at the wedding fair as well as getting your money’s worth from your exhibition space.

    People will remember you for being lovely as much as they’ll remember your nice stand / creative ideas. And fairs can be long days – better to spend it smiling!

    Claire

  3. Brilliant post! I’ve always been a bit put off by Wedding Fairs. I’m Maid of Honour for my best friend who is getting married next year and we have been to about 6 Wedding Fairs and they are all a bit samey.
    Luckily I got contacted by Hailey from the Alternative Wedding Fair and have put some inserts into the bags, who knows maybe a stall will be the next step at the next Fair!
    Claire
    x

  4. It’s good to see the Wedding Fair process broken down, especially for novices like myself. I’ve got two coming up in February, both totally different in style and the people coming through the door. Will definitely be putting some of your pointers into practice, Kat.

    Claire, you’re spot on there, I must practice my friendly smile, as the way my face naturally sits is likely to scare potential brides off!! ;-)

  5. Great post thanks. I am participating in my first wedding fair this weekend since going out on my own and setting up my own shop. So your timing is perfect and great advice.
    Lorna

  6. Excellent post Kat – just need to find the best wedding fairs to do in my local area!

    I completely agree about getting in front of your stand and having a friendly smile.
    I was surprised recently at how many people have commented on how friendly we are when supplying a testimonial for us – at the end of the day you are selling yourself as a businesswoman/man as much as your product.

  7. This is great! We really want to do the next Alternative Weddibg fair! We are booked in for a local fair at the end of Feb, I’m not sure it’s right for us but it will be good as a practise run to see what works stand wise.

    The only thing I’d say though… Is the fair on a Sat usually? Because as a supplier that’s often the day you are booked! So Sundays seems a better option maybe? X

  8. We had a brilliant time at the Alternative Wedding Fair and it’s really given us the confidence to do more fairs. Heidi was fantastic and it’s was good to get to know more friendly faces in the industry. Unfortunately missing the London one but we’re hoping to see the return of the cut outs soon yay!

  9. Such a great post. I did my first fair recently and loved it. Had a great return as well for consultations and booked me first from the fair last night and the fair was only two weeks ago so I am very fair orientated at the mo. Great tips, looking forward to my next one in a few weeks! xx

  10. Great post Kat. Really timely for me as I’m busy planning for my first wedding fayres. Having a new business and being completely new to the whole wedding industry this advice is just what I need.
    Karen x

  11. Natasha Jane

    Thanks for this post kat, I’m definatley taking this all on board with the few show I attend each year. I am going to work in my stand I think :) XxX

  12. This is such a useful post Kat. I’ve recently done two average size wedding fairs as a newbie. The first in October where I had no leads at all and the second one last weekend where I had 29! The difference being that I did quite a lot of what you’ve said in the article. I also branded my stand by setting out a stand that showed what my photography was about including the flowers and frames I had on display and cookies I handed out when people signed up for more info. I think it helped that I took a well prepped friend with me as couples felt less apprehensive to approach if someone was already in conversation with one of us. Current clients dropped in with their Mums too which was fab PR. I agree with Claire too. Showing interest in your visitors and other suppliers helps people remember you.

  13. Really useful tips. I’m attending my first ‘Vintage Wedding Fair’ next month & am a bit nervous! I’m an old hand at craft/handmade events but not sure of the expectations of clients at a Wedding Fair. Nether-the-less I’m expecting to have a fabulous time! Lisa

  14. Oh, Kat… how perfect is this since my first bridal show of the year is tomorrow – and Im setting up today…. wow, I wish you could see my booth – its going to blow everything away this year b/c its completely out of the box – and we made everything (yay for DIY)! I hope it attracts the more offbeat brides… thanks for all the advice!

  15. fab post and soooo true! I’ve done a few fayres myself and as a MUA and I try to make the catwalk models over whenever I can to show off my work (and for discount of course!). I have photos and a portfolio plus my laptop spooling photos too, I offer mini make-overs where possible and offer a competition in order to gather brides details for contact later. I always stand and chat too, and I always ask to see the brides engagement ring…not just because I am nosey (but I do love bling) but also because it breaks down a barrier. By holding her hand to look at the ring, it kind of acts like an informal handshake, breaks the ice and instantly builds rapport. I don’t know, maybe the psychology degree does come in handy afterall! x

  16. These tips are so helpful, I’m really looking forward to going to my first wedding fair now. Thanks for a very insightful and inspiring post.

    - Kel x

  17. We’ll be exhibiting at The Alternative Wedding Fair on Sunday (first fair ever!) and will be trying to put all of these massively helpful tips into practice – thanks, Heidi. And Kat, we promise not to shove leaflets in your face if you come say hi: there is free food and drink availble though, so we may just be on the really talkative side of tipsy…

  18. I’m just preparing my bits’n’pieces for what will be an AWESOME stall at various wedding fairs over the next few months. Reading this has reassured me that I am getting it right. Phew. I just hope the fairs themselves attract the right people. I definitely should have done more research there. I did one last year and it was a huge success so I am hoping for more of the same. Fingers crossed.

  19. Great post. I love wedding fairs as a supplier but I do tend to think they are scary places for the newly engaged. Rabbits caught in headlights comes to mind. But as you say suppliers either thrusting leaflets at them or basically ignoring them sat behind their stand (why pay to be there then ignore people?)
    I always stand in front and try to chat to as many folk as I can about their whole wedding, not just the flowers. Kerry, good point about the ring, I will try that at the next fair.
    I do believe people book you because they like you and being remembered after the event is key. I also take details of the couples myself and seem to be the only one who does.

  20. I attended my first wedding fair on Saturday – it was a general one, but it was good. There were some examples of great exhibitors, who fulfilled most of the points above – and they are the ones I will remember. Definitely hit the nail on the head with this post! Thank you!

  21. This is fantastic, so many great ideas to take into consideration and meld to make my own! I have my very first wedding fair coming up. I’m considering offering a pretty major competition (a whole wedding photography package valued at $3000) on the day, in order to both get people’s attention and gather contact details. This way I can advertise it on facebook/blogs etc. I’m wondering if anyone out there with more experience than me can advise me on this. Does giving something away in a competition lessen the value of your product? Will people be less inclined to book a wedding with me if they can see that I am giving it away? I’m really keen on the idea, but know there is a whole psychology behind the advertising thing… Also keen on offering a 10-15% discount on the day if a wedding is booked and the deposit paid. Any ideas, advice, suggestions would be very much appreciated!

  22. kathryn brigg

    Please could you offer me any advice regarding exhibiting at wedding fairs ? I have decided to use my piano-playing ability to my advantage and advertise for weddings-my idea is still in the early stages and after working in the NHS as a nurse all my life i have decided to go it alone!Am i mad?-I do have a keyboard-could play traditional wedding tunes ; couples favourite tunes etc .Would I be best to affiliate with a particular hotel or work independently travelling from exhibition to exhibition?-not sure which is best way to go.

  23. Bout to do my first faire! Wish it was an alternative one…but still excited. Thanks for the good advice!!

  24. Hi,I am trying to decide whether or not to splash out on exhibiting at a larger wedding fair. I tried a small one a while ago and must admit I found it daunting and despite some interest on the day none of the leads came to anything. I have been considering a competition, but as someone else mentioned, does it devalue your product and does it really attract more business? It would be great to know experienced exhibitors thoughts on competitions.V. discounts. Thanks for the advice, it was really helpful.x

  25. Brilliant and very informative. I have been doing shows for a while and absolutely love them and the chance to chat to girls about their big day.

    I have my tables out with all my albums displayed and I stand behind them – never sitting down looking uninterested I might add. I found, when the stand gets busy, if I was out in front chatting to a couple, I was blocking others from seeing some of the other work and they would potentially slink off. Does anyone find this? I also have a little seated area but many brides don’t want to sit down I guess they feel they are then in for a hard sale (which is definitely not the case).

    Anyone else experiencing the same things – I get a relatively good result from the show and worry about changing it.

    Ta D

  26. Great post,will no doubt. read this over and over before I exhibit at my first one in November. Ages away but I’m nervous as hell already.

  27. Superb post, really useful info regarding follow-up contact with the brides. It is daunting setting up the email marketing systems! I have just opened my mailchimp account! : )

  28. When I first started attending bridal fairs as a photographer, I would basically seal myself inside my booth with tables and displays. This separated me from my potential clients by putting a barrier between us. I can agree more with your article that it is so important to open it up and stand outside your booth. If you leave the entrance pretty open, then you can draw them in, also, so that they will feel more welcome inside your booth. Great help — thanks!

  29. Alex

    I appreciate the thought put into this, but I disagree with the “salesy” part. You have to know how to sell effectively in order to put food on the table.

    Most photographers are artists first and business people last, and that’s why most photographers fail.

    Educating your bride and throwing gimmicks at them is one thing, but in the end, it costs too much and takes up too much of your valuable time to see any ROI. Brides won’t really remember anyone at the show after they come home with 600+ fliers and sore feet to the bone. In my experience, they don’t care if you’ve sent them a picture afterward. We had Randy Fenoli come speak at our bridal show, and I sent ALL the brides their pictures with him, and got absolutely NOTHING in return. Not even one consultation request. It doesn’t work.

    HOWEVER, they will remember the fun, bubbly person they talked to who knew how to sell to them. That’s really all it takes.

    Business, business, business. Sales, sales, sales. Don’t waste your time with extravagant booths and dancing like a monkey, pouring your blood, sweat, and tears, only to have people shut the door on you while the old boring booths with mediocre photography are laughing their way to the bank with their sales skills.

  30. Again thank you for this informative blog, I googled “how to stand out at wedding fayres” and your post popped up and has helped a lot. I like to make my stands quirky but sticking to what I am about and think speaking to a couple as though they are people and not money is crucial. I do agree with some that there should be an element of sales but feel you stand out by paying attention to the potential clients and engaging with them even if it is none wedding related. They will remember you for that over the others “thrusting” flyers at them.

  31. Patricia

    Hi found the tips a great help thanks.looking forward to my first fair it’s going to be a good experience.

  32. Great Post, we did our fourth wedding fair yesterday, they’ve been a bit hit and miss, though admittedly we didn’t do much research, just wanted to get “out there”. We’ll be more careful in future.
    Due to past experience we always make a point of standing out front and talking to couples/brides. You are there to sell! both yourself and your business. I’m not in the business of handing out free leaflets. But if people don’t show much interest, let them go and concentrate on the ones that do.

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