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UK Wedding fayres – what would you make of them?

Hello lovely blog readers – I hope you’re having lovely days, doing lovely things (or at least not working too hard 😉 If you’d like a little distraction for a moment or two, then I have a question about UK wedding fayres you could really help me with.

bouquet by Red Floral photo credit Damian Hall

Bouquet by Red Floral – famous for stunning, contemporary wedding show displays. Photo credit Damian Hall. Click the image to see more from their Alternative Britannia wedding shoot!

Wedding fayres – love ’em or hate ’em, they are as vital as wedding magazines to the UK wedding industry. A great place to meet essential wedding suppliers in person, and a source of inspiration to couples everywhere.

Our UK wedding fayres need a good shake-up, don’t they?

There are bad wedding fayres out there. (Often the ones who spell ‘fayre’ with a y. As lovely bride Tanya once told me, it’s not even a real old-fashioned word. I’m using it in a slightly ironic way)

I fear there are many local fayres (yes, they’ll spell it with a y) which don’t really push the boat out in terms of ideas and inspiration for couples. I’d even go so far as to say they can be horrifying.

You know what I mean, don’t you…

Would you change UK wedding fayres?

My question is, if you could grab wedding fayres by the scruff of the neck, turn them upside down and shake them up a bit, what would you do? What would you change? How can we make wedding fairs a bit more 21st century?!

Claire Gould

Claire spends her days writing - either in beautiful calligraphy or online. She lives on the edge of the English Lake District only minutes away from the beach, where she loves to escape and unwind. Claire's calligraphy can be found at www.byMoonandTide.com. Claire launched the English Wedding Blog in November 2009 - it's been a top 10 UK wedding blog ever since, with a regional focus we hope you LOVE.

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23 COMMENTS
  • Kate
    7 years ago

    I have been to loads of ‘fayres’ and only 1 was worth my time. Even the National Wedding show was a waste. I went to be inspired, not just to be presented with suppliers.
    If I could shake them up, In would make them focus on ideas and ‘how to’s – yes, brides want suppliers, but they also want inspiration for the day; how to display stuff, what are all the options for invites, ways to collect cards, guestbooks and also how to think about which parts of your personalities are going to ‘theme’/appear in your day.
    If fayres could give inspiration and signpost you to the relevant suppliers, I think more brides would leave feeling it was time well spend, after all there’s only so many freebie cake or sweets you can eat before you stuff up your diet.

    • Claire
      7 years ago
      AUTHOR

      Hi Kate, thanks for a brilliant comment.
      This is really interesting. I’m sure if the likes of Confetti are reading – or other craft suppliers – they’ll be very excited to hear this!
      You’ve definitely made me think. Wedding fayres are organised almost in capsules, with every supplier getting a little segregated space. Perhaps collaborations between them are one way to go, but there’s definitely something in your ideas and ‘how to’ display ideas…
      Love it.
      (Also, I went to the wedding show at Tatton Park a couple of years ago and – as a wedding blogger and not dieting at the time – I was disappointed by a lack of cupcakes to sample… )
      Claire x

  • Susie Q
    7 years ago

    I’m struggling with all kinds of wedding fayres & wedding “extravaganzas” as they remind me of the job fayres we used to go to whilst at uni.

    Ideally, I’d make up a mock wedding. You know, decorate a large room using some of the major contributors. There’d be tables & chairs done by different vendors with centrepieces from florists, etc. etc.

    For some reason (at least up here in Scotland) we just seem to get one sad table after another of pictures of weddings. What’s wrong with actually showing us what you can do IRL?!

    But that’s just my two cents.

    • Claire
      7 years ago
      AUTHOR

      Another brilliant suggestion, thank you Susie!
      And yes, the larger wedding fayres (I’m going to stop using the word now as it annoys me!) are very much like trade fairs. It’s the locations I suppose, the NECs and Earl’s Courts do love those awful dividers to give everyone their stand.
      A mock wedding is a great idea. It would look gorgeous, wouldn’t it! And these days wedding suppliers would be very happy to mix things up and work together too…
      Your two cents are definitely a valuable contribution to this post, thank you!
      Claire xx

  • Colette
    7 years ago

    Its really hard to do this without sounding like a complete and blatent advertisement for our own “fayre” … never really god the whole y thing either!

    Anyhoo, we tend to do a lot of Wedding Fayres with various organisers and most times although they do the job and we get bookings we always feel a bit flat, we stand behind our table enticing couples with offers and sign up deals and badger anyone walking past by offering free sweets and chatter. We’re neither vintage or modern, we are what the couples want us to be, yes we love weddings but reality.. this is a job to us, not a calling.

    We end up wandering around, trying to get a laugh out of fellow exhibitors, doing silly things and keeping ourselves occupied

    I often feel like wedding “fayres” we do dont want to listen to us, either that or they dont really care once they’ve got the exhibitors money in the old pocket?

    They do the job, but we always thought if we could do one what would we do??

    And so “The Wedding Carnival” was born.

    We tried to inject fun, interaction, inspiration and a good feel to the day, we held our first one in March and it worked, we had great feedback, We also made it into a day that we enjoyed, we worked with the suppliers we love and trust and who had a mutual respect within the industry.

    We did inspiration areas where we had groups of suppliers working together, we did classes and had a really good laugh along the way! Trestle tables were only used if necessary, we encourage people to be creative with space and we definitely had no dividers ha ha!!

    We catered for all budgets small to large , yes of course we made a few mistakes on the way.. put our trust in the wrong place a few times..mailing list issues and me being practically deaf in one ear meant leaving me to control the sound was a bad idea ha ha!!

    But now we know, and we’ve learnt, we got feedback and this time round we intend to improve.

    Great post Claire!

    • Claire
      7 years ago
      AUTHOR

      Thanks for sharing, Colette! (this had to be done in more than 140 characters on twitter, didn’t it?!)

      It’s a good addition to my blog post as well, the fun side of things definitely needs to be addressed for most wedding fairs. Sounds like you’ve done a great job turning them from a trudge around a prescribed route into something more interesting!

      From a discussion I’ve been having with a few wedding supplier friends recently, you’ve achieved something very impressive by brightening up wedding fairs while still appealing to normal couples – I love your words “being what couples want us to be”.

      I think often wedding fairs which try to be alternative feel they have to aim at an alternative wedding style – but you’ve made me realise that’s not the case. It’s not about attracting different people to wedding fairs (there’s nothing wrong with the people who are coming!) but about making the fair itself work better.

      Little round of applause from me, on the other side of your screen. 🙂

      Claire x

  • Maryanne
    7 years ago

    My first experience of them was as a bride, and I was horrified by them. I may have just been unlucky but everyone was so predatory. You couldn’t move without being bombarded with requests for your details and to be quite honest the tables were pretty shoddy too – great if you wanted to see 10 different cupcake stalls and lots chair covers. As a wedding photographer I have to admit it has tainted my view of them, and whilst I agree they certainly have a place, I have been putting off actually “doing” one from a business sense. Not only are a lot of them expensive they appear very hit and miss as to the types of brides they attract. I’d like to do one where I could photograph couples not just throw photo after photo at them and hope they get a sense of what I’m about (though not sure how that would work 🙂 )…

    • Claire
      7 years ago
      AUTHOR

      Hi Maryanne,

      My first experience was from the other side of the trestle table, and believe me the feeling’s the same! I’m not a born seller. I wanted to chat to anyone passing by who’d be interested in my calligraphy. But couples are so wary of being sold to, they put their guard up… and away goes the fun of the wedding fair for us all.

      I like your idea of photographing couples at a fair, it would be interesting to suggest to event organisers… but would require pre-planning perhaps, if couples wanted to be prepared for having their pictures taken! (Perhaps it’s just me… I require an extra layer of make up if there’s a camera anywhere!)

      Claire x

      • Maryanne
        7 years ago

        Sort of glad to hear its as difficult being on the otherside 🙂 and you’re right it would certainly take some planning and a make-up artist to persuade couples!

    • Gary - Special Day
      7 years ago

      WE have gone to a few as business owners, but mostly they are a waste of time (and always so much money). The thing I always hated when I went as a potential customer was the predatory thing. Simply awful!

      • Claire
        7 years ago
        AUTHOR

        Hi Gary,
        I agree – a tiny minority of wedding suppliers still have a very salesy attitude and it does spoil things for the rest of us.
        Unfortunately many wedding fair organisers – mainly the big corporates – are also in it for the money, so there’s no reason for them to turn suppliers down on the grounds that they don’t like their attitudes!
        C x

  • Kay McEllin
    7 years ago

    Great post Claire

    As a supplier I have only exhibited at 3 wedding fayres (my spellchecker doesn’t like the y in there!) and not really worth my while, I found brides to be were just going for ideas and I hated approaching people with my wares! I run a web based business and like you I’m not a born seller, so I have always been put off by that aspect of it. Anyway I went to The Wedding Carnival for a nosy last year and found it was fun a good atmosphere and the suppliers were very friendly, plus I new a lot of them already! So I have decided to give fayres another go. I have booked the next ‘Carnival’ and two others this year recommended to me and see how it goes.
    By the way – Do any of you think competitions are appealing at fayres? or is it too pushy to ask passers by to enter?

    • Kay McEllin
      7 years ago

      I apologise for the spelling mistakes, I only noticed them after I clicked ‘comment’

      • Claire
        7 years ago
        AUTHOR

        Hi Kay,
        Your spellchecker is right about the y in fayre!
        I’ll be very interested to hear your thoughts on the events you’ve booked, the wedding carnival and the others. I’m hoping to do one in the autumn as well (although not sure it’s the ideal time of year, but never mind!)
        As for competitions – I think if you can pitch it appealingly, so you don’t have to encourage anyone to enter and couples just want to, then they’re a great idea. I think your selling point will be trying on bridal shrugs and seeing how easy they are to wear!
        C xx

  • Amy
    7 years ago

    For me the best wedding fairs are those where each exhibitor has to offer something extra to the attendees. It sets them apart from suppliers not exhibiting and makes it worth while for the brides and grooms to make the effort to attend. I found my photographer at one of these, previously I had been boggled by choice, but when I met these photographers face-to-face and they told me of the free engagement shoot they were offering all the attendees – I was sold!

    • Claire
      7 years ago
      AUTHOR

      Thanks Amy – I have to concede that wedding fairs are a great opportunity to meet with photographers, videographers etc: those suppliers who will be there on your day and who you need to get to know in person.
      I’m glad fairs have worked for you!
      Claire x

  • Julie Dawson
    7 years ago

    i agree with all your comments. Last year I was going to start a new kind of wedding event not fayre which was going to be interactive, only invite suppliers who were top notch.By that I mean ones that give a great service too, (I know thats most of us). As a planner i have to be sure to recommend the right people as its a direct reflection on me. The idea of setting up a wedding is a great one and that is what we proposed to do. Not having too many suppliers of one type is key for me, or if so then ones that offer a different style. You are torn between giving couples a choice of people to choose from I guess. Also how do people feel about charging a small amount to the couples? It costs suppliers a lot to go to an event, whether that be cash, time and preparation. The ones that I have attended have had couples who just came in for cake and not really bothered about booking anyone. If you had to pay a small amount them I feel that you want to come for a reason. I would set up talks and sessions on “how to”. Next year I might try and get this started, too many weddings got in the way this time but I definitely feel it is something we can do to help each other. That way if the suppliers did not pay much to go and organisers treated it as day to engage with couples rather than making money out the actual price of a stand then everyone would be tempted to do their utmost. All the suppliers then could advertise like a team rather than as individuals and work together. I understand from my point of view that this event would be on a much smaller scale too. To me it would be my idea of Wedding Genie Dream Team.

    • Claire
      7 years ago
      AUTHOR

      Hi Julie,

      Thanks for your comment – lots to think about there.

      I wish I could introduce you to Jonny Draper – in fact I know he’d have so much to share on the subject of traditional wedding fairs and ways of doing things differently.

      One thing I have learned from speaking to friends of mine (including the lovely Kristin from Struve Photography in West Lothian) is that charging a small fee to couples is fine, but setting the bar too low is a bad idea. If there is a fee to get into a wedding fair then a minimum of £5 makes sense… a £2 entry fee in comparison seems a bit “cheap” and might set the mood for the event!

      The other alternative is to help suppliers reduce their own costs – by changing the structure of the event entirely, losing the trestle tables (we don’t like those, do we?!) and product displays and making a wedding fair more about advice, as Kate mentioned in her comment right at the top of this post.

      Again I’m thinking about what Jonny Draper might say: maybe arranging a wedding event instead of a fair is the solution: a social event, a dinner with some talks… no sales pitch, just advice and a chance to chat. I’d say more but I’d be stealing all his ideas! Julie – see if you can meet him one day. You’d love him – he’s just opened Love Bridal Boutique with his lovely wife Emma in Cheshire – would be a nice day out! Shame I’ve moved or I’d go with you!

      Claire x

  • Paul Cryer
    7 years ago

    I’ve booked onto my first set of fairs (and the organisers have called them fairs or wedding events) in late October and early November. These will be the first I’ve attended, so I’m not sure what to expect fully. I like the ideas of collaborations between similar business types, so as a filmmaker then the photographer would be perfect to work alongside at the event. I’m hoping the events will give me a chance to meet couples face to face and get to know them and what I can offer them. I’m sure I’ll have more to say on the subject once I’ve attended a few!

    • Claire
      7 years ago
      AUTHOR

      Hi Paul,
      Good luck with your fairs and events! I discovered yesterday that googling words like ‘brilliant wedding fair’ throws up some useful images and articles about forward-thinking fairs. Might be worth a try.
      The law of averages tells me at least one of your ‘set of fairs’ will be dire. You’ll have to tell me about that one by email, behind the scenes as it were 😉 and the rest will hopefully be fantastic. Let me know about those too!
      Claire x

  • Nathan
    7 years ago

    I’ve done small one’s and it wasn’t really worth the time or money. I thought it was just that what I sell can be bought from anywhere and so unlike a photographer where your probably geographically limited in who you can choose and getting a chance to meet and chat is hugely valuable. For my products it seemed not to be. Though I did meet lovely people and other vendors which was nice as first time felt a part of the industry. I’ve got the impression that if your a specialist supplier and have a niche it’s worth attending a well established show or event that caters to that market. But haven’t tested that – quite daunted by the amount of furniture you seem to need to do these events!

    With the predatory nature it’s not an easy environment all around – certainly when looking around you almost feel like you need to keep your distance or you’ll be pounced on. But when your showing you have a pretty small space and we’ve always tried to say hello and then let people browse and be there to answer any questions. Whilst not appearing to be rude or disinterested, sometimes it’s a really hard balance. If you don’t like being pounced on generally I found they were busiest after an hour till about the end of lunch time and then tale of.

  • Jacqui saxon
    7 years ago

    Hi
    I have really found your post and replies useful as I have been organising fairs for the last 16 years and for the last few years have seen numbers attending declining and the cost of attending going up.
    I Have asked my exhibitors for their opinion as to how to change/what they would liek to do but you tend to get people replying who have nothing but negative comments not really addressing teh issue. You have to charge a certain amount to cover the advertising and get people to the event BUT we have to change. We are in the 21st century 24hour society, we need to make a wedding show an EXPERIENCE where a bride to be and family come away feeling that they have had a great day, learnt a lot and feel that they have been HELPED not sold to by suppliers.
    If anyone has any ideas or would like to comment please let me know. I do have some ideas that I am going to introduce to my shows next year but I would like to know what you think would be helpful.
    Jacqui
    http://www.yorkshireweddingfairs.co.uk

  • Looch - Mind Reader
    6 years ago

    For me, exhibiting at Wedding Fayres is a relatively new thing. I started last year purely because of the interest my website was getting from couples wanting to hire something different. When i set my stand up, the first thing i noticed was how different i seemed to be from everyone else. It seemed to be the same type of suppliers in each room, Flowers, Cakes, Groom wear, Flowers, Groom wear, Cakes, Flowers, DJ, Cupcakes, Flowers, Photographer, Photographer, Photographcaker 😉

    As the couples and parents came in it was almost like the suppliers were vultures fighting for attention and sticking flyers in peoples hands, it certainly put me off. Fayres need to offer a range of excellent suppliers of course but i feel the key is to offer choice. its not a cattle market, this is one of the most important days in their lives so try to offer something special, something left field. At Stancliffe hall last year I saw a fantastic old fashioned style barbers chair with a stylish young guy offering traditional cut throat shaves for the grooms. He was busy all day because it was different.

    why not get in colour forecasters who can show what the trends will be for the next couple of years so people can start thinking about colours and styles etc? From my own point of view I had a lot of interest because Im different in what I offer, not many people ca say they’ve had their mind read at a wedding before!

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