What to Look for in a Wedding Show and What NOT to Do

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You’re getting married and you’re well on your way to planning that perfect wedding. There are TONS of wedding vendors out there and they all want your business, after all it’s a livelihood for many out there. Wedding shows can be a great source of inspiration on client side of things and a money pit for vendors.

Well, today, I want to share my personal experiences at local wedding shows, explain why I don’t do them and provide you the one thing that you should NEVER do at a wedding show too! It’s a mistake that can cost you BIG bucks if you’re not looking!

Vendors

If you’re a wedding vendor, then you’re looking for clients to book for the wedding season. A wedding show sounds like a wonderful idea and in some cases, they are. Over the course of my 20 years as a filmmaker, I’ve had some great success in the smaller, more intimate wedding shows and very little success at the larger ones. Sounds strange I know, you’d think I’d have better luck at the larger shows, but truth be told, you typically don’t.

The reason is that the larger shows have so many couples coming through, you don’t have time to build a relationship with most of them and the larger wedding shows know that. Most larger shows are regionally put on by networking groups, wedding magazines or wedding groups that have a sole purpose in mind, profit.  It may be in the form of getting more members, push out more magazines to increase ad sales or to promote the wedding groups, but it’s mostly a money pit.

You’re going to spend $500-$1,000 on a 10x10 booth with nothing in it. Then, you have to fill it with whatever décor you want, plus you’ll be at your booth all day, meeting people, hopefully handing out information and having something to collect data too.

A show may have 25-50 vendors from the local area, then they charge for clients to come into the doors. Many organizations behind the wedding shows can bring in BIG bucks, from $50,000-$100,000+ per show. Beyond that, it’s up to you to sell yourself with your wedding products or services.

The downfall is that large shows don’t allow enough time to truly build a relationship with the clients, at most you may have 5 minutes to chat with someone about their date. If you want to do wedding shows, you’re going to have great success at the much smaller shows that are more intimate and have limited vendors.

The reason is simple, time. With a small show of 15 vendors, you’re going to have much MORE time to meet with couples about their wedding and provide them more information about what you do and what services you provide them. Additionally, it’s going to be much cheaper, ranging from $30-$300 usually. 

My advice is to skip the larger shows unless you just want to throw your money out the window.

Couples

As a couple coming into a wedding show, large or small, you’re coming to the wedding show for one reason, inspiration for your wedding! You may have hopes in finding the one vendor that you’ve been wanting to touch base with or maybe you just want to come, get some swag and see what’s out there.

That’s great! But let me tell you somethings that you want to keep in the back of your mind. These shows should be just for inspiration, whatever you do, DON’T book with a vendor just because they are at a wedding show.

Now why would I tell you that, after all you’re a wedding vendor Josh.

True, but when you see a vendor at a local show, what you’re not seeing is all the others that are also in that select part of the wedding industry. Many times, you’re only seeing a small percentage of vendors that represent that vendor category.

What you SHOULD be doing however, are a couple of things.

First, get that vendors information, get their website, their contact info and see if they have any brochures or information that you can take with you. Also, take a picture or two of their booths, that way it’ll help you remember them.

Once you have the info, research them. Go online, find reviews and research them in general for any red flags. Maybe they’re not as good as they appear to be, or they have issues with the Better Business Bureau or local wedding group. Just because they’re at a wedding show doesn’t mean they’re the best of the best.

Then and only then, reach out to them to schedule an appointment to meet in person and then book with them.

I’ve seen couples book wedding photographers at wedding shows that I’ve done in the past only for them to find out they’re really not that great to begin with and I remember one couple in 2007 that regretted hiring the wedding photographer because they found out the photographer was new to the industry and had only done two weddings for free. Some of the images they were showing at the wedding show were not their own work, very misleading.

Now, 99% of wedding vendors are not going to mislead you or give you products or services that are bad, but you should know that they do exist to some extent, so please be careful. Take a couple from Florida that hired a company to do their wedding images and video, the company took more than $3,000 from the couple and delivered half the images and video.

Why You Shouldn’t Book at A Wedding Show

There are a couple of reasons on both sides for the fence. For us vendors, booking at a show is great but there is a HUGE problem with that, it’s the other brides that are walking through the event. As a vendor, you’re missing out on connecting with other couples out there and that could mean one, two or more additional bookings at a later date.

As a client, you’re also missing out. When you’re booking with a vendor, it’s taking away time from meeting all the others that are in the wedding show and also it prevents you from doing your research on the vendors that you’re meeting to begin with.

I remember when I was doing a wedding show back in 2014, I had a bride come through my booth and was interested in a wedding video. Well, she went down to one of my competitors at the time booked with them on the spot because of a package deal that they were running at the wedding show.

I didn’t think anything of it and a couple of weeks I got an email from the bride which I still have today.

“Hi Joshua,

My name is Karen XXXXXXXX and we met at the XXXXXXXXX Wedding show a couple of weeks ago. Well, I think I made a mistake because I booked with XXXXXXX XXXXXXXX XXXXX and I felt like I got conned. They had a ‘special package’ they were running at the show, but I later found out that’s their normal price. I remember you saying that if I ever had any questions about the industry to reach out.

I’ve asked XXXXXXXXXX if I could get out of the contract and get my deposit back, I was wondering if you knew of anything that I could do to help get out of it? I feel very mislead and didn’t realize that I was paying full price for their services.

Thanks

Karen”

Well, needless to say I couldn’t help since she signed a contract with them and honestly, I’m not really sure what happened either, it’s not my business.

Here’s my point, take your time with vendors at a wedding show. The wedding industry is an expensive industry and make sure that you understand things with a vendor before you get into a contract with them too.

The Takeaway

  1. The BEST way to book with a wedding vendor is in person and not at a wedding show.

  2. Use a wedding show as inspiration that you can use for your own wedding and connect with the vendors after the fact.

  3. If you want the best results, try a smaller, more intimate wedding show, both as a vendor and as a couple.

  4. Research, research, research. That’s the BEST Key to figure out if a wedding vendor is a great fit for you and your wedding.