I'm very excited to be participating in the Third Annual Simply Elegant Wedding Showcase on March 18th in Oak Park. I'll be spending the next week preparing for the show. So, I thought I'd share some tips for how the bride can also prepare for a wedding show to get the most out of the experience.
I suggest that every bride attend at least one bridal show during her wedding planning process. With free food and swag, bridal shows can be a lot of fun. But I also encourage brides to take advantage of the show (and having a lot of vendors in one place) to actually accomplish some tasks from their wedding planning to-do list. It helps to be prepared.
Here are my 12 tips for surviving a wedding show (and getting something out of it):
1. Choose Wisely - With so many bridal shows out there, it's important to choose to attend the ones that are right for you. The bridal expos can be quite crowded. You may not get much time to talk to the vendors, but there is usually a larger selection of vendors from each category of wedding service. The smaller specialty shows, such as the upcoming Simply Elegant Wedding Showcase, tend to be more selective with the vendors that can participate. So, you'll likely have more of a chance to actually talk with the vendors at length. Most wedding shows will list the vendors that will be participating on their web site. You can get a preview and decide whether the show will be beneficial for your wedding planning goals.
2. Brand Yourself - Before you go, print out some sticky labels with your name and contact info to bring with you (include your address, e-mail address, and wedding date). There are tons of sign-in sheets, drawings, and giveaways, and you'll save time if you don't have to write down the same info over and over again. Just be aware that if you enter a drawing or sign in on a registration sheet, you will likely be contacted by that vendor or sent informational materials. So, if you're really not interested in that vendor's services, don't waste your time (or theirs) by entering.
3. Register for the Show in Advance - If you register in advance online, you may get discounted or free tickets to the show. Plus, it saves time when you arrive at the event.
4. Wear Comfortable Shoes - Most shows are at an actual wedding venue, so you should dress accordingly in what I like to call "nice casual." But wear comfortable shoes because you'll be on your feet walking from booth to booth throughout the event.
5. Leave the posse at home - If you make the wedding show into a big girls' outing, you probably won't get much out of it, as your friends dart from booth to booth, eating cake samples and bombarding you with flyers. Bring one or two people whose opinion you really trust, who will have your wedding planning goals in mind, and who won't mind holding your purse!
6. Talk to the vendors - Don't be shy! The vendors want to talk to you and hear about your wedding! There is only so much that you can tell about a business by its brochure. You'll get the most out of the show if you actually ask the vendors questions and see if they are the right fit for you. You may even want to have lists of questions prepared ahead of time for the services that you need. If a vendor you're interested in is busy talking to someone else, just stand close and listen. If you like them and like their work, then ask to set up a consultation where you can talk more one-on-one.
7. Bring your calendar - Use the show to set up appointments with the vendors you like. You'll want to have your date book handy so that you can schedule the meeting.
8. Use the Brochures for Notes - Try not to just pick up every brochure and throw it in a bag. Jot down notes on the brochures, like "talked about Day Of Planning Package" or "really liked candy display," so that you'll actually remember the vendors you visited.
9. Bring your Camera - Take pictures of booths, colors, and displays. It will not only help you remember vendors that you liked, but it will also give you inspiration for your wedding.
10. Be Wary of "Today Only" Offers - There are some great deals and discounts to be had at bridal shows. But be wary of the vendors that offer "$100 off if you book today only!" Ask yourself what would change that they could offer the discount today but not a week from today. Instead look for coupons and discounts that you can get at the show and use when you have digested all of the information and are ready to book.
11. Say "No Thank You" - If you're not interested in a particular service or vendor, just say "no thank you" and move on. Don't feel compelled to take a flyer or brochure. Vendors spend a lot of money on their promotional materials and will appreciate your honesty. But also don't say "no" too quickly. There may be some unique products or services that you hadn't considered but may be the perfect addition to your wedding day once you hear about them.
12. Follow Up - When you get home, don't let your bag of show materials collect dust. Try to go through the materials within a week or two and contact the vendors you were interested in so that you don't forget what you learned at the show.