Even in this downtrodden economy, the wedding industry has remained a lucrative business. While it did take a hit during the 2008 recession, Bookmorebrides.com reports that it’s beginning to see signs of recovery — albeit, with a few changes. There has been a shift in the buying psychology of brides, with DIY and smaller weddings gaining more popularity. That said, people are still getting married, looking for vendors and help to plan that perfect, and budget-friendly, wedding. That’s where you step in. Be the ultimate local resource for the brides in your area and help them plan their special day.
Engagements abound in December! Which means, the wedding planning starts now. While most engagements last 14 months on average, the first round of planning starts early. Couples begin to hash out budget details, decide on the type of wedding (church or civil ceremony), the venue and the main suppliers. This is when couples need you the most. They’re excited, anxious and looking for anything to help them plan. So start the wedding planning year right by hosting a bridal show in late January or February. Depending on your budget, it may behoove you to host a second or third expo later in the year to attract those recently engaged and those further along in the wedding planning stages. (Active dress and accessory shopping happens in the second stage, while the third stage is devoted to vendor bookings — including, caterers, the wedding cake, stationery and flowers, guest accommodation and transportation, wedding favors and gifts, make up and hair, reception vendors, etc.)
Bridal shows are a great way to showcase your local vendors, and are very convenient for newly engaged couples that can meet vendors all in one location. Bridal expos have been a staple for years, and are commonly hosted by media outlets. They can provide you with a new revenue stream from admission costs to the plethora of advertisements and vendors exhibiting at the show.
Robert Chevalier, president of Chevalier Associates, gave About.com’s Rob Hard 10 tips to producing a successful bridal show, based on his experience hosting hundreds of wedding expos:
1. Set goals and prioritize. Much like a wedding, this includes finding a venue, setting a date, locating vendors and setting deadlines.
2. A quality show. Design the show with attendees and vendors in mind. Use wide aisles to make it easy to navigate and spacious booths so it is easy to see what is being offered. Create a fun and energetic atmosphere that isn’t confusing and overwhelming. Consider including classes and demonstrations on DIY centerpieces, decorations and invitations. Create a game plan for brides as they walk through the door, with an organized map so they know what they need to tackle first. Start with the wedding venues and move to dresses and then vendors.
3. Diversity. Have a wide range of exhibitor booths, including the major vendors (facilities, florists, bakers, transportation, photographers, wedding planners) as well as specialty exhibitors (like bridal registries, salons, make-up artists and hair stylists).
4. Grand prizes. Offer prizes for the registered attendees and encourage vendors to do the same. Turn to page 22 to see a real-life story about how a photography studio increased its business and Facebook traffic through a bridal show exhibition.
5. Interactive displays. Audience engagement is key. Vendors should offer interactive displays, including food samples, make-up and hair demonstrations, lighting and DJing, and more.
6. Professional exhibit booths. “Encourage your vendors to have an exciting booth with a lot of information brides can walk away with,” Cheveliar says. “Make sure the florists have glorious floral arrangements and the reception displays are complete with the finest china and linens.”
7. Pre-show preparation. The key to a successful show is in the preparation. Send exhibitors a detailed kit with the move-in schedule and information about what hands-on assistance is available for set up. Also, offer targeted deals and incentives for early registered brides/grooms.
8. Registration area. Whether or not you choose to charge an admission fee, have a registration area where you collect names, email address, phone numbers, expected wedding dates, etc. — information that can be used later for marketing campaigns.
9. For the attendees. Give away attendee bags with a floor plan, itinerary, list of exhibitors, upcoming bridal shows, a copy of your newspaper’s bridal section (if you have one), a bridal checklist and more.
10. Post Show. Send a copy of the attendee list to all exhibitors along with a survey to obtain feedback for future shows.
Studies show that 6 in 10 couples use bridal magazines to help plan their wedding. You have the advantage over national publications, because you can showcase everything that is local. A bridal section can be done a number of different ways. You can choose to include it as a special section within your newspaper and distribute it accordingly, create a separate publication and distribute it to your paper’s audience, have a separate charge for the publication or even give it away free. When deciding to create a bridal magazine, you first need to decide on the distribution and frequency of the publication. A seasonal magazine can offer a comprehensive guide to weddings throughout the year, or simply create once a year for distribution at your bridal expo.
Editorial copy should be dedicated to helping the bride plan her special day. Include cheat sheets on budgeting, how to set deadlines, vendor reviews, DIY instructions on creating decorations, and more. Advertising is key here — highlight certain venues that coordinate with the time of year. You can also expand purview to include popular and offbeat wedding locations within a certain radius.
In addition to a printed magazine, consider making your publication digital. A dedicated bridal section or separate website offers you additional options for online ad dollars and more audience engagement. Create a thorough vendor directory that links directly to the vendor’s site. If the vendor does not have a website, sell them a splash/business page that includes all the relevant information brides will be looking for, along with press releases, bios and examples. Also, consider including targeted daily deals for couples, which could be sold to any major wedding vendor (photographers, stylists, DJs, caterers, etc.) and even popular honeymoon and vacation spots.
Offer audience engagement! The key to a successful online or print publication is keeping people interested. Vendor reviews are a must. A recent study by The Wedding Report showed an overwhelming 94.7 percent of people said they read vendor reviews before choosing whom to hire. Also, offer contests on your site and give readers an opportunity to show off their weddings to help showcase the latest trends in your area.