I am a first time exhibitor at the Richmond Wedding Expo on Sunday January 15. Sarah was my bride last year and will be with me helping me in my booth on Sunday. I had never attended a bridal show as a prospective bride. When I did go to bridal shows for different reasons I was extremely overwhelmed as I’m sure most perspective brides feel when they go to their first bridal show. I had the opportunity to talk with Sarah and another one of my brides, Jacwana, who both had some advice for perspective brides attending a bridal show.
Sarah’s Experience –
"I attended a bridal expo years ago with a bride to be. I did not attend one as a bride myself. The only thing I remember from going with my friend was the overwhelming nature of being there and not knowing EXACTLY what you need before going. For example, she knew she wanted/could afford a DJ but was consistently drawn in to vendors promising live music. She also was looking for a photographer at the time but we got so bogged down with catering that we never got to meet any photographers.
My advice, based on my very minimal experience, would be to go to an expo with one of two mindsets.
1) Go in the VERY early stages of your engagement just to see what all is out there and get ideas of what you want with no anticipation to book or lock anything down
2) Go with a very specific list of needs and try to spend your time on only those needs/vendors so you don't get overwhelmed and waste your day.
I don't know if that helps or not but that was my experience. As a bride myself, I had it easy having a small gathering and no DJ, caterer, wedding planner, etc. but most people want those services.
Jacwana’s Experience –
"I learned by trial and error but my tips are:
1) Do as much research on the expo as possible before you go - make sure it has the type of vendors you are interested in, verify it's layout (you can map out vendors you may want to see in priority order and logical walking order, so if you get tired or need to leave early or if you just run out of time you see your "most wanted" ones first)
2) Make a note of the expo 'theme.' Some expos take place at wedding venues in order to allow you to see what it would be like to get married there (these were my favs).
3) Write down as much as you can on your own wedding. It's fine if you haven't made final decisions yet, ideas will do. If you know your colors or whether you want a vintage versus a modern wedding, you'll be able to explain this to vendors and weed out those that don't offer what you're looking for.
4) Make a list of questions you may want to ask vendors beforehand. Bring them on a notepad, which will allow you to remember key vendors and rank them later.
5) Make a bag large enough to throw in all the giveaway items (you'll get lots of cool swag!)
6) If possible, take pre-printed labels with you that include your name, fiance's name, address, phone number, email and wedding date (nearly ALL vendors will ask you for this info so it helps you to get through the process quicker and saves your hand from hurting from having to write it down in their contact book.
7) Try to go to expos that are close to the area where you will get married. It's more convenient to get local vendors than to pay travel fees. Take girlfriends or the future hubby if possible but not too many people. Too many opinions usually leads to you feeling overwhelmed. Your wedding day is about you and what you want so always go with your gut. If a vendor is not very receptive upon first meeting them, they probably will offer you similar service later. Who needs that on the big day!?
Try to identify a ballpark budget and how much you'd like to spend on each vendor/category of your wedding. This will also help to narrow down choices, rank vendors, and prioritize based on services that vendors offer (or don't).