It’s been a long while since I went to one of the BIG wedding shows – and while I miss meeting all the wonderful suppliers, something between principles and fear stops me stepping across the threshold of those mega exhibition venues…
For me, wedding shows are all about the independent smaller businesses. They bring together amazing suppliers and give us the opportunity to meet creative designers who will inspire us and become a part of our weddings. Wedding shows can be overwhelming, but take one stand at a time and you’ll discover the very best of the UK wedding market.
Designers and crafters pour their hearts and souls into what they do – and discovering one or two of these incredible, dedicated wedding suppliers can transform your wedding and make it magical. I’m not against big wedding shows by any means, I just know they can be overwhelming and I don’t want you to miss out on the very best side to them…
I don’t like crowds so much. I like event management companies even less! I know many brides find big shows stressful and intense. (Not to mention grooms…) It’s the same for suppliers, I promise. The secret? Finding a wonderfully sparkling little gem of a business amongst the likes of Moss Bros and Alfred Angelo.
My heart goes out to all the independent craft businesses exhibiting at a big wedding show. It’s hell. It’s hideously expensive (and we’re talking thousands when you factor in display furniture, stock and hotel bills) – but it can be amazing too when your business is a hit with brides and grooms.
The secrets for survival: brides and grooms
Let’s be honest: only 10% of wedding show visitors are male. Grooms who attend are a rarity and this is a shame. The industry alienates guys in the weirdest way and wedding shows are no different. Ironically, we all need to ‘man-up’ to survive the craziness of a big wedding show though…
The first secret to survival: know your exhibitors
Look online to see who will be exhibiting at the big shows. Check out their websites and facebook, and ask which stand number they’ll be on. Make a beeline.
Seek out small, independent businesses and craftspeople. Some wedding shows have a marketplace set aside – and you’ll find unique, handmade and exciting designs here.
The second secret: have a photographer strategy
Photographers’ stands are often overrun with couples looking at albums. Check out photographers online before you go. If you love their images, head for their stands on the day with a view to meeting them and having a quick chat. At a wedding show you should see if you get along, and if you do, make an appointment to meet up somewhere quieter and ask all your questions. There’s nothing more stressful than visiting all the photographers at a big show.
The third secret: be comfy – it’s a long day!
You could be walking for miles at a big wedding show – so wear the right shoes for the day and layers! It can get hot in the show venues when they’re packed, and you won’t want to be carrying a winter coat over your arm if you can avoid it.
Also, keep an eye on your goody bag and don’t overload it… only take leaflets and flyers you really want. You could end up with hundreds, and paper weighs a ton! (Venue brochures are the biggest, fattest, heaviest leaflets you’ll get, so don’t take one unless you’re genuinely interested.)
I shared more advice on navigating the craziness of wedding fairs last year (when Brides the Show invited me to blog on their website). Worth a read for 10 more survival tips!
Survival secrets for exhibitors
I’m really excited for some of my friends who are exhibiting at the big shows this year. The run up to a big wedding show starts months in advance with plans and preparation, making up designs and display stands – and as the big day approaches it gets crazy.
Survival secret 1: be ready early
The week before a show can be soooo stressful. Make samples as far in advance as you can, so you’re not working 18 hour days in the run up to the show.
Survival secret 2: make it feel cosy and welcoming
The best stands are the ones which stand out from the crowd because they’re individual, quirky and charming. Imagine a jewellery or stationery designer’s stand – it shouldn’t be shiny and professional, it should be creative and interesting. Brides want to meet the designer: they’ll buy into your story and background – and if they feel they’re coming into your world, they’re more likely to buy from you.
Also, if you feel at home you’ll be more relaxed and have a more enjoyable weekend.
Survival secret 3: don’t put all your eggs in one basket
Wedding shows can be unpredictable, so do be careful and don’t spend every last penny on the event. If weather or rival events mean low attendance, or if the day just doesn’t go as well as you’d like, be prepared to promote your business in other ways.
Also, investing everything you have in a big show can make it so much more stressful. Keep an eye on your budget and be strict with yourself. Take your own furniture, design your own display materials and don’t overspend!
Survival secret 4: plan another wedding show!
It sounds odd, perhaps… but after a big crazy weekend at a major wedding show, a weekend at a quirky, vintage or craft-led wedding fair can be bloody amazing. The atmosphere is unbelievably different and you will enjoy the experience so much more… plus, you won’t even need to unpack!
Big wedding shows and events – a little perspective
The organisers of big wedding shows on the scale of the National Wedding Show, Brides the Show and the UK Wedding Show have one key thing in common: their business is NOT weddings.
Their business is making money from trade shows: gathering together smaller exhibitors who will pay premium rent on a teeny box for a few days.
Perspective: I could hire a vintage Jaguar for a weekend for £350 and spend my days driving through the hills with the wind in my hair… or spend five times as much and spend my weekend in a plastic box promoting my business.
Show organisers pay rent on a huge venue, and set up the stand areas for suppliers. They invest in marketing, and staff work hard to ensure the event runs smoothly for everyone.
The rest is entirely up to brides and suppliers. Think of shows as a way to meet, to discover and be discovered. Be interested and be interesting. And smile… it’s all about making the best day of your life, right? Happy visitors and friendly suppliers make wedding shows so much more fun – so relax and enjoy your experience!