When I started out in 2009 with my business I thought the first thing I need to do is go to a big bridal show. I booked the smallest stand, which was still way to big for the little furniture that I brought, bought flyers, borrowed a TV from my father and asked two friends to help me during the day at the stand. The fair was held in a big congress centre with fluorescent light under the ceiling and 200 different wedding related stands. I think 20 of them were photographers. Right next to me was a photographer who booked the biggest possible stand and had a huge screen up in his stand with a slideshow of wedding images that changed from color to black and white and then heart hearts flew around the heads of the bridal couple in the image. Where I just tried to show nice authentic portraits and captured wedding moments on my little TV screen.
The couples that came to visit this fair walked up to my stand examined first the images that hang on my stand walls, then the slideshow and then me followed by the direct question: „What are your prices and do you offer a special fair discount?“ I felt desperate already after day one. How did I end up in a horrible place like that when I just wanted to start my business.
A year later I got contacted by a wedding location. They asked me if I wanted to join them for a little intimate wedding fair at their wedding location. They only wanted one vendor for each division and they only wanted very selected vendors to be at their fair. I hesitated first if I should join but then decided to give it a try and if it would go wrong I would never never never attend a wedding fair again.
From these small wedding fairs I really learned a lot and they brought and still bring me business. I almost never booked a wedding couple that visited the fair I must admit. But how can the fair bring me business if no wedding couple booked me?
Here are my three tips for you why you should attend small wedding fairs at wedding locations.
1. Networking. I truly think the most important reason to attend these small wedding fairs is to network. I met through these fairs a wedding planner I am still working with and a jeweller that I would even call a friend now. They both refer me to their wedding clients and I book weddings through them each year.
So it is not the wedding couples that visit the fair that will book you but the connections and relationships that you will start at a fair that will get you true referrals and great business relationships maybe over years.
2. Get your name out there. Some vendors who come as well to the wedding fair might have heard about you and now they hear about you again and have the chance to meet you in person. The more often they hear about you the more interested they might be in working with you.
3. Get in contact with wedding locations. Wedding locations are often the first vendor a wedding couple contacts to set their wedding date. The fair is your chance to meet the locations and their managers and show them who you are. Take pictures of the wedding location during the fair as everything will be nicely decorated for the fair and give them those images afterwards. Maybe you even create an album for the location with your images of that day. Who do you think they will refer when the next wedding couples books their location for their wedding?
This is what I learned from wedding fairs and why I still attend two of these small fairs each winter at chosen wedding locations that I like to work with.
PS I know that other photographers preach not to attend wedding fairs and I totally get that point. This is just my personal experience on how to deal with wedding fairs and how to really use them to your advantage and as a way to network.