What to Expect at a Bridal Show, Wedding Festival, or Expo
Bridal shows are generally held between January-May for Winter/Spring shows and August-November for Summer/Fall Shows.
How to Find Them: The Internet is a great place to look for bridal shows and wedding expos in your area. When searching, be sure to visit the producer's site. There you should be able to determine how many vendors they will have, ticket prices, the location, parking, prizes, and other pertinent information. Visit MyWeddingCircle.com for a list of shows and events in your area.
Price: I hate to say it, but the old story rings true... you get what you pay for. When a producer offers a free show, you can bet that not only will there be brides and grooms seeking services just like you, but there will also be folks just looking for free goodies, taking up the time that you really need with exhibitors in the hopes that they will win a prize. If you can, head to shows that have a small fee, it does weed through the "prize seekers". Generally speaking, bridal show entry fees range from $5 - $20, depending on the market you are in.
The Fashion Shows: Check the producer's website to get the fashion show schedule, whether you are looking for a gown or not.
If you ARE looking for a gown: Give yourself plenty of time to see the fashion show AND meet with providers. Most fashion shows are 20-60 minutes long, depending on what other activities the producer has planned on stage (prize giveaways, contests, entertainment, etc.) Plan on giving yourself at least 2-3 hours before the fashion show to talk with exhibitors, unless you are only going for the fashion show portion.
If you are NOT looking for a gown: If you are not looking for a gown, the fashion show is a great time to talk with the exhibitors, because most everyone will be seated at the stage. Meeting with exhibitors during the fashion show will give you a better opportunity to get the attention you are looking for from providers with one on one conversations. Go back to the providers you are most interested in to have a more in depth conversation, ask questions, or book them to secure your date.
What to Wear
Have fun! Get your I Do Crew, Wedding Squad, Team Bride, or Team Groom, in matching shirts, wear a party veil, funny hats, carry a wand, think bling and have fun! Why not? These are the favorite people in your life and they are there to have fun with you! Pick a color or a theme and go all out! Many shows have contests for the best I Do Crew costumes.
Wear comfortable shoes. If the show is a large show (60 or more vendors) you will want to plan on spending 4-5 hours visiting with vendors, watching fashion shows and participating in contests. You don't want your feet to give out just when you are finding what you need.
Who to Bring:
Your Fiance! If your fiance is worried that he will be the only groom there... please assure him that he will be surrounded by other grooms who are also getting involved. Times have changed! Millennial couples are planning together and grooms are more involved in the planning process than ever before.
Your bridesmaids and/or groomsmen. This is a day out and is part of the planning experience. Take them to brunch before coming and choose that time to thank them for being a part of your wedding. Tell them how much their support and love has meant to the both of you and that you are excited not only to share the rest of your lives together, but how grateful you are to have such great friends and family. Dress up and have fun! Get your Bridal Squad, your Grooms Squad, and Team Wedding together to plan a great day and have the best time doing it! You're going to have a great time!
Family and decision makers. If a family member has offered to pay for the cake, or the gown, or something else for your wedding you might consider inviting them to join you! They might enjoy helping you make selections, do tastings, etc. Remember that this is your day and your family is there to support you because they are so happy for you!
Bring your wedding planner or consultant. He/she can assist you in asking the right questions and negotiating packages and terms.
What to Bring:
Self addressed labels with your contact information and wedding date will save you A LOT OF TIME at any show. They are handy and a brilliant way to breeze through the tedious task of writing the same information 100 times in a day! Your labels should include your name, address, email address, phone number, and wedding date. If there are services that you have already secured, you may want to write on the labels (do not need a photographer, dj, etc.)... Most producers will have a note's area for the bride's list and will insert that information, saving you from receiving unwanted mail from providers of service you already have.
Your calendar. If you find venues, gowns, or services you like, you will want to book a viewing, or consultation with them after the show. Set the consultation up with them, but remember that they won't "hold your wedding date" without a deposit, so if you like them, you might want to put a service deposit down to secure your date.
Shopping List: treat this like any other shopping experience. Make a list (either yourself, or with the help of your wedding consultant) of the products and services you are seeking. Be sure to write the budgetary allowance for each line item, so that you are prepared to stay within your budget, but keep in mind that you will more than likely see things that you have not thought of already with your planning.
Bring your wedding timeline so that you can check off things that you were able to accomplish at the show.
Be prepared to pay deposits at the show. Many providers can take credit card payments, but it might be a good idea to bring your checkbook just in case, or be ready to make a Paypal payment onsite.
Cell phone: If your camera has a photo feature, you can snap a few shots of the fashion shows when a gown you just love comes down the runway! Be sure to write teh designer's name down in your notebook. It will help when you call the boutique that is hosting the fashion show as they will know exactly which gowns were featured.
Photos of your ideas. They can be printed, included in your Pinterest, clippings from magazines, or in your phone. These will come in handy when you are talking with providers about your vision.
A notebook and lots of questions! Make sure you arrive with a lot of "what if" questions and questions regarding providers' experience (how many clients per year, how many years in the business, is this their full-time position, will they bring assistance on the day of your wedding, do they have pictures of their work, when do their services begin, what are deposit and cancellation policies, etc.). You can bring a notebook, or add notes in your phone. There is A LOT going on at these events, so as soon as you walk away from a vendor you are considering, record your thoughts. By the time you meet with 50-100 providers, you will might feel a little overwhelmed remembering who is who and does what. Make it easy for yourself. Step outside of their booth to record answers to questions you ask, get quotes for services, write ideas for thematic decor, etc.
Lots of water!
Some lunch or snack money. There is a lot of walking and talking going on. You and your entourage might enjoy lunch, or a break with a snack. Many events are held at hotels or convention centers with restaurants. Some are held in downtown areas near many restaurants. Before you leave for lunch, check with registration that you will be able to return after your meal or break.
Things to Consider:
Most weddings are held on Saturdays. There are only 52 Saturdays in a year, so if you have found a provider that you really like, book them. Chances are, if you are at a wedding expo, they are meeting with hundreds of couples just like you who are booking wedding professionals for their wedding as well. You don't want to lose the opportunity to get a provider you love by waiting until after the show. Most wedding professionals bring contracts with them to the show to secure dates with couples. Some might ask that you meet with them after the show to go over the details and sign a contract but will take a deposit to "hold the date" until your consultation.
If you have found a provider you like and they are already booked on the day of your wedding... ask them who they recommend. Most wedding professionals have a list of providers in their own field that they refer to in such situations.
Ask vendors if they have any "show discounts"
If you have not booked your wedding date yet and are seeking venues on a budget, ask venues if they have any "hard to book dates" that they would be willing to come down on price on. You never know. In your area, maybe November wedding dates are harder to book for venues and they are willing to shave some of the fees off if you book during off-peak dates.