Last weekend I was one of 250 exhibitors at the South African Wedding Show held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. The venue was big, the displays were amazing, the exhibitors were ready to dish out pamphlets and business cards, and the crowd was buzzing. In summary, it was overwhelming.
If you are engaged or the sibling / best friend / parent / bridesmaid of someone who is planning a wedding, attending a wedding expo is a significant part of the wedding planning process. If you don’t believe me, I wrote about the benefits in my previous blog post, which you can look at here.
It is important to remember a couple of things:
1. Exhibitors pay a small fortune to use their space to display their work in the hopes that brides and grooms will want to use their service / product.
2. Brides and grooms pay to get into most wedding shows and it would be a waste of that money, if they sprint past each display and avoid eye contact with the vendors.
With that mind, I have taken note of some ways that brides and grooms can enjoy bridal fairs and not be too overwhelmed:
Make sure you set aside a couple of hours. Attending a wedding expo isn’t worth the money if you only intend to take a sneak peek at the displays. If you want to get the most out of the expo, you need to invest a morning or afternoon of your time to make sure you get to look at each display. Most wedding shows offer fashion shows and short tutorials on how to design your own wedding invitations, how to style your hair for the big day, and other things that might save you time and money.
Because you have now set aside a good amount of time to walk through the aisles, make sure you are dressed for the occasion. Comfortable walking shoes are a must! Try and avoid carrying your biggest hand bag, your over sized coat and anything else that will get in the way.
Have a game plan
The big wedding shows will help you with this by updating their website with a list of each exhibitor and what they do, as well as a floor plan and program for the day. Before you even get to the venue, decide which portions of the show you want to be there for. There are amazing fashion shows, which you might not want to miss!
Use your map
If you are keen to plan ahead, you can usually download the floor plan online before you arrive at the expo, or you can make use of the free exhibition manual you will receive at the door. This will have a layout of where each stall is located as well as a categorised vendor list. Most people choose to walk through the stalls one aisle at a time – this isnt a good strategy for a couple of reasons:
1. It is very overwhelming if the venue is big and you don’t know where you are.
2. You generally won’t know what stall you are standing in front of and what service they have to offer, unless it is spelled out in their company name.
3. If the stall you are at happens to be very busy, it is easy to walk right past it and miss out on something awesome.
Instead, rather approach the stalls in categories. For instance, you could start with photographers (who will probably be scattered across the venue) and then move on to dress designers, and so on. This will require more walking around for you, but you might find it easier to get meaning out of your interaction with the vendors.
Look out for discounts
You will see in your booklet that some of the vendors offer discounts when you book them on the weekend of the wedding show. What a great way to save money!
Take your own bag
Most wedding shows will provide you with a shopping bag filled with magazines, flyers and promotional items. The idea is that you use this bag to store your collection of business cards and pamphlets which you will accumulate throughout the day. If you take your own bag, you could use that to store the business cards of the vendors you particularly liked. Another way of separating those cards from the rest is to leave a pen mark in the corner of the card or stick a bright pink sticker on it. Trust me, you will not remember the names of the three vendors you loved when you empty out your giant bag if you don’t make a point of leaving an identifying mark on their cards.
Enjoy free things!
You might find cake samples, sweets, a photo booth, or a caricature artist. Whatever it is, if it’s free, try it out!
Speaking of free things… enter as many competitions as you can! Many vendors will give away a free engagement shoot, 50% off your bridesmaids dresses, or something else you might want to add to your wedding.
Some vendors will have things on sale which you might want to buy. There is also usually a coffee shop nearby which will help keep your energy levels up!
And most importantly… just have a good time
If you anticipate a stressful day, that’s what you’re going to get! Take time out to enjoy all the good things about wedding shows and take some friends, bridesmaids or family members to enjoy the day with you! There is almost no point in going if you don’t intend to have a good time while doing it!