You’ve purchased your tickets and have a wedding show or two (or maybe three or four) on your calendar. That’s a great start! Here are my tips to help you get the most out of the event.
Set some goals before the show
Whether you’re at the beginning of planning and just want to gather ideas, or you need to book a caterer and want to talk to each one available, it’s a good idea to think through what your objectives are prior to getting there. It will be very easy to get distracted and lose track of time, so having a goal to keep you focused can be very helpful.
Bring someone with you
For many, this will be your soon-to-be-spouse, but I often see people with their MOH, parents, siblings, and/or friends. Wedding shows can be overwhelming, so it’s best to bring someone with a calming demeanor that can re-focus you if needed and act as a sounding board to bounce ideas off of as you begin gathering information from vendors.
Most wedding shows feature over 100 wedding vendors, either in an expo or tour style show. That’s a lot of vendors to see and chat with in only a few hours time! In order to make the most of your day, be sure to arrive early to find parking, get checked in, purchase any additional tickets, sign up for giveaways, and get a map or any other additional information that might be handed out at registration. Once the doors open, you’ll be all set and ready to go!
Look through the list of vendors ahead of time,
Before the show, be sure to check the list of participating vendors and their websites. Start a notebook listing the ones that interest you the most and why, along with their packages or pricing information. This will help jog your memory when you see them at the show, and allow you to ask any follow up questions you may have.
Take a notebook and pen with you
Bonus points if you take the same notebook that you just took notes in from my previous piece of advice. You are going to see so many ideas, hear so many prices and packaging options, and talk to so many vendors, that the end of the day it may all start to feel like a blur, especially if it’s a show or tour that serves alcohol (not judging at all if you accidentally get a bit tipsy). You will thank yourself the next day when you can go back to your notes and can pick out the names of the vendors you liked the most.
Bring a bag
While some shows and tours provide a “swag bag” or other type of giveaway, it can be very helpful to have an empty canvas shopping bag with you to hold any brochures or small giveaways you pick up at each booth. Trust me, there will be lots and lots of brochures! Keeping it all together in a bag will ensure nothing gets dropped along the way.
Print sticker labels with your name, contact info and wedding date on them.
I learned this trick while working in college admissions, and it will save you so much time, and maybe even a hand cramp, during the show! Most vendors will have some kind of sign up list so they can follow up with you after the show, or some may even have drawings for discounts on their services. Either way, there will be plenty of times when you’ll want to give your name and information, and having a pre-printed label will make it easy on you, not to mention easy for the vendor to read later. No more deciphering email addresses!
Go on the wedding tours, even if you’re not interested in the participating venues
I get this question a lot from couples, wondering if it’s worth it to attend a tour where you travel from venue to venue, if they aren’t actually interested in any of the venues. My answer is always yes! Typically at each venue, there will be one of each type of vendor (caterer, photographer, planner, desserts, etc.) and each space will have a unique design. There are so many vendors you can meet and so many cool ideas you can gather by attending, so don’t let the location of the tour dissuade you.
Avoid booking any vendors on the spot
Remember that you are at the show to gather information, not walk away with a completely planned wedding. Although some may offer, or even push for you to book at the show, it’s always best to do your due diligence, go home, think it over, check their website, and especially their reviews. I even recommend scheduling a separate consultation with them after the show so you can talk more in depth with them. There are some caveats to this, including venues or vendors that you have already checked out online, or maybe even spoken with prior to the show. The main thing to remember here is that you need to do your due diligence before signing a contract. Don’t let the overwhelm of the show suade you into booking with someone that you’re not really ready to book yet.
It’s normal to walk away with more questions than answers
You are going to see and learn so much, and hear from so many vendors, that at one point you may feel like you’re getting all of your questions answered, and then 10 minutes later, have even more pop into your head. That’s ok, and also a great reason to have that notebook handy I mentioned earlier. Try to soak it all in, but don’t forget to give yourself some time to digest and process when you get home, too. Go through the brochures you picked up, and don’t hesitate to reach out to vendors with any new questions that may have arised. If you’ve already hired your planner or coordinator, reach out to them to debrief on all the information you gathered. I love doing this with my clients! It’s great to hear what your impressions were, the new vendors you may have met, and ideas you’ve gathered.
Don’t let these shows cause you stress. There’s free food and drinks, lots of samples and giveaways, and tons of wedding ideas. Although they can be overwhelming, they don’t have to be. Just remember the important thing is that you enjoy the time spent planning with your close family, friends, and significant other, and having fun at wedding shows and tours can be a great way to start!