Ah, bridal event season. That festive time between January and March when the air is thick with bridal shows and wedding expos catering to the many couples (approx. 40%!) who get engaged between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day.
While the prospect of tackling every aspect of your wedding at the same time may seem daunting at first, these shows are a great way to meet potential vendors, get fresh ideas, and discover services that can make planning your big day easier. Stay ahead of the game by using bridal shows as an opportunity to narrow down choices for major vendors (venue, caterer, photographer, etc.) and learn about options for details (cakes, flowers, invitations, etc.). Here are a few tips to help you ease into the wedding planning process like a pro:
1. Understand the show
There are usually two types of shows: Large bridal expos featuring hundreds of vendors in a convention-like setting, and boutique shows with fewer vendors that are hand-picked or vetted by the event organizers. Depending on what you can handle, hit 2-3 shows that will offer good information and options without being completely overwhelming. Plan to spend a few hours checking everything out, and take your time!
2. Research vendors beforehand
Most shows will list participating vendors on their website. If it’s a large show, it’s worth it to spend some time making a list of vendors and services you want to check out, which will ultimately save you time and energy. Once you’ve narrowed down your options, follow up with the vendors you’re interested in immediately following the show—they tend to get booked up quickly.
3. Wear comfy clothes and shoes
You’ll be on your feet most of the time so comfy shoes are a must. Some bridal shops will allow you to try on sample dresses to get a feel for the silhouette that works best for you, so wear fitted clothes you can try things on over.
4. Limit your entourage
Yes, your friends and family are excited for you (bless them); no they don’t need to be part of every single pre-wedding activity. Bring your fiancé (if they’re interested) and the one or two people who know you best and can tactfully express their opinions.
5. Enter those drawings!
Most shows will have some sort of contest or drawing to enter, often for a free or discounted honeymoon trip, venue rental, or other high-dollar service. Enter ‘em all! If you really want to be on top of things, pre-print labels with you and your boo’s name, mailing and email addresses (feel free to set up a wedding-specific email account), and potential wedding date so you don’t have to fill it out every time.
6. Be selective and take notes
Bring a tote bag to carry everything in, and feel free to be selective about the flyers, catalogs, and business cards you accept from vendors. If you don’t need/like/care about their services, don’t feel obligated to accept their marketing materials—it will only add to the clutter of information. However, if you do come across a vendor you like, be sure to grab a card and jot down some notes. It also helps to snap a picture of booths or ideas you like with your phone—photos are easy to catalog (hello, Pinterest!) and visuals are great reminders.
7. Network with other engaged couples
Look, you’re all in the same boat, and word-of-mouth is still one of the most reliable (and often most fun) sources of information. Plus, you might make some new friends!
8. Go with your gut
When you meet people face-to-face, you can usually tell right away if you’d work well together. Your wedding vendors will be part of one of the biggest days of your life, so it’s important to connect with the person as well as their product or service. If the vendor’s booth is crowded or they’re talking to someone else, set up an appointment for a one-to-one chat on a later date. Everyone involved will be much happier working with people they like, trust us.
9. Timing is everything
Try to arrive 15-30 minutes after the start of the event to avoid the first rush, but get there early enough to chat with vendors while they’re still fresh. If there’s an event like a fashion show or demo at a specific time, take note and get there early enough to get a good view. Fashion shows and beauty demos are too fun to miss!
10. Have fun!
Bridal shows are all about planning one of the happiest days of your life, AND there’s free cake. What else do you need?
Ready to start planning? Here are some Cincinnati Bridal Shows worth checking out:
Cincinnati Wedding Showcase, January 9th – 10th, 2016 at the Sharonville Convention Center
Receptions Annual Bridal Show, Jan 31st, 2016 at Receptions Fairfield
Cincinnati Bridal Spectacular, February 14th, 2016 at Horseshoe Casino
Bridalrama, February 27th – 28th, 2016 at Duke Energy Center
Prime Time Party Rental Bridal Open House, March 5th, 2016 at Prime Time Party Rentals
AfterHours Bridal Show, March 10th, 2016 at Great American Ballpark
A Bridal Affair, various dates and locations
Brides and Blooms Cincinnati Flower Show Event, April 16th, 2016 at Yeatman’s Cove on Cincinnati Riverfront
Your Bridal Show, June 12th, 2016 at Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington, KY