Have you ever attended The Big Fake Wedding? This is an alternative bridal event that rivals traditional bridal shows for couples planning to get married. I had the honor of attending The Big Fake Wedding in Minneapolis-Saint Paul as a vendor in August to showcase what I can offer the wedding industry.
It was an amazing event and I not only met a lot of engaged couples who I hope continue to reach out to me for stationery and stamps, but I also formed relationships with other vendors, the media, and The Big Fake Wedding staff that could lead to not only more business, but lasting friendships. What could be better than that? Never heard of The Big Fake Wedding? After my awesome experience, I think you should attend too! Please read on to find out what it’s like for brides and vendors like me.
What is The Big Fake Wedding?
The Big Fake Wedding℠ is a bridal show alternative complete with an emotional vow renewal ceremony, light appetizers and a dance-party reception. The wedding guests attending are future brides and grooms who get to experience the event and the vendors in action. Could that be any cooler?? Oh and cool it was! Where else can you experience experience first-hand wedding vendors in action like photographers, DJs, entertainment, paper goods suppliers, event decor rental vendors, and wedding cake artists before you book them or happen to see them at a friend's wedding? Nowhere.
No only is the event cool, but it’s also romantic. The couple who “get married” at the event are an actual already-married couple and the event is their vow renewal. Sarah and Josh were our married couple and they were so sweet reading their vows that people teared up! Strangers were obviously in attendance at Sarah and Josh’s vow renewal ceremony, but their vows spoke to so many of us! The core philosophy of Big Fake Wedding is the message that after the wedding comes a marriage and that the wedding is just the beginning. I love that.
The founder of The Big Fake Wedding, Callie Murray, is a wedding photographer who realized there was a better way for vendors to reach potential couples than at the usual traditional bridal shows and I am so thankful for her vision! I’ve participated in local bridal shows with disappointing results. A traditional bridal show can be so overwhelming for both vendors and brides. Brides feel pressure to buy and vendors feel pressure to book. The Big Fake Wedding takes all the pressure away and puts couples and vendors together in a fun, energetic, environment where they can build relationships over good food, entertainment, and deserts! YUM-O! The Big Fake Wedding is truly a unique experience that I was so lucky to be a part of, however to get the most out of the experience you have to put in the work.
Before The Event
I was contacted by The Big Fake Wedding in May 2015 and was asked if I wanted to participate. I immediately was interested since I had heard about The Big Fake Wedding back when they were called The Not Wedding. To participate, I had to pay a fee just like any other bridal show and I had to decide what I wanted to contribute to the big day. I obviously chose to design stationery and personal stamps for the event. Right away I received the inspiration board so that I could start planning my designs. I opened it and literally died! It was so beautiful! I was instantly inspired to design something fabulous and I knew that some type of brush calligraphy had to be in the mix!
About 6 weeks before the event, the production team for the BFW reached out to me with the text for the invite and the program, which I was asked to create. I also created a save the date card, an address stamp, and a few other stamps to complement the suite. The entire design process including printing took about three weeks. For the event I had to have five sets of everything for the photographers, however, I made a program and an invitation set for each guest. Yes, I am an overachiever.
I also had to create a 16 x 20 inch display board for the event. This proved to be the one thing that pained me the most. It really didn’t come together until the day before I left for the event. Talk about stressful! In the end, hot glue saved the day! I should have known… I was a teacher for goodness sake! Hot glue and duct tape fix everything!
Here are some pics of my designs that were taken by one of the three photographers at the event, Allison Hopperstad, who also happened to be my adorable table neighbor in the Tunnel of Love! More on that in a minute
Getting There and Day of Set Up
I drove 10 hours to the event space. Oh, did I not mention that I’m from St. Louis and The Big Fake Wedding was in Minneapolis? Yeah, it was. In 2016, the BFW will be in St. Louis though - whoot! My mom was the brave soul who drove 10 hours with me through the lovely states of Missouri and Iowa to arrive in Minnesota the day before the event. There was a vendor cocktail hour the night we arrived, but we arrived so late we missed it. I really could have used a drink after that drive! We stayed in the hotel (Le Meridien Chambers) where the wedding was held, so unpacking and loading and unloading was a breeze.
At the BFW, each vendor gets a high top cocktail table to display whatever they want. This was plenty of space. You do not need a huge display to make a big impact! I kept my table simple and true to my brand with rustic, clean elements that highlighted my offerings.
At my table, I held a drawing for a gift certificate and I handed out a little striped bags with my business cards, some chocolate (yum!), and a cute magnet I designed that congratulated the couples with a saying they could display on their fridge. Offering a little giveaway was totally optional, but I like to have as many touch points with my customers as possible. So, if you are keeping track, by the time couples had reached my table they had already seen my name at least three times. Once on the BFW website, twice in the vendor guide which is handed out when everyone comes in, and the third time when each guest was handed an invitation as they walked through the door. So by the time the couples stopped at my table, they were already familiar with me and had their questions ready. I can honestly say that every single person at the event came to my table. At the end of the night, I looked around and not one person was unfamiliar to me. I call that success! Everyone loved my table and I got a ton of compliments on it. Oh and the flowers on my table came from the farmer’s market from across the street - cuteness overload!!! Love it!
Speaking of cuteness… Allison Hopperstad Photography’s table was next to mine and I loved everything her display! Shout out to Allison and her mom (who helped her set up too)! What a small world seriously. My mom thought she was going to be the only tag-along-vendor-mom hanging at the show! WRONG! Later Allison’s hubby dropped by and totally entertained us during dinner when the traffic was slow! Thanks guys, smooches!
Great Return on Investment Since the Event
Since the event, my invitations have been featured on The Big Fake Wedding Blog, Ruffled Blog, Allison Hopperstad Photography Blog, various social media accounts and hopefully more to come. This residual exposure is obviously not a guarantee when you sign up. I truly feel like the sky's the limit and The Big Fake Wedding and everything that has happened since has only been a positive boost to my business. I have a few tips though, so if you are interested in participating in a Big Fake Wedding as a vendor…..so take notes!
TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL BIG FAKE WEDDING
- Start the planning process early - do not wait until the last minute! I started later than I should have. For St. Louis, I will probably start 6-8 weeks out as soon as I have all the info.
- Keep it simple - I was so happy that I kept my table simple and let my products shine.
- Do a giveaway - people love free stuff. Get them to your table with an offering and make sure that you give them something to remember you by.
- Bring lots of business cards - I gave away biz cards in my bags and people still asked for more. Make sure you bring more than enough.
- Be friendly - If you are pouting at your table because no one is there, guess what? No one will come up to you because you are pouting! Hello!! People love a smile!
- Build a relationship - This is not the time to hard sell your product or service. These couples come to the BFW to have a good time! Chat them up! Ask them about their upcoming wedding, their engagement, and of course how they met! Take a breath, have fun, and just talk to people!
- Taste the food, dance, and meet other vendors - Walk around yourself (only, of course, if you have someone to watch your table - thanks Mom!) and get some yummy treats, dance with the guests, and chat with the other vendors and the BFW staff. You could build some great relationships for future events, styled shoots, or a new work buddy to bounce ideas off of!
Would I Do It Again?
I have only one thing to say about that. I signed up for the St. Louis event the minute it was available.
Quiz - Is the Big Fake Wedding right for you as a vendor?
- Are you interested in investing in your business’ long game?
- Do you understand the power of relationships?
- Do you want your products photographed by multiple photographers in a styled setting?
- Do you want to be a part of a bigger community of wedding vendors?
- Are you sick of the traditional bridal show?
- Do you love a good time?
If you answered yes to these questions than The Big Fake Wedding is totally your jam. Go apply to be a vendor now. If you answered no to these questions, then how did you even get this far down the page? Seriously this is a long post.