As you all know by now I recently got engaged (Yay! Thanks for all the well-wishes – much appreciated!). Literally the day after I got my rock, I learned that San Antonio had a wedding expo planned a few weeks later. I was bit leery of attending a wedding fair (I used to be a buyer for a sporting goods store and always found expos and fairs super overwhelming) but decided to ask my best friend to attend it with me (I knew that the groom would not be interested at all – in fact, he couldn't stop thanking my bestie for going with me!). So we went. And Oh. My. God. – was it an experience…
First, these fairs are no joke – there are a BUTTLOAD of vendors there and it is crowded and LOUD. It truly is an amazing opportunity to find the perfect service provider, venue, or score a most excellent deal. In fact, my BF actually found her venue and vendors at a wedding expo and she couldn’t have been happier with them! However, wedding fairs can quickly become daunting and confusing – so come prepared. Here’s a few tips and bits of advice that I gleaned from my wedding expo experience.
Do your homework. Visit the expo’s website and download directions, read through the FAQs for tips and suggestions, and know the entrance fee. Also helpful, establish objectives or priorities before you go. Decide what you are trying to get from the show so that you can make sure to concentrate on those needs – these HUGE expos can get overwhelming quickly so having a plan is essential. For example, my wedding fair priorities were: to find and book a photographer, to scout rental supply companies, and to find a few potential cake vendors (should we decide to use one).
Take one person with you. Take a person who genuinely wants to go with you and be your assistant. This person might be the groom, or your mom, or a member of the wedding party. DO NOT take someone who’s not interested, in a stroller/grade school, not going to help you make decisions, or going to try to pressure you to do things you don’t want. I took my best friend and matron of honor – she was amazing (seriously, I should rent her out to brides everywhere!). She brought an extra bag (for free stuff and brochures), kept my priorities in mind, helped find vendors that met my needs, reminded me to stop for breaks, and kept track of the time and event scheduling. I am so grateful that I took her with me since she provided a calm and unbiased opinion when I needed one. Plus, she was an excellent pack mule (dude, it is seriously not funny how much crap you get at these things!).
Dress appropriately. Wear comfy shoes that you’d be willing to walk a mile in and layers (the temperature will fluctuate a lot during the show and you’ll want to be able to remove/add clothing as necessary). NOT APPROPRIATE for a wedding fair? Ill-fitting tube tops, visible thongs (or NO undies – not cool for the people behind you when you bend over!), an actual wedding dress, or 5” stiletto boots (I cannot believe that I actually saw these things at the expo. Actually, I cannot believe that anyone has to be reminded NOT to wear these things to an expo).
Take a pen and a bag. You’ll get TONS of paperwork and samples at an expo. You need an easy-to-haul-around bag to carry everything in and a pen to make notes (we forgot a pen – luckily, one of the venue ladies gave us one!). We actually took two bags (one per person) and created a little system for organizing the massive amounts of paperwork. In my bag went the flyers/business cards of the vendors I was truly interested in and into her bag went everyone else (even if you say no – they still shove things in your hand).
Take breaks. Leave the venue and take a breather. This will allow you to clear your head, drink some water, eat a snack, discuss what you have seen already, and make some decisions. Also, after all that walking – it’s really nice to take a load off for a few minutes.
Only have the bride be the bride. At this expo, each bride was given a sticker to wear to signal to vendors that that was the person to give samples to. So, my best friend snagged an extra to wear so we could both score freebies. Um, this totally back-fired on us because everyone assumed that we were marrying each other! And while I would love to marry my best friend – we both really enjoy sex with men too much to commit to that. She removed the sticker because we both felt really unethical allowing people to think we were marrying each other. It’s kinda like this – when planning your wedding, it’s best to be upfront about your religion, your budget, and the gender of your significant other. Don’t fake being something you’re not just to nab an extra piece of cake. I don’t care if it is chocolate.
Go with your gut. I actually fell in love with five photographers that I found at the expo. After a short break, my best friend and I were able to eliminate three of the five because they were just out of my budget comfort zone (you know, within your budget but makes your skin crawl a bit). So that left me with two – I actually went back and interviewed each one. I was totally up-front and told them that my decision was down to two vendors and I was hoping to ask a few questions to help me make my decision. Interestingly enough – both vendors were totally cool with this approach. So I sat down and asked each vendor the same questions and really listened to their responses. In the end, I was really happy with both vendors but as I walked away – I just knew, in my gut which one I should pick. Both were super talented and affordable but I really just clicked with that one. So I hired her. Sometimes, your gut just knows.
Take your checkbook. Many vendors have items for sale at these shows (and at great day-only prices!) or special show booking promotions only for people who put down a deposit that day. That’s actually how I found my dream photographer. I happened to stroll past her booth and was impressed with her images – I was able to book her for my wedding date on-the-spot because I had my checkbook in my hands. Do not lose the opportunity to hire your “must-have” vendor or score a fabulous deal because you came unarmed for monetary battle!
Looking for a wedding expo in your area? Check your local newspapers or type “wedding expo [your location]’ into your favorite search engine – something’s bound to come up. So, have you been to a wedding expo before? Any tips or advice to add for those planning on attending one?