Whether you be a bride, a vendor, or wedding planner you may have considered attending/participating in a bridal show, but weren’t entirely sure what they are all about. So fear not, I will speak with you honestly, and personally, and give you my professional opinion.
Initially, I had no idea what bridal shows consisted of. The most I hoped for was to get a couple free cupcakes, and lacy fabric swatches, but nothing that I could see worth booking for our clients. Over 10 shows later, well… I can pretty much guarantee at least one sample of frosted tastiness, and surprisingly these shows can have some fantastic vendors and deals.
If you are a wedding vendor, you can skip down a ways… this part is for brides only:
First off, bring someone to go with you. Preferably not too many people… your future mother-in-law’s best friend’s aunt probably doesn’t need to come… but bring your mom, your bridesmaid(s), and a wedding planner- if you have one. If there’s one thing I can say about bridal shows… they can be totally overwhelming! (Especially if this is your first show). Depending on the size of the show, there could be tons of vendors, and walking around trying to keep everyone’s deals and packages straight will leave your feet sore and head swimming. If you are unable to attend a show, you can easily send a friend to go for you. (We filmed a wedding for a bride who sent one of her bridesmaids to collect brochures at a show we were at, brought them back, and they later decided to book us!) All that to say, it’s never bad to get a second opinion from those who are helping you plan.
Most times shows aren’t terribly expensive to go to, and all vendors will have brochures or postcards that list their contact info, and possible discounts. One thing I will say, however, is consider bringing your checkbook. Many vendors will offer a sizable discount to clients that book on the spot. Our company even does this, and you can end up saving an enormous chunk off of your photo/video package, and use the money elsewhere! (What bride is going to complain about that?!) Oftentimes we hear brides say they want to talk it over first with their fiance or parents, which is completely realistic. We understand that video and photo can be one of-if not THE MOST-expensive item on your vendor checklist, so generally our services aren’t necessarily an impulse-buy kinda deal. However, we have booked “day of” deals, and these brides got a fantastic price off their package! Sometimes smaller vendors can also offer you great deals. Which leads me to my next point…
Who will be there? Everything from event planners, to DJ’s, to florists, to bakeries (mmm free cake), photo booths, prop rentals, vacation getaways, and everything in-between. At one show we exhibited at, I even saw a guy representing a company that sold solar panels. Granted, I think he ended up at the wrong show, but nonetheless there may have been a few newlyweds out there that are now conveniently conserving energy.
Next point. Pay attention, because I actually think this is pretty important. Take your time, and devote a couple of minutes to talk with the vendors that offer services you are legitimately interested in. (If you’ve booked a florist prior to the show, but spend 20 minutes talking with a floral vendor AT the show, then you’re just being that girl. Don’t be that girl.) If you’ve met a really great videographer (ahem, ahem) and you like their work, then ask questions! Don’t be shy, they are delighted to spend time talking to you, and it helps them (us) learn more about what brides are looking for. This also is a huge advantage for you, because you get to see how personable someone is. I’ve met vendors that didn’t crack a smile once, but sat behind a table and grimly handed out brochures like it was the plague. Just a hunch, but you probably don’t want to rely on these people to make your big day the happiest one of your life.
Ok, welcome back potential vendors of future bridal shows! I could probably write an entirely separate blog just for you, but I’ll keep it short and sweet.
Q. Are bridal shows worth the money?
A. Yes. Almost always. We’ve done shows that cost $500/show to exhibit, and some that cost $10,000. Yes, it’s true, but we really did get what we paid for. The packages we sold as a result of meeting brides paid for the show price in full. The show was flooded with media, I spoke with celebrity brides, and most excitingly of all… it was so so so organized. Which leads me to question 2….
Q. How do shows generally run?
A. We’ve found that you really do get what you pay for. While the cheaper shows we’ve exhibited at were run by super friendly, wonderful, nice people… they sadly lacked quite a bit of organization. To us, and many other vendors, this can be a waste of our time and resources if things aren’t all up to speed. We built a booth that was very particular to the booth dimensions we purchase, and if those are off an inch… things can get a little hairy.
Q. If I DO go, what should my booth look like?
A. It should look like something off Pinterest. Just kidding. But not really. When we first started exhibiting, Pinterest wasn’t a thing yet. Ces asked me if I could think of creative ways of “dressing up” our booth, and decided to google some cool ideas. What I essentially designed was a set that resembled the interior of a living room. Ok, so I like to ask people to use their imaginations. My goal? To make brides feel welcome to walk into our booth space and feel comfortable, at home, and to show that we add a creative, yet personal touch to our work (not just our product!) Never, never, never, NEVER sit in the plastic chair they provide you with, behind the cold plastic table they will provide you with. I will be honest right here, right now, and say that almost every single show I jealously covet the vendors around me that sit behind a booth texting, while I’m going on the 6th hour in high-heels. However, we make it a point to stay standing until the last bride leaves. It shows we care, and any woman who noticed I was standing in stilettos the entire show should be even just a little impressed. I mean come on, who wouldn’t be?!
Q. Does a show really affect my business?
A. YES. If you do it right… totally. Bridal shows are essentially how we got our company rolling. It takes one great conversation that leads to a booked client, who tells her friend, who tells her friend, and so on and so forth. Our business benefited enormously from being a part of these shows, and even just networking with other vendors that have been doing this longer than we have, and we can learn so much from. Networking is crucial, and this is the melting pot of wedding professionals.
I’m sure there may be a plethora of questions you may still have, like what shows do we like, what shows are NOT repeaters for us, etc. If you have exhibited at a bridal show, or any trade show, leave me some comments, and let me know how that went, and your thoughts!
PS. Here’s an iPhone photo of our booth at one of our more recent bridal shows: