Featured: Getting ready for a wedding show

The Wedding Journal Show (Photo courtesy Penton Exhibitions)

The Wedding Journal Show (Photo courtesy Penton Exhibitions)


Normally our Featured posts are written by Hannah, packed full of advice about wedding related things we have learnt over the years working as a full time professional wedding photographer. This week though, our Featured post is a little different – written by Graham! and aimed at both customers and other photographers.

so what’s it all about this week?

Wedding Wednesday: Successful Wedding Show Stand’s Don’t Just Happen

What goes in to a Wedding Show?

Wedding shows (or wedding fayes, fairs or expos as they are also known) are a great way for brides-to-be to meet dozens, if not hundreds of wedding vendors under one roof – a one stop shop if you like. The types of shows vary from place to place and in size. For us they are a great way to meet hundreds (or thousands) of brides and allow us to show our photographs directly to prospective clients.

I must admit… I LOVE exhibiting at wedding shows. I get very excited about the whole thing – the planning ahead of the show, the building of the stand and the showing of my work to happy and enthusiastic brides-to-be. It might all stem from having worked in theatre as a professional stage manager many years ago.

We have been exhibiting at Ireland’s largest wedding show, the Wedding Journal Show in Belfast, for many years now. We do the show twice a year and have been using the same stand or variations on it since we began. The show takes place over three days this weekend at the King’s Hall Pavilion in Belfast (but for us there is additional day before the show opens, to build our stand and set-up).

As I said we have been using the same stand set up for a while now but this time, we have a brand new stand design!! (that you will be able to follow live on Twitter as we build it!). In the past we built a beautiful living room set-up. We were the first people to do this type of thing in Belfast and it worked for a number of years. Like anything though, once you do it other people copy, so now this type of stand is no longer unique around these parts. So we have had a whole rethink about how we, do wedding shows.

So with the plan to reinvent ourselves, back in August we started planning the new stand, Hannah and I held a brainstorming session and we came up with all sorts of strange and wonderful ideas – some crazy and some so expensive to do they were crazy! Over a couple of weeks in August we jotted down ideas until we finally came up with a definitive concept and design. We finally settled on our new idea (that is top secret until the launch tomorrow!) and started to work on it. Once the design was on paper, it meant we could start to source the new stuff to build our brand new stand. Out went, well in a box went, the old wallpaper (which we now use for baby photos!) and in came the new… Oh, I almost told you!

I like to be very prepared, so starting several months before the show is super important to me. It means if we have any problems getting certain items, it gives us time to rethink). The only downside about planning so far in advance is that it means your studio looks like a wedding show bomb went off in it for ages! We literally have stuff everywhere!

Most people don’t know it, but doing wedding shows is pretty expensive. You have to pay the organisers of the show to exhibit at it. In our case, the show is organised by the Wedding Journal, and we pay them around about £3000 a year just to exhibit. That is just to allow us to show up and for your stand shell. There are then a load of other costs…

Really nice looking brochures and price lists that won’t get lost in a sea of flyers in your bag
New albums and samples
Give-aways & competition prizes
Stand props and set-up (e.g. wallpaper, flowers, flooring etc.)
Hiring a van to get all our stuff to the King’s Hall not needed this time the set up all fits in the car 😉
Electric (that is right, they even charge us £60 just for a plug socket!)
Free wine (Did I say free wine?! Yes I did! We are giving away free fizz at the next show, so come along for a glass!)
Staff wages (Ok, so I am very lucky in that Hannah and Andrew help out so I don’t have to pay them, but it is something to think about)

This all adds up, and on average we spend about £5000 a year on exhibiting on the Wedding Journal Show. That is why we get very annoyed at the cheapskates who can’t be bothered to pay to exhibit but sneak in put flyers on peoples cars in the carpark or hand out flyers outside the hall. Don’t support those people – they are cheats!

So the next show takes place this weekend!! and now everything is planned and purchased we need to build our stand. The Wedding Show opens to the public from the Friday onwards, but the vendors get in the day before and can spend a whole day setting up. and in the beginning boy did we need the time! It took us around about 10 hours to build our stand the first time (we had no idea what we were doing). but after many shows of practice, we got our stand build down to around four hours.

Because we are starting afresh with a new stand design this time, I’m anticipating another long day! In theatre that particular day is called a “fit-up”, and that is exactly what we do. When you exhbit at a large show such as this, the only thing you are given is a while shell to exhibit in. You have to do everything to it! Think of it like moving in to a brand new house, with no floor, plaster on the walls and the bare minimum of lighting. That is where all the planning comes in! We lay our own floor, hang our own wallpaper, bring our own furniture, rig our own lights… and make the place look beautiful. With so many exhibitors (Twenty something photographers) to compete with it is important to stand out from the crowd. The whole point of the stand design is for brides to remember us. Most of the time they will have met so many photographers that they won’t remember who they spoke to, so as well as the stand we have beautiful printed brochures that look great. So they will hopefully when they are going through their bag of stuff they remember talking to us!

When designing a stand for a show it is easy to lose sight of what it is for. Remember, if you are a photographer then you stand must scream “Photographer” without a second look. You also don’t want people think you are a room decorating company when you are actually a photographer… so don’t go over the top. If you also have a theme, make it clear and stick to it. Everything on your stand should tell people about you and your work. but remember that doesn’t mean hang vintage cameras everywhere!

So Thursday will be here tomorrow and I would be a liar to say that I am not very excited! We will be starting to leave the house and build the stand from around 8am tomorrow. If you would like to see more about what goes in to building a successful wedding show stand, then you can follow us LIVE as we do it from 8am onwards. We will be doing a LIVE Tweetcast all day with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Just follow the hashtag #bigweddingshowbuildup

Also look out for our timelapse video on the blog in the next few weeks being recorded all day tomorrow and really see how we do it!

If you are getting married please come and see Hannah, Andrew and myself on our stand (G23) and say hello. If you are a photographer then please let us know you are one (as I love to chat with fellow photographers), please don’t pretend to be a bride, your fooling no one 😉 – we spend a lot of money on brochures, so if you take one off us you are taking money out of our pockets. when we are happy to talk to you and all our info is available online anyway.

So all that’s left to say is SEE YOU AT THE SHOW!!! 🙂

About Graham

Graham Crichton is an award winning professional wedding & portrait photographer based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. With 10 years of experience and having photographed hundreds of weddings he has photographed weddings all over Ireland, the UK and abroad.

About Hannah

Hannah Crichton is the principal photographic assistant, blogger and studio manager (and other half of Graham Crichton Photography). Hannah and Graham recently married themselves in Ynysybwl, Wales, where Hannah is originally from. Hannah loves “everything wedding"!



PPANI - Professional Photographers Association of Northern Ireland


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Graham Crichton Photography,
A110 Portview Trade Centre,
310 Newtownards Road,
Belfast BT4 1HE,
Northern Ireland.

 Phone: 02890 99 77 98

Let us tell your love story tagline

I don’t think we can say how amazing Graham and Hannah are in this review! But we are so glad we found Graham! We’re not one to pose for photos. Come the wedding day, it felt like a pleasure to have Graham and Hannah at the wedding! Our guests loved them, Graham is fun and enthusiastic, but also discrete!

Stunning wedding photographs at Limepark Cottages

5 / 5

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