Bridal shows are a magnet for newly-engaged couples.
It's the first taste of your new life adventure.
Everyone there is excited for you; eager to help you put together the wedding of your dreams.
There are lots of vendors in one place; all putting their best work on display.
Choice, choice, and more choice.
The logical place to start, right?
Yes and no.
Don't get me wrong. Bridal shows are great – no doubt about it.
A world of information.
What's new, what's trendy, and what's available in your area.
But … you do not want to come away from a show with names and faces blurring in your mind, thirty pieces of paper stuffed into a bag, and the feeling of being overwhelmed even before you've started the hardcore planning.
I see that a lot at shows.
Brides and grooms walking in a daze from one booth to another.
Their eyes glazing over as they try to take it all in.
So how do you avoid that?
Know what you can afford to spend.
Before you go anywhere near a bridal show, you need to know what your wedding budget is.
This may involve uncomfortable discussions with contributing family members (a discussion for another time), but the bottom line is .. the bottom line is important!
You need to know what your spending limits are at the outset.
So that you won't realise something you like is beyond your means once you've already set your heart on it, and, more importantly, so that you do not incur debt.
Do your homework.
Take the time to find out who the vendors are going be at any given show - and run some internet searches.
There are very few vendors without a website these days, and plenty of them have blogs as well.
Check those same vendors out on Facebook. If they have a business page they should have recent material which you can look at.
Follow their tweets.
Read their testimonials.
Look online for reviews.
See if other wedding professionals are recommending them.
You can get a real sense of what a vendor can do – and then relate to it or not.
This will help you to do a lot more than just window shop at a show.
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Don't be afraid of consultations.
You've done your research and you're standing in front of a vendor's booth admiring his or her handiwork. But there are other couples around you – all wanting a few moments of that vendor's time.
Don't shy away from the offer of a consultation if you like the vendor's work. You need to be sure that this vendor is a good match for your personality and vision – and you can't always get a feel for someone in five minutes. Just as they can't get a feel for you. The relationship with vendors is a two way street. They need to be as comfortable with you as you are with them – and there's really no other way to do that than to sit somewhere quietly and learn more about one another.
Bridal shows are a resource for brides and grooms. So don't just wader around the booths. Go prepared. You'll walk away with something tangible if you do!