I am coming up on my 3 year business anniversary (what!!!) and every year I challenge myself to do something different to grow my business. I have been a full-time wedding photographer for a year now, but only living back in California for 9 months. After a lot of thought, I knew I needed to step out of my comfort zone and reach some new clients. Enter: bridal shows. I joined a group on Facebook devoted to building and marketing a successful bridal show booth. Without that group (and Pinterest) I would have had NO idea where to even begin. So I am hoping that this blog post on how I build my first bridal show booth will help someone out there as lost as I was!
Most of my projects start with a Pinterest Board, and this was no exception. This was helpful because I had never even been to a show before so I did not know what a booth should look like, what signage to use, how to display photos, etc. I wanted my booths design to be representative of both my work and the weddings I enjoy shooting. For me that meant white-washed wood, rustic furniture, kraft paper, with lots of personal touches and plenty of flowers.
While there were plenty of little details, here were the most important elements of my booth:
- Samples of my work: This includes 2 Millers Signature albums, large display photos, a framed print of one of my most popular images, as well as a slideshow of around 100 images. Having samples of my work was THE most important thing.
- A wall: I wanted something to set me apart from all the other booths using the pipe-and-drape provided by the venue
- A seating area: Many warned me the chairs may not be used, but I didn’t care. The seating area made my booth warm and inviting, and so many moms + bridesmaids were so thankful to have a place to relax while I chatted with the bride.
- Marketing materials: Including business cards, postcard-sized price lists, and informational booklets (which unfortunately didn’t arrive in time for my show due to a huge error with the company I ordered them from- lesson learned!)
- A giveaway: Not only is doing a giveaway a great way to gather information from potential brides, it really is fun to give something away! I chose to do a gift basket rather than something like an engagement session because it would catch people’s eye and start the conversation. (P.S. to any brides from the show reading this, I will be announcing the winner at this end of this post!!!…)
Let’s get into the details…
Building the Wall
A little disclaimer: preparing for a bridal show is very time consuming and expensive! So make sure you have a committed “team” willing to help you out AND a spouse/ roommate that doesn’t mind a messy house while you get everything together 😉 (AKA please don’t just my messy house/ backyard lol!)
In my research I’ve found a lot of bridal show vendors use connected Hollow Core Doors as their backdrop. I wanted something that was easier to transport so I followed another design. It is essentially two U-shaped support pieces made from 2×4″s & a 2×3″ then 1×10″ wood beams slide in between them.
Then we used the biggest L-brackets we could find to make the feet. Then we cut another 2×4 to 30″ for the bottom “foot” to tie it all together
The entire thing disassembles which makes it super easy to transport. We decided to drill pilot holes through the top and bottom beams so that we could screw it all together on-site making it super sturdy!
Furniture & Other Details
Then it was all about the furniture! My vision included two tables, two chairs and a small side table. NONE of which I owned. My parents found the perfect bar cart at OSH and that set the design in motion. With the help of my dad, I build a media table to match the cart. This was my style inspiration:
We bought a 2×12″ and cut it to 5ft. I wanted a distressed look so we beat it up with the backside of a hammer and used a rustic stain. The legs are 35″ 2x4s and the horizontal support pieces are 6″ 2x4s. The bottom shelf is 1×10″ and the corners are notched out to a perfect fit. ***Now I know everyone may not want to / know how to build a table. BUT I thought it was super helpful because I could fit it to my booth perfectly and it was the perfect size to display my albums.
The day before the show I went to the LA Flower Mart and made some pretty arrangements for around $20. Then I did a “trial run” in my backyard to make sure everything would work together. The white spots on the wall are industrial velcro which I used to hang 5 16×24 photos. A little secret: I printed the photos on foam core boards instead of canvases and saved HUNDREDS. Even though I do not print on foam for my clients, it was a great place to save money and still maintain the wow-factor.
And then the show day was finally here! I am SO thankful for my fiancé and my parents who were willing to help me. It took 2 cars to transport everything to the Long Beach Convention Center and about and hour and a half to set up. But OH MY GOSH was it worth it! For my first show everything turned out amazing. I met some amazing brides and grooms and honestly think my booth was one of the best at the show. I am not sure when I will do all of this again, but I look forward to the opportunity.
Back to the giveaway….
I promised to choose the winner of the giftbasket today! It was SUCH a touch decision because I loved everyone’s entries so much. All of the brides at the show were offered an exclusive show discount so even if you did not win the giveaway please email me to take advantage of it 🙂 So, finally, the… winning… couple… is… NATALIE AND BRAD! Natalie and her entourage were easily one of my favorite groups of the day and I cannot think of a more deserving couple!
What I would do differently at my next bridal show:
- Have more than 2 albums. It just wasn’t enough! I also offer 5×5 parent albums so I will be ordering one of those and another 10×10 sample wedding album for my next show
- Bring some sort of flooring. I hated the convention center carpet and I think that is the one thing I needed to complete my look!
- Get a corner booth. It IS worth the extra money.
- Make even more time to network with other vendors. I met a few amazing new “friendors” but would have loved to talk to a few more. You can never have too many vendor relationships. To achieve this I would have set up a bit earlier and talked to people before the brides were let inside.
- Do NOT be a salesperson. This is something I actually did this time, but I want to reiterate it to future-me and all other first time bridal show vendors. I honestly believe that we are NOT there to just make a sale. We are there to show what we can do, talk about how we do it, and create relationships. I refused to be a flyer pusher and instead had genuine conversations with those that were interested in talking to me. This led to quality leads over quantity.
Feel free to leave any questions in the comments!!