Happy Monday! So this weekend Andrew and I were quite busy. We spent most of Saturday watching the TI5 Dota 2 grand finals in the comfort of surround sound and stadium seating that is the theater experience. It was awesome, in case any of you are interested in gaming or are supportive girlfriends or boyfriends of gamers. But that’s not what I am here to talk about. Instead, I’d like to talk about how we spent our Sunday at a—duh-dun-duh!—bridal show. The Knoxville Pink Bridal Show, to be exact. Now for those of you who are also new to the whole planning a wedding thing, a bridal show is basically set up like a fancy college job fair to showcase vendors near or in your area. The categories of vendors ranged from the expected list of venues, bridal salons, caterers, and photographers to services such as bachelorette party planning, beauty care, honeymoon booking, and photo booth rentals. There was still a lot in between, but you get the idea.
Andrew and I were a bit overwhelmed on where to start. The morning of the show, I looked up tips from multiple sites to help me navigate the sea of information we were about to dive into. I will share the tips I actually used plus a bonus one that I would have used if I owned a printer and had prepared in advance.
First off, get a game plan. I found the show I went to manageable, but I already had in my mind what Andrew and I were interested in specifically. Exposure to venues I may have missed in online searching was the number one reason we were going. I picked catering and attire to be the two subcategories we would want to browse. I think this tip was really helpful to brides going to massive shows.
Second piece of advice (which I got first from a soon-to-be bride at a BBQ), make a wedding email account. Almost every website I looked at had this as a tip as well. I filled out several sheets with my information to vendors, and it was a relief to know that my personal email would not suddenly be filled with ads the next day. It is also is a good way to keep wedding stuff in its own safe place.
Thirdly, since I already knew I was searching for vendors more than anything else, I wanted to be prepared in case I actually found one! I wrote down some questions to ask about prices, deposits, what’s included, outside catering, and any other concern I had. Why not know what you want to ask while you have a representative there face to face?
I was actually very careful about what I filled out because I am wary of SPAM and chances to win some “prize” that may or may not involve going to a demonstration. That being said, I really didn’t need to follow the fourth tip I saw repeated over and over. It was to print out labels with all my information to avoid a pen being permanently glued in my hand. So names, wedding date, address, phone number (which is always optional to give out or NOT), and email address could be conveniently ready as a bride or groom hits the booths.
Now I have told you how I got pumped for the show, but I haven’t told you about the experience. Let’s start with what I liked.
- I appreciated that if I had wanted to, they were there in real time to answer the questions I had scribbled down in my pink notebook. I thought that was a plus for any bride looking at any vendor. Unfortunately, I did not see any venues I had not already researched. When Andrew would point out one, I could already whisper the magic words of “not in our budget” in his ear or explain details about it. However, I did get to talk to a salon who had dresses I am already admiring, and Andrew got to talk about buying and building houses with a realtor for future knowledge. We both spoke with an event design company. They had many products to peruse, but I took their card when Andrew and I both admired an invitation sample in particular. They also had me at their DIY décor kits.
- The displays! Whether it was a wedding-party fashion show, table settings, or catering samples, it is one thing to see pictures of products and quite another to see, touch, and even taste them. I am a sucker for the sweet little details, so I enjoyed seeing them up close. We especially admired the beer truck!
I pulled Andrew into all three photo booths they had set up to try on funny hats, hold up props, and basically get free pictures of us. Very early on in my research, I had fallen in love with the idea of having a photo booth at the wedding but knew it was probably not a splurge I could justify. I really enjoyed getting a chance to see the quality of pictures the booth produced, the diversity and quality of props offered, and the extras different booths included. At one booth, couples received a jump drive with all the pictures, and at another, a photo book was provided to write messages by a copy of the guests’ printed out photos. I was impressed by the booth that could light up in your chosen wedding colors.
The booths were really popular, and I think they would be a hit at most weddings. There is a “but” though. I think budget brides like me who don’t want to miss out could easily DIY a photo booth. A lot of the types of props could be found at party stores or be handmade with some inexpensive craft materials, and a background can always just be a wall, a roll of paper, or a sheet. As far as the set up goes, just google DIY wedding photo booth, and you will find a lot of material. At the show, Andrew took a quick look at the first booth and was telling me how he thought a person could rig up a computer or camera to a photo printer to do the same thing. If you have a Polaroid or Instax camera, you would just need a person to point the camera in the right direction.
- I liked that, if Andrew and I wanted to book anyone that day or even before the month is out, a lot of vendors were offering special offers and discounts. Each bride was given “Pink Bridal Bucks” that could be used toward participating vendors as well. On the flipside, this can put the pressure on couples to make hasty decisions, and I am glad we are too newly engaged to make any commitments. Still, who doesn’t love getting a deal?
Moving on to cons, I want to be clear that Andrew’s and my dislikes were more about our personal taste and values.
- There were special lanterns for the brides but not the grooms. (I guess we should have been prepared for this since it is called a “bridal” show.) The women registering us did apologize, but this is problematic on a few levels. What I don’t like about the wedding industry in general is that it focuses less on the couple and more on the bride. It is no wonder that people make comments about brides dragging their fiancés to these type of things and the stereotype exists that men are not interested in planning. The market doesn’t try to include or engage them! In fact, the show had a space set up for grooms to play Xbox and sit around. First, nice set up, but second, isn’t that implying that the men need a space to hide away while the bride talks to vendors? Or that the bride enjoys talking to complete strangers about something as personal as a wedding? Or that grooms don’t have opinions?
Almost all of the booths were marketed to women. It made me sad for grooms who want to be involved in planning. It also made me wonder what same-sex male couples do in this situation. Neither one of them is a bride, and the services, though still helpful, are not presented in an equal way. This of course is a general problem and not targeted specifically at this bridal show.
- We couldn’t see a lot of “us” in most of the vendors represented. Andrew and I were disappointed. We clearly were not the target audience for most of these vendors. Not all the vendors were in our price range, but I saw a handful of vendors who were small budget friendly. They were not the majority, but they were present. I anticipated that. However, I think that we were hopeful to find more nontraditional or indie or quirky vendors. The venues, food trucks, photographers, and bakers I expected to make an appearance were absent. I am sure that there are wedding shows that focus more on what we are looking for; I just don’t know if there are any near us. I will keep on the lookout for one and keep you posted!
With my first bridal/wedding show under my belt, overall I recommend going to one. I think they are especially helpful if you are newly engaged and wanting to see a portion of what is out there or if you are still searching for a specific category. Also, being at the show opened up conversations for Andrew and me. I learned a bit more about his opinions just by listening to him comment on different booths. It is important to remember that he is a newbie to all of this too, so I vote for couples to go to a bridal show to get the exposure and get to brainstorming.
Keep the love first,