I recently had the pleasure of representing my favorite St. Lucian hotel, The Landings, at Houston’s Bridal Extravaganza and boy oh boy did I learn A LOT. I toured the aisles, met other vendors, and gleaned some tips for you from passing brides! Plus – read on for a bridal expo pros and cons interview from a real bride.
Bridal Expos can be huge and overwhelming. Bridal shows in big cities, like the one I attended in Houston will have anywhere from 600 to over 1000 vendors (the booth numbers at the Houston show went closer to 2000) so it’s important to go in prepared!
BEFORE YOU GO:
– Have some idea of what you want for your wedding. The more you can narrow down your vision, the better off you’ll be.
– Determine 3 areas of your wedding you’d like to find vendors for, and seek those out at the bridal show. Skip the others or save them for last.
– Ask a friend, mother, sister, or your fiancé to come along. You’ll need that extra set of hands and eyes. You could even make an event out of it (bridesmaids in matching shirts kind of deal).
– Pack snacks. They’ll likely have food (and drinks), but it’s convention center food.
– Bring tote bags. You’ll have plenty to go into them. You can delegate one bag to the YES vendors and another to the ‘I’ll think about it.’
– Print sticky address labels with your name, wedding date, and email. You can use these to stick on giveaway slips instead of filling all that info out at every booth you go to.
– Speaking of email, you may want to set up a wedding only email account. Use this email to keep all your wedding related stuff in one spot.
– Have your budget set. Set thresholds for venue, photographer, details, dress etc. This will help you narrow down vendors at the expo.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE
– Stay focused. There’s going to be a vendor, venue, cake, and dress style for every type of bride. Don’t go in sure of your modern, chic wedding and come out with information for a shabby chic venue with a horse drawn carriage.
– Take breaks. These are important because it’s exhausting, there’s a lot to take in, and you want time to digest some of what you see. Plus hydrate.
– Watch the fashion shows (they’re fun!)
– Only enter the giveaways from vendors you’re actually interested in. I had a unique perspective on this from representing a vendor there. Trust me. If you show no interest in what we provide or do, your giveaway slip is going in the garbage. Sorry, just keepin’ it real ladies. Oh you want a free trip to St. Lucia but you already booked your venue and your honeymoon? Mmmmhm.
– Sample cakes
– Don’t stress if you can’t find everything / everyone you wanted. You likely won’t. Keep in mind that some dream wedding vendors might have weddings booked for the expo weekend so they’re not there or they attended another expo (Houston has one every few months) recently, or it’s just not a part of their marketing plan.
– Have a good time!
AFTER THE EXPO
– Dump the content of those totes into piles and start getting in touch with vendors in the YES pile. Set up appointments for some one-on-one time.
– Check your email frequently. You may have won a giveaway!
INTERVIEW WITH A REAL BRIDE AT HOUSTON’S BRIDAL EXTRAVAGANZA
How many vendors did you already have for your wedding before attending the show and which ones did you find (if any) while there?
We did not have any vendors booked prior to the show. We only toured two venues beforehand and only saw one there. We did research a lot of vendors but only saw maybe about a fourth of them there.
What was overwhelming about the expo?
The crowds, the vendors and the layout. There were a lot of people there that seemed like they knew what they wanted and what they were doing which was a little intimidating at first. Some vendors were pretty pushy and somehow compelled you to do what they asked. Lastly, the layout was like a labyrinth. All the vendors were dispersed randomly so if you were only looking for one particular vendor like a photographer, you had to walk down all the aisles to find all the different ones so you could compare.
What was underwhelming about the expo?
The vendors and the presentation. It could have just been me having ridiculous expectations but mine were not met. Some vendors were a little pushy. Also, we read that there would be several food samples and there was little to none. It is not a big deal, but when you expect there to be a lot to try, it is disappointing.
For the presentation, some vendors went all out and displayed their products or had several pictures to get an idea but it felt majority did not. I wanted the extravaganza to be a one stop shop. I did not want to have to go back and research the vendor to find that the venue’s theme was not what I wanted or it was out of my budget.
If you were to attend another – what would you do differently?
I would definitely go in with more of a game plan versus just going to get ideas. I would also have a set budget for my overall wedding and specific vendors.
If there was a list of full vendors and I had the time, I would research them a little beforehand. That way I could go to the ones I was truly interested in and could afford.
If I was going with a group, I would divide and conquer and prepare a list of questions that I would want answered as well.
Any tips for newly engaged couples who will be attending a bridal expo soon?
The bridal extravaganza can be viewed as a one-stop shop or a place to get ideas, it depends on how you want to use it:
– If you want everything to be booked right there, especially since a lot of vendors offer certain specials for booking at the show, I would suggest researching them first. I also recommend creating a range for your budget for specific vendors and sticking to it since there are a lot of great vendors that are expensive.
– If you are going to get ideas, I would still recommend going with at least a general idea of what you want to prevent from getting overwhelmed.
– Don’t be afraid to ask any questions, even price. I read that it was bad form to ask quotes at the show but most were advertising their prices so I did not hesitate. They can’t give you definitive numbers but most can give you an idea.
– Do print labels with your info but don’t print out a hundreds if you do not plan on giving every booth your info. For example, one hundred labels is too much in my opinion.
– Do get the free bags to divide the fliers into ones you like and ones you don’t like. I also suggest jotting notes on them to help jog your memory so also bring something to write with. Bring a backpack if you want to be able to free up your hands.
– Wear comfortable shoes and comfortable clothing.
– Enjoy yourself!
I’d like to give a BIG thank you to my bride-to-be interviewee, who wished to remain anonymous. Her insights are greatly appreciated! So, what tips and tricks for surviving a wedding expo would you add to the list? Leave a comment below!