So this weekend my MOH and best friend decided to venture out in the rain to see what my local bridal show was all about. I have to admit that I went with preconceived notions of corny photographers with flat ugly photos, pushy annoying DJs and terrible “typical” wedding venues. Since photography is going to be a big part of my wedding, I was sure I was going to be disappointed the most by the cheese-ball photographers.
We arrived early, because apparently the first 100 people get some kind of swag. We walked up to the sign in table where I had to put my name, address and e-mail down. Oh no, junk mail is absolutely headed my way. I try to stay positive about this aspect because I am being entered in a drawing, and I am always hopeful that wedding junk mail just may contain that one local vendor I hadn’t noticed before. The flow of “free stuff” started before we even walked in the door. I got a bag, a gift card to some jewelry store, an issue of a magazine, a pot holder, an oven mitt (women’s lib has come so far), and a few other miscellaneous things I don’t remember and probably threw out. At 11:00 we were herded in past a bunch of vendor tables, who I guess weren’t cool enough to get the “inside the room” spots.
Let me take the time to explain a little bit about myself here. I am a very “behind the scenes” person. I’m not shy or reserved, but I am not a huge fan of spotlights. An “all eyes on me” situation is a little unnerving for me. We are among the first women to walk in the doors to the main room (I guess because the vendors outside must have enticed most of the girls), and the best way I can describe it was like walking into a room filled with 100+ used car salesmen that all want to sell you a car. They all stared at me, smiling, waiting for me to make eye contact so they could shove their product down my throat. At that moment, I really did consider running away, I think it was my first real moment of sheer wedding panic.
The first man to talk to us was dressed in a suit and missing half his teeth. I’m not sure, but I feel like teeth are an important thing when you are the front man to your business. He asked me about my wedding, automatically assuming it was the conventional wedding that every girl on a budget has. “Do your boys have tuxedos?” “No.” “Suits?” “They are not wearing anything fancy.” The questioning went on and on like that and I started to wonder if maybe he ran a wedding consignment shop that sold everything wedding from soup to nuts. Finally he got to the point I think he was going for, the photography. He pointed to some sample books on the desk. When it comes down to telling people “I don’t want anything to do with your company,” I become a real softy. I reluctantly went to the table to look at the photos, that I could already see were the horrid photos of my nightmares.
All that brings me to Bridal Show Caution #1: Don’t be afraid to say “No Thank you, this is not what I’m looking for.” If you don’t want to spend hours looking at things that have nothing to do with your vision or style, don’t be a softy. You are really the one with the power here, if you know they have nothing you’re looking for, just say “No.”…”Thank You.” Manners are important after all. Not to mention, if you are looking at photography and the photographer is offering packages for less than $1000 I would be very cautious about hiring. I know this sounds horrible, and some photographers who are starting out, but are really good, charge a small amount to build the company. But here I am talking about an established company offering $500-ish for the entire day. To me, that is a red flag. That kind of photography will be formulaic, not creative, and look horribly posed. The whole portfolio I looked at had posed photos only, and zero moments captured. Look for a photographer that captures the moments. That is what you and your husband want to remember.
As we moved through the room, it became abundantly clear that the show was my worst nightmare come true. There was nobody there with a creative flair, no one that cared to put love and effort into a wedding, just a lot of people there to make a buck doing the work of a wedding from the 80s. I was surprised I didn’t see dresses with puffed sleeves and nasty poofy veils. And then, out of the darkness, a light! A small table in the corner scattered with little decorative cupcakes. I looked around to make sure I was still in the same venue. Really? An ounce of creativity was let into the show filled with formula weddings?
We approached the table, and no vendor was standing by. This was a welcome moment, because after being eaten alive by horrible sales people, we could use a moment of peace to take in the adorable product and see what she had to offer. And lo and behold, she makes the cake I want to have at our wedding!
I would of course tailor it to fit in with the decor and colors, but i just love the birch tree idea! After a minute this sweet woman comes over and apologizes for not being there. She explained her flavors and invited us to taste a cupcake. I ate the chocolate (because I have always wanted chocolate cake for the wedding), and my MOH took the carrot cake. The chocolate cake was so wonderfully decadent, I was sold. I would have really loved to sample everything, but I didn’t want to look greedy. She said that she loved working with butter-cream (which is truly what you want to hear, take it from someone who has made and worked with fondant, it tastes pretty gross), and she had made the birch cake lots of times. On top of it all her prices were really reasonable! If you are a Mainer, here’s her site!
This brings me to Bridal Show Caution #2: Don’t assume there aren’t gems among the heaping piles of dung. Just because everyone in there seems like a used car salesman, doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few people who won’t catch your attention. I realized the people I liked the most, were the ones that didn’t accost me when I walked by their table, and really seemed to care about what I was looking for. Believe it or not, there were some people who, after I explained what I wanted for my wedding, said that they probably wouldn’t be a good fit for me. I was so appreciative of that. They weren’t shoving their product down my throat. Go with an open mind. You may be surprised to find some good people mixed in with the…others.
Overall the experience was interesting. I ended up finding that wonderful cake woman, as well as what seemed like a pretty decent DJ. I’m not saying those will be my vendors, but it was good to know what was out there. I was so glad that my MOH was there to back me up and to be a sounding board
So my last tip, Bridal Show Caution #3: Don’t go alone. Take anyone! It is very good to have someone who can offer you another opinion, or maybe sees something you don’t. Also, it is great to have them there to laugh at all the posed photos, poorly decorated venues, and the DJs who are obviously wearing toupees.
I have to conclude that bridal shows, however corny, are worth it to attend. Keep in mind too, my show was in a much smaller town. If I were to do another one, I would travel to a nearby city, where the vendor options are probably more plentiful. That way, you might be able to find a wider range of different weddings than just the typical wedding experience. All in all, I now know I prefer to seek out my vendors than be bombarded by a bunch of vendors I don’t want, and then be forced to weed through them to find the ones I do. Sitting at home in front of my computer, seems to be the best way for me to plan my wedding. But for those brides that were suspicious of shows, your fears, while well founded, might be holding you back from finding that one great person to work with. Keep an open mind and a sense of humor, and you’ll make it through one just fine (and probably with a lot of free stuff)!