It’s Bridal Show time!!
My local show, the Lake of the Ozarks Bridal Show (#LakeBridalShow, if you hashtag) happens every February. Well, this will only be the second February that we are hosting, but we rocked our first one, so there will be many, many more February shows to come. I am surrounded by some pretty amazing and creative wedding pros here at the Lake.
Unless you have been to shows as a friend of a bride in the past or work in the industry, this whole world is probably new to you. A bridal show is a magical place where you can find someone to fulfill every aspect of your wedding planning checklist, that is, if you know how to look. Go in blind, and you may leave more confused than you came in.
It can be overwhelming to have so much information thrown at you all at once, not to mention all of the vendors giving you all of the reasons that they think they are the right fit for your particular wedding. Here are a few tips and tricks to hopefully help you navigate the maze of booths and come out confident and possibly, in a perfect world, with everything booked!!
HAVE FUN WITH IT!!!!!!
Most of the lists that I researched saved this tip for the end. I want to begin with it, hoping that you will keep this in mind while you read. Bring along a helpful (yet fun) friend or two, or your fiance if he fits this description, and enjoy the process.
Before the show...
Before the show, check out it's website. Look over the list of vendors, research them a little, and know who you really want to see that day. Visit those booths first, and then go up and down each aisle and check out as many more as you can. You never know when you will discover a new idea or a vendor you didn't expect to like but immediately click with. Have some quesitons ready to ask. Now is a great time to get advice from the experts, and their answers will tell you a lot aobut them. Also, look at the show schedule and know when the fashion show and other events will be going on.
SET UP A TEMPORARY EMAIL ADDRESS.
You will start receiving all kinds of emails from loads of vendors once you share your information with them, which is generally required if you want to register for that awesome prize that they are giving away. Setting up a special email account especially for these will keep your regular email address free from lots of “junk mail” after the wedding. If there are any businesses that you would like to keep in touch with for other events in your life, be sure to give them your regular email later.
PRINT SPECIAL WEDDING ADDRESS LABELS.
There will be tons of cool stuff to sign up to win, but your hand will cramp up and be useless if you have to write all of your info out at every single booth. Your labels need to include the bride’s name, groom’s name, and your wedding date. Next be sure to add a way to get in touch with you, either email, phone number, or preferably both. If you don’t make labels, PRINT NEATLY!! If they can’t read your name or number, you may not get to accept that fancy honeymoon you could have won.
Grab a few things on your way out the door...
BRING YOUR DATEBOOK.
There will be vendors that you will want to speak with in more detail than you are able to do in a crowded room full of brides who are also wanting their attention. Set up a future meeting right then and there.
BRING YOUR CHECKBOOK.
I know, I know, who writes checks anymore? Well, some smaller vendors may not be able to take plastic, and when you meet a vendor that you know is without a doubt “the one,” you will want to put down a deposit and lock in your date. The best wedding pros will book up quickly, especially venues and photographers. A bit of pre-show research on the vendors will add confidence to any buying decisions.
HAVE SOME SPENDING MONEY.
At some shows, you may need a bit of cash for extras like parking, drinks or snacks, coat check, etc… and there isn’t always an ATM handy.
SOMETHING (& SOMEONE) TO TAKE NOTES.
Make sure to have a pen & paper handy to write down the extra-special things that you know you will want to remember later. You can even use your phone to snap a pic of that vendor you really liked so that you have a face to go with the name. It also helps to jot down your impressions of a certain vendor directly on the back of their business card. This way you know exactly what you thought of that person without having to sift through your memory of all of the people that you spoke to throughout the day. And hey, use that helpful (yet fun) friend that you brought along with you. They can write notes for you, fill out contest forms, and gather literature while you use your time to chat with the vendors.
BAG FOR V.I.P. INFO.
You will most likely get a bag to collect literature as you enter the show, possibly a few of them. Bring along a bag, folder, or something of your own to keep the cards and info that you know you will be needing later separate. Toss all of the other stuff into the not-so-important bag, but don’t immediately throw it away when you get home. It’s wise to keep the extra vendor info in case one that you plan on using doesn't work out and you need a backup, or if your budget magically grows and you can add an extra service you originally didn't plan on.
While you are there...
WEAR COMFY SHOES. Sure, those brand new sparkly heels sitting in your closet have been waiting for an excuse to step out with you and your girlfriends, but today is NOT the day. Slip on those comfy tennis shoes, your pedometer, and chalk today up as a workout... with cake & wine!!
LIMIT YOUR FOOD SAMPLE INTAKE. Sure that cake looks delicious... and that one... and oooh, the other one too… but after you try a piece at every booth you will be too full to keep walking, and don’t forget about the inevitable sugar rush. Bring along a water bottle, and maybe even pack a small snack in your purse. These things may or may not be available at the show, but a 50-cent water bottle will cost you $2-$3.
KEEP YOUR BUDGET IN MIND. Don’t be too quick with those checkbooks!! There will be a lot of very, VERY, good specials offered at many of the booths. You shouldn't feel pressured to act too quickly. If you are interested, ask if the vendor can offer you the same special if you schedule a future meeting and book at that.
REALLY TALK TO THE VENDORS. I see so many brides sneak a peek at a booth and then scurry quickly past before the vendor can get out a hello. Stop, say hi, and start asking questions!! That’s the reason you are here, and it’s the best way to find out if this person is the right fit for you. Are they too pushy? Simply say thank you and move on. If you can’t get away from them, use your helpful (yet fun) friend to do this dirty work for you. They can drag you away or jump between the two of you while you make a break for it!!
TAKE YOUR TIME. The show will be, at the very least, 3 or 4 hours long. There is no need to rush quickly up and down the aisles. Really look at the displays, hear what the pros have to say, and leave yourself time to take a break here and there to process what you are seeing. Another time saving tip- if you have no interest in the fashion show, it’s the best time to talk to your favorite vendors. The bulk of the crowd will be watching the show and you will have many of the booths all to yourself.
And once again, most importantly...
HAVE FUN WITH IT!!!!!!
If you can’t have a little fun during the planning process, then you are doing it wrong. Sure, there will be some stress along the way, but always remember the reason this is all happening, take a deep breath, and remember to enjoy it.