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Featured: Top 10 Tips for Making Your Wedding Fair Stand… Stand Out!

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I have been doing wedding fayres (wedding shows, wedding fairs, bridal expos, whatever you want to call them) since 2009. That is a lot of fairs. Since I started doing them we have noticed a lot of changes in how they work and look. Styles come and go, trends come and go. Each time, you have to adapt and keep up – all the while not looking just like another photographer. Just like weddings nowadays, wedding shows are all about the theatrics too.

It annoys me when I see a photographer at a wedding show who just doesn’t seem to be bothered or want to put in effort. When you exhibit at a show, that should be your your “Hey world! I am here” moment. You are presenting a shop front to the world (all be it for a very limited amount of time). So here are my top 10 tips for creating a breathtaking and stylish wedding fair stand that will make you stand out from the crowd. I have included pictures of stands I have designed in the past (some very very old… and some new). It will give you an idea of how I have evolved too. It takes time and experience to perfect the perfect stand.

This is what I did this year – watch the video and then see our road to it…

It takes time and experience to produce a stand like this. Find out below how I got there over the years and see the mistakes I made along the way.

1. Don’t just get a table and stand behind it

Couples assume you can take photographs. You probably wouldn’t be at a wedding show if you couldn’t. What couples don’t know is are you a friendly type of person who would be great to work with on their wedding day? If you sit behind a table you won’t just look like you don’t care, you also create a virtual barrier between you and the couple. Be out front and engage with them. Chat to people! Share your “passion”…

Top 10 Tips for Making Your Wedding Fair Stand

2013: A show we did where we were given a table and table cloth for our space. The first thing we did was lose the table cloth! Stand out!

2. Think about what show you do and what you show

In the beginning I had very little confidence in my work and in myself. When it came to shows, I thought I had to show everything (see below!). This not only created clutter but also confused people. Showing too much is sometimes worse than not showing anything at all. Of course you will need some full wedding albums to show people you actually know what you are doing – but these are not what first gets people to stop. Put some large show stopping images on the wall – wow them first and then talk them through what they do.

Not every show is the same, some shows will be great (and the atmosphere will be brilliant). Other shows are just dead ducks. Research any shows first and find out what past exhibitors thought – (They don’t just have to be photographers you ask!)

2009: My first ever wedding show back in 2009. I was so excited to exhibit. I did no research and just planned my stand. Did I make any sales? No. It was a complete waste of time, because I didn’t research it. But it did teach me about wedding shows… Lose the clutter!

3. Don’t feel deflated if people don’t engage you or are not intersted

I used to think I was doing something wrong when I first started exhibiting at shows. Most people would just walk past, first looking and then walking on. Most wouldn’t talk to me and some were just quite rude! If this happens to you, don’t worry. You are not every couples photographer. What you do is unique. You don’t want to appeal to everyone. I sure as heck don’t, but I do appeal to my customers – who are the people I want to appeal to. To this day only my type of people engage with me and we book them. Those that don’t we don’t want as customers anyway. So don’t try to be pushy, just let them come to you.

2011: My first “proper” wedding show. I researched and researched and planned and planned to see what was on trend. No one else at the show had a stand anything like it. We booked people just because we stood out.

4. Think about your stand design

Whether you have booked a small table or a large 20x20m shell scheme – think about what you want to do… in advance. It takes a long time to properly prepare for a show. We do it atleast six months in advance. We spend time thinking about what we are trying to portray and what is currently “on trend”. At the same time as trying to appeal to a certain type of customer you don’t want your stand to attract the wrong type of customer. My type is quirky, fun and up for anything.

Once you have decided what type of design you want to go for sit down with a pen and paper and draw it out. Research it online and then once you have came up with a design then go ahead and find out what you need to beg, borrow, steal and buy. Obviously coming up with a complex design that includes walling, flooring and hanging lights is expensive. Is this something you can afford to do? – or do you need to go for a more simpler approach? Remember, wallpaper and tape are very cheap!

We tend to go nowadays for the more complex designs costing over £1000 just for the design itself.

Top 10 Tips for Making Your Wedding Fair Stand

Most shell scheme shows look like this in the beginning. You have to be creative in your own little space. It is amazing what you can do with a small space when you put your mind to it. It also makes you think outside the box… things like – how do I hang stuff without nailing it to the wall? (Organisers really don’t like that!) 😉

5. Can you afford to do a show and can you afford not to do a show?

Wedding shows cost money. Not just what the organisers want to chage you, but also the cost of having brochures made, fitting your stand out, paying for electric, having new sample albums and wall art made (if you need to), transporting your stuff to the show (and back), building it (and getting any staff in to help), manning the stand (and getting more staff in to help). It all adds up. Before parting with any cash, ask yourself: “Can I make this back?”. If you are doing more than one show, you can of course re-use a lot of materials. We usually get a year out of our stand and then redesign the following year.

At the same time, don’t be cheap. If you look cheap you won’t attract the right customer – unless of course you are looking to attract cheap. We spend a lot of money designing our stand, but think of it more like “If it works it will pay off”. We can generate thousands of pounds from a single outlay of £1000.

2014: Every time you do a show you learn something new. This was our second show. We made notes and changed things based on what happened before. Sometimes the changes work…

2013: Spot the difference! … and other times they don’t! This has to be one of my least favourite designs. I decided to go a little different as everyone at these shows had started to copy us with their wallpaper (when we first started we were the only ones to wallpaper). So, I thought “Hey let’s put a dado rail in and use two types of wallpaper”. As you can see it wasn’t my greatest idea and looked… cack!

6. I really like what {insert any name of any local photographer in your community} did at a show I saw them at…

STOP right now! Don’t copy what someone else did just because you like it. In photography (especially when starting out) it is all too easy to look at what others are doing and think “Heck, that must be the correct way to do it. After all it is working for them”. This is so not the case.

Your stand has to portray your style and YOU are a person too. Each stand is as unique as the photographer itself. Think about it. Go to any wedding show in the country and you will see the same old same old! How do those photographers stand out? They don’t. Think about how you can.

For people like me, who have spent A LOT of time and effort in to creating our own unique stand over the years it annoys me to see people just copying me. That is one of the reasons we create a new design now every year.

2012: Sometimes you need to think on your feet. For this particular show we were meant to have a corner stand. The organisers messed up and moved us to an inside one… so we had to think about how we would make it work in a new format. A trip to Ikea the night before usually solves the problem!

7. Don’t be afraid to talk to people (especially other photographers!)

Networking at shows is really important. It is a chance for other suppliers to get to know you. If your stand doesn’t stand out then you won’t either. Make sure you bring lots of business cards and hand them out to ANY FELLOW EXHIBITORS who gives you so much as a passing glance. Also ask them for theirs!

Don’t be afraid to approach other photographers and chat to them. If you aren’t a member of a professional body like I am then it is a chance to build up relationships with other photographers (just in case you need each other at a later date).

2014: Last year (after being put opposite a vintage stationer) we realised we had to up our game. The couples were distracted by her lace and vintage suitcases. NOW, if you know me you will know I HATE vintage. So what to do?! Instead of going vintage I researched trends and we created an outdoor rustic picnic themed stand. It certainly turned a lot of heads and more importantly made a lot of money.

8. Have REALLY nice printed material

We spend a lot of money on really beautiful brochures that not only reflect our brand (they look the same as all our other printed material) but they are also a different size from everyone elses brochures. So, when the couples are going through their bags they will look and go “Hey! What is this?”. It should contain some of the same pictures as are on your stand itself so that you can be remembered. You won’t be remembered for your dashing good looks, but you might be remembered for your photographs!

Make sure you show the very best – if you need beautiful new samples made – do it. Whatever you do, don’t use customers real albums as these will get grubby and is very very naughty!

9. Bring people with you to help – especially if you are not a “sales person”

I absolutely hate selling. I am not good at it and I know that. I am much better at taking photographs. That is why I employ people to do it for me. Once my “helpers” get the people in the door, then I can talk to them about their wedding. Until that point I am not allowed to talk to anyone! (or so I am told). Your helpers can also man the stand when you need to go to the loo and during the very quiet times when you want to network with other exhibitors – they can also hep you set up if you design is complex!

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail… or something like that. Make sure you plan well ahead and bring the right stuff with you do the show. You are not going to want to pop out to B&Q on the day of a fit up… trust me, it will be stressful enough!

10. Finally… Bring plenty of sticky tape

If you do large shows like me that last several days you will soon learn that the stuff you put up tends to come down overnight when the temperature in an exhibition hall drops! So, always have some tape, scissors and a small set of steps available to fix things that might have fallen down. I tend to show up a little bit early before opening just to make sure everything is okay 😉 Oh and one more valuable lesson. When buying wallpaper for your stand, buy expensive stuff as it will last and last and last… and last. I don’t know how many shows I got out of that patterned wallpaper – and I still have it around somewhere! 😉

I hope you found this article helpful and hope it will inspire you to be more creative about your own wedding show stands.

Top 10 Tips for Making Your Wedding Fair Stand

2015: My Autumn 2015 stand. More polished, more on trend and more representative of my work. Something totally unique. We turned a lot of heads (not just with the photos) with the stand too. Note that we use some elements from previous shows that work. You don’t need to start totally from scratch when you redesign (as long as it fits in with what you are trying to do).

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"!

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