Raise The Curtain: Bridal Shows
For whatever reason, January is probably the biggest month for bridal shows. Since January is fast approaching, I figured now would be a good time to share a little info on them.
Bridal shows are a fast, effective way to get an idea of what vendors are available in your area for almost every aspect of your wedding. Try to attend at least one, even if you already have most of your vendors figured out. I had most of my stuff planned before I found a bridal show I could get to, but I still went, partially out of fear I had forgotten something, but mostly out of curiousity and a hope I could pick up some decoration ideas.
If you’re living in a different area than you’re getting married in like I am, getting to a show in the appropriate area can be tough. However, I still recommend going. Not only can you still get some great ideas, but there are some vendors that are available nationally that you can get information from. I’ve actually gone to 2, one here at home and one in Michigan where we’ll be getting married. I managed to get some coupons for Men’s Wearhouse and President Tuxedo, which are available anywhere, and information from a company that puts together nice wedding albums if you don’t want to use your photographer’s album for whatever reason. They’re much more expensive that a service such as Shutter Fly, but they’re cheaper than photographer albums (most likely anyway, depends on your specific photographer) and just as nice.
There are a ton of drawings for prizes. This is mostly how the companies get you on their mailing lists to bombard you with emails and junk mail, but most of the time it’s worth the initial headache (you can always get taken off the list later). To save yourself from having to fill out the same information over and over again (and therefore waste time you could be using to see more vendors), bring along some pre-printed labels you can stick onto the entry cards. The usual information you’re asked for that would be worth printing is:
- Bride’s Name
- Groom’s Name
- Wedding Date
- Wedding City
- Email address
- Home address
Some booths have variations on this, so you may have to add info (like a phone number), and sometimes you may extra (which you can either leave or scratch out). Feel free to enter any drawing you want, most don’t have any kind of obligation. Worst case you end up with extra junk mail to toss and/or cancel. Best case you get free stuff! Some shows also have a kind of stamp card you have signed by each booth you visit, and before you leave you turn it in to a whole show drawing (the stipulation is that the winner must have something like 75% of the card filled or another card is chosen). Make a point to talk to anyone you may have an interest in. Some vendors have “day-of” specials that they offer if you sign right there (so if you know you want a particular vendor, check and see if they’re schedule to be at any shows soon!). There will be a few that also offer “show pricing” to anyone who can prove they were at the show but don’t necessarily sign anything that day.
Most will give you some kind of bag to start collecting pamplets and booklets in, and you’ll also usually be able to pick up a small pad of paper and pen to take notes on. I also recommend bringing a camera so you can snap a picture if you see a dress, bouquet, or anything else you like and want to remember. When you get home, you’ll have a LOT of stuff. Sit down (a glass of wine makes it easier) and go through it all, throwing out things you know you have no interest (too expensive, not appealing, already have the vendor picked, etc) and making note of things you want to explore further. Mail and emails can start showing up as early a week out, but it usually takes about 3 weeks. If you start getting (e)mail from someone you’re not interested in, unsubscribe from it. If it’s snail mail, wait and see if you get more than one (sometimes they only send out one thing to remind you they were there), and if multiple ones start coming, call the phone number on the mailing to get removed from the list (keep in mind that will take a few days to get processed and you may still get a mailing or two before they stop).
You’ll be on your feet for a while, so wear comfortable shoes! I’m not saying wear mud-covered construction boots, but you should be able to walk and stand for a few hours in whatever it is you adorn your feet in. If you’re going in a group, make sure you have a way to easily find each other or a meeting place for if/when you get split up. I recommend having at least one person with you (Mom or fiance perhaps?) since you’ll be juggling filling out forms/putting labels on, the bag of info, talking to someone, and probably a purse.
Caterers and cake bakers who are there will usually have samples for you to try, so while you shouldn’t come hungry don’t come full either. Dress shops will have a few sample dresses on manequins, but nothing for you to try on and it’s definitely not a full representation of what they have. DJ’s will have a booth with shiny lights and some music playing. Photographers will have sample albums and videographers a screen with sample videos. Florists will have a bouquet or two and maybe a few centerpiece displays. Wedding coordinators will have mostly informational pamphlets, and if they tend to take on a decoration/designer role they’ll probably have some photos of their work.
Most of all, relax and have a good time! You’ll be interacting with a bunch of other people in the same boat as you, so take it in, and remember that you’re not alone in trying to plan something as monstrous as a wedding. It can feel overwhelming, and seeing all these vendors in one place can remind you of that, but people pull it off all the time. It will be okay!