It's engagement season, which means it's also wedding show season! Wedding shows and bridal fairs pop up everywhere, and while they're super fun and practically a rite of passage for the newly engaged, they can also be overwhelming and time consuming.
There's lots of advice out there, and you may have even heard of people doing things like pre-printing address labels and entering every giveaway offered (twice). If that's your jam, great, go crazy! But having a bit more of a plan than 'I'm-hoping-to-win-my-entire-wedding-for-free' will go a long way.
Here's how to survive!
1. Pick 1 or 2 shows. There are a lot of wedding shows in the area. Similar to dress shopping, it can get overwhelming FAST. Pick 1 or 2 to go to and skip the rest. We're slightly bias, but we love Bride's Night at Barrister as a top pick ;)
2. Know what you're looking for. Whether you're just gathering info on ALL your options, or specifically looking for a cake baker, know what you're out looking for, and stick to it. Don't get distracted or sucked in if you already have a great photographer booked or you've already reserved your rentals. Stay on task and stay focused! It'll make the whole experience far less overwhelming.
3. Be honest! If you're not interested in a vendor, they're out of your price range, or it's just not your thing, just be honest! Don't lead them on and make them think that if they give you their whole schpeil, you'll book. You're doing them a disservice and wasting your own time. It's totally okay to just politely say no thank you. They respect that some people just come for the free cake and people watching (as long as you're honest about it!).
4. Come prepared. If you NEED to book a photographer ASAP, be prepared to share your wedding date and the amount you're hoping to spend. If you're just putting out feelers for a place to rent linens from for your wedding that isn't for 2 years, be honest about your timeline and commitment process. If you just came for the free cake samples and giveaways, just say so! Be up front and honest with vendors and yourself in what you're hoping to accomplish. Vendors aren't there to scam you or convince you to spend your money if you don't want to, so know what you need, be honest and keep it realistic.
5. Don't show up hungry. No good comes from being hangry. But do save some room for that free cake!
6. Keep your squad small. While it can sound fun to bring your mom, sister-in-law-to-be, all your bridesmaids, your cousin that got married last year, your aunt who is REALLY good at staying organized and your flower girl, too many cooks in the kitchen is a recipe for disaster. Pick one or two trusted people to bring to each show and keep the squad small. It'll be less overwhelming and allow you to think clearly.
7. Pre-register if you can. If the show gives the option, pre buy your ticket and pre register. It'll save you a ton of time, and maybe even some money, at the door!
8. Be prepared to book. If you are seriously shopping for something, be prepared to put some money where your mouth is. Most vendors offer substantial discounts if you book while at the show, so if you ARE in the market to make a serious commitment, be ready to put down a deposit. We've all used the 'I have to talk to my finance first' line a million times, but if you really want a good discount, be ready to sign on the dotted line for whatever you're shopping for.
9. Know your limits and know what to ask. Nothing irritates a vendor more than hearing 'I'm not really sure what I want to spend'. Know what your budget is, and what you're hoping to get for it! It's okay to say something along the lines of 'I'd like to spend XX amount, but I'm not sure if that's realistic for what I want.' but have a general idea of the ballpark you'd like to be in. Otherwise, you're going to get a TON of conflicting information and opinions, and not much crossed off that to do list. Similarly, know what questions to ask. If having experience cooking ethnic food is important to you, be ready to ask the caterer if they have it. If you want a photographer that brings a second shooter, be ready to ask if the one you're talking to does! You don't have to have it ALL figured out, but having a general idea of where you're at in the process and what you're looking for is the best way to stay on track.
So whether you're just there for free cake and to get an idea of exactly how much a wedding venue SHOULD cost, or you're ready to say 'I do' to a videographer TODAY, following these tips will help you stay focused, productive and NOT feeling like you're ready to run to the courthouse (unless that's already your plan!).