The Costs of a Bridal Show For Photographers (Wedding Show 101- Part 1)
Disclaimer: We are not marketing geniuses and didn’t study business or marketing in college or even read too many articles, blogs, etc. about the topic (full disclosure we have master’s degrees in Roman History, Special Education, & Social Work…everyone needs a few hobbies, right?). But we knew that wedding photography was going to be the foundation of our photography business.
So the inevitable question for us was how do we get more clients? Wedding show! We had no idea what we were getting into but after this “wedding season,” we’ll be seven shows deep. Here’s what we’ve learned and here’s what you need to know if you are thinking about “doing a show.”
[REWIND: THE 5 THINGS WE WOULD DO AGAIN AS FIRST YEAR WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS]
The Initial Cost
First, you have to prepare yourself to spend a few thousand dollars just to get into a wedding show. We’re based in Arizona, which is ripe with bridal, wedding, and trade shows (there are several names/descriptions of these types of events floating around out there, but we just call them wedding shows). An average small show (under 500 registered brides/grooms) will run you just about $1,000 for a booth that is 10 ft. x 8ft., which is plenty of space for a smaller event. A larger show (over 1,000 registered brides/grooms) will cost at least twice that for a booth that is 15 ft. across, and you’re going to need that if you want to attract attention to your business.
After paying for the show (many will let you do monthly payments for no additional fee), you need to build a booth, get some marketing materials together (in the wedding show business we call that “collateral”), figure out how to present yourselves at the show, and set up a plan for following up with potential clients, or “leads.” And that’s about it really. So let’s start with the booth.
For once, YouTube wasn’t much help (it didn’t really matter though because, as it turns out, it isn’t that difficult to screw four pieces of wood together and attach plywood to the front regardless of your level of construction-related skills). You have three options when it comes to building a booth: decorate the table and backdrop they give you at the show (this is a bad idea because they give you one of those white plastic tables with a black curtain around it and hang a black curtain off steel pipes), buy one of those crazy pop-up trade show displays (not a bad idea if that’s your style), or build something cool yourself (we opted for this even though construction is not exactly an area in which we excel). We consulted a colleague’s husband who is a rocket scientist (he’s smart as all get out, but he also actually really does work on rockets), and we drew up a basic sketch.
The wood guy at our local hardware store (definitely not his official title) helped us figure out what type and how much wood to actually buy, including how many cuts we’d need to make and additional purchases that would be required: a bit of crown moulding, some screws, liquid nails, a new drill [!], a gallon of paint, a paint sprayer [add another “!”], and that was about it.
Then we built it and painted it.
The build took about three days, including going back to the hardware store about 20 times. After getting the actual booth put together, we bought some flooring to class it up a bit (3/8” foam tiles that fit together like a puzzle and are easily found online), canvases to go on the walls, and three gallery-style lights to hang at the top. We decorated it with our own furniture and also hauled in our iMac. And voila!
Final Initial Cost (The Show + The Booth): Breakdown Estimates
We recommend budgeting about $3,500 because you will undoubtedly need some kind of tool, break a piece of wood, and maybe even go so far as to miscalculate a few measurements even though you spent 10 years teaching math in the inner city of Milwaukee (Andy). We spent about $3,250.
Registering for the show: If you want to go big, prepare to spend $2,000.
Wood: We purchased 2x2s and 1/4” plywood to make it lighter/easier to carry, and we bought it all from Ace, which is our local hardware store. The cost was a bit more than Home Depot or Lowes, but we saved time and money by not traveling 30 minutes out-of-town: $100.
Paint, Tools, Liquid Nails, Misc. Screws, Etc.: $200.
Flooring (120 square ft.): $150 (Rubber Flooring, Inc. – talk to a sales rep and save 30% easy).
Canvases (logo + our images): $700 (CGPro Prints & Canvas On Demand [logo]; we went big to attract people and sold several post-show, used some for additional shows, and have several hanging in a local coffee shop (very justifiable expense).
Gallery-style lights: $100 (Amazon).
In the next article, we’ll detail our specific ideas for marketing yourself specifically at a wedding show. Questions? Comments? Comment below or hit us up on Twitter @sunshinexreign.