8 Tips for Shopping a Flea Market for DIY Wedding Décor
It's easier than you think to find just the thing to dress up a program, personalize escort cards, or create an out-of-this-world guest book.
One person’s junk may be your big-day treasure. Just ask Maggie Lord. The author of the new The Rustic Wedding Handbook
and the founder and editor of Rustic Wedding Chic and Rustic Wedding Guide is a pro at browsing flea markets to uncover unique—and thrifty—touches for any celebration. Here, she shares her expert advice on how to get the most out of a morning of antiquing.
Rise and Shine
Many flea markets and antiques shows start early. Grab a cup of coffee and reserve your space in line so when the doors open, you get the best selection. Oftentimes an “early bird” entrance pass is available, but it can cost anywhere up to $20, depending on the event. You don’t have to buy your way into every market, but, as the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm.
Bills Are Best
Cash is still king at the flea market, even with recent tools made for small vendors, such as the Square credit card reader. Ninety-nine percent of shows run on a cash-only policy, so hit the ATM before you start shopping.
Blisters, wet feet, and being over- or underdressed are all part of earning your flea market stripes, but you can avoid such suffering while snapping up great deals by being prepared. Check the weather forecast and take an umbrella (useful for both rain and sun). Also pack an extra pair of socks in your purse in case your shoes get soggy. Even if there isn’t a rain cloud in sight, you never know when they are going to come in handy. Lord once whipped out her extra socks and used them as gloves to go through a box of goodies that were a little less than clean.
It Never Hurts to Ask
Vendors don’t want to overcrowd their booths for aesthetic reasons, so they might only display a small portion of their inventory. If a set of shutters catches your eye but you would need another set to make the perfect place-card display, always ask if they have more. Vendors will often have additional items in their truck. Here, Lord gave an old window screen new life as a ceremony program.
Make a List
Heading to the market is no different than shopping at the grocery store—if you don’t have a target list of items, you are in danger of ending up with more than you really want or need. Make a list of the items you are looking for and how many you would ideally need. If shopping with friends, give a copy to everyone—the more eyes on the prize, the better. Lord spotted these old horseshoes and repurposed them as creative escort cards.
If you’re waiting in line for the restroom or for a bottle of water, use this downtime to chat with your fellow shoppers. They can be your best source of information for what’s out there in the field. You might just receive a tip about a vendor in a distant corner of the market who has an entire outlet of old-fashioned school supplies. In wedding lingo, this translates to tons of different-sized chalkboards just waiting to be snatched up and put to use in a design scheme. Score!
If you are hunting for wedding items, then you are probably becoming fully immersed in the bridal world. But don’t assume that all vendors will know what you are talking about when using wedding terminology. Don’t be shy! Pull some images from magazines and wedding books to give vendors a visual reference point. It can help jog their memories for inventory they have on display or in their trucks.
Get in Touch
Many vendors have brick-and-mortar shops, websites, or storage facilities with additional merchandise. Print and bring cards with your name, phone number, and email. If a vendor has something you’re looking for but not at this particular show, having a card with your contact information on hand is an easy way to keep the dialogue going. Ultimately, this can help get your hands on that special piece, such as this surfboard, which Lord displayed as a nontraditional guest book.
Photographs and text from The Rustic Wedding Handbook have been used with permission by Gibbs Smith.