It’s that time of year. When you brave the weather and go into the overwhelming world of the Bridal Show. Now there are a few things that you should know before braving these vendor and idea filled labyrinths. I have put together a list of Do’s and Don’ts to help you navigate and get the most out of your experience.
Create an e-mail address just for your wedding. This will not overwhelm your personal email. Once you decide which vendors you wish to communicate with, you can then give them your personal email address.
Bring with you at least two sheets of pre-made labels that have your name, your fiancé’s name, wedding date, location, e-mail address and phone number. Yes you can get there and they will make them for you, but they are expensive and you can spend a long time in line waiting and then they still may not be right.
Attend larger more comprehensive bridal shows. If the show is not in a large venue (i.e. convention center, market hall, exhibit halls, etc.), you could pay a lot of money and have access to only a very limited (and not established) vendors. Shows that are put on by local newspapers or large bridal show corporations are best. They spend the money on advertising and therefore have the ability to attract the most vendors who are established in the wedding industry.
Wear comfortable shoes and clothes. You can spend up to three hours navigating a large bridal show, do not make the mistake of form over function.
Prepare a list of what you are there to find. If you are just starting the planning process, then your number one focus will be venues. By writing this list and putting it in order of importance, you can easily look at the show guide and know where you need to go.
Eat before you get to the show and bring a bottle of water or two with you. The only food available at these shows for sale is concession stand food. Food samples from caterers (yes I am one, but I don’t bring food) are suspect given that the food is prepared very early (think 7-8 am) and then held until you arrive to try it. This leaves cake samples, which will put you in a sugar coma.
Know your budget. If you don’t know your budget, going to a bridal show will only net you a lot of information and wasted time going through it. Knowing this information will allow you to quickly decide if a vendor in the category you are looking at will work for you or not. (see budget blog for some ideas)
Give vendors time to talk to you. Even if you are not sure they have what you want, they are experts in something you are doing for the first time and can help point you in the right direction.
Write down the vendors that you like. You will be given so much information that it is easy to not remember the names of the companies you want to pursue for additional information. Better yet, when you have finished going through the whole show, if you have time, go back to the vendors that most interested you and set an appointment to meet or conference call with them.
If you are done in the planning process, don’t go to a bridal show. Vendors spend a lot of money to capture potential clients. If you have finished selecting everything, you are done and should not overwhelm yourself or your friends by fighting the gauntlet.
Don’t schedule an appointment with a vendor you know you will not keep just to placate them. Getting married means you are grown up and can assert yourself respectfully. If you are going to schedule a private meeting with a vendor, then make sure you put it in your calendar immediately.
Don’t register for mass drawings. You will be bombarded with e-mail spam forever.
Don’t bring a large entourage. I know wedding planning is fun and you want all of your friends to share in your bliss, but too many opinions can cloud your judgment. Also you can be easily distracted, and miss out on a great vendor. If you are going to a bridal show then make sure you have help, like your mom or best friend or fiancé, but don’t get carried away.
Don’t allow someone to take you away from a conversation you are having with a vendor. Unfortunately there are some pushy vendors out there who will literally try to grab you and force you to listen to their pitch. If this happens while you are speaking with another vendor, politely but forcefully tell them you will either be with them shortly or you are not interested given their sales tactics. Bridal Show management is trying to curb this behavior, but if you stand up to them, then they should stop on their own for fear of alienating potential clients.
Don’t leave without making sure you have all the information you came for. It can be six months before all of these vendors are in the same place again, and this is the best way to gather the most information without spending a lot of time and gas.