{Operation 118} How to get the full bridal fayre experience…

“under cover”

Since starting as a Wedding Photographer I have been keeping my eyes and ears peeled for ways to add value to my clients and blog readers’ lives. My current project {Operation 118} helps me to accomplish this goal. Everything I blog about here might not be directly related to photography, but why should it? I want to explore everything related to couples, love, weddings, marriage, traditions, relationships, family etc. It’s not just about the wedding itself, it’s also about enjoying the journey and getting the most from this, once in a life time, experience.

By going through the process of planning a wedding as a bride and being able to get into the mindset of a bride, I get to share special treats and wonderful discoveries with you. I am learning so much about what it takes to get everything organized and ready for the big day and it can be a time consuming and stressful process. Not just the planning part, but also the “knowing what you want” part.

Last week Sunday was the Stylish Events Wedding Fayre in Brighton and this time I was there, not as a wedding photographer, but as an under cover bride to be. It was scary let me tell you.

First of all, I thought someone might recognize me as a photographer and then my cover would be blown.
Secondly, as I’m only planning a pretend wedding, I discovered that I haven’t got a clear enough picture of what I want,
thirdly, I am a TERRIBLE actress!
and in fourth place, I need to be much more assertive.

Lots to sort through…

I can’t tell you how many times I heard the following words…: “You have to book as soon as possible because in a few months we’re going to be fully booked”
Whoahh, the pressure, let me tell you, is way too much for me to handle at one of these events. I wasn’t prepared as a bride and it’s so different being in a bride’s flip-flops for a change! It was like having a pound sign on my forehead. I had to fill in forms at almost every stand I went to and gave them all my e-mail address (one I don’t use that often), which has now been bombarded with e-mails and offers. Phew! From a bride’s point of view, this is daunting to say the least. I was tired and drained by the end of the day and had so many fliers, brochures and price lists to sort through when I got home that I just crashed on my bed and left it for later in the week.

Here’s the not so positive bit… (bare with me, the good stuff is coming..)
Imagining for a second I was a service provider, I know I would have been drained as well. Having that game face on all day and having to repeat the same information to every person must be incredibly monotonous. What goes through one’s mind when exhibiting? Time is money, time is money, time is moh-honey. Book me, book me, book meeeeee… who knows..? I’m not sure if it’s the after effects of a recession or the fact that the sun was out that day and this specific event wasn’t as crowded as the previous fayres… but I could smell desperation a mile away.

As a “bride” I could feel which businesses were going for a hard sell. It’s just the energy they have or the way they hone in on you upon making eye contact. I can’t explain it. There were times I felt like running away. {I went alone, so as a suggestion, take a friend with you and have a secret sign which translates into “I’m a bored bride get me out of here” }

There was also a good amount of stands with super creative, approachable, genuinely lovely and passionate people. They had wonderful and innovative products on offer. A minority of exhibitors made little to no effort at all.
I realized, that in this business, perception is reality. Possibly one of the best ways to stand out from your competitors is to, treat people as people and not as pound signs and e-mail addresses. Welcome brides with a genuine smile and curiosity, be interested, ask questions about the groom, how did he propose etc..

I laugh at this now but I wasn’t too chuffed on the day. One guy literally chewed my ear off, for what felt like half an hour and I felt frustrated that he couldn’t see how obvious my body language was. My crossed arms and legs screamed: “I am not comfortable, you are in my personal space, please stop talking to me, I’m really not interested, but I so don’t want to be rude and and interrupt you. Please take a breather and pause for a second so I can tell you that I really want to go now…” but he was completely oblivious. It didn’t kill me to stand there and listen to him, but good golly, take a chill pill dude!

I realized you have 2 minutes max to pitch your product or service and make a good impression.

Back to being a bride,
I learned a few things that would make my next bridal fayre experience much less daunting, less stressful and frustrating and way more productive.

Here they are:

* Very few people can exceed or meet your expectations if you’re uncertain of what you want and don’t really know what you’re looking for. Do some research and use websites like www.pinterest.com to get some mood boards together. Another alternative can be to have a brain storm (or brain shower?) party with your girlies. Get some magazines and create a wedding inspiration folder or book with tear outs and cut-outs.

The Brighton Hilton Metropole

*Sometimes all a girl needs is a bit of inspiration, that’s why seeing products and being able to touch, smell, taste and see a product is so important.

~There was a photography stand and the couple exhibiting their work just blew me A-W-A-Y! Their albums were truly unique and gorgeous! Completely bespoke, organic -yet luxurious, made of organic silk, a reclaimed linen bag and end paper. Holding the album in my hands, no lie, I felt like crying tears of happiness it was so beautiful. If only, I was really getting married I would have been sold in a second, with the price tag of £900 for 1 album and 1 month wait for delivery! Totally gorge!~

*Even if you don’t have a Type-A personality, buy one of those A-Z folders with different pockets and take it with you to the fayre. That way, when you take a flier, you can immediately file it in it’s section, rather than having to carry lots of different bags with lots of different fliers and then later having to go through them all. I know it sounds a little OCD but hey, it saves time and you can also recommend vendors for friends who are getting married in the future!

* Go early! Instead of watching the first fashion show, start at one point and work your way through the different stands. EVERYONE will be watching the show which means you’ll have time and space to get to know service providers on each stand without having to swim through an ocean of people and having to wait your turn.

Plus if you start early, people on each stand will still have plenty of energy to answer all your questions and if you’re lucky they might actually show an interest in your vision for your dream wedding and possibly make a few helpful suggestions. Give them time to inspire you!

Erm, no diary with me. Let’s take a pic of yours.

*Take your diary with you. Some service providers will give you a discount for making a no-obligation to buy appointment with them. That’s being offered a discount if you do decide to book in the end. Pencil in the date time and location to meet so you don’t forget or worse, have a ton of fliers, some of which have your appointment details scribbled on them. I got stuck with this so I just took Iphone pictures of their diaries!

*Start going to bridal fayres at least one year in advance if you can. The reality is that service providers can give you their best work and possibly best deals if they have enough time to prepare. Negotiate payment plans too, that way you might have enough time to pay for everything way before the big day has arrived! If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

* Book your venue first and then plan everything with the venue in mind.

Remember I mentioned before that I’m a terrible actress? Well, every time I was asked when my proposed wedding date was, I said 28 April 2011, then they asked about my venue (which is a public park!) but I didn’t want to say that it was going to be a small party in Stanmer Park and then have to go into the details and eventually blow my cover… so I just said I’m still looking for a venue and that I was looking for a barn.. Ha!  EVERY.SINGLE.TIME I was asked again,

“Excuse me, when erm did you say your wedding day was again?- 28 April of 2012 or 2013?”

Panic would set in and every person I spoke with were worried, that with only 6 months left, I wouldn’t find a venue… I felt like such a bad girl. They were truly concerned.
So here’s the lesson. Book your venue almost as soon as you’ve gotten engaged. I know of some service providers who won’t work with brides who haven’t got a venue booked before contacting them. We sometimes think all we need is the ring to prove we are seriously getting married. Na-ah. Venue-venue-venue people. Get on it, ASAP. x

* If you’d like a few freebies and perfume samples, go to the DEBENHAMS stand! ^_^

I hope you found this useful. I know this post is way too long and I still have so much more to share, but if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below or e-mail me and I’ll try to help.


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