I attended my first bridal show this past Sunday and wanted to share some photos and follow-up. 


The challenges (pre-show)

1. Additional Help. My friend was going to come to the show with me but she backed out 10 days prior and I couldn't find anyone short notice so it meant everything had to be packed into my small VW and portable/setup by just me.

2. Backdrop. I really wanted a wooden wall but it was 10 degrees outside so I wasn't building it in the barn. It would also mean I'd have to rent a truck to get the wood home since I drive a small VW. This posed the biggest problem of the entire planning process and in the end I gave up stressing over it and just did a backdrop.

3. My budget.

My budget for the show was less than $1000. This was a definite... not happening to go over this.  

Prints: $150 millers

Table: $100 target

Chairs: $85 walmart

Table Frames, vases and terrariums: $40 tj maxx

Rack Cards: $77 (250) vistaprint

Cards to Hand-out: $86 (100) I had 10 left at the end of the show. moo

Cards for swag bags: $51 (500) vistaprint

Backdrop: $51 (painters canvas and iron-on letters) amazon

Easels: $32 (4) michaels

Signage: $80 local vendor

Foamcore: $25 amazon

Rug: $96 amazon

Flowers: $27 trader joes

Total Cost: $849

4. Inexperience. Ultimately, I really had no clue what I was doing. I knew I wanted to book brides and I thought it would be super easy... I'm giving free stuff away so it will be great. Wrong (see below why).


1. Marketing myself. I didn't practice what I was going to say. I'm a great public speaker (having to brief generals and groups of 300 or more in the military got rid of any shyness) so it was more I felt weird talking about my business not because I don't love it but I was essentially tooting my own horn. I was really surprised to find that I felt way more insecure/humble/nervous about talking myself up than anything else. While I found a groove later in the day... I really wish I'd practiced. I think doing facebook live to talk about my business would have been the best thing I could do. 

2. That beautiful white rug. No one... and I mean no one wanted to walk on the rug. They would stand on the barrier like there was a glass wall. It was maddening.

3. Location. Challenge & Success. Let me first say that my location was both a challenge and a success. I had a beautiful location (27)... next to a corner space that held a radio station sponsoring the event. It was actually a visually stunning location. This was really good and really bad. First, because my business name was huge and could be seen from the across the room they used my business as a location reference whenever they wanted people to come to the station booth (their sign was smaller than mine).... so my business name got mentioned all day long... which was great. The bad part is that because I was tucked in the corner with the radio station... and the row of vendors across from me (03-20) were several feet away (this was to leave the area open to accommodate the hourly giveaways and people present)... the natural flow of traffic had them signing in at reception desk and circling... people would look over see the radio station (25), celebrity photos stage (26 I don't think they ended up coming so the stage sat empty all day) and the fitness vendor (booth 28)... and with the option of heading to the other half of the room where a majority of the vendors were or visiting one booth... I think most people moved to the other side. Now, on the plus side the hourly giveaways were done right in front of my booth so this brought people over. And I'd get a rush of folks after giveaway... the bad side was I'd get a rush of people after each giveaway and so people would have to wait or they didn't want to wait in the crowd to go to my booth. I'd see some give up. This is when having a second person would have been key. 

4. Marketing Material. I opted to only have a rack card and a digital magazine that was sent when they signed up for the engagement giveaway (link below). It wasn't until after I printed that I realized that I hadn't put any pricing info on them. This is something I'll definitely change for next time. And it's key. Everyone wanted pricing info. I will also update and print my info mag to hand out.


Additional Note: I've been asked what my views were on my printer choices. Let me say first that I have been and will continue to print my welcome packets and main marketing material through Design Aglow Print (formerly Polished By Design) & Millers and my business cards through Moo. They are beautiful (and the fact that my cards were ooh'd and ahh'd over and taken over the rack cards prove that. I do value quality but I also value not spending excessive money when my work and I should be the selling point at the show.

You can see my beautiful welcome packets and packaging below... I use a variety of vendors that also include Artifact Uprising, Millers and local vendors.

BUT I also didn't want to spends almost $3-400 on materials that would just be thrown away... and what if I decided that I never wanted to do another bridal show EVER. So my thoughts on vistaprint are this... they are fine for throw aways but on reorder I will upgrade the paper. 

5. Second Person. As I mentioned... having a second person is key. I did definitely feel I was behind the curve with this. 

6. Booth Size. I signed up late so my booth was a smaller one... 8x8. You don't realize how small an 8x8 is until you actually see it. I didn't get to put out half of what I had so I feel I was lacking some things. The booth size also precluded people really walking in and engaging.

7. Giveaway. I didn't put any caveats on my door prize (a free engagement session). The announcer also referred to it as a free photography session so the person that won it kept talking about it being a photo session for her. The card does say engagement session but I feel like I'm going to have to do a portrait session. The person who won was also not a target client and lived two hours away. This puts me in a tough spot... I will have to drive an hour to do it, if she'll meet me half way. In the future, I think that I would give away a physical product. A nice gift basket with a huge discount in it.

8. My booth itself. I'm not totally in love with the backdrop stand but I did end up loving how the canvas turned out. My goal is to build a collapsible frame that the canvas can be stapled to and transported for ease and speed. I want to use some sort of shorter wood pieces so that it can expand from 7.5 feet (witdth at the show) to 8.5 feet if I have a 10 foot booth. I'll also add a backing so the sunlight isn't visible through it. 

9. Images. When I purchased my prints, I had ordered them for framing and putting on an 8x8 wood wall. When I went to mount them they were just too small for the easels I ordered (which turned out to be much larger than I had expected). I went into this bridal show thinking I can change it later and to use what I've already purchased since my budget was running out fast. My last minute solution was to do picture collages with the small ones. I did have one 20x30 and one 20x20 that were big but that was just not enough to fill out the booth. I was really surprised that this was raved over. I had read in forum that bigger is better but for me I think it worked because the large image drew people over and then the smaller ones gave them a better idea of my overall work. Smallest image was 10x10 so they were still a good size. I think positioned better... they would have drawn more brides into the booth. 

10. Updated Samples. This was more of an issue for me than I think the brides. I love my sample albums but they are older weddings and my work has definitely improved since then. I caught myself twice explaining this and that's when I decided I will need to update.


1. Branding. Despite having such a small budget I really think I hit my brand head-on. My booth is definitely me and it definitely showcased my business. 

2. Social Media. I really hit up social media on the day of the show. The posts were shared multiple times so that was positive social marketing for me. 

3. Engagement Session Giveaway/Sign-in. I did my booth giveaway sign-in on my ipad. Brides/Couples loved it. It was quick easy and efficient. I put my giveaway form on my website and it flowed into a google drive spreadsheet. I also did a bar code that brides could scan instead of waiting and fill out later. 

you can see it here: GIVEAWAY

Additional Note: After posting, I've been asked a few times how I hooked the form up to google drive. I have to admit that I use squarespace so it was super easy as they already have an api integrated for this. You can find the squarespace directions HERE. I also believe that you can do this from any website with any form... you just have to point the output in the right direction. 

4. Bride Follow-up. I'd previously made an image-rich follow-up email on madmimi and when I got home... I imported the emails from the spreadsheet directly into madmimi (copy/paste to make a new audience... took two seconds) and sent out the email. As of 8AM the next morning, 23 had read the email and 10 had engaged. My goal bookings from this bridal show is 5 weddings so I think I'm on a good track for that.

Additional Note: I've been asked since posting this what the numbers were on the show. The organizers told another photog that there were 700 attendees and 400 brides. At first I was a little discouraged that I'd talked to so few but honestly, I am really pleased that I really invested the time in brides that came to talk to my booth if they wanted to. If I could educate, I educated. If I could show off product, I showed off product... but most of all, I just listened and fawned over their wedding choices. I think this will serve me better in the long run than just attempting to get more brides to sign up. I will send a one time email to the entire show list but my effort will be on these brides. I should also point out that at least five of the brides that visited my booth already had me on their list of potentials so they had come to the show to meet me so I spent a good deal of time with each of them.

5. Engagement. Knowing that I'll get a list of all attendees, I decided to take the advice of one of the Bridal Show Success posters and really focus on engaging with fewer brides than worrying about how many I will sign-up. I had 50 engagement session giveaway sign-ups and REALLY talked to these brides/couples... I'd ask them: Where are you getting married? When are you getting married? What has been your favorite part of the show so far?. For the where, I loved that I could point out photos from their desired venue or similar ones (and I got a really favorable response from that). The when was to get an idea of how many I may book. A majority of the brides were 2018 which didn't help with my 2017 booking goal but that was okay because I'd gotten a chance to chat with them so hopefully I'll stay in mind. For the show part, it helped me gauge how far they were into their planning... and what they had left to do. The unexpected side effect of this was that they also told me everything wrong about the last show they went to the weekend before. This really helped me focus on not doing that and was probably the best form of feedback I could have gotten. Of the 50, 47 were potential leads and 3 were very obviously not looking to book... no dates, no venue, no real answers to any questions. 

6. My business name. As mentioned above my business name was huge. These are home printed iron-on letters on a 9x12 canvas. Even though the letters were approximately 6 inches tall, it was clearly visible from across the room... I think because it was a plain cream background they really stood out and could be seen from across the room. Because of that my booth name was used by the radio station every other announcement. 

7. Day Planner. I'm not a day planner kind of person. I like everything to be digital but I was so glad I'd purchased a $7 planner at TJ Maxx that matched my booth. I was able to quickly see if I was booked on any day that a client was inquiring about and to jot down consultation appointments.

8. Networking. This was the best giveaway from yesterday. I got to meet so many wonderful industry vendors and that was worth the show fee in itself.