Bridal Shows – totally awesome or your worst nightmare?

I'm the bride...just in case you didn't know.
I’m the bride…just in case you didn’t know.

Sorry for the delay in posts! We accomplished lots of wedding details over the weekend and I’m also preparing a design photo shoot…needless to say, my bride brain has been swirling with ideas!

Bridal Shows. This was a whole new world to me as a recently engaged bride-to-be. If you live near a major city, there are probably numerous shows throughout the year – typically held in convention centers or hotel ballrooms. Even though these events happen all year long, I noticed that the biggest influx was around both June and January.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of a bridal show (or expo), it is a large showcase event where different wedding vendors (everything from venues to photographers to dress designers to hair/makeup artists) gather, set up booths, and try to encourage you to book with them. It can be awesome (one stop shop!) or terrifying (EVERYONE WANTS TO TALK TO YOU). It’s best to bring an entourage – family, bridal attendants, even your partner – to help you navigate this extremely high-stimuli event.

my bridal show entourage - my mom, my aunts, and my honor attendant!
my bridal show entourage – my mom, my aunts, and my honor attendant!

Most bridal shows will ask you to register, and typically you can get a few free admissions by doing so (I have yet to pay for a bridal expo, and I’ve been to a few). This is also where creating a wedding-specific email address comes in handy – all of the promotions, solicitations, and spam will go to one place. Some even print labels for you with all your info (if you pre-register) so you can just give one each vendor you’re considering. Be forewarned – you will get many more emails than you expect – usually from different sponsors of the expos. If I see one more “you’ve been selected for…” email, I might lose my mind.

To be honest, I really just wanted to see all the different options, get inspiration, and hopefully get some free cake (there was no cake. I’m still a little sad about that). Some will have fashion shows with different dresses and others might have “discount” dresses for sale (as-is). I noticed that the most abundant vendor was photographers, so it’s a great place to look through portfolios and compare styles and packages. I didn’t think I would book anyone in the moment, but I found my dream photographer on day 1 of my first expo, brought home his info to share with my fiancĂ©, and went back to book him on day 2…but that’s for another post. Many vendors will offer “expo deals” if you book – but make sure you’re 100% positive before signing a contract and putting down a deposit! A good deal is not worth regretting your vendor later.

Even as a fairly extroverted, excited, “I love talking to people” bride-to-be, I was overwhelmed with my first expo. It’s aisles upon aisles of people trying to “sell” to you – and while everyone is really nice, I don’t tend to make quick decisions when it comes to signing contracts and don’t like to feel “pushed” into anything. You will quickly perfect your “thank you very much, I’m just collecting information at this point” response. When you get home, you will have a tote bag full of business cards, post cards, and brochures. Then it’s the fun part – sorting through everything and trying not to be overwhelmed with how much your “dream” wedding is going to cost!

I think it’s totally worth going to a bridal expo. If possible, go to one of the larger ones (usually in the convention center) to get the most “bang for your buck/time.” However, if you are unable to make a big one in time to book for your wedding and/or a smaller one is more convenient, it could still be really beneficial to have more time to talk 1:1 with the vendors and not feel so rushed/crowded. When it comes to the people who will help make your day as awesome as you imagine, it’s always great to meet with them in person to see if you “gel” with them and will feel 100% comfortable with them on one of the craziest days of your life!

In addition to bridal expos, it’s helpful to check out the suggested vendors from your venue (or required vendors vs. opportunities to bring in outsiders) to compare in terms of service and cost. I ended up booking most of my vendors through my venue’s preferred vendor list, but I was still able to see options, packages, and pricing for a variety of people through the expo. I found 2 of my vendors through the expo – and it was because I was able to talk with them AND see their product (for example, the Photo Booth company we ended up booking was at the expo with their booth and we could take free photos. Not only did we get to see the quality of the product, but the photo, which is now on our fridge, had their contact info on it. Great marketing!).

You know what? At the end of the day, when you go to the expo, you ARE treated like the bride. You get a sticker and everything! There are free magazines, samples, snacks, and (so I hear) cake. My first expo was a month after being engaged, so it was still very new and exciting for people to congratulate me just because I was wearing a sticker! Brides and grooms – enjoy this!

Now about that cake…

bride sticker!
bride sticker!

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