Your Big Day: Prepping for Your First Bridal Trade Show

March 28, 2019
Morgan Robbins
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You’ve said “I do” to attending a bridal trade show but like many couples, you’re not sure where to start in your trade show planning process. Sure, there are some basics you know about, like having a booth, bringing qualified staff, and having a first-rate product, but what else should you plan for?

Bridal trade shows allow you to reach a large variety of brides, grooms, and consumers. The expo brings potential customers to you for the day and even though you’ll be surrounded by possible future buyers, you still have to get their attention to your booth. Make the big day at your first bridal trade show a success by being prepared on what to do, and how to do it, before and during the trade show.

What is a Bridal Trade Show and Expo?

what is a bridal trade show and expo

A bridal trade show, or bridal expo, is an organized event where brides and grooms attend in order to meet wedding service providers congregated in one place. Caterers and bakers may provide food and cake samples and vendors will have their booths full of merchandise and wares from their specialty profession. Some expos also have a fashion show, giveaways, raffles, speakers, food, drinks, prizes, and other bonus items. It's important to learn everything you can about shipping to a bridal expo

There are many different types of bridal shows so it’s important to know which one is the right fit for you and your business. Expos are generally the largest, with about 50-100 vendors, and can have thousands of attendees. They can be free to the public, or require an entrance fee, and can take place over a weekend or several days. Smaller trade shows can be on a weeknight at a smaller venue for only a few hours, with perhaps 15 vendors. Then there are bridal shows that fall between the two spectrums of a large expo and smaller trade show.

How Do I Pick the Right Bridal Trade Show for My Business?

pick the right bridal trade show

With the varying degrees of size and category, how do you know which trade show is the right one for your business? Here are a few ways to narrow down your parameters when it comes time to make a decision.

It’s reputable: The trade show you select should be hosted by a reputable person or company, such as a successful bridal magazine, credible vendor, or a reliable wedding industry insider. Whoever is in charge should have superior wedding knowledge and expertise in the field. This will ensure that the expo will have high-caliber exhibitors who will show-off current and relevant products and services. This will also attract worthwhile attendees who are serious about looking and purchasing what is being offered.

They have it together: this goes along with being reputable. The host should have an impeccable presentation from the start and be consistent throughout the entire process. Choose a show that, in the past, is visually pleasing, has a well-done website, and has picture-perfect marketing materials. All of these things set the tone for the expo and will attract more attendees than a haphazardly thrown-together trade show.

Healthy competition: you don’t necessarily want to be the biggest and best vendor. Yes, you want to stand out from the other exhibitors, but you also want to be in a similar price point and have a similar high-quality product. Doing so means that your consumers are in the market for what you’re selling, and you won’t be too costly for their budget. If you’re the most expensive option at a trade show, you might get passed over for a cheaper product. You may have the better commodity but attendees may not be looking within your price point.

Vendor booths plus extra incentives: attendees are more likely to attend a show that has more than just booths lined in rows. Shows that also include extras such as food tastings, fashion shows, live entertainment, pertinent demos, and expert panels add value and will attract more interested consumers than a show that simply has vendors selling a product. The extras keep the expo from being monotonous and supplying information overload with vendors hawking their services to passersby.

What Should I Know as a Vendor for a Bridal Show?

what should I know as a bridal show vendor

Now you know what a bridal trade show is, you know which one you want to attend, and you’ve made a commitment to being a vendor. What else should you be aware of going into the expo process? Your big day at the bridal expo will be a piece of cake with these suggestions and guidelines.

First Thing’s First - The Booth

This is the starting point once the planning stages begin. Most vendors rent a booth at trade shows, with 10’x10’ being the most common size. The price of the booth can vary greatly, however, depending on which wedding trade show you attend, the market of the trade show, and especially if you decide to go with a loftier booth. It could cost as little as $150 or as much as thousands of dollars, which is why it’s imperative to choose the right trade show for your business and your budget.

It’s Time to Design - Bridal Show Booth Ideas for Vendors

Your bridal show booth setup is the first impression brides will have of your business so, needless to say, you have to get it right. Here are some Do’s and Don'ts to follow:

What to do:

  • Make brides feel comfortable: create an atmosphere that is warm, friendly, and conversational. Attendees don’t want to feel like you’re putting pressure on them to look and decide on your product. Instead, speak to them as if they’ve already decided to work with you and you’re simply telling them what you can do for them.
  • Check your body language: a cheerful smile can go a long way to welcoming any new potential customers. When speaking with an attendee, stand up straight and don’t cross your arms. You want to be engaging but not pushy, so use your ears to hear what the bride has to say before telling them what you have to offer.
  • Have an underlying theme: decorate with an overall look and goal in mind. A bridal gown business should look different than a wedding photographer, which should both be different from a disc jockey. Understand what appeals to your audience and what differentiates your product from other areas of expertise.
  • Use a focal item: this can be especially useful to tie into your product or theme. A bridal gown business can display their most popular gown on a mannequin or a wedding photographer can have a large poster with some of their best pictures on it. Think of what you would use to sell your product if you were speaking to a potential customer, and materialize that into your featured item.
  • Go vertical: many booths look the same and will all start to blend together to passersby. One way to work around this is to make your booth vertically tall. You can use lights, candle centerpieces, floral centerpiece, or a contrasting colored drop cloth turned diagonally over standard linen. It doesn’t have to be too crazy, just enough to set yourself apart from the other booths in the aisle.
  • Try to nab a corner booth: this will allow you to catch attention from consumers in multiple aisles. Two directions are better than one and the effort you put into any signage will pay off even more. It may be a good idea to have a staff member cover both sides so no brides are left unnoticed. You have to get noticed on a crowded expo floor
  • Make your logo clear: along with your theme, utilize a consistent color scheme with your logo and any branding items you use in your booth. You want the booth to have a cohesive appearance from the small to the large details.
  • Staff should be impeccably dressed: wedding products tend to be on the higher-end in price and quality, and you want your staff to reflect that. They should either be dressed uniformly or their attire should be refined and elegant. An exception to this would be a product or service that is more fun-natured, like a disc jockey. In that case, staff can dress similarly to what they wear to a wedding. Regardless of the product, clothing should still be professional, which means no wrinkles, scuffed-up shoes, or stained apparel.
  • Narrow your sights: You want to speak to as many attendees as possible, but you don’t want to spend time talking to consumers who don’t need your services. You also want to check if you’re available on their wedding day. If the attendee doesn’t fall within your criteria of being able to provide your services, then wish them well and move on to the next person.  
  • Check on electricity: This is one detail you’ll definitely want to know ahead of time as some bridal shows charge to use their electricity. If the expo does charge for electrical use, you can save a few dollars by booking it in advance. If you decide to wait though, it’s nearly impossible to have electrical units hooked up the day of the show.
  • Know your options for pipe and drape: you can bring your own curtains to separate your booth from others, although some bridal shows provide it to vendors. Those that do offer pipe and drape sometime allow you to choose your own colors. However, like electricity, color selection must be requested in advance.
  • Give special discounts: take the expo as an opportunity to track your success in numbers. Offer a discount to any attendees who book with you or purchase any merchandise. This will give the brides an added incentive to make a commitment while they’re at the trade show, and you can easily track the sales you received directly from the show. If the sales you generate from the sale are on the high end, even with the discount, it will show proof that you should be a vendor at more bridal trade shows in the future.
  • BYOW: Bring your own water! Staff will be speaking all day and it can be loud inside trade show buildings. They will want to keep water on hand to keep their mouth from getting dry. It also may be a good idea to bring your own food. Trade show food prices can be exorbitant and if you bring your own, staff can quickly grab something to eat, step off to the side, and be back within a few minutes.

Your Big Day: Prepping for Your First Bridal Trade Show 1

What not to do:

  • Don’t let staff stand behind tables: Having a table between staff and attendees provides a literal and figurative barrier between the two. It’s harder to hold a conversation when there’s a physical object splitting the distance. Tables should be put at the back or side of the booth and if you do happen to get a corner booth, you can use a table to clearly separate yourself from your neighbor.
  • Say no to clutter: As with the table, don’t have any type of clutter taking up space in or around your booth. Attendees will be more comfortable in an open space and will also allow your staff to move freely from person to person, from a consumer to your featured item, or to any marketing handouts, which can be placed on a table.
  • Don’t close your booth for breaks: Staff should be allowed to take breaks; after all, they are standing and talking as much or more than attendees. However, you should have more than one break time and rotate breaks for different staff so there is always someone manning your booth. You could lose sales with just 15 minutes of a closed booth and, as you know, every sale counts!
  • No sitting allowed: Staff should be standing at all times, not sitting in or around your booth. This makes them seem unengaged or interested in speaking with consumers and you want every attendee who passes by to feel important. Staff should use their break times to sit down, and if a staff member needs to rest their feet, give them a short break away for a few minutes.
  • No disparaging remarks: Staff should be focused on your own product and services and what they can provide the attendee. They should keep it cordial and not use their time with consumers to speak ill of your competition. Doing so is both impolite and tactless and may have the opposite effect on your potential customer. Trade show booth etiquette is important. The customer could view badmouthing as tacky and decide they don’t want to be involved with your business.
  • Don’t duck out before the end: Your booth should be ready to receive attendees until the final minute. Don’t start packing up or tearing down early. This shows attendees that you’re not really committed to providing them with your services. You’ve paid, sometimes a good bit, to be at the trade show, so get the most of your money and stay until the doors close.

How Do I Advertise Before and During the Trade Show?

bridal trade show advertising

You want as many people to come to your booth as possible, so what else can you do to draw the crowd? Read on for ideas to use before the trade show begins and what you can do while at the show to garner attention.

Before the Bridal Expo

The work begins weeks, or months, before the trade show. You can use several methods to get the ball rolling.

  • Direct mail: mail out flyers or postcards to let your customers know you will be at the trade show. This is helpful if the show is close to the area you do business, as customers won’t have to travel far to get there. If the expo is far away, you can send direct mail in the area of the show. This may draw customers that perhaps haven’t heard of you but may want what you’re selling.
  • Email marketing: create an email campaign in which you start with the first email a couple of months in advance, and then send emails more frequently as the date nears. You want the consumer to be aware that you will be a vendor at the trade show but don’t overdo it and send one every week. This approach may only work if the expo is in your direct area, as you likely won’t have email addresses for those who haven’t had contact with your business before.
  • Phone: this is one of the more time-consuming choices and you may only want to use it for certain customers. A personal call to a potential big client could prompt them to stop by the trade show. If you decide to widen your consumer base, as with email marketing, less can be more. You don’t want potential customers to feel like your staff are making robocalls to everyone and anyone in the area.

  • Social media: one of the most cost-effective ways to go. You can choose to run paid ads on social media, which are still significantly cheaper than direct mail, or you can go the totally free route and rely on friends, family, and followers to share your posts. Try to create posts that are engaging and fun though, otherwise, viewers will scroll past them without a second thought.

  • Pre-register for a prize: you can give the option to pre-register at your business location or online before the trade show begins. A bride and groom may be likely to pencil you in if they receive a prize in return. Of course, they have to attend the expo as the drawing will take place at some point during the show.

  • Store signage: create signage and other marketing materials before the show and place it in your place of business. Some bridal shows will provide their own signage that you can also use. Staff can point out the signage to customers and tell them about the trade show. If you decide to offer a discount at the trade show, staff can use that as an incentive for customers to attend and make a purchase there.

Your Big Day: Prepping for Your First Bridal Trade Show 1

During the Bridal Expo

Once you’re all set-up and ready to go, take a few more steps to maximize your time and money spent at the trade show.

  • Booth signage: like a vertical booth design, you want signage that will stand out and get a second glance. Your signage should be large and clear enough to be read easily across the floor. Don’t pack too much into a small space or it will look jumbled and glancing eyes will gloss over it. You can make your signage really stand out with special effecting lighting or LED lights, but both should still be in-line with your business theme and neither should be gaudy or obnoxious.
  • Large prints: booth signage is great for getting your business name and logo out to the attendees. Large prints can take that a step further by showing off your product or services. Think of it as a two-step approach to informing consumers what you can provide. Large prints can be displayed on your booth walls and give a quick, visual snapshot of your product or services. They can be used in place of small picture albums, which can only be viewed by a limited number of people at one time.
  • Digital slideshow: this takes it a bit further than the large prints by showing a video slideshow on a large flat-screen TV. Large prints can be beneficial but are static images, while a slideshow is moving and dynamic. In order for this to fully effective, you must bring or rent a large, flat-screen TV to show the video. A small laptop screen on a table is not a good way to showcase your business. The TV screen can be mounted high-up, above the head’s of attendees, and will catch the eye of passing brides and grooms.

Bridal Show Giveaways

Bridal Show Giveaways

Upon entering the bridal expo, the bride receives a bag emboldened with the trade show’s wedding logo. The bride then uses that bag to hold items that she receives during their time at the expo and may not examine the items too closely until she gets home. For that reason, it’s a good idea to give something, or a few somethings, that will stick out from the pile. After all, everyone loves free stuff, but not all prizes were created equal.

An important note: no matter what you give out, and depending on the space you have, remember to put your name, logo, contact information, and website on every promotional item! Without further ado, here are some of the best giveaway prizes that will make you memorable to future customers.

  • Bags: the best rule of thumb to follow is to hand out a giveaway that adds value, something that the attendee will actually like or use in the future. You can one-up the trade show host’s bag by making your bag bigger and better. Try a canvas tote with your information on the side, or a white, lacey bag that the bride may use to hold other wedding items in the future.
  • Pens: one of the most inexpensive gifts you can give, and often handy just when you need them. You won’t be able to fit the same information on a pen as the bag, however, so at least go with your logo and contact information.
  • Key-chain accessories: this one isn’t quite as useful as the bag and pen, so you can either make it cute or still have it serve a purpose. A mini bride and groom, with your logo on the back and your contact information on the bottom, may appeal to many brides. You could also try a mini-flashlight or a bottle opener for the more handy consumer.
  • Magnets: you can go with a refrigerator magnet or a car magnet, but this has to fall under the cute and eye-catching area to attract attendees. The refrigerator magnet can be a picture frame, to hold engagement photos, and the car magnet can say something wedding-related like, “Here Comes the Bride,” “Maid of Honor,” or “Tieing the Knot Soon.”
  • Kitchen items: these are a little higher on the price point list but will really differentiate your product from your competitors. Oven mitts, pot holders, spatulas, or a silicone whisk all are useful for men and women. The more useful the product, the longer the attendee will keep it around and prolonge your marketing exposure.  
  • Bath stuff: again, more expensive than pens, magnets, and key-chain accessories, but they also have a higher potential of being noticed. Most women (and some men) love candles, lotions, oils, soap, towels, and anything bath-related that smells good. Brides could enjoy the smell of your product so much that they show their friends, who will then see your logo and website on the side of the packaging.  
  • Candy and cake: what’s better than free items? Free food! This is an especially good idea for caterers as you can show off your goods (no pun intended) and kill two birds with one stone. Anything sweet is fair game: cake, cake pops, cupcakes, desserts, candy, etc. If you want to guarantee a bride’s contact information, offer to trade their dessert of choice for their email, phone number, and/or mailing address.
  • Bookmarks: this one is more uncommon than the others, but can be very beneficial. For one, they are inexpensive to make, you can easily list all of your information, and can be used long after the wedding has come and passed. Consumers can actually use them during the trade show, as they are likely to get magazines or pamphlets during the expo, and avid book readers can always use another bookmark. You can opt for a higher-end bookmark, such as one made of wood or sheet metal, or have them in an interesting shape, like a bride and groom.

Last but not Least - Bridal Show Raffle Ideas!

bridal show raffle ideas

Without a doubt, one of the most popular aspects of any bridal trade show are the raffles. Just be aware that not all bridals shows and expos allow raffles, so check the rules ahead of time with the host. You can hold a raffle for anything, but there are some that are more popular, like:

  • Free trips
  • Honeymoons
  • Services
  • Food
  • Wedding dresses
  • A romantic dinner for two

Your choice of raffle prize will depend on your business or product, i.e. a food raffle for a cake baker or a wedding dress for a wedding gown business. No matter what your field, you could offer credit for your services or product, which can really sway a hesitant bride and groom to book with you. The credit amount should be noteworthy though, perhaps up to 50% or more on select services or products. No matter how much the original cost, 50% off is a huge discount and the winner will feel like they’re getting a great deal.

Bridal Show Vendor Checklist

Bridal Show Vendor Checklist

Your trade show is right around the corner, and you want to be as prepared as possible when it comes time to get there and set-up. With all of the parts and pieces, you have to bring, don’t forget about some of the small, but mighty, tools that could come in handy.

  • Extra power cords, assuming electricity is needed
  • Pens, paper, tape, and scissors
  • A first-aid kit
  • Bottled water and snacks
  • A Tide pen, or something similar, for any accidental spills or marks on clothing
  • Labels with your business name and/or logo for all of your items!

Shipping to a Bridal Trade Show

shipping to a bridal trade show

Bridal trade shows are both an effective and fruitful way to reach your targeted wedding customer base. You could interact with hundreds of consumers, at a smaller trade show, or even thousands, at a large expo. Brides, grooms, friends, and family are all prospective attendees and potential customers if your business provides wedding-related services. Brides come ready to plan their entire wedding and book the businesses that will best suit their needs. That is why it is critical to plan a successful exhibition and be as prepared as possible to make the most out of your wedding trade show.

You went the whole nine yards to double-check, triple-check, and be fully prepared for your first bridal expo. Now it’s time for the final step: getting your products and goods from your business to your booth quickly and efficiently. Choosing the right shipping and logistics company to handle transportation is just as important as your booth design, giveaway items, and having prepared staff.

R+L Global Logistics are experts in the trade show shipping field and fully understand the process of getting from Point A to Point B. Not only do we offer a wide selection of shipping and logistics services (expedited ground, warehousing, shipment tracking, and white glove, to name a few), we also provide world class customer service with 24/7 live support. If you want to know you’re in good hands, learn more about USA trade show shipping and contact us through chat, email, or a phone call at 866-415-8986 so we can start handling your trade show shipping and bridal expo needs.

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