Wedding Fairs and Vendors – For the Venue

Wedding fairs – a necessary part of getting those couples through the door and walking down the aisle. For any hotelier, these events can be tricky. This week, Tanya shares some helpful tips on how to master the wedding fair and how to communicate with vendors to create a successful event.

Many years ago, I accepted a new job in a hotel.  A month before I was due to start, I agreed to lend a hand at their wedding fair (partially to get bedded in and partially to impress).  It was a good job I did as the Events Manager phoned in sick (!!) and I was left alone, with a wedding fair to set up and execute.

Now let me just set the scene for you… it was 9am, the fair opened at 11am, there were no tables laid out (nor did I know where to find them), exhibitors were arriving and getting impatient.  I didn’t know the hotel so I took linen from the breakfast room; the breakfast staff were awful to me. I didn’t have a list of suppliers or a floor plan. I didn’t know the smaller details such as, is the event ticketed?  Do I serve canapés or arrival drinks? And I didn’t know a soul in the hotel – nobody helped me. It was two hours of pandemonium. There wasn’t even time to cry.

I then discovered that the Events Manager had charged some vendors £150 to attend and others just £75.  Then as he’d (presumably) struggled to fill the space, he signed up vendors for free. As you can imagine, they talked and the proverbial hit the fan.  I had a queue of vendors wanting refunds and questioning the pricing structure. I literally didn’t even work there.

I had no option but to take it head-on.  I stayed all day. The icing on the cake?  It was the day after my own hen party – can you imagine?!  Even if I’d tried, I don’t think I could deliver such a mess, and I know that none of you could either!  If we talked about what this guy did wrong, we’d be here all day, right? So, I’ll do away with the basics and share my top tips for wedding fair success with you…

  1. Don’t charge for stand space (unless you absolutely have to, and even then, only cover your costs).  Instead, carefully select your vendors – if your venue is hot property then every supplier will want to attend.  It’s flattering but it’s not a free for all, create desirability (everyone should be talking about your fairs and dying to get in).  Depending on the size of your fair, limit each category to say 2-3 vendors to avoid too much duplication and choose vendors that mirror your levels of customer service and brand identity (or where you see your brand identity heading).  Keep a reserve list in case you get a dropout.
  2. As you book vendors, send out a booking form asking them to state what set up they require i.e. access to power, 6ft, 4ft, round, chairs, natural daylight for MUAs etc etc – this will help you design your floor plan.
  3. Email out FAQS to all your confirmed vendors the week before.  Cover access times, set up, service lifts, parking, on-the-day contact, loadout and so on.  
  4. The week before the event create a carefully considered floor plan and a list of which vendors are in which rooms.  When doing the floor plan consider the vendor’s and the couple’s experiences, but crucially what will sell your venue the best.  Ensure your concierge, receptionists and DMs have a copy of the list because vendors will ask anyone they pass, “do you know what room I’m in for the wedding fair?”.  You can’t have everyone in the venue looking for you, they need to be able to answer basic questions themselves to take the pressure off you.  The day before, print out each business name on a sheet of A4 and on the morning of the fair place them on the relevant tables, then you can just say “Gillian, you’re in the Tyne Suite, look for your name on the table”…
  5. Ensure your vendors are posting and sharing on social media in the run up to the event to get the most amount of footfall possible.  If you’re not charging them, it’s the least they can do. You could even say to the vendors, “it is free for you to attend, but we do stipulate that you post the event to your social media pages at least twice before the event”.  Give them your hashtags, encourage them to share your posts.
  6. Goodie bags take up a massive amount of time in bagging and prep.  They’re only really beneficial if you’re using them to secure your attendee list i.e. pre-register for your free goodie bag – that way you’re guaranteed some data capture before the event.  Don’t give away rubbish, it can devalue your brand – it’s better to do nothing at all.  
  7. DATA CAPTURE! We need a trusted member of staff to capture couples’ details as they arrive.  You can’t do it; you need to work the room. Doing so can be tricky, as people tend to arrive in bunches, but if you’re ‘speed dating’ all day (i.e. going from couple to couple) then you will appreciate these notes when you later sit down to prepare proposals and emails.  Discreet notes such as “school teacher, brown hair, baby boy called Tommy” will help when you’re piecing it all together the following day.  
  8. Music, lighting, heating, final checks and placing brochures and pens in every grabbable place (for you as well as for the couples) should be the icing on the cake 30 minutes before you open.  Place more than one entertainer in a room together (ideally at different sides of the room) and introduce them to each other – this way they can take turns to play and signal to each other when they want to talk to customers or go for a break.  You won’t have any awkward moments without music and they won’t be under pressure to perform constantly.
  9. You and your vendors are a team, you’re all there to support each other.  Try to meet and greet each one, even if just for a minute. If you’re super busy, they will help you out and answer basic questions for couples.  Do the same for them if you notice a couple sniffing around their table when they’ve popped to the loo.

* Give yourself ten minutes to check your sales pack, go to the loo and check appearance before the doors open – you’re ready to sell *

Your pack;

  1. Package info to hand – you know it anyway but no harm
  2. Your floor plan and supplier list
  3. Print off quotes and proposals for the couples that are close to booking or who have told you they’re coming in.  You can quickly grab it when she introduces herself as, “hi I’m Samantha, I emailed you last week” (a quick, discreet glance down and…) “oh of course Samantha, I was expecting you.  I have all the details of your wedding here, shall we take a seat?”.
  4. List of available dates
  5. Calculator!
  6. Pens pens pens!  You can never find one when you need them.

The aim of the game is to form memorable connections and to follow them up fast.  You may take a couple of deposits at the fair but you also want to fill your pipeline with hot leads.  Draft a thank you email and send to everyone the next day and act fast on interested couples with bespoke emails.

Debrief and work out what went well and what you will change next time.  



Ta ta for now,



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