Since my recently-engaged sister is planning a New Jersey wedding from Virginia, my mom and I decided to attend a bridal show yesterday at The Imperia in Somerset, NJ, a venue she's interested in visiting. My mom and I are old pros at bridal shows now after attending several during my planning process. Here, our top tips for getting the most out of a show:
Choose Your Show Wisely
There are basically two types of shows: large expos held in convention centers, and smaller, localized shows held in wedding venues. Both have their pros and cons. At a larger convention-type show, you'll encounter many more vendors. I think expos are best if you're just starting out with the planning process, since there's such a plethora of information.
Meanwhile, shows held in wedding venues are a great way to experience how a venue handles an event. If you're interested in a particular venue, ask if it's hosting a bridal show in the near future. Not only will you often get to sample some of the food (yesterday we just had some hors d'oeuvres and cake, but we've attended shows where you get a full meal!), but you'll also get a look at some of their preferred vendors. While you're there, try to sneak a peek at the other rooms in the venue, and be sure to check out the grounds. My sister wants an outdoor cocktail hour, and having a nice place to take photos is important to her, so we made sure to scout that out for her.
As you visit the different tables, vendors are going to request your basic contact information. Save yourself a lot of time by printing out labels with your name, address, email address (see below), and wedding date (if you haven't chosen a date yet, put TBD). Not only does this give the vendor an easy way to reach you after the event, but it also enters you to win door prizes (one of the best things about attending shows!).
Make a Wedding-Only Email Address
Let's face it, just because you enter to win a door prize from a vendor doesn't mean that you're interested in any further contact with them. Creating a separate email address for wedding vendors eliminates the clutter from your regular inbox — my wedding email inbox has 1,500 unread emails, and they're still coming!
Bring a Tote Bag
When you check in, you'll typically be given a plastic bag to gather info folders, CD/DVD samples, and tons and tons of bridal magazines (we collected seven different ones yesterday!). All of that stuff getsheavy. Sometimes you'll get lucky and there will be a vendor giving out tote bags, but throw a small one in your purse just in case. You can also use your tote bag to save yourself a seat for the fashion show while you continue perusing vendors!
Stay for the Show
Most bridal shows have an entertainment portion, where a DJ or a band will perform and a local bridal boutique holds a fashion show. Even if you've already booked your entertainment or purchased your gown, it's still fun to stay for this part. You may get ideas about what songs to play at your wedding. Or you may find inspiration for bridal accessories. And more importantly, the door prizes are usually only announced after the show (can you tell I love the prizes?).
—Kristen O'Gorman Klein