It’s that time of year again.  Brides are descending on hotel ballrooms and civic center exhibition halls around the US looking for details that will make their wedding stand out from all the rest.

To anyone who’s never been to a bridal fair the experience can be overwhelming.  Rows and rows of booths full of photos, videos, food, flowers, decorations and obnoxious DJ’s are all battling for the bride’s attention and money.

Full disclosure – I don’t participate in bridal shows any more… for now (see #3 below), but below is some tips on making the time spent a bit more productive and pleasurable.

  1. Have a plan – Most of the bridal fairs have websites or Facebook pages dedicated to the vendors that will be attending the show.  Find the ones you absolutely want to see and even find them on the venue map if possible.  That way you can get to all of them first before you get distracted by other vendors.
  2. Bring your documentation (and checkbook) – Have calendars, lists, venue info and anything else you think may be valuable to some of the vendors.  DJ’s will ask how the room is set up.  Decorators will want to know dimensions if they uplight.  And if you decide to book right then and there, many vendors still don’t take credit/debit cards so bring a checkbook.
    Oh, and another great suggestion I saw recently was to bring pre-printed mailing labels.  Use them instead of hand-writing all of the raffle entries and other signup forms you may encounter.
  3. Remember that not all vendors are at the show – Like myself, some wedding vendors have decided not to attend bridal shows for one reason or another.  In my case, I’m a one-man operation who already runs about 30 shows a year.   Until I’m ready to expand, that’s about all I want  to handle, so setting up to book more shows is hard for me to justify.  Don’t feel pressured to book on the spot if you haven’t found the perfect fit for you day.  Do more checking with friends, family and through other sources to find vendors who possibly are not in attendance.
  4. Plan on being there for at least two hours – Like it or not, this will be the most productive two hours you spend planning your wedding.  There’s so much right at your fingertips.
  5. Ask questions – Don’t just let the vendors spew information at you with their sales pitch.  You know what you want for your big day, so ask them if they are possible to do it, or if they have alternate suggestions.  Also, don’t hesitate to use these professionals as a resource for finding other vendors.  There are decorators and photographers I see and would recommend, and I know everyone else feels the same way.
  6. HAVE FUN!! – bring your friends, bridesmaids, family and anyone else that may have a good time with you at this event.  Stop on the way and have lunch and a drink before heading to the venue.  Break out in dance when you pass a DJ’s booth playing upbeat music.  Test out the photo booth.  Make it a girl’s night out later that evening.  Planning a wedding is hard, stressful work, so take this opportunity to lighten the mood and make it a positive day.

Have any other suggestions for future brides heading to a bridal fair?  Post them below in the comments section.