Wedding shows: Let the chaos begin!
So you’ve gotten engaged. Congratulations! Now what? After the initial excitement wears off and reality sets in, you’ll come to the realization that you need to plan a wedding. But where to begin? For many people, this means one thing: going to wedding shows! This is a perfect place to plan a wedding because everything you could possibly need will be on display, right?
The short answer is yes, of course, but if you’ve ever been to a wedding show, then you know just how overwhelming and confusing it can be. So, to help you out, I’ve created a Survivor’s Guide to Wedding Shows. Here are some simple tips to help you make it through the gauntlet of dressmakers, florists, photographers and other vendors.
Sign for nothing, but sign up for everything
Many vendors will have some sort of giveaway or contest available at their kiosk. It’s a good idea to sign up for as many of these as you can, because everything that you win is something you don’t have to buy. These contests are free, so they don’t cost you anything. All the vendor needs is your contact information, of course, because they’ll need some way of contacting you after.
Signing up for contests is great, but you shouldn’t make the decision to book a particular vendor at the show. It’s just too chaotic an environment to really figure out who is right for you on the spot, and it’s entirely possible that the best choice is the last one you see that day. If you sign with someone else earlier in the day, you’ll miss out. Don’t let a vendor try to pressure you into signing with them, either. “We only have a few spaces left” is a phrase that you’re going to hear often.
Don’t spend too much time with vendors who offer services you aren’t interested in
This one is pretty obvious. If you have no interest in releasing a bunch of doves into the air after your ceremony (yes, this is an option) then don’t talk to the dove guy. Not for long, anyways. Wedding shows can be exhausting events and you only have so much energy. It’s best to spend it talking to vendors who offer services you’re really interested in.
Have 2 bags
You’re going to pick up a LOT of promotional material at wedding shows, and trust me, you aren’t going to remember anything when you get out of there. You should have 2 bags with you: one for the promo material from vendors you liked and one for stuff from the people you aren’t interested in. This will make things a little easier later on when you sit down to go over everything. After you finish with each vendor, just make a decision about whether you might want to talk to these people again later or not.
Go later in the day
Many big wedding shows in major cities have a few thousand people go through their doors over the course of the show. This means large crowds, and, if you’re like me, then you hate waiting in line and moving through a mob. At the beginning of the day, there is usually a line of a few hundred people waiting to get into the show.
It’s much better to wait until later in the day. The initial crowd at the front door will be gone so you don’t have to wait for 30 minutes to get in. You’ll also have an easier time moving around. If you go a couple hours before closing it’s even better. Most of the crowd will have gone home and everyone you want to talk to will be available.
Ask lots of questions
Be sure to ask each vendor a lot of questions. Every service you need for your wedding is represented here, so it’s a perfect time to get all your questions answered. Unfortunately, most people don’t know what they should be asking. Do a bit of research before the show to find out what you need to know.
A good way to get questions is to listen to what some of the vendors are saying to you. Occasionally they’ll simply tell you something that you hadn’t even thought to ask! You should make a point of asking other vendors about that same thing. Take a look at my Wedding Photography F.A.Q. page for ideas about what to ask. Obviously it’s specific to photography, but it should give you some ideas for general questions that apply to any vendor.
You should never sign a contract during wedding shows, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an appointment with vendors you like. It happens quite often where you lose the promotional material from a vendor you really liked and have no way to contact them to set up a meeting later. If you take care of the appointment during the show while you’re thinking about it, then it’s set and you won’t have to worry about not being able to find them later.
Everything is negotiable
Vendors will certainly tell you their prices if you ask. But don’t let yourself be scared away from a vendor you like because their rates seem too high for you. There’s no reason why a vendor wouldn’t try and help you by working within your budget. All you have to do is ask. Chances are they won’t really want to start negotiating price with you during the show. This is understandable, because it’s a pretty chaotic day. Negotiating a price is something that should be done another time. There are limits, of course. If a vendor’s starting price is double what your budget allows for, chances are he’s still going to be out of budget after any discounts have been applied. Still, you lose nothing by asking.
This is probably the most important piece of advice I can give you. There are a few hundred vendors in major wedding shows and you can easily talk to 25% of them. That’s over 50 different people! Again, you aren’t going to remember anything. Take notes about everything, whether you write it on your own note pad or the vendors’ promotional material. When you get home later and go over everything you picked up, those notes are going to be invaluable in helping you figure out who you really liked.