Bridal Shows – Do’s and Don’ts

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.

Do’s:

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.

 

Don’ts:

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.

Best Value versus Price, which is really better?

As the old saying goes, “you get what you pay for”.  This is no different when you are planning a wedding.  In fact, if you are not careful, you can learn this lesson in a very practical and stressful way.  So what is the difference between value and price.  Price is the actual amount you pay for a good or service, the money out of your pocket.  Value is intangible, it is what is included in your price.  Example: You want to buy a new cocktail dress.  There are several stores where you can purchase this dress, and pricing can range from $50 to $500.  So where do you start, which one is the best value.  Well what is the occasion, is it something you are going to wear once or is this going to be the little black dress that you go to for any nice occasion for the next few years?  What is your budget (we are being realistic here, not everyone can go out and buy a $500 plus cocktail dress)?  What type of material looks best on you or cut and fit are you looking for?  These are all the questions you ask before making this purchase and then you decide which store/s you look at and therefore which dress you ultimately buy.

You need to approach finding vendors for your wedding in the same manner.  What do you want from each vendor?  What is your maximum budget for each service or product?  What experience do you want them to have?  Which services (3) are your highest priorities?  Once you determine all of this, then you set out to find the vendors that match your criteria and therefore provide you the best value for your event.

Price is not everything, if one caterer offers you a meal for $10 a person, but leaves out service, plates, set up, tear down, wait staff, etc., then their price holds no value if those services are wanted / needed for your event.  If a venue just offers a space and you need to bring in tables, chairs, linens, etc., then is it really worth the “discounted” price of the venue that includes all of those items?  I am always amazed at how many inquiries that we get that focus on low price only.  This is a sure fire way to be disappointed on a very special day.

So how do you stick to a budget and manage to select the right vendors for you?  First, be realistic.  The average wedding in the DFW area costs $27,500.  If you have this budget or higher, then your road is easier than most.  If you don’t have this budget then you must realistically prioritize your desires and manage your expectations.  Make sure you ask your vendors to include a list of services and items included in their price, and when comparing pricing of other vendors in the same category, make sure they are offering the same things.  If they aren’t and one of the services is important to you, call the vendor who does not detail the service and ask what the additional cost would be to add it.  Finally, read online reviews, go see their operations and really ask questions that insure you are getting what you want at the price offered.

Another great saying is, “Quality never costs, it only pays.”. Make sure you are not sacrificing quality for price.

Let them eat cake?

 

As a chef and a caterer, I am always being asked what new and exciting options are fun, tasty and “different”.  Well you don’t have to look any further than the age old tradition of the Wedding Cake.  Just like the days of the cake and punch only receptions are in the distant past, so is the idea that your reception is limited to a single dessert option.  Want to know where you can spend a little money and get a lot of wow?  Try a dessert station or bar.  From s’mores to ice cream sundae bars, the sky is the limit for your sweet tooth.  Dessert bars with several mini desserts or milk and cookies not only give your guests options, but they allow them the ability to try something different.  Now I know that the cake cutting is important to a lot of our brides, so if you are worried about this tradition, you can get a small ceremonial cake or ditch the Groom’s cake entirely and splurge on something delectable.  At A Sophisticated Affair, we have spent a lot of time and calories on coming up with amazing dessert bar options and ideas for our clients.  Below are a few examples of some of the dessert stations that satisfied sweetly.Dessert Bar with Milk20141012_233442928_iOS20141005_023104381_iOS20140920_230531717_iOS20140920_230102509_iOS