What to Expect at Bridal Expos

Bridal Expos, to go or not to go, that is the question! They can be small with a handful of vendors, or they can be huge with hundreds of vendors, and over 8,000 attendees!  Yikes! Here are some tips and advice to help you when attending your first wedding expo experience. 

Why go to these expos, anyway? 
Well, its really your "one-stop-shop" concerning all the matters of your wedding planning events.  You will be able to meet with photographers, dj's, entertainers, caterers, venues, florists, you name it. If its wedding related, you'll find it all here.  Even wine tastings, which can be a welcome booth to stumble upon when you're about to lose it.

What's in it for you as the bride? 
Many of the wedding expos enable you to enter to win a wedding gown, a honeymoon package, and other things.  You have to register with your wedding date, name, and email to attend the expos, by the way.  There might be a fashion show, and if you are in attendance, your name might be picked to win a gown, and announced there.  There are also trinkets/freebies to pick up, business cards and flyers to gather, and other "of interest" items vendors want you to have for visiting their booth.

If you have ever attended an expo, from job expos, to conference expos, its a lot of people, all wanting business, and all wanting something for free, be it a trinket, a referral, etc.  Many vendors put on elaborate displays to show you their best work, be it a wedding planner's table mock-up, a photographer's gallery display of previous weddings they've shot, etc.

What makes bridal expos a little unique is it is all catered to you, the bride.  Everyone wants to be your photographer, your cakery, your florist, everyone wants a moment of your time, to get your business.  When in a building full of many vendors, and thousands of people to meet the vendors, it is one insane place to be, and for the bride to be, insane anxiety that comes with attending expos can make one lose her mind.

How to prepare for your first bridal expo?
First, what have you accomplished already in your planning?  Have you picked your venue, photographer, officiant?  If yes, that is excellent news, and better prepares you to have something to fire back with at the vendors that jump out at you.  Seek out the vendors you don't have yet.

If you don't have anything booked, do some research for the particular expo you will be attending.  I'm going to use the Arizona Bridal Fashion Debut Expo as an example, which happens twice a year in Phoenix-next one is June 12, 2011, by the way!  Here is the website: http://arizonabridalshow.com/.  When you are in the site, you will see under the title of Bridal Fashion Debut is a row of links, 2nd from the left is "Exhibitors", click on this link, and you'll see "Select a Category" on the next page, with many categories to chose from. 

Here is where your research begins.  Start going through the categories of interest to you.  Find venues near you, your friends might have suggested, use Yelp.com to see what brides have said of the places that will be at the expo.  I'm not suggesting to go to all categories, and check out every vendor, but if you have research and of interest vendors you want to meet with, this will help you navigate through the rows and rows of waiting vendors vying for your time, you will instead be on a mission, following the map they gave you when you checked in.

Don't go it alone! Take your bridal party, mother, mother-in-law, even your fiance.  They will help you enjoy your time, rather than be a stress case.  You talk with the vendors, let your people joining collect the trinkets, brochures, enter you to win prizes, if you wish, etc.

Note**Be weary of timeshare vendors, whom will say "stay with us on your honeymoon for free"!  They'll lure you in, have you fill out paper work, ask you to come to their property to sit through a session to learn about their company, and by doing so, you get to stay for free.  NOT TRUE!  They want you to sign up for their time share, thus you will pay a fee, that fee is how you stay there...unless you want to get involved with timeshares, be aware that vendors like this exist at these sorts of expos.  A free hotel stay sounds amazing, there is always a hitch!  Winning prizes put on by the expo, and vendors whom have you enter your email and limited info to win free stuff, that is safe and ok, go ahead, see what you could win.  But not the "stay with us for free, I'll tell ya how!"

Expos provide you, the bride, a lot of possibility, a chance to meet vendors all in one place at one time-daunting, yes, but it does help jump start your planning process!  If a vendor is there that you want to book, there is usually a great savings by doing this, sometimes!  Also, venues will more often have their calendars, see how far out they are booked, its amazing that places are booked for 1 1/2 years till their next opening! 

Quick Tip: Take with you adhesive address label sheets with as much info you wish to share, i.e. name, email, phone number, address, wedding date, groom's name, etc.  Such a great plan to have so you don't have to write your name/info all day.  Vendors find this helpful, and its easy on you!  Think of it as your "wedding card", like a business card!

Smile, breathe and nod.  It is a very overwhelming event to attend, but it can be really fun! If you have done some research, it will help your experience to be an enjoyable one.  Take water, stay hydrated, take breaks, go your own speed.

Whatever you decide, its up to you, its your show!  And, this experience might jump start the excitement that you are a bride, if you didn't feel this before, this might get you going! Enjoy!

Happy planning!