The new year is here and the bridal shows are lining up. Whether you just had a ring placed on your finger over the holidays, or you are in crunch-time with your wedding in a few months, there is something to be gained from bridal shows.
Before you sign up for any bridal fair, do some homework of your own. Fairs can be overwhelming and if you go without a game plan, you could miss out on some of the positive aspects.
Do you have a date set? This will be question #1 from anyone you talk to. Your wedding date is the keystone to your planning calendar.
Do you have general guest count? Venues and caterers will care about your expected wedding size. There is no point in looking at quaint venues that hold 75 people if you know your confirmed guest list is going to top 200.
It’s okay if your answers are ‘no’
If you don’t have the answers to the above 2 questions – you will be in the browsing stage at a bridal fair. There is nothing wrong with that, but go with the mindset that you are looking for ideas and inspirations. You are probably not ready to sign contracts and take advantage of the show specials. Do not get your feelings hurt because the vendors are not spending much time with you. If there is a crowd, the vendors will be focused first on couples that have an established wedding date.
Every vendor in attendance is there for one reason – and one reason only. They are there to find prospective clients. Depending on the fair, vendors pay a few hundred dollars, up to a couple thousand dollars just to walk through the doors. Add on top of that any costs associated with the booth, staff, samples and paperwork. As a bride (or the one paying for the wedding), you are potential business to every owner with a booth. As long as you understand that before you walk in the doors you will be okay.
Put on some comfy shoes, bring a bag or backpack to gather the brochures & samples you will collect, and walk through the doors with a plan. Bring your calendar, your wish list, your budget and someone to keep you on track.
If you are financially able to secure agreements – this is a great time to save money! This is the area where you can benefit the most from a bridal fair. Most, if not all, businesses that are represented are going to be offering “show specials.” Many times, this is the best pricing structure that will be offered all year long. Those discounts will typically be best for couples that are ready to sign contracts or place deposits during the show itself. It is possible that the discounts may be extended for a short time period after the show — depending on the nature of the business and how full the vendors’ calendars are at the conclusion of the event.
Do your research in advance and have a plan of which vendors you know you MUST talk to – That is where you should start your day. That is especially important if the vendor is limited to how many dates they can book on a particular event. No bride wants to hear “I’m sorry, I booked that date an hour ago.” from her preferred reception hall. Once all the “have to” stops have been made, enjoy browsing, tasting samples and getting ideas for your day.
Large Shows or Small Shows?
Bridal Shows come in all shapes and sizes. You will find large national shows that cover multiple days and are packed with brides. The quantity of vendors will be larger and their displays might be fancier, but you are going to compete with many more brides for their attention.
Mid-size regional shows should still have a large variety of vendors, most of which are local companies, covering all aspects of wedding planning. Many of these shows are done by local broadcasting companies or local convention or community centers. The benefit of a mid-size show is that you should have more time to discuss your wedding with the local vendors and you will have less competition for their time from other brides.
Small business-based shows are typically found at local wedding shops or done as pop-up shows at local wedding venues. You can expect a smaller number of vendors with lots of personal attention. These shows are often planned by local event planners as an opportunity to showcase the vendors that are on their preferred list.
Regardless of where you are in your planning process, bridal fairs are a great resource for ideas early-on and can benefit your budget when you are ready to start securing companies for your wedding day.
PhotoMe Photo Booth has chosen a couple of Mid-Size Regional Shows to take part in this year. We will be at the Hannibal Bridal Expo at the Star Theater on February 23rd. There is no cost to attend, but you can register here.
We will also be at the Cedar Lake Cellars Wedding Show on March 24th. Registration is not open yet – but you can watch their events listings on their website.