By Season Hurd (A Colorado Courtship Blog for Wedding Sites and Services)
It’s a good idea to go to at least one large wedding show during your planning process as well as smaller boutique shows - especially those hosted by your chosen venue with their preferred vendors. Large shows are all out inspiration-fests that are especially helpful early on. However, walking into a room with scores of wedding vendors and even more doe-eyed wedding civilians can be overwhelming. But if you embrace the massiveness of it all, you will find that a big show is a unique opportunity to take in wedding information in a well-rounded, complete, and downright enjoyable way. Just like actual weddings, wedding shows are full of music, food, fun, and pageantry. It’s the best time you’ll have planning your wedding.
Wedding Sites and Services asked Barbie Howard to give us advice about how to get the most out of your bridal show experience. Together with her husband she owns and produces the Rocky Mountain Bridal Show (i.e. The Huge One). Her time as a bride, an exhibitor, and then producer of the show gives her unique insight into this beloved bridal experience. In addition to the logistical advice on the show’s website (click here) and a great list from our magazine (see below), Barbie opened up about her personal observations and wishes for bridal show guests that rarely get addressed. We have expounded upon those here.
1. Relish the process as much as the big day. Your wedding goes by in the blink of an eye and you don’t get to spend much time with each of your guests. Wedding planning is a unique time to spend with your family and friends. Use it as an excuse to hang out, bond with your future in-laws, or even extend an olive branch. Come to shows with a crowd and make a day of it. Feel like an A-lister as you sit front row at a fashion show. Pack into the photo booth with your entourage. Bounce ideas off your besties. One of Barbie’s biggest goals for the show is to be an experience – a memory for this rite of passage – in addition to a one-stop shop for great ideas.
2. Don’t be a window shopper! One observation by Barbie was that some guests pay to get into a wedding show and never approach a booth! Shows like the RMBS give you a special chance to interact with the elements of a wedding and make them feel more real. Every vendor there represents an area of expertise and they would love to take questions or see someone get inspired. Take advantage! Plan enough time to really get in there and WEAR YOUR STICKERS to let people know if you’re the bride/groom so you get the VIP treatment!
3. Perhaps the root cause of the previous point - Couples should understand that interaction with vendors is not scary. Wedding vendors are not like used car salesmen. Prospective clients and vendors both want the same thing – to find a good fit. Yes they pay to be there in the hopes that they will book jobs. And they will likely offer you an incentive to book that day. But they also want to book couples with whom they share a kindred quality or who fit the style of their portfolio. Meeting in person at the bridal show instead of trying to gauge your compatibility online is one of the best things afforded to both sides. So go forth and mingle because that’s the wonderful advantage that you have with attendance. Be honest and they will understand. Not everyone has the same style, budget, etc. and they truly do get that. You might make a lifelong friendor! If you go another direction this time, keep their card for later reference or share your intel with a friend. And if you aren’t in love at all, our suggestion is to compliment what you do like, be respectful of their time, and DO NOT commit to any further consultations. They need those spots for the couples who totally mesh with them!
4. It’s an investment for them and an armload for you. Vendors put forth an incredible amount of money to get a booth, have striking business cards/handouts, create displays, and provide samples. Barbie pointed out that a wedding cake vendor at RMBS is expected to provide samples for 600+ guests of the show! So be respectful so there is enough for everyone by taking everything you want to sample, but in reasonable quantities. We would also suggest using your camera phone to take a photo instead of grabbing a card. Snapping a shot of the person you talked to will also jog your memory better than a name alone! If you pick up a program, maybe highlight your favorite vendors in the directory so you don’t lose all the little pieces of paper. But above all, say “thanks” because they did it all for you – you adorable engaged person you.
5. One last suggestion directly from WSS is to head for the outfield. Everyone starts at the same door and therefore floods the same vendors. Consider heading to a more remote row to start. It will allow you more time with the folks at the booth AND the vendors in the far-flung corners will definitely appreciate having someone to talk to right away. It’s chaotic up front and lonely at the back…and then reverses itself.