Jennifer's Journeys

A Bridal Show Survival Guide

Each year, a wave of proposals occurs between December and February 14. Following the initial celebrations with family and friends, couples now turn their attention to finding and hiring vendors to make the magic come together. This is when we in the industry gather together at the one-stop shop event called “the bridal show.”

Now, bridal shows are not for the faint of heart. If you are new in the wedding biz you may have questions and concerns. I bestow on you my advice so you can decide whether you should join the ranks of us who take on this monster several times a year.

Is It Worth It?

Bridal show entrance fees are expensive—and that’s just renting the booth space! Then you also have to decorate the booth, which obviously should have some fresh floral designs. And don’t forget costs to staff the booth and produce marketing materials.

Events like these can eat up your marketing budget for the year. Do your research. Ask the tough questions. Who do you want as clients and will they be attending this particular show?

There are so many different types of shows, from big, splashy ones in the heart of a city to small events in rural settings, where you may be only one of a handful to represent flowers and decor. Maybe you are better off going to shows based in your immediate community rather than trekking to your province’s capital. Or, if you are familiar with a particular culture’s traditions, you might specialize in shows that target specific demographics (such as the Jewish or Indian communities). Each show offers different opportunities for your company. Sometimes, doing several shows the first few years helps you see what your audience is looking for and what you can handle.

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Now, bridal shows can be a gamble. Bad weather can cause low attendance, altering the outcome of what you expected to be a moneymaking event. Then again, sometimes the last client on the last day brings you a huge wedding that makes it all worth it. Do your homework and don’t go above your means; then, whatever the outcome, it will not be a regret but a positive learning, networking, and advertising opportunity.

How Do I Design My Booth?

Your booth should represent your brand but it need not show brides every single thing you can do for a wedding. (To convey your range of skills, bring a portfolio album.) A booth should tell a story and should wow. There will be so many other vendors there and you want to be the belle of the ball. Brides have been poring through magazines and Pinterest and this is their moment to see their dreams live and in person! I like to have as many fresh flowers in the booth as possible. Pull them in with texture, colour, sparkles, detail, and the fragrance. Once they enter the booth, you have about 10 seconds to let them know you are the vendor for them!

How Do You Make a Lasting Impression?

Long before you set up your booth, you need to come up a way to represent your brand, illustrate trends that future brides want to see, and come up with how you and your staff will set yourselves apart.

Do what you and your staff do best. Show potential clients that, if they choose you, that your excitement for their love story will be reflected in all you create for them.

These couples have their choice of many florists. Enthusiasm will help reel them in and get you the wedding.

How Do I Figure Out My Return On Investment?

Yes, booking weddings is the goal of the bridal show, but that’s not the only way to measure success. Bridal shows often have a trickle effect. You may only score one or two clients right away, but you’re planting seeds for the future. For instance, maybe a bride attends with a few bridesmaids in tow who think of you when they get engaged. Or perhaps you’ll befriend a photographer or a baker who will recommend you down the road. Networking is a huge component of a bridal show. In addition to referrals, vendor relations can lead to things like style shoots and open houses—more opportunities to promote your brand and attract new clients. Even if you don’t see it right away, bridal shows can make you money in the long run.

How Do I Connect With Passersby?

Don’t just shove your flyer or card in their hands. You need to create a booth that clients want to step into. Nothing is more appealing to a new bride than the opportunity to photograph themselves with their girls or their future spouse. Create an atmosphere that encourages them to linger, take selfies, and share them on social media. This gets you free advertising.

Bring employees who have energy, personality, and, most important, want to be there.  Standing for 12 hours can be exhausting, and, it’s natural that it might lead people to grumble, but if they do so, it will destroy the positive feeling you are trying to achieve.

Make an impression when you hand them your business card. Ask them questions (“When are you getting married?” “What’s your personal style?” “Does your wedding have a theme?” “Are there any cute pics you’ve seen on Pinterest?”) Making conversation leaves an imprint on visitors and prevents your card from falling into the abyss that is the average woman’s purse, where it will be forgotten. It takes less than 30 seconds to make a lasting impression.

If you are able, give away something during the show. A flower crown or single rose will get everyone’s attention. Others walking around the show will ask them where they got it and will send more prospective clients your way! The more attention you get, the easier it is to sell the dream.

Also, ask the bridal show organizers to include you in fashion shows, giveaways, and decor for the show. This will get attendees to see and hear your name many times throughout the show. It’s a surefire way to get more bang for your buck!

Overall, bridal shows can be very fruitful, if done well. One last piece of advice: wear comfy shoes!

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Jennifer Harvey
Jennifer Harvey is the owner of Jennifer Harvey Designs and Beleafs Home and Garden Care in Brockville, Ontario.

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