So last weekend I was supporting my friend and fellow small business owner, Anne Bird of Daisy Dresses, on her first stand at the National Wedding Fair in Birmingham.
It was a little out of my comfort zone, to say the least, being nothing to do with the bridal industry and having organised my own wedding in a month.
It was mostly what I expected, a sea of mostly white sparkly dresses with lots of brides taking the opportunity to try on lots of options all in one place.
But I was taken aback by the sea of 'extras' available. Photobooths, live bands, tents - you name it it was there! I have to confess to being inspired by one or two.
And the flowers were absolutely AMAZING.
We were in the more alternative and funky Rock And Roll Bride section having been chosen by the famous Kat of Rock and Roll Brides.
I have to confess I'd never heard of her before the show and was amused by the sheer adulation she inspired. But then I suppose discovering and tapping into the 'alternative' bride market via her blog and now magazine "Rock And Roll Bride" is a pretty impressive achievement.
Setting up the stand was a bit frantic but Anne's vision of a blackboard focal point really worked and our stand was certainly one of the most colourful. (Note to self: make sure you have plenty of pairs of scissors and invest in a step to help you get up high).
It was really interesting to see tricks other stands used like stapling up wallpaper and other backings some of which were amazingly effective.
I loved the vibe of the Rock And Roll section. While I'm not 'out there' I do like a a large spoonful of quirkiness. There was a great sense of camaraderie.
Anne introduced me to the joy of "Facebook Live" which she has been using very effectively for her business. I'm putting it on my "to do" list but as I hate seeing photos of myself I'm not sure how I could cope with seeing myself live *shivers*.
Friday was a gentle introduction easing us into the general craziness of Saturday (I had to duck out of Sunday). I got the patter of Anne's business and we learned to recognise who was interested and who really wasn't.
It's very interesting learning more about another person's business and seeing what makes it special.
The dress is a big part of the day for most brides.
Anne provides what is effectively a collaboration with brides. Allowing them to express themselves and their style, whilst using her knowledge of shapes and fabrics to produce a unique wedding dress design.
We were able to show a few of her dresses on mannequins and a mood board for one of her more alternative brides who is wearing shades of dark grey and dark blues, to show her range and versatility.
It was clear one of the most important aspects is the relationship between her and the bride. To trust that Anne ‘get’s them’ enough to be able to produce the fantasy in their minds eye.
So she can make the bride the best they can be on their big day. We had a few brides who were a little overwhelmed by all the dresses for the typical ‘normal’ body type. When you’ve got a few extra curves (like I have) it’s not so easy. And having a dress made to fit and flatter helps you feel fabulous and more comfortable.
BUT the word ‘bespoke’, to many it translates as !!!!EXPENSIVE!!!! so Anne works hard to make her dresses accessible and we made sure that particular 'elephant' was addressed with prospective brides.
I think we did well as on the first day Anne had a bride in tears – because she had finally found the person to make her dress! I can really see why Anne enjoys her job.
On Saturday, Anne's Rainbow Bride joined us on the stand. Heidi had only got married 4 weeks previously but it's evident they built up a great relationship.
Saturday was manic. I managed to grab 5 minutes before the end of the day to take a few photos of things that inspired me. Including an amazing glittery beard, Indian weddings and PLUS SIZE Mannequins hallelujah!
I have to say once I got home I was exhausted. I'm not sure how Anne managed to last 3 days but I’m ready for next year and hoping to meet up with all the new friends and contacts we made!