I am a wedding and portrait photographer who keeps things light, fun, and full of energy. I’m based out of Springfield, Illinois however I love traveling all over the midwest and beyond.
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Over the last few years I have been searching for ways to get my name out there as a wedding photographer and meet new couples. One way I have found that works for me is participating in bridal shows. I have set up a booth at least once a year for the last 3 years in the Springfield and recently further north in Bloomington and coming soon…Champaign on February 19th, 2017. This aspect of my business inspired me to write this post. I have a front row seat of seeing brides (sometimes grooms who usually come for the food & beer tastings) with wide eyes running around the show excited about all the potential ideas they could incorporate into their special wedding day. Bridal shows are an amazing way to meet so many awesome, professional vendors in one place. However, the excitement can fade quickly from a bride’s face when the overwhelming thought of making all these decisions sets in. So, I have come up with 3 tips to help you navigate through a bridal show successfully, whether it’s your first time or you have attended several shows.
1. Know Your Priorities & Go In With A Plan
Yes, this sounds like two tips in one. However, I tell couples all the time to start booking your vendors based on what your priorities are for your wedding day. When you look at your vision of the day (brides…I KNOW you have a vision) what is the most important to you? Your venue? Your entertainment? Hopefully, your photography! If cake is the most important, by all means go for that first (I mean, who doesn’t love wedding cake?). Start booking vendors based on that concept and this should help you keep your eye on the prize and hire the professionals that mean the most to you and your fiancé. Looking at these vendors first when you attend a bridal show checks items off your list quickly and efficiently. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed at least once during your bridal show experience, which makes having a plan an even better idea. If it’s your first show and you are going in with only your wedding date in hand, plot before going and figure out your goal is for the day. If you go in just to “look” at ideas, that is fine. But, you may end up feeling so turned around that you forget EVERY cool idea you saw. BONUS TIP: Keep in mind many vendors only book one job per date. For example venues, photographers, DJs/Bands, you are booking them for their talent or facility. If someone else books them before you do, you are out of luck. Taking your time to make the best decision for you two as a couple is always a good idea. But, don’t wait too long and miss out on your ideal vendor.
2. Bring Labels
With so many vendors that participate in bridal shows, most likely each will have some type of entry to win a prize or discount. I personally give away a free engagement session! Score, right?! Save your hand by bringing mailing labels with your printed contact info including name, email, phone number, and wedding date. Being prepared with the labels will give you more time talking with the vendors than filling out entry forms. It also helps the vendors make sure to have all your correct info to keep you up to date with any specials they are running exclusively for attendees of the show. Nothing is worse for me as a vendor then when I’m trying to email a bride who genuinely seemed interested in me as their photographer and it pops back to me as an invalid email address because I can’t read their handwriting. This is a missed opportunity for myself as well as the bride who is waiting on the email.
3. Follow Up With Vendors You Like
A day or two after the show, is the best time to regroup and recap what you saw, liked, and hone in on those priority vendors (we talked about in tip #1, remember?). Clear your mind and start combing through the handouts and business cards you received at the show. Begin to narrow down vendors that you connected with and loved their work or ideas. Set up wedding consultations with them in the next week or two. Bridal shows are loud and crazy (for both brides and vendors). Take the time out of your busy schedule to sit down in a quiet setting and talk with your favorite vendors about your vision. I love to hear about every bride’s individual wedding plans to see if we are a good fit for one another. The tough part about shows is there isn’t enough time for that the day of the show. That makes the follow up consult so much more important. Make sure you and the vendor are on the same page and share your outlook on your wedding day before booking. You should feel comfortable and excited for each vendor since they will play a big role in your big day.
My last and extra bonus tip when you are attending a bridal show….Have Fun! Enjoy looking around and getting ideas you could implement into your special day. If you know ahead of the show it’s mixture of fun, excitement, and lots of decisions you will do great! Take it one step at a time and enjoy the ride!