The question’s been popped, you’ve said yes and now you’re engaged! Time to start planning the wedding. But where to start?! At some point along the way you’ll probably going to round up your bridal party/family members/the other half and go to some wedding fairs, but with so many of them running these days how the hell are you going to pick out the right ones to visit?
1) Are there different types of wedding fairs?
Most definitely – and they broadly break down into 3 main categories:
National – usually a large, well established trade show, hosted in a major city at a dedicated conference or convention centre, and showcasing the work of up to 100 or more suppliers from around the country. They are usually ticket only. If you like the buzz of a large and busy event, aren’t particularly fussed about vendors being local to your area and don’t mind battling the crowds then this is most definitely the show for you. You’ll need a comfy pair of shoes for this one!
Boutique – usually a local or regional event of good standing within the area, held at venues like town halls, larger hotels or leisure complexes and showcasing the work of up to around 50 regional suppliers. Vendors at these shows will often have good local knowledge of the venues within the surrounding area, will be used to working with them and other local suppliers who can personally recommend one another.
These events may be ticketed but you can usually pay on the door and the entry fee will be much smaller than that of the larger trade shows and sometimes free of charge. If you prefer a more leisurely affair and want to book vendors within your region who you can talk with one to one, then this is a much better show for you.
Venue Promotion – a specific event held to promote the charms of a particular venue and the work of either preferred local suppliers or a select group of vendors who compliment the style of the venue. Venue promotional fairs tend to be small in scale with no more than 20 exhibitors and if you are super keen to hold your wedding at a particular venue then this is a golden opportunity to pop along, have a good nose around and meet suppliers face to face. These events are usually free of charge.
Don’t forget that not all wedding fairs are the same, but most fall into two camps – traditional or alternative. There are fairs at every level that cater to either taste (alternative fairs are likely to be held in quirkier or unusual venues) but make sure you do a bit of research first before rocking up at an event looking for vendors to supply your ‘boho chic meets industrial’ wedding and finding only sashed chair covers, beige tablecloths and chocolate fountains!
2) Who and what will I get to see at a wedding fair?
In this day and age of Pinterest, wedding blogs and just about everything you could ever want only a mouse click away, you could plan your entire wedding without even having to leave the comfort of your own home. However, think about the hours/days/months spent trawling the internet researching this cake and that florist, versus that photographer and those favours, when you could just pop along to the wedding fair of your choice and see a myriad of these options all under one roof.
Check out the websites and Facebook event pages for the fairs you’d like to attend. All good fair organisers should keep their websites and social media up to date with the latest exhibitor news in the run up to the event!
At larger shows, the highlight of the day is very often the fashion show and more recently and just as much, if not more fun, posing in front of the dedicated ‘selfie’ wall or having your photo taken in the photobooth! Bigger fairs very often provide refreshments by way of a pop up tearoom so you don’t even have to leave the event to get refreshments. Perfect for a refuel mid-way round.
3) Why should you go?
One thing you most definitely can’t do online is taste the cake, smell the flowers or try on the dresses! Wedding fairs offer you a more hands on experience when it comes to choosing your suppliers. You will be able to see, smell, hear, taste and touch as you peruse the stands as well as meet and talk to the people behind the businesses. And once you are face to face with the vendors you can ask them if they can make glitter explode out of the top of your cake/if the hem of that dress can be dip dyed sea blue/are happy to travel to Iceland to shoot your wedding, and get an immediate answer.
You’ll often find that vendors run competitions, promotions or discounts on their products and services, exclusive only to couples who attend the fair. If you are a huge fan of a particular business but can’t quite meet their full price, they might just be offering a great deal at the next fair they exhibit at. And don’t forget that complimentary glass of bubbly and goody bag – they’re not all full of flyers and crap biros!