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Bridal Shows - A Survival Guide

How to get the most out of the shows you attend

By Steve Kimbell
Business Manager - Oracle Band

Click for enlarged view. This shot is of the Baltimore Bridal Showcase at the Baltimore Convention Center near the Inner HarborBridal Shows, Showcases, Wedding Fairs, there are a half-dozen different names for them.   Perhaps you've heard a story or two about the aching feet, the big crowds, or the heavy bags full of literature.  This article is written to help you get the most out of your show experience.  

There are basically two kinds of bridal shows

The first is the small, intimate show with a limited number of vendors, as well as a smaller group of attendees.  The average attendance is between 75 - 200 people, and there are generally around 20-30 different vendors.  These shows allow you much more time to talk with the individual vendors, asking questions and getting more in-depth answers.  

The smaller crowds can also be welcome, and at the end of the show you can generally come away from the show without feeling like you've been through a war zone.  It's also generally easier to speak with the various vendors in more detail at the show, without a hoard of people pressing behind you for information.

The drawback with these smaller shows are that the vendor selection can be quite limited, (sometimes as few as one vendor per service), so you might have to attend three of four different shows in order to properly compare the advantages and disadvantages of one vendor over another.  While the vendors like this arrangement (since there's less competition), it can present some challenges to the couple looking to do some comparison shopping.

Click for enlarged view. Washington Bridal Showcase at Patriot CenterThe second kind of show is much larger, averaging close to 1000 or more attendees, and featuring anywhere from 200-300 different vendors.  The biggest advantage to this kind of show are the wide range of vendors that are available.  It is basically like going to a mall to shop for your wedding services...everything is under one roof.   This allows you to comparison shop much easier.  You can actually view many photographer's portfolios, or listen to two or three different bands.  

Of course you pay a price for this size and variety.  The crowds are generally large and some venues can get pretty crowded.  Also, it might prove more difficult to talk with a vendor for an extended period without someone else coming up and asking for information.

So which type of show is right for you?  Well, that's really your call.   However, we can give you some tips and suggestions for making the most out of your show experience.  Are you ready?  Here we go...

Bridal Show Tips

  • Wear comfortable shoes.  The odds are you'll be on your feet for quite a while, and uncomfortable shoes will tire you out too quickly.  You might force yourself to visit the last few booths, but it won't be any fun.
  • Come prepared with peel off labels with your name, address, phone number, e-mail address, and wedding date printed on them.  You can make them yourself using Avery labels (I recommend Avery 5160...30 per page) or something similar, and any word processor.  You will be writing your name and address a lot otherwise, entering the various giveaways and promotions.
  • Want to save some money on the admission fee to the show?  Check out the vendor list for the show you're attending. Most vendors receive a number of comp tickets to give away to people interested in their services. Contact a vendor you might be interested in and ask if they have a couple of comps so you can come check them out.
  • If you really hate receiving "junk mail", but want to get as much information as you can and participate in the drawings and giveaways, rent a PO box for a while.  Then all the wedding related material will come to the PO box, and when you're done with it after the wedding (and before your name is sold to a thousand OTHER mailing lists), you simply cancel the PO box and voila! more junk mail.
  • Along the same lines, register in advance for a free e-mail address from one of the many free services like Hotmail and Yahoo, or create a new screen name in AOL.  When filling out contest entry forms and inquiry sheets use this address, so that when the wedding is over you can simply cancel the account and avoid any further wedding related e-mail.  Reserve your main e-mail address for vendors you actually contract with.
  • Sign up for all the giveaways. Some vendors give discounts for their services, but more have been giving prizes such as toasting glasses and cash. Just because you already have a limo doesn't mean you can't use what they have chosen to give as a door prize.  (This tip was suggested to us by Kim in New Hampshire...thanks Kim!!!)
  • Be wary of giving out your phone numbers when you initially register at the bridal show.  This is especially true of your work number.  

    If you don't like receiving calls at home or work from wedding related vendors, you should probably avoid giving out this personal information. These numbers sometimes go onto mailing lists which are sold or otherwise circulated.  (For the record, ORACLE does NOT sell or otherwise distribute any names or door prize.jpg (82442 bytes) addresses to anyone).  By providing your number you are giving permission for vendors at the show to contact you by phone, even if you are on the national Do Not Call list.

    That said, we recently received an e-mail from a newlywed bride who pointed out that by providing her phone number at the Patriot Center Bridal Show she received a free makeover and a weekend vacation.  If she had not provided her number she would quite probably not have been contacted for these valuable prizes. 

    (Thanks Laura for making this observation, and for letting us know the positive side of providing your phone number).

    It should also be noted that all of the shows produced by Showcase Productions (which includes the Baltimore Bridal Showcase and Washington Bridal Showcase), release their attendee information to only those exhibiting at the show. 

    Providing phone numbers to individual vendors when entering their door prize giveaways is usually fairly safe, since these vendors seldom use their contact information for anything other than legitimate follow up.  For this reason we DO advise putting your home phone as well as your e-mail address on the labels we recommended back in tip #2.
  • Bring a friend or two along.  (Yes, it can be your fiancÚ.  You're going to need some help in carrying literature around, as well as someone to offer an objective third party opinion on things.)
  • Make sure all members of your entourage have cell phones with them in case you get split up.  Make sure their cell numbers are in your cell phone's phonebook!
  • Wear comfortable shoes
  • Bring swatches of material or ribbons with your wedding colors on them.  This will help bakers, balloonists, and florists make appropriate suggestions as to what they can do for you
  • Don't expect to walk away from the show with signed contracts in your hand.  A show is a place where you make appointments to discuss your wedding in depth.  While there are times when you might want to book something right at the show, (such as a limited availability and your date is still open), if at all possible you should wait for a calmer time when you can talk one on one with the vendor and make sure that he/she/they will be able to fully meet your needs.
  • If you already have a gown, you might want to skip the fashion show and visit vendor's booths during that period.  These vendors will be eager to talk with you since most everybody will be watching the fashion show.  At the larger shows the crowds at the booths are greatly diminished during the fashion shows, and it can be much easier to move around.   At smaller shows the vendors will REALLY pull out the stops for you, since they probably have absolutely nothing to do.  Take advantage of this!
  • Bring some bottled water or thermos with you to the show.  In some cases there are no concession stands where you can get something to drink, and at other shows the cost is rather prohibitive.  Of course Oracle always has refreshments available at their booth...all you have to do is ask.  It's one of the hidden perks of visiting Oracle's booth!
  • Beware of vendors who will only offer show discounts on the day of the show only.   If you don't have the opportunity to talk with them in depth, how do you know they are right for you?  Vendors really should offer you their "show price" for at least 24 or 48 hours.
  • Wear comfortable shoes...please!
  • When filling out forms make sure to print VERY clearly.  You'd hate to miss out on a door prize or lose track of someone you like because they couldn't read your handwriting!
  • Avoid bringing small children to the show.  While it may be tempting to bring your flower girl along to see all the neat wedding stuff, they are sure to tire quickly and detract from your mission of finding vendors and ideas for your wedding.
  • Take as much literature as you can from everyone.  You might not think you need information on a string quartet or a consultant, but who knows, things have a way of surprising you.  When you get home, put the literature from services you don't think you need in a box that you can come back to if the situation warrants.
  • Bring your date book with you so you can schedule your appointments for follow up.
  • Ask lots of questions.  The show is filled with wedding professionals, and while you're there you should take advantage of the opportunity to learn as much as you can.  These vendors want to impress you with their knowledge of their particular specialty...take advantage of it!!!
  • Don't wait for the end of the show to pick up the free bridal magazines.  There are usually many more attendees than there are magazines, so don't get left out!
  • Prepare for information overload.  When you find a vendor you would like to follow up with, take a pen and write what struck you as appealing about them on their business card or literature.  When you get home and are faced with brochures from 14 different photographers, your note may be the only thing you have to remember which ones you liked and why.  Also, write down any good tips they might give you on THEIR literature to help you remember who was knowledgeable and helpful.
  • Wear comfortable shoes - (Do you notice a theme going on here)???

Well, we certainly hope these tips have come in handy for you.  If you have a tip that you feel would help others better enjoy their experience and maximize their benefit, please feel free to drop us an e-mail to and let us know what it is.  We'll be more than happy to share it with everyone!

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