Wedding fairs in Ireland fall broadly into two main categories: local hotels (usually 5 to 20 exhibitors) and wedding fairs held at large multi-purpose venues (usually a few hundred exhibitors).
Let’s face it: as a wedding exhibitor, taking a stand at a wedding fair can be very hit or miss. You can attend a fair and get multiple bookings with deposits paid or absolutely no bookings at all. It can be a big risk taking out a stand, particularly at the larger fairs which can cost thousands of euro to exhibit.
Here are 8 questions to ask yourself before deciding to take out a stand at a wedding fair:
1. Where is it?
If you are based in Cork and the wedding fair in question is based in Dublin, you will have a logistically more difficult (and more expensive) time to coordinate getting your stand ready. Also, if the fair is a small local hotel in a remote village, you’ll need to consider how well it will be attended by potential brides.
2. How much does it cost?
An important consideration especially in the current economic climate. The smaller hotel fairs arrange from free (rarely) to €150 to €250. The larger fairs can cost €1500 and upwards. This is before you consider the hidden costs (see next point). Besides the cost of the stand, will you need to get leaflets or brochures prepared? How are you planning to decorate your stand? Unless you are extremely resourceful, it will cost you money! Will you have to hire any AV equipment? Extra staff to man your stand? Accommodation if having to stay overnight? The list goes on. You’ll have to budget your entire stand cost and work out if you think it will be worth your while.
3. Are there hidden costs?
The larger fairs in Ireland are notorious for charging for “extras” such as power points, tables and chairs. Expect to pay anywhere from €60 to €100 + VAT extra just to get a double socket available at your stand. To be fair, the costs are generally highlighted in the information packs as supplied by the organisers but nonetheless, they are costs that most suppliers forget about until they arrive at their stand to set up and discover that they have no power to supply juice for their display screens.
4. When is it?
There are typical times of each calendar year that are busier for bookings. Typically September to February of each year are when most brides book suppliers for their wedding. Taking a stand at a wedding fair out of this time is unlikely to attract the same throughput of brides.
5. How many other exhibitors from your service category will be there?
For the larger fairs, this can be a huge issue. I can recall that at a recent fair in Dublin, there were 18 photographers in attendance. Understandably, the vast majority of them were very unhappy about this! With fewer brides in attendance, it was another nail in the coffin.
6. What advertising have the organisers done?
A thorny subject. Most exhibitors that I talk to will say that the larger fairs don’t do enough advertising. Besides radio and newspaper advertising, the larger fairs and main hotel wedding fairs should consider taking out an advertising banner on the busier of the wedding forums where thousands of Irish brides hang out e.g. mrs2be.ie [Disclosure: forgive my shameless plug: I'm a director of the company that owns and runs mrs2be.ie].
7. Can you get a discount?
If you get a call from a wedding fair organiser a week before a wedding fair, chances are that you can haggle with them and get a very good deal. There is usually a reason why you would be getting a call at such late notice. It generally means they are having difficulty in filling places with suppliers. It could also be a good indication that other suppliers may feel that the fair isn’t going to be well attended by brides. So, you may well get a generous discount, but at what price?
8. Can you share a stand with another supplier?
This can be a good strategy to save exhibition costs and may suit start-up wedding businesses. You may find a suitable non-competeting supplier that will share the cost of stand with you. Make sure it’s large enough so that you can comfortably work away independent of each other. A larger stand may be better. Not all wedding fair organisers will allow this because they’ll view it as lost revenue for them.
So there you have it, some food for thought. There is no doubt that wedding fairs will suit certain categories of wedding suppliers far better than others. Also, no other advertising option that I can think of puts you in the position of being able to talk to so many brides in person at the one time.
What about you?
How do wedding fairs work out for you? Are they worth it? Do you have any experiences to share, good or bad? Feel free to add your comments below.