How to build a Wedding / Bridal Show Stand (or what not to do!)

  • How to build a Wedding / Bridal Show Stand (or what not to do!)

For years I’ve been exhibiting my wedding photography services at Wedding Fairs (bridal shows to any visitors from the US) but every time I feel like there is something missing. Usually a couple of days before the fair I start to think I really should have planned ahead and made a display wall to showcase my work. Normally my stand ends up being just a few albums on a table, a couple of framed prints and a slideshow.  I was looking for something that would make more of an impact and create a better first impression with next years wedding clients. Especially as each fair may have up to 5 other photographers also selling their services.

The fairs I attend are usually only small and run by local wedding venues with anywhere between 30 and 300 brides attending. There are also limits on space which can be just 3-4 metres (10-12 feet) so I wanted something quite small and compact but could still make a good impression.

4 weeks ago I decided to build my own display wall / wedding fair stand. With no prior experience in these things (since doing wood work at school) I turned to the internet for inspiration.

My requirements were:

  • It must fit in my car (mid-sized people carrier)
  • It must cost less than £150
  • It has to be fast and easy to assemble when I arrive at the fair
  • It must be stable when displaying  8 framed prints.
  • It must be quick to construct as I was still in peak wedding season and didn’t have much time to spare

After researching and ruling out many ideas using pallets I came across this post on Pinterest which seemed to be exactly what I wanted:

This is roughly the process I followed:

1. – To create the supports I lay three 1.8m batons on top of each other and offset the middle one by about 3cms.  I then nailed these together and the offset middle baton created a groove for that the whole stand would slot into (see below)

2. – Then I attached a base to the supports using L-shaped metal brackets and cut two blocks to help strengthen the base and ensure everything stayed upright.


3. – Next I lay 7x tongue-and-groove planks out on the floor and fitted them together and secured them with a baton across the back, nailing them together.  I repeated this three times so the stand now had three sections which were roughly 60cm high would form the main part of the display wall.

4. – Unfortunately these sections were not strong enough or rigid enough by themselves so I had to go back to the DIY store and buy MDF to nail on the back to make the whole thing more rigid and enable the three sections to stack on top of each other when slotted into the vertical supports.

5. – I had to cut 3cm off each end of the tongue-and-groove to leave just the MDF showing (see the image below) and this was the part that slid into the supports and allowed for a flush finish with the supports.  Below is an example of just one of finished sections and there are three of these in the full stand.  They were horizontal when in use not vertical as you see here.

6. Once the design was constructed I painted the whole things in Rustoleum Chalk Furniture paint before waxing with Rustoleum finishing wax.  I was going for a bit of a shabby chic look so I wasn’t concerned with a perfect finish (as you can probably see in these images).

7. Now everything was finished I just had to put the vertical supports in place and lift the sections so they slotted in from the top.   Once it was slotted together I put a screw from the back through the supports and through the MDF to secure everything together and prevent the sections being able to pull out of the supports horizontally if someone accidentally knocked it.  One screw on each side in each section was enough to keep the whole thing rigid and allowed me to construct the stand at the fairs very quickly and with minimal fuss.

8. Finally I bought 8x  20x16inch frames and had the photos printed 16x12inches so I could also use mounts for a clean finish (in hindsight I should have gone for 9 frames to make everything symmetrical).  Nicola then suggested screwing a frame with our logo to the top and adding lantern fairy lights to finish the look.

Ultimately I was happy with the outcome and it really made a good impression at the two wedding fairs I have attended in the last two weeks.  Many people stopped just to browse the images and ask questions so it had the desired effect.  If I had the opportunity to do this again I would definitely pay a little more for the correct timber in the first placed which was more rigid and wouldn’t need to be cut or re-enforced as I could have saved time and money and got a better finish.

I made a few mistakes along the way; namely choosing thin tongue-and-groove (shiplap) timber to keep down the costs and weight however this was too flimsy and flexible and needed to be more rigid.  To combat this I bought MDF sheets to attach the tongue-and-groove to and that solved the problem.   In hindsight I should have paid more in the first place for the timber and bought tongue and groove timber that was over 20mm thick as the cost of the MDF offset the initial saving.   The other issue is I initially bought timber which was 2.4m long as I didn’t know how big the stand needed to be but this wouldn’t fit in the car so I had to cut it down.  The final stand is roughly 1.9m wide by 2m tall.    As I mentioned above I’m no expert joiner and cutting thin timber didn’t go too well with lots of it splintering as can be seen on the right of the image above.   I should have just bought the shorter length timber in the first place which was 1.8m and would not have required any cutting.