Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bridal (Af)Fair

Have you ever been to a Bridal Fair? Oh. My. God.

My first Bridal Fair was last April, when I was newly-engaged, mostly vendorless, and still in the process of forming a wedding vision. Mama Goodlaff, Sister Goodlaff, and I headed over to the Folsom Bridal Show in search of...well, if I'm being honest, we weren't really looking for anything.  We went because the shiny ring on my finger gave us an excuse to venture into once-forbidden territory; it was a bridal fair and I was a bride, 'nuff said.

Upon arrival, the fair organizers gave me a goody bag (bubbles!), a vendor bingo card with the promise of being able to spin the wheel for a fabulous prize, and shuffled the three of us out the door and into the main hall.  That's when I learned that a bridal fair isn't champagne and roses--it's barely controlled wedding vendor chaos.  The Yellow Pages come to life and there's row after row of real, live vendors desperate to talk to you, all peddling their wares and services, and after a while, it becomes total bridal overload--especially when you don't know what you're looking for.  I talked to photographers, bakers, DJ's,  caterers, wedding planners, florists, and spa owners. I wrote my name and contact information dozens of times to enter a drawing for "insert a free something for the lucky winner here".

I had two great finds at the bridal show, and a walked away having learned a few major lessons. One, I discovered and fell in love with the Photobooth idea.

Seriously, what's not to love?  (And we're not even liquored up!)

Two, I found my bridesmaid dresses.  They are the most perfect shade of blue on the planet.  Really.

And as for the lessons: go prepared and have a plan.

One of the reasons I was so overwhelmed at the bridal show was because I didn't have a plan. I wasn't looking for anything specific, and so I was looking at everything.  My advice?  Prioritize your wedding needs, figure out what you need in advance, and focus on those elements.  Desperately in need of a DJ and a florist?  Talk to the DJ's and Florists.  Sometimes those vendors look at you with puppy dog eyes, and if you're like me, then you feel bad if no one is visiting their booth (can you say sucker?).  Don't feel sorry, just move along. 

Do a little bit of homework before you go.  Trust me, it will be worth it.  As the three Goodlaffs ( Miss, Mama, and Sister) were getting writer's cramp from filling out all the little cards for vendor giveaways, I saw one incredibly smart bride walking around with a page full of pre-printed labels with her contact information.  She just stuck her label on a card and walked away.  Genius.

Bridal shows are also a great place to chat with a lot of vendors at one time and see who fits best with the wedding you're trying to create. Before you go to a bridal show, check out the list of vendors (if there is one) and see if any vendors you're interested in will be there.  Research them ahead of time, see what other brides have to say. Most of the vendors I talked to had a show special, and in order to get the special pricing, you had to commit right there and then.  You may come across a good deal, but are you going to book a vendor without knowing how other brides felt about them?  No.  If you go prepared, you can book vendors with killer show specials right on the spot. 

Mama Goodlaff just told me today about another bridal show coming up this weekend.  You can bet that if we go, I will be taking my own advice!

What tips do you have for bridal show attendees?

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