Article by Alyssa Brown Contributing Writer for MarthaStewartWeddings.com
Wedding expos, otherwise known as bridal fairs, are one of the best way for couples to meet and vet a number of different vendors in a setting that's fun, interactive, and bustling with activity. Depending on the expo you're attending, regional or national vendors will gather in one designated spot to discuss wedding packages with prospective brides and grooms. There, you'll see examples of their work and may even get to watch live demos as well as sample wedding food, cakes, and cocktails. If you're on the fence about attending one, we highly suggest it. Here, we dive into all the ways these fairs can be helpful for couples looking to get off the Internet and do in-person research.
The research is done for you.
You can rest assured that the vendors at these shows have been pre-vetted and vouched for by the expo organizer. Claudia Hanlin, who's planned bridal expos for over a decade, says that these events are one of the best time investments couples make while planning a wedding. She estimates that most of these fairs cost around $75 for a ticket and take a few hours to get through. In the process, couples can meet a variety of different vendors and venue representatives that fit a wide range of budgets, personalities, and styles.
You'll meet a lot of vendors.
Hanlin says the biggest calling card for attending a show is usually that there aren't any other occasions when you'd have all vendors from every category under one roof. This is a chance to see professionals in a less controlled environment than their studio, and you're able to see the dedication and effort they put into every detail of an event.
You'll be able to put a face to the name.
Internet and social media research may give you an idea of who you'd like to work with, but matching a personality and a team to that business is a big piece of the puzzle. Hanlin says that not only will you be able to meet the owner of a business at an expo, but you'll also get to see their team in action.
You might be able to try samples or see samples of vendors' work.
Caterers may be passing hors d'oeuvres, bakers might have cake you can sample, a photographer may have a photobooth setup, and a florist might have a centerpiece or bouquet mockup. Hanlin says, "Usually, when you're meeting with a florist, you don't really see their work live until you do your table sample, if you have that luxury, but at an expo you actually see a table they've designed or at least a centerpiece." The same goes for many other vendors, all of which tend to bring their most exciting setup to display their skills. Most expos also bring in live music acts that you can hire for your wedding, and since a lot of bands and musicians don't have showcases regularly, this can be a great opportunity to see them perform in front of a crowd.
You can often find unexpected vendors.
Hanlin says there are two categories of wedding professionals that you'll meet at an expo that you would otherwise have more trouble finding through research alone: unusual and brand-new vendors. "You might find somebody who encapsulates rose petals in ice cubes," she says, and while that may not be something you thought to seek out for your wedding, it could add a really great design element to your bar. You might also meet florists, photographers, planners, or bakers who are new to the industry and want to get their name out there. An expo offers a great opportunity to discover these newer professionals and see what they do in person.
Speakers often have helpful tips for couples.
If the expo you're attending has speakers, Hanlin says this adds great value to the event. A lot of the industry's top planners or photographers will give presentations that cover many different topics, offering tips and insider info you might not otherwise have access to.