Bridal show survival guide

The average engagement in the United States is between 14 and 16 months, and planning typically starts at least a year in advance. Couples who attend local bridal shows and expos will find an excellent way to get started on the wedding-planning process. Plus, going to a bridal show can be a lot of fun.

At a bridal show, you can meet and speak directly with many wedding professionals—all in one place. Wedding expos feature the latest trends, from wedding cakes and limousines to photography and videography. Many bridal shows also have live band and DJ performances, and fashion shows featuring the latest bridal and tuxedo fashions. Essentially, a bridal show is your opportunity to get ideas, gather information, and compare services and prices.

Most bridal shows offer free bridal magazines, prizes and honeymoon trips. Individual vendors also may offer discounts. Most bridal shows and expos are listed in regional bridal magazines such as Modern Bride or on, the Web site of Bridal Show Producers International.

Whether you’re a first timer or a seasoned veteran, the following tips will help make your bridal-show experience both productive and enjoyable.

Ask your fiancé to come with you. It is much more likely that you will be able to make decisions and book a vendor if you are together. The groom’s participation in wedding planning is growing. Today, about 30 percent of grooms accompany their brides to bridal shows.

Plan to spend a minimum of three to four hours at the show in order to see all the exhibits and the fashion show.

Bring a lightweight tote to carry the literature and free giveaways your receive.

When you arrive, take the time to register. Registering qualifies you for door prizes and allows vendors to get in touch with you after the show. Many bridal shows also offer discounted admission to those who pre-register online.

Bring a pen and a notebook or clipboard so you can take notes, write down ideas, and keep track of any appointments you set with vendors.

If organization is your strong suit, bring a binder with envelopes and file tabs for each kind of vendor (caterer, photographer, florist, etc.). Before you leave a vendor’s booth, file the business cards and brochures. This will save time later.

Collect information from every vendor. Look over everything when you have some quiet time. If you suddenly decide you want to hire a harpist or freeze-dry your wedding bouquet, you’ll be glad to have these resources. Come with an open mind. A bridal show gives you an opportunity to see what’s new and exciting: often things you may initially not have considered spark your interest.

Ask lots of questions. That’s why you are at the show. Professionals are happy to share what they know with you.

Cut to the chase to save time. Your first question to a vendor should be “Are you available on this date?#&148; If the answer is “no,#&148; move on.

Bring along color swatches. They may prove helpful in getting suggestions from vendors, such as bakers, florists and balloonists.

Bring preprinted, self-adhesive address labels. You will be asked for your name, address, phone number and wedding date countless times before the show is over. This will save you time and make it easier to sign up for many of the prizes that will be given away. If you are out of town during a big bridal show, send your mother or a friend to collect information on services you need.

Bring along bridal show buddies. There’s plenty of territory to cover. Between you and your friends, you’ll be able to locate the hottest booths and the best deals.

Wear comfortable shoes. For the better part of the day you’ll be walking and standing. The only opportunity to sit down is typically during the fashion show, and, even then, seating is limited.

Attend the bridal fashion show. This is often the highlight of a show. Make certain to arrive early enough to get a good seat. If you already have selected your wedding attire, you may wish to skip the fashion show in order to spend more time with the vendors.

Written by Kenneth V. Rabasco of Bosco’s Bridal Fashion Show & Expo ( and provided by the Association for Wedding Professionals International