Oh boy, where do we start with this one. There is so much about wedding fairs that could be seen as a negative, I guess it just depends on who you are and what your situation is and what your views are.
Today, Sunday 18th of January, the wife and I have done yet another wedding fair. This time at the very prestigious Stanhill Court Hotel near Gatwick. I've kinda lost count of the fairs we've done over the past few years but for me it must be somewhere in the 12-16 region. The wife has done more than me in the same time period, and that is down to the first negative.
Getting on board the “good” wedding fair circuit, as a photographer, is a bit of a nightmare. The reason is that there are so many photographers in the South East and yet each wedding can house only 3-5 per fair to keep things fair and not overcrowded, and I see the validity in that, but, it's normally the same 3-5 that get in at the same fairs time after time because they are the regulars or they get a heads up on fair dates and get it booked there and then. For me, this is no longer a big problem as I'm getting into a good few of them now, so that's not my worst part.
Depending on the venue, and the popularity of the fair, the cost of attending one can be fairly astronomical as a photographer. You'd think the price would be a set fee for all attending, but most will set the fee depending on the size of space needed, and as we photographers wish to show off albums and the like, we have to have big stalls so we get the biggest fees. The obvious downfall to this is, big stand or not, we are no more guaranteed a booking from being at that fair than the invites lady with her small stand does. It's quite simply a gamble, and down to your own portfolio to show your abilities off and your own personality to sell yourself. So you could end up spending a small fortune and getting nothing in return turning it into a big waste of money.
That said, we have done two “Freebie” wedding fairs in the past three years that have obviously cost us nothing, or did they. They were free for a reason. Run by someone who sadly had no business or marketing sense, so no advertising was done and guess how many people turned up. I think it was about 14 people in 5 hours, and 8 of those were friends of the organiser. One big waste of time and fuel. At least I know with the paid ones that they are run by experienced people who advertise them properly and get a decent number of brides through the door.
I think I spoke to about 10/12 couples today, of which 3 of those couples had to be told that I was already booked on the 30th of May, 22nd of August and the 5th of September. However, the rest either hadn't confirmed a date as yet or I was available on the date they had chosen. So, with a little bit of luck I might be considered by one or two of them, which would be fantastic.
So is the cost the worst part………I'd have to say, no, not really. No matter which way we choose to advertise ourselves, the best ways usually involve a cost of money or time. Most wedding fairs tend to get me a return of two weddings per fair, sometimes less, sometimes more, but only twice has it returned me nothing at all.
So what else could it be. Standing on my feet all day is a hard one to bare, specially at quieter wedding fairs, but today's was really quite busy, so I didn't notice it so much.
Meeting so many different people with different ideas and requirements is definitely not a negative as I really do enjoy talking with the brides and grooms about what they have in mind or what they have already planned and thinking quickly on my feet to let them know how I would be able to work with them on their big day, complement their ideas and bring them to life to get them the photo memories that they and their big day deserves.
One thing that is a bit of a drag, is the big shift of stuff from studio to wedding fair location, the set up beforehand, the tear down and take it all back to the studio afterwards routine. If there was a magic button to press that would sort that all out automatically I'd invest in it tomorrow……..but there isn't, so the manual labour of it all remains part of the routine, but without it I'd have nothing to show, and quite obviously I wouldn't get any bookings from it, but, you guessed it, that's still not the worst part.
Ok, so what is, “and get to the darn point already” I here you say. The worst part is right now. The fair finished 8 hours ago, but right now I'm awaiting that first contact from any bride and groom who saw me at the fair today. Well I say waiting, I'm not literally staring aimlessly at my email app like some deranged creature from the back of beyond waiting the “plong” of an email to the inbox, but it is the waiting game that is now underway that is quite unbearable.
As I write this now, the wife has already had two separate points of contact from today's fair, one she can't do as she's booked already, but thankfully one she can on the 5th of September. So for me now it's just a case of fingers crossed and see what happens.
Wedding fairs are quite simply a case of, some you win, some you lose, but if you don't roll the dice you'll never find out which it is to be. I'll be rolling that dice again next month at fairs to be held at Crawley Town Football Club and the Gatwick Manor Hotel, and with those it'll be fingers crossed as well.
Well that's it from me for now, catch up again sometime soon