Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bridal Fair Madness!

Once or twice a year, I purchase a booth and exhibit at a bridal fair. I do my homework. I make sure that the bridal fair has had high attendance in past shows, I interview other exhibitors from past shows to find out if they had a good experience, and I make sure my booth will be far away from the booths of other musicians, entertainers, and DJs.

I exhibited at the 21st Annual Fantasy Wedding Faire in Reno,
Nevada, produced by the American Heart Association, perhaps
against my better judgment. Why? Because I broke my own
cardinal rule: Never exhibit in the same room as a fashion show. I
signed up for this show because several other wedding service
colleagues had participated in previous years and successfully
booked a number of weddings from the brides who attended.

The event was held in the Silver State Pavilion at the huge Grand
Sierra Resort
. Very spacious and comfortable--the room was well
suited for a bridal fair. Set up was a breeze, with easy load-in, but I
didn't count on walking into DJ Bill McClain's loading cart when I
was setting up. Scraped up my foot! Ouch! Maybe it was a bad

My booth was located on the opposite wall from the fashion show,
as far away from the fashion show as I could possibly be. But once
the doors opened and the brides entered, I discovered my booth
was beneath five PA speakers in the ceiling. These speakers
belched constant announcements for raffle ticket prizes,
descriptions of dresses and models in the fashion show, and
annoying fashion show music at an astounding volume. Anyone
approaching my booth had to yell to converse with me. And of
course, no one could hear my poor little harp-my amp was no
match against those giant speakers. It was no way to introduce
my services to brides.

I commonly book weddings at bridal fairs, because I always offer a
10% discount to brides who decide to hire me at the fair. But this
show was quite the exception, when people could barely converse
with me. Or perhaps, it was a sign of our economy that a larger
discount needed to be offered for landing bookings at bridal fairs? I
may never know.

At least I do know that many brides were interested in my services,
because they waited in line to talk with me, even though they had
to shout over the din. More than 100 brochures left my table that
day. And I'll be in touch with those who entered my drawing for a
free wedding CD, too.

The networking opportunities were endless. Two very generous
florists donated flower displays for my booth: Hattie Reed from Art
in Bloom
and another floral arrangement from Floral Expressions &
. I met Kathleen from the Harbor House at Sand Harbor
Beach, Lake Tahoe, and learned about their wonderful wedding
facilities. Maybe she'll start recommending me to brides getting
married there. Kristy Hawke who produces the Nevada Women's
also introduced herself to me. Adjacent to my booth was
Andy and Jennifer from The Pampered Chef and along with my
friends Rolf and Eileen from Starling Video , helped watch my booth
when I had to take a break.

So, even if a bridal fair may look like a total washout on the surface,
the connections between the brides and the exhibitors can make it
well worth attending!

Tips for Brides:

Bridal fairs aren't just about checking out the bridal fashions,
sampling cakes, and winning door prizes. Go there with the idea to
hire your wedding vendors at the show. Here's why: most wedding
services offer budget-saving discounts if you decide to book them
right then and there. Bring your checkbook or credit card, an
envelope for your receipts, and your fiancé, mom, and others to
help you make decisions. If they cannot attend, bring along a cell
phone so that you can call them from the show and help you

Don't want to make quick decisions at the fair? Then bring
something to take notes. Don't be caught without any way to write
down quotes from a potential ceremony site, florist, or musician.

Also prepare a sheet of address labels, and write your email
address and phone number onto those labels before you attend the
fair. At each booth, you may find a drawing for a prize like a free
honeymoon, free flowers, dinner for two at a restaurant, or a
substantial discount off of particular services. Instead of wasting
your time filling out forms for each drawing, just affix the address
stickers to each entry form you encounter and move along to the
next booth.

Follow up with those you meet after the bridal fair while their
wedding services are still fresh in your mind. The more generous
wedding vendors may extend their bridal fair discounts a few days
beyond the fair, especially if you hit it off well with them. But if you
wait weeks or months, not only will you be paying full price, you
may also find that they are no longer available on your wedding

Tips for Musicians:

Exhibiting at bridal fairs is a huge monetary and time commitment.
The booth price alone is not the only monetary factor-having
brochures and promotional materials pre-printed, electricity for your
booth, and other booth amenities will add to that cost. And you
must plan to perform in your booth. The only way brides will fall in
love with the idea of hiring you for their wedding or reception is to
see you in action, as if they would see you at their wedding. You
may need to put in some extra rehearsal time with your ensemble
before the day of the bridal show.

When choosing to buy booth space at a local bridal fair, you can
ask all the right questions of the fair promoter, hear that the fair was
successful previous years from other wedding vendors, and the
event can still stink. All it takes is for the fair to be poorly attended
(perhaps due to lack of advertising or bad weather), or even
something like being placed under a string of loud speakers, as in
the above example. But there are always other wedding colleagues
to meet, and they could be in the position to send you a lot of work
in the future-the silver lining to participating in a bridal fair.

If a wedding fair was truly a washout for you, look at it rationally and
decide what you could have done differently to make it a better
experience. That's what I'm doing about my experience at this last
wedding fair. Should I be involved with another bridal fair that has a
fashion show in the same building? Should I offer a larger discount
to brides who consider booking my services at the wedding fair,
because of this down economy? Should I make a formal complaint
to the fair producers about being placed under the PA speakers or
should I not bother at all? These are some questions I'm

I've only touched on a few of the intricacies of participating in a bridal fair
in this blog. I devote an entire chapter to this subject (including
negotiating booth prices, setting up your booth, etc.) in my book
"The Musician's Guide to Brides" available wherever Hal Leonard
are sold: music and bookstores, and through online retailers
including sheetmusicplus.com, Amazon.com, and of course, at my
website at Celtic Harp Music by Anne Roos.

I'm looking forward to reading your stories, comments, and
feedback. And if you have something new to add about your bridal
fair experiences, I'd love to hear them.

Sending my best, Anne :-)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Going With the Flow

Alex started planning her wedding almost a year in advance. She
met me at the Dream Wedding Show a popular Sacramento area
bridal fair, and decided right then and there to book my services.

She planned to have me perform for the wedding ceremony and
cocktail service at the reception. When Alex booked me, she
informed me that it was all at the Lions Gate Hotel.

When I spoke with Alex a week before her wedding to confirm her
wedding details, she told me that the Chapel was not next to the
reception ballroom, and I would need to load my equipment and
drive to the reception after the ceremony. She said, "I'll email you a

Well, the map never came to me, but I figured it was a hotel, and all
I needed to do was to go to the registration desk and ask where the
chapel was located. Even the website for the hotel showed the
chapel and the hotel on the same grounds.

I was wrong. I had no idea where the chapel was, and I phoned the
bridal party while I was en route to the ceremony. The bride's cell
phone was handed off to her uncle, who met me at the entrance to
the Lions Gate complex, and I followed him in his big pickup truck to
the chapel.

I was still there in plenty of time, and with my roadie Ben's help, I
got settled quickly and was ready to play. Pastor Tom gave me all
my cues upon my arrival, and the DJ, Terry Stewart , even volunteered
to patch my harp microphone into his speaker system.

Alex loves the sound of the Celtic Harp and wanted to weave a
mixture of holiday music, Renaissance music, and Irish and
Scottish favorites into her ceremony. Here's what I played (for more
information on these songs, check out my repertoire list.

Pre-Ceremony Seating Music:
1. "What Child Is This"
2. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"
3. "Rorate" (Scottish Christmas Carol)
4. "Pastorale" from Corelli's "Christmas Concerto"
5. "O Come, O Come Emmanuel""
6. "Pie Jesu"
7. "All Through the Night" (traditional Welsh)
8. "O Holy Night"
9. "Heart's Cry" from "Riverdance"
10. "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming"
11. "The Holly and the Ivy"

Seating of bride and groom's parents:
"Kelvin Grove" (traditional Scottish)
Wedding Party of 4 Bridesmaids and 1 Flower girl:
"Simple Gifts"
Bride's Entrance:
Pachelbel's "Canon in D"

There was no music played during the ceremony, and the bride's
cousin played Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" on the chapel organ for the

As soon as the wedding party had walked back up the aisle and
was outside the chapel for photos, Ben helped me pack up and I
was off to the reception. Fortunately, someone was kind enough to
post signs so that we could find the ballroom, or I'd probably have
to pick up the phone and call Alex's Uncle again!

Terry had recorded music playing in the ballroom as guests began
to arrive, allowing me time to set up. When I was tuned up, he
turned down his music, and I started to play a variety of rousing
Celtic tunes, as Alex had instructed.

After Alex and her new husband, Rob, entered the room under a
sword arch, Terry announced that guests at certain tables could
proceed to the buffet line. This wasn't his only announcement. I
would play for five or ten minutes, then Terry would give me the
signal to stop, and he'd make another table announcement, then I'd
resume playing. There were more than 150 guests in attendance,
so he made these announcements a number of times. It was a
delicate balance of respecting Terry's cues and his respecting that I
was on the clock to continue performing.

This arrangement was fine with me. Terry was easy to work with,
and we were both there to please the bride and groom. This was
exactly how Alex wanted things to flow, so who was I to have an
ego about it all?

When my time was up, I thanked and congratulated Alex and Rob
and said my good-byes to Terry. Alex's uncle stopped me as I was
leaving. He beamed, "I will have a wonderful story to share for
years about escorting the harpist to Alex's wedding!"

Tips for Brides:

With all the planning in the world, little things can be left forgotten
just days before your wedding day. In the above example, it was
the map for the harpist. I ran under the assumption that the map wasn't
so necessary and I would find the location, but not even a GPS
would have helped me, as the chapel didn't have a separate

How do you remember all these wedding details? Write them down
and follow through with everything you plan to provide for your
wedding vendors. Delegate when it becomes too burdensome.
Give other people tasks, like making maps to the ceremony and
reception sites. Or simply hire a wedding coordinator to help you
out--It's money well spent if you and your wedding party want to be
completely free of overseeing all the nitty gritty wedding details.

Tips for Musicians:

Make that call to your clients one week before the gig. Go through
all the wedding details-location, arrival time, and balance due,
everything on your performance agreement. You'll be amazed, but
every once in a while, a necessary piece of information will come
up in that conversation that you never heard before. For instance,
the time of the ceremony may have changed and the bride
completely forgot to inform you.

Keep in mind that things can still go awry, even if you have had this
pre-date conversation. Something can even change at the wedding
rehearsal. This is the reason why you also need to check in with
the officiant and wedding coordinator as soon as you arrive.

Just go with the flow if things unfold differently than what you
expected. Being escorted by a man in a big pickup truck to a wedding
site is certainly not what I expected. Nor did I think that the DJ at
the reception would periodically interrupt me. I didn't panic. Really,
it was all fun.

Many more tips are available from my book "The Musician's Guide
to Brides" available wherever Hal Leonard Books are sold: music and
bookstores, and through online retailers including sheetmusicplus.com,
Amazon.com, and of course, at my website at www.celticharpmusic.com

I'm looking forward to reading your stories, comments, and
feedback. Have a very prosperous, Happy New Year!

Sending Warm Wishes,
Anne :-)

Anne Roos
Celtic Harp Music by Anne Roos