Fair Prepared

By Chandra Orr

July 18, 2008 4 min read

FAIR PREPARED

Do your homework, then enjoy the show

By Chandra Orr

Creators News Service

Off to the bridal fair? Better have a game plan.

With so many vendors to visit and tons of new ideas, bridal shows offer one-stop shopping for all your wedding-planning needs, but they can also be a little overwhelming.

Before you dive in, make a list, map your route and know your budget. Brides who have a clear vision of their wedding design and a firm grasp on their finances are less likely to enter "wedding overwhelm," according to Judy Allen, author of "Plan a Wedding in Three Months or Less" ($17, Sourcebooks).

"It's easy to go into a wedding-planning daze," she said. "It's important that brides spend the majority of their time meeting with wedding suppliers that fit their personal wedding vision, as opposed to being pulled in all directions. And taking the time to work out their wedding budget in advance will help brides know what is and is not financially feasible."

The better you plan, the easier it will be to stay on track while weeding through all the wedding-day wares -- and the more information you have when you get home, the easier it will be to make your decisions.

"Bridal shows are full of new ideas, but it is important not to get too distracted," said Patricia Westbrook, co-owner of Bridal Bazaar, which produces four bridal shows a year in San Diego.

"Having a list can help brides navigate a large show and use their time wisely. It's a bit like going to the grocery store."

Before you go, check the event Web site. Most show organizers will provide a preview of vendors and a blueprint of the exhibits. Make a list of must-see suppliers, map your route before you arrive, have a list of questions for each vendor and be prepared to take notes.

To make the day even more productive, consider the following:

-- Bring a set of sticky labels with your name, wedding date, wedding location and contact information written on them, which will make it easy to leave your information with vendors.

-- Collect business cards. Be sure to get the names of sales associates, e-mail addresses and Web-site information from each company, which will save time when you're ready to book vendors.

-- Make time for the fashion show. You'll get a sneak peak of the latest styles and get a realistic idea of what you might look like walking down the aisle.

"The bridal fashion show provides the opportunity to see gowns in motion rather than in flat, highly stylized photographs in magazines and on the Web," Westbrook said.

-- Sample the wares, but don't go crazy. Taste-test the cakes, sample the food from caterers and pick up freebies as you see them, but don't spend all day looking for loot. The goal is to come home with a list of potential vendors, not a big bag of swag.

-- Look beyond the booths and check out the bridal fair venue itself. If the event is being held in a hotel, conference center or reception hall, chances are it's available for wedding receptions. If you like what you see, ask for more information.

-- Don't expect to see it all. If you get tired, feel flustered or hit information overload, it's OK to call it a day. You don't want to make any major decisions when you're exhausted.

-- Above all else, have fun. Bridal shows can be as entertaining as they are productive.

"Brides are the center of attention at a bridal show, so enjoy it," Westbrook said. "The next time you get this much attention will be on your wedding day!"

(c) Creators News Service

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