It's that time of year again and if you're recently engaged and planning your wedding, I'm sure you've already selected a few wedding shows in your area to attend. The great thing about wedding shows is you have a vast amount of vendors all under one roof to meet and cherry pick from. Not to mention all the fabulous decor and floral inspirations, fun photo booths, fashion shows of the newest bridal collections and of course all the tasty treats you get to sample! Yumm! With so much going on at Wedding Shows though, it can sometimes get a little overwhelming and before you know it you're back at home with a bag full of postcards/business cards and have no idea where to start! After seeing so many couples who have clearly been overloaded with information and no clue how to process it all, I've decided to share my 5 tips that I believe are the best ways to navigate wedding shows!
1. CHOOSE WEDDING SHOWS THAT YOU WILL RELATE TO!
I get it! You're super excited you're getting married and can't wait to get into the wonderful fantasy world of all things wedding so you can see it all and choose it all! If you're selecting wrong wedding shows to attend though, you're just setting yourself up for failure. You want to look at the Wedding Shows online presence and make sure it appeals to you. Look at the vendors participating, randomly select a few and check out their websites. This will give you an idea of the types of Vendors participating and whether or not you like their style. There's nothing worse than going into a Wedding Show full of excitement and charisma and leaving feeling bummed out because you weren't inspired and didn't like anything. Do your homework! You're going to spend a few hours of your day at the show so make sure it's worth it!
You also want to consider your budget when selecting wedding shows. Naturally, there are always going to be shows targeted to the DIY Couples, Average Couples and Higher End Couples. While you may not know your budget just yet, be realistic with yourself. Going to a DIY Wedding Show, when you know you don't have that sort of time to spare in your daily lives is just as bad as going to a High End Wedding Show to meet vendors you know you can't afford. Sure you can go just to get the inspiration but what happens when you fall in love with something and try to recreate it? If it's a DIY project and you have no time, it ends up incomplete and depending on what the project itself was, you may need a last minute replacement which can end up costing more! If it's something couture and you try getting another vendor to recreate it for you, you have to realize it rarely ever turns out the same, which could lead to unfair judgements of the hired vendor and disappointments for yourselves. Now don't get me wrong I don't mean to be harsh and I love to be inspired by attending all genres of weddings shows! After attending a few however, you will get overwhelmed and want to stop so make sure your initial ones are relevant to you as a couple so you truly benefit from them.
Now my last point on this topic is for cultural couples and same-sex couples. Let me start by saying I believe everyone has a culture regardless of where you were born, your colour, creed or race. So when I say cultural couples, I really mean everyone! Think about what culture you associate yourself with, whether you were born into it or grew into it later on in life. I believe weddings should be the perfect blend of cultures to be truly unique to each couple and showcase their love and life ahead. Now I am going to use generalized and broad terms for the sake of this article not getting to long, so before anyone starts firing off that the terminology is incorrect, please note that I am well aware of just how many different cultures fall under the Asian category for example, but we just don't have the time to go through them all. Now with that said, if you do find yourself associating with a South Asian, European, Caribbean, African, Asian, etc.(the list goes on) culture, you may want to add at least one of these wedding shows into your lineup. The reason being, you will get to meet specific vendors that cater to this market segment, who are specialists in that field and offer cultural services you may not be able to find at other Wedding Shows. For example, the chances of finding a Tassa Band are much more likely at a Caribbean Bridal Show the same way finding a Baarat Horse is much more likely at a South Asian Wedding Show. Make sense?
Now onto same-sex couples. Again, I truly believe everyone is free to love who they choose and should be able to do so freely. Sadly, not all members of our society feel this way and that goes for wedding vendors as well. It's important for same sex couples to feel just as comfortable as everyone else when planning the happiest day of their lives. Walking around a wedding show where you feel judged and shunned is not acceptable so please don't put yourselves in that position. Again, research the shows you are attending and see what their stance is on same-sex marriages? Most shows will clearly state if they are LGBTQ friendly as this is a growing market that is still underserved. You're more likely to find vendors with experience in this segment at these shows and have a better experience attending the show overall. Now this doesn't mean you shouldn't go to shows that don't state they are LGBTQ friendly and I personally think you still should! Just keep in mind that if you come across a vendor who is being ignorant towards you, move on to the next. Remember you only need 1 photography company, not 10 so it's a matter of finding that 1 that you click with and feel comfort. Again I don't mean to be harsh, but time after time I've seen same sex couples throw fits at wedding shows for lack of service and while you are totally in the right 100% and deserve the same level of service as anyone else, it only makes you look bad and overly sensitive to the fact. It also makes other vendors scared to work with you as some are just not sure of how to deal with LGBTQ couples and be politically correct. It doesn't make them terrible, they're just scared of things they do not know or have never done and that's human nature. You catch more bees with honey as they saying goes so like I said, if one vendor is giving you the cold shoulder, find someone else who will gladly share that honey of a wedding experience with you!
2. BRING A SUPPORT TEAM WITH YOU.
It can be easy to get lost in the world of weddings while at these shows and start making terrible decisions. Make sure you bring a support team with you that will be able to bring you back to reality and help you make good decisions. Now this doesn't mean bring your entire wedding party, because to many opinions can cause a much bigger problem! You want to choose people who understand you and your vision clearly and won't have a problem reeling you back into reality. Sometimes that can be your mom, your dad, your best friend, maybe even your siblings spouse! Whoever it is, that's the person you want with you! It's much more productive to have someone give you their honest opinion vs the "OMG that's so pretty! I love it too!" for every single thing you show interest in. Trust me you won't get anywhere with flattery in this case.
At the same time, you want to ensure your supporters are true supporters who have your best interest at heart. Time to get a little harsh again but the reality is weddings bring out the best and worst in people. You will quickly learn those who are genuinely happy for you and those who feel it to be more of a burden than a time of joy. Now for me personally I don't think you should surround yourself with negative supporters and understand it can be difficult when that person turns out to be a close family member or friend. In this case I strongly advise choosing your supporters wisely. For example, let's say it's your sister who's showing the negativity. Well maybe you want to limit your wedding show posse to just your mom or dad? Maybe just your future spouse? Or maybe just your maid of honour? If you're close with your future in-laws, maybe both the mom's? Or maybe you've hired a wedding coordinator and that's literally the perfect person to give you unbiased opinions while keeping you on track! The point is choose in a way that won't make it seem like you're singling out your sister. So what happens if you have another sister who's over the moon happy for you and you don't want to hurt her feelings either? Assign both the sisters a different task that day! The happy one will be thrilled to help in whatever way she can, keep the other one in check and boom no one's feelings get hurt! If there's a will there is always a way.
Lastly on this point, don't force your partner to go with you. I know I know, it's the beginning of "Us" and you want to do everything together but trust me if your partner isn't attending on their own free will, they will be be grumpy the entire time and throw your mood off as well. Remember, you're going to be meeting tons of vendors and you really do need to have the patience and willingness to do so. Only then will a person be able to properly assess if they like something or not. Sure at the beginning your partner may be more inclined to give opinions but take a long hard look at their faces after they've met 9 florists and are going on to number 10. Don't get me wrong, there's some couples that both share the same level of enthusiasm for their wedding and both want to be equally involved and if that's you, amazing! Tackle that wedding show together! If however you fall into the more common category of one partner more excited about the fine details and the other just wants to be married, do yourselves a favour and don't force them to go with you! Of course you should still ask and if they say yes they'll go great! But do be mindful of them while there and let them take breaks and wander off when they need to. If they say no, respect that, do a little re-con on your own with your posse and come back to show them your short-lists. It'll be much easier for them to help you choose between 3 vendors you love vs 10 and this way they won't be overwhelmed.
3. SAMPLE IT ALL!
I know for many of you the first thing that pops into your mind right after getting engaged is "I need to loose weight for the wedding!" It's an admirable and doable goal with determination but please don't starve yourselves! Many vendors at wedding shows will have samples for you to taste when it comes to things like cake, specialty desserts, snack bars, late night stations, food trucks, cocktails and so much more! How often are you going to have a chance to taste it all in one place? Take advantage of it! Unless you're literally finding a wedding show every day to attend to just to eat samples, go back for seconds and thirds and go to Costco on non-wedding show days to eat samples (in which case you may have a problem,) trust me it's not going to make a difference in your weight loss journey. Besides, if you're going to invest the money in treats for your guests and yourselves don't you want to at least enjoy it? How will you ever know unless you try it! Yes it may look beautiful and unique but if it taste bad, trust me that's all people will be talking about at your wedding. Now I do believe you should do you but if you're going to spend the money on it make sure it's edible! Treat it like a cheat day, treat it like a fat day, I don't care what you label it as but indulge yourself and make sure to take notes on what you liked and what you didn't like.
Thinking of having a pop up photobooth? Awesome! Try it out at the show. Don't just walk by and get their card, get your photo taken. You want to see the quality of the photos being printed, the props being used, etc. Like many other vendor categories, there's so many photobooth options out there and you want to make sure your investment is going towards the best quality it can buy! So strike a pose or a few but make sure you try the product before you decide.
The same goes for DJs! It's so tough to really gather if a DJ can in fact play the genre of music you like at shows since they can't really do a live demo for you. Most DJs will however give out sample CDs that contain mixed portions showcasing the types of genres they work with. I like to take these CDs and play them in my car. You can really blast it in an enclosed space, close your eyes and listen to the transitions. Are they smooth? Do you like the way the music flows? Do you feel energized for a party vibe if that's what you're going for or do you feel relaxed and calm if that's more your scene? Either way you want to get that demo CD. Many DJs are also available on Podcasts so if they don't have a CD, ask them to send you a Podcast mix of the genre you want. Music can really set the tone for your wedding so you definitely want to make sure you're sampling this before you make a decision.
4. MAKE APPOINTMENTS WITH VENDORS YOU LIKE.
Yes, this may seem a little early to be doing but you know what I've noticed? After attending wedding shows, 1 of 2 things usually happen. Either you get home, get lazy just by looking at your overstuffed bag of pamphlets and put it to the side to be forgotten about until recycling day a few weeks later. Or you dive right into it and start sorting out by vendors, except you can't exactly remember who's who and who you really liked to get in touch with, so you either scratch it all or contact everyone and start right back from scratch. Either way, it becomes more of a waste of your time than productive wedding planning. This is why I say make appointments at the show!
I'm a huge believer in feeling a connection with people you want to work with. If you're talking to someone and you really like their style, ask them for an appointment! That vendor is going to be thrilled to pencil you in and will follow up with you to confirm after the show. This means, after the show you just need to check your email and re-meet the vendors you've already narrowed it down to for a one on one get to know you session. This is so much easier than trying to make sense of a bag full of postcards and business cards. If something comes up and you can't make the appointment anymore, you can always reschedule with them but at least now you've started the conversation and the initial contact after the show has already been made.
Now maybe you were in a rush and didn't get a chance to talk to all the vendors you wanted to or don't know your schedule to set appointments just yet and you just grabbed their stationery instead. That's okay! This is why I suggest only taking information from vendors you have an initial interest in. When you're walking around the shows, vendors will be standing there handing it all out and it's human nature to take what's being handed to you. If for example you've already booked a makeup artist, don't take their information if you don't need it. It makes your bag heavier to walk around with and you're just going to toss it when you get home. If you pass by a videographers booth and see their videos being played on a screen which don't make you immediately fall in love with their work, don't take their information. They display their best work and if it that's not good enough for your personal taste, that's okay, you'll find someone else who's style is more you.
The same goes for vendors that you actually have an interaction with time permitting. I can't stress enough how important I think it is to speak to the vendors and get to know what they offer. It's completely different hearing it from someone vs reading it on a card. If you speak to a vendor and you don't like their attitude, something rubs you the wrong, or it just doesn't feel right, don't be afraid to reject their pamphlet or even put it back if you've already taken it. What's the worse that will happen? A vendor you have no intention of working with may call you a name in their heads? So what? Move on to the next and only take information from vendors you truly like. This way when you get home you've already got the creme de la creme to set appointments with and be truly wowed by your meetings with them. Remember the best of the best get booked up soon so make those meeting sooner than later!
5. HAVE FUN!
Okay this may seem like a no brainer but I can't stress enough how many couples I've seen at wedding shows with the sternest of faces! Seriously, lighten up you're getting married! Woot woot! Trust me I know how stressful it can be when trying to make all these decisions and you may have background thoughts while at the shows such as "How are we going to pay for this?" "Will our parents approve?" "Our wedding should be unique but it all looks the same," etc. Live in the moment! All those worries will be there for another day for you to overcome. Just enjoy yourselves and revel in the fact that every single vendor is looking to spoil and treat you like royalty!
Hopefully now you'll feel a little more prepared for the Wedding Shows you will be attending! Remember to choose the ones best suited for you, take a good support team with you, sample it all, make appointments and live in the moment! Best of Luck and Happy Vendor Hunting!
P.S. Take a sturdy bag with you to collect samples and cards. There's nothing worse than having your bag fall apart on you while there!