When you think about wedding showcases, I bet stuffy ballrooms with boring bridal booths and bags filled with bridal swag come to mind. I know for me, it certainly does! But bridal expos and wedding showcases are so much more than that! To get a clear understanding of the world of in-person marketing at bridal expos we sat down with Krista Olynyk, the founding producer of Wed Well Showcase, a premier wedding show in the greater Toronto area.
I began in the industry as a wedding planner, also offering vintage rentals, but my love of business and branding took over eventually. In 2020, rather than pivot to micro-weddings, I decided to focus entirely on the business coaching side of my business. (Something I had offered since 2014). Now I’m a business coach for smart, successful, ambitious wedding pros. Helping wedding planners and pros design and grow their dream businesses. I also produce a boutique wedding show, in the greater Toronto area, known as Wed Well Showcase.
Wedding Showcase Producer Interview
1. How have wedding shows changed over the years?
Sadly they haven’t changed much. Most shows are still focused on brides and strictly heterosexual couples, specifically, and haven’t caught up with the current wedding trends either.
Having said that, there are unique shows coming up, often produced by wedding professionals instead of marketing companies. They’re more inclusive, modern, and fresh.
Shows have merit, for connecting businesses with clients, and that’s why they stay in business. But for wedding professionals who don’t believe in gimmicky sales, staying creative and on-trend, at the lackluster shows you don’t stand out, and it’s quite a negative experience.
2. What can you expect to see at wedding showcases in 2024 compared to the past?
Unique businesses and services for couples to make their wedding unique, along with the usual options like photographers, florists, and so on. Creative and inspirational displays rather than the simple folding table, pop up signs, and brochures. The shows should be a creative and welcoming space, not one big sale-y trade show.
3. How can vendors benefit from being an exhibitor at a wedding showcase?
The minute a couple walks in the door of a show, that’s a buying signal. That they’re a potential client. So there’s no need to be intimidated to chat or pressured to sell. Couples and their guests come to learn more about what’s available to them.
It’s a space to start the conversation, make introductions, get a sense of chemistry. A place for you both to vet and pre-qualify each other as the right fit. Having conversations in person, is an incredibly valuable tool for wedding pros. You don’t get this behind the computer screen.
By making first introductions in person, you can significantly decrease your booking time from inquiry to contract signing.
4. What type of vendors are wedding showcases best suited for?
Different businesses will have different experiences, depending on your average cost-per-booking, or whether or not you’re on everyone’s obvious “must have” list like the typical vendors, such as photographers or venues. Not everyone will book a cake, or a planner or coordinator. But you’re not there to sell to and book to every single person who walks in the door. You’re there to connect with your ideal client community.
Shows are a great introduction space for all businesses, to start the conversation. And a great opportunity for unique businesses to connect with couples, who might not even have thought of their service yet. But when they see it in real life, it creates the desire.
5. How can you prepare your business for a wedding showcase?
I always say, create the simplest display you can that is still impactful. Then embellish where your effort and budget allows. Don’t overdo it. Some of our vendors want to create freestanding walls and huge backdrops. And I love the enthusiasm, but I always wonder, can you transport that easily, where will you store it afterwards, might that time and money have been better spent on new copywriting or website updates, or something else that could make an incredible impression once the couples you meet at the show start to inquire.
Make sure your website, CRM, and social media channels are up to date, with all the links and contact forms connected correctly.
Don’t feel pressured to offer discounts or undercut your own services and value. But a way to collect your own leads and contact information from couples you chat with, is helpful. Maybe a small prize or incentive that doesn’t cost you, or discount your work.
Also, have your elevator pitch ready! Think of how you’ll greet guests, important info to share about how you can help with their wedding, and simply to be able to explain what you do. It’s common for guests to misunderstand what services you offer. Exhibiting previously at shows as a planner, if I had one floral arrangement out, they thought I was a florist at first glance.
6. How does promoting yourself at a wedding show differ from online promotions to your audience?
It’s kind of like speed dating. You get your meet-cute in person in stead of over the phone or the computer screen. Where internet dating requires you to check all the boxes before you meet and discover whether you actually have chemistry, the shows are like that too.
Couples looking around online, can only gather so much information. But meeting with potential wedding vendors in person speeds up the whole process for everyone to determine if you’re a good fit.
7. How to know if a wedding showcase is right for you?
Do your research! Look around at their online footprint and social media. Check out the other businesses that have exhibited with them previously. See what details they can share with you as far as guest attendance and other stats. Does it feel like it aligns with your style, values, and experience?
If you can attend the show before you apply, even better. To get a sense of the crowd and the caliber of the other vendors there, and whether you’re a good fit.
8. For wedding pros who don’t have a problem with inquiries, what are the benefits of being in a wedding showcase?
I won’t say that exhibiting at a show is like shooting fish in a barrel, because it’s still on you to get attention at the show and have positive conversations and make connections. Then turn those connections in to inquiries, and prove your value to convert them to a sale.
But if you’re not getting inquiries, whether that’s because you’re lacking visibility as a new business, or with poor SEO or small portfolio, the show is a good place to get in front of couples. Why wouldn’t you want to be in a room filled with potential buyers?
9. How is being an exhibitor in a wedding showcase different then being a sponsor?
This will vary a lot depending on how a sponsor participates. And whether or not they participate as an exhibitor at the show as well with a space to meet and greet at the show. Or if they’re simply offering services in-kind or have paid for visibility. There would likely be extra promotion and exposure on the website, show day materials, social channels and so on.
About Wed Well Showcase
The Wed Well Showcase focuses on the importance of connecting in-person with potential clients/couples, even for established businesses. The showcase is hosted in the new year to take advantage of the engagement season and will be on February 3rd 2024 at Small Arms Inspection Building in Mississauga Ontario. For the showcase, we pick a variety of businesses from each category and focus on attracting the modern style-savvy couple rather than the freebie seeking-bride that most vendors want nothing to do with.
Wed Well Showcase is now open for applications for exhibitors. If you are a Toronto wedding vendor be sure to apply at this link here.
No matter if you are a new wedding vendor or a seasoned wedding professional, there is a benefit to attending wedding showcases for all. We recommend researching which bridal expos and wedding showcases are in your area or are in the cities you want to work if you are a destination wedding planner or destination wedding photographer.