As the organisers of The Designer Wedding Show file for insolvency, we ask ‘what is the future of the wedding fair/exhibition’?

At 11pm last night, I decided I was going to interrupt my schedule today to write a post in response to some news that had started to emerge on Twitter only moments earlier.  Foxglove Events, the company behind The Designer Wedding Show held twice annually in London, is to suspend trading and the show planned to take place over 8-10 February at Battersea Park in London has been cancelled.

The Designer Wedding Show is no more.  Thoughts?

Now, this might not mean anything to some of you, especially those not really in to wedding fairs and exhibitions in general, but for the UK wedding industry, this is pretty big news.  And without doubt, for all the suppliers who were due to exhibit – many of them small to medium sized business with limited advertising budgets and healthy/viable cashflows to maintain, this news is completely devastating. Especially taking in to account reports that emerged on Twitter last night that the organisers had been accepting full exhibiting fees up to around noon of yesterday.  It is doubtful that those who have paid anything at all to exhibit will get their money back.

It's with great sadness that I received this news.  I've had such a blast attending the 'The DWS' in the past couple of years in my professional capacity as a blogger. I've loved attending the event with a professional photographer each time and reporting on my exciting findings, new talent, trends and designers to watch out for.  Not only that, the show provided for me a fabulous opportunity to network and socialise. It's rare that you get so many suppliers from across the UK wedding industry under one roof at any one time.  I fondly recall the camaraderie that would take place after the show when all the exhibitors would kick back with industry suppliers visiting on the day and enjoy catchup over drinks. It was great fun, and in all, it was a really great show.

But it's not just that – I genuinely feel sick for all the exhibitors who have been let down, with just three weeks to go, and who will probably lose the money they invested to showcase their work at the show. I know of suppliers who had poured their heart and soul in to planning for this event, to launch brand new products and services.  It's heart wrenching for these small businesses – and if you are one of them, my thoughts really do go out to you.

Below, I've shared (on an anonymous basis) some of the comments I observed on my Twitter feed last night:-

"as a new small family business this is v v upsetting 4 us, but hopefully we can all support each other somehow!"

"it's tricky to know which shows to exhibit at & can be very expensive to try and cover all bases especially when they are not well attended."

"weren't tickets quite expensive?"

"they charged a fortune to exhibit there"

"(the show is) old hat now though, online has replaced it, there are some amazing blogs and sites + price appropriate."

"I am extremely disappointed and angry. Mine is a small and
specialised creative business; my marketing budget is small. Exhibiting
at the DWS was a large investment for my company. Confident in my
product and my levels of service, I felt the time was right to raise the
profile and reach of my business. The DWS seemed the best vehicle, in
what is now a very confusing and crowded wedding event market, to reach
brides who would appreciate my product. It really mattered.This is not a
loss that will be easily recovered and I feel extremely let down by the
events company."


Image Source: Designer Wedding Show Report, February 2011 on Love My Dress.  Photo Credit: Katy Lunsford

I really enjoyed The Designer Wedding Show, and will miss it, but I can't deny I'm not entirely surprised by this news – and that follows my own personal observations of what's been happening in and around the UK wedding fair scene over the last two to three years.

Firstly, a whole raft of small, successful, independent wedding fairs and ehxibitions have been established; Zoe Lem's Vintage Wedding Fair, The Designer Vintage Bridal Show, The Eclectic Wedding Extravaganza and The Miss Vintage Wedding Affair to name but a few – there a many more smaller fairs that are appearing up and down the country.  After all, these shows charge much less for exhibitors to attend and showcase at their events.  They often tend to be supported by weddings bloggers too and they aren't half as expensive to attend as a visitor either.They just, I don't know, seem to have that 'personal touch' that the big fairs like the Designer Wedding Show tend to lack (that feeling that you get a show or, whatever, really has your best interests at heart, is, is all about your wedding day, and not making £££).

Furthermore, whilst I didn't attend the last Designer Wedding Show, I heard it (on very good authority) that it was a bit of a poor turn out.  The show also clashed with New York Bridal Market and as a result of this, many of the mainstream UK bridal press were out of town.  Were the reports of The Designer Wedding Show being a bit of a damp squib in terms of visitor throughput in October last year, an early warning sign?  Possibly.

Fact is, a major exhibiting opportunity for a whole host of wedding industry suppliers has now disappeared, leaving a big question mark over the future of the traditional wedding fair format.

So what does this mean for suppliers with an exhibiting budget?  What about those businesses who have found the smaller fairs a little bit hit and miss for their market – and were looking to the likes of The Designer Wedding Show as a way of accessing a larger number of potential customers who it is accepted have a little more to play with in their wedding budget?

And what about the online market place? Surely, the likes of Etsy must
have had a huge impact on the buying choices of many engaged couples, and wedding blogs
must play a pretty influential role too, right? Well let's be honest here, we
know they do.  Sponsor and reader feedback here at Love My Dress has never been healthier.  Our visitor numbers have never been higher, and the bookings made as a
result of readers finding suppliers via our inspirational features and sponsor adverts is proven.

Are the days for all big wedding exhibitions and shows numbered? Or did The Designer Wedding Show just lack the ability to adapt and move with the times?  I mean, The National Wedding Show has been smart, in my view, partnering with a major wedding blog and, in it's own way, making an effort to accommodate for major trends that have emerged on to the wedding scene (they recently set up a new 'vintage area').  It's website is also way better designed and much more helpful than that of The Designer Wedding Show's.  I'd hedge my bets that the organisers of The National Wedding Show aren't in any danger of having to file for insolvency and cancel any planned events – and certainly not if anecdotal visitor numbers are anything to go by either (I hear it's packed out each and every time). Where one man fails, another succeeds, and all that, but is the NWS safe for the long haul?  Or are exciting online market places, the smaller, more adaptive independent wedding fair and wedding blogs the way forward?  What is the future for the traditional, long-standing wedding fair? Have they had their day?


Image Source: Designer Wedding Show Report, February 2012 on Love My Dress.  Photo Credit: Eliza Claire

One designer who was due to exhibit at The Designer Wedding Show mentioned in an email last night;

"If companies like mine can’t find
viable platforms from which to market our products and services, then we
are going to disappear. Google and online selling through web boutiques
or the wondrous Etsy is a remarkable thing but we need real market
places too."

On the other hand, a comment was made on Twitter last night saying…

"imagine being a new up coming designer and being faced with £1000s for a stand?? Not possible!"

If you are a supplier with an exhibiting budget, what are your thoughts?

Brides, I'm keen to know what you think ?  Are you planning on visiting a wedding fair, or have you already done so? If so, which one/s and why and if you've already been – what did you think/what was your experience? Did you come home satisfied?   Were you planning on attending The Designer Wedding Show and, now that it's cancelled, will you make an effort to attend an alternative fair?

Me? Well, I'm really very sad that The Designer Wedding Show will be no more and all the exhibitors who have been let down, but maybe this is a sign of the times, and reflection of the increasing influence and power of the likes of wedding blogs, Etsy and all those smaller independent wedding fairs who seem more interested in making a genuine connection with the visitors who pass through the door, rather than raking in ££££ from their exhibitors.  As one would-have-been exhibitor at the DWS said to me last night, 'these are interesting but worrying times'.

Thoughts, musings, responses to the news in general on a postcard in the comment box below, if you please, I'd really love to hear from as many people as possible on this one, brides, planners, wedding industry suppliers, past and (would have been) present exhibitors at the The Designer Wedding Show etc.

Thanks so much all,



P.S. – one gorgeous day of wedding inspiration coming up, so pop back soon!

P.P.S – comments can be left anonymously if you feel more comfortable doing so.


Annabel View all Annabel's articles

Founder of Love My Dress. Passionate Podcaster and Editor. Annabel lives in rural North Yorkshire with her husband and business partner Philip, their two daughters and menagerie of furry hounds. She loves photography, meditation, walking, being outdoors and star gazing. She is fierce when it comes to championing talent within the wedding industry and when she's not working on Love My Dress, she supports her husband Philip in the running of the family's sustainable flower farm and floral design business, Moonwind Flowers. In 2013, she became a published author.