Would you believe that the very first bridal show I attended was AFTER I got married? It’s true! I got engaged in December, and we made most of our wedding plans within 3 weeks. We happened to live in an area that didn’t have many bridal shows (they are much more popular now!) so I researched all of my vendors online and through The Knot, made appointments and met with people in person, and made lots of phone calls. SO MANY CALLS.
The beauty of bridal shows, is they can save you ALL of that time and effort, if you go into it wisely. If you don’t, however, a bridal show can be incredibly overwhelming, like it was for ME the first time I went, and I wasn’t even planning a wedding! Since then, I’ve attended and displayed my own photography work at a dozen shows that are each unique, some are larger shows, and some are more intimate. I’ve learned a thing or two since then!!! So….if you want to save time, make your life easier, and ENJOY the bridal shows you attend, follow these tips and tricks based on my experience!
1. Choose the right bridal show!
There are quite a few bridal shows to attend these days, and they are not all created equal. Larger bridal shows can be beneficial for price shopping, but they can also make everyone blend together. You may forget which photographer you really hit it off with or which cake was super yummy. From my experience, I prefer slightly smaller bridal shows that have limited vendors and you can take the time to really talk with people.
2. Bring the right people.
Many brides bring their groom (a good idea!) or friends and parents. Make sure you chat with them in advance about what their expectations should be, what your goals are, and how long you will be attending the show. Invite people to join you who are supportive and EXCITED for your wedding day!
3. Avoid the rush.
If the bridal show allows preregistration, take advantage of that so that you an enter the show as soon as you arrive. I also HIGHLY recommend coming at the beginning of the show and returning again at the end. Typically the last hour of bridal shows is the slowest (people remember start times better than end times, so I think that’s why) and that means you’ll have the undivided attention of each vendor and a great opportunity to ask questions!
4. Bring address labels!
You’ll likely register when you enter the bridal show, and that information is typically shared with all of the vendors. However, many booths will collect information independently to send you exclusive offers or follow up with you. Having preprinted labels with your information will save you SO MUCH TIME. Include you and your groom’s first and last names, an email address, phone number, your wedding date, and where you are getting married (if you’ve got that figured out already).
5. Have a strategy!
There are certain aspects of wedding planning that you can make on-the-spot decisions, and certain things that you likely won’t. Many vendors have discounts or booking incentives at bridal shows, and it’s nice to take advantage of these! If you don’t want to miss out, here’s my suggestion: research a few vendor categories in advance BEFORE the show, and take your time to stop at their booths. Before you go to the show, check out their website, read some reviews, and then meet them in person that day. Take a 20 minute breather during the show to sit down with your fiancé on your own to talk over the few categories you definitely want to book and the people you met, then circle back to their booth and make it happen! This is where you can save time on additional phone calls and meetings – which is SO nice! Plus, you get those bridal show bonuses. It’s a win win.
6. Know what you’re looking for.
Have a list of the vendor categories you are MOST interested in. Perhaps you haven’t selected your DJ yet or you’re still figuring out a florist or planner. Maybe you don’t have a wedding photographer yet. Have your list, and focus on those few categories so that you can invest more time talking to the vendors and asking questions. Don’t waste time talking to a vendor you don’t need for your day. It’s also helpful to have a good sense for the amount you’d like to spend on that vendor, though definitely keep an open mind!
7. Bring your checkbook.
Okay, so you may not be the type that makes impulse decisions, but if you’ve done your research and know what you’re interested in, be prepared to pay a deposit on the spot if you want to take advantage of show specials to secure your favorite vendor! It’s rare that a wedding vendor won’t accept a check, and some (like myself) will accept credit cards to reserve as well.
8. Remember your favorites!
You will likely meet more than one vendor from some categories, and so in order to remember who your favorites are, there are two tips I have for you — mark your favorites, and jot down notes. For some people, having an app on their phone to track things works best. I’m a bit more old fashioned, and I find that writing my notes ON the marketing material I receive from people to work best. Fold down a corner on the ones you want to revisit, and then you can circle back at the end for more info!
9. Take a break from it.
Bridal shows have a LOT of stuff going on. There’s a lot of different kinds of vendors, lots to look at, and it can be visually overwhelming. You’ll hear pitches from people, ask questions and might hear the same answers and can’t remember who you talked to. So my advice when you get to that point – take a break. Find a corner in the lobby, sit down for 10 minutes, and just take a moment to think and look through the swag you’ve received. Better yet, most bridal shows are several hours long, leaving you enough time to go grab a quick coffee or snack, and return if you’d like. If there’s a conversation that got cut off or a vendor you want to revisit, do that after you have a moment to collect your thoughts.
10. Revisit the ones you LOVE!
I’ve mentioned circling back to vendors several times, and I think this is KEY. Like I said above, the start of bridal shows is the busiest, and the end is slower. If there’s one thing I can’t suggest enough, it’s to take some time to revisit the vendors you’ve talked to already that you really truly loved. Check back in, ask them about their booking specials, and if you’re ready to sign on the dotted line or pay your deposit, do it! I will never forget when a bride stopped by my booth at the end of the Pella wedding show while I was packing things up 20 mins after things ended, and we had a great conversation and we ended up booking her wedding!
And finally….have fun and taste the cake! You might as well enjoy yourself a bit :). And make sure you stop by my booth!!!
Pst….revisit the photos from this post, taken at our styled shoot at Maytag Center in Newton last April!