Top 10 Bridal Show Strategies
Wedding tradeshows, venue open houses, vendor showcases…whatever they are called…these events are excellent places to get inspiration and find local professionals to contract for your big day. It is a statistical fact that most couples get engaged between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day, so it makes sense that January and February are the biggest booking months of the year for wedding vendors.
You should also know that a lot of the local wedding venues and professionals are booked up to a year out and beyond. That means that all bridal shows occurring between January and March 2018 are filling up late 2018 and early 2019 calendars for the show vendors.
Now that you know the facts, here are our Top 10 Tips to get the best out of all the showcasing events that you attend:
10. Register or RSVP online – More and more show producers are providing discounted or even free tickets for brides who pre-register electronically. Of course, most venue open houses following the shows are free to attend, but normally there will be at least one food vendor who will really appreciate pre-registration so they can be sure to make enough samples for everyone who attends.
9. Create an email address specifically for your wedding planning – Your name and any contact information you provide will be given to show vendors and in some cases magazine advertisers who don’t even attend the bridal shows the magazine publishers produce. You will most likely get phone calls and/or emails from many wedding vendors that you may not have spoken with at the show. If you have a separate wedding related email, you can sift through what interests you and then cancel the account when the wedding is over.
8. Print out address labels with your name, email address, phone number and wedding date (if known) – It is time consuming to fill out all the forms that the vendors have at their booths for promotions, giveaways, or even consultation appointments. This tip will give you more time to talk to more people and get more inspiration.
7. Wear comfortable shoes! – Most of these shows take place at huge convention centers, hotel ballrooms or at sprawling venues. You could talk to 100+ vendors in four hours while standing on your feet or tour a multi-acre ranch or country club venue. The last thing you want when trying to plan your wedding are sore feet!
6. In most cases, there are a LOT of vendors at these shows so get the program and locate the booth numbers of those you wish to speak with. – Strategically planning your vendor visits at these shows will save you time and tired feet. Yes, it is fun to browse and get inspiration but if you go with a direction, you will get the information you want and it will be easier to sift through everything and make a decision.
5. If possible, be flexible with your wedding date – There are only so many Saturdays in a year and those in the months of May, June and October will go the quickest in Austin and the surrounding areas. You will be surprised by how much money you can save by having your wedding in January, February, early March or December. You can save even more by having a day wedding on Saturday or an evening wedding on Sunday. Have a first, second and third date choice. BONUS TIP – check the UT football game schedule and major city event dates like Formula One, SXSW, ACL, etc. before selecting your date. Downtown hotels fill up quickly and are very expensive during home games and major events.
4. Come with an estimated wedding budget and be realistic about it (for helpful budgeting info keep reading my article below) – You will get a lot of inspiration at these shows and you will fall in love with certain vendors over others. As professionals, it is our job to know the trends and to even be ahead of the curve. No doubt a design you will fall in love with will be pricey to execute. It is far easier to talk to pros within your price range when you know how much you can spend in each category rather than falling in love with someone you simply cannot afford. Before you ask any other questions, ask what average package prices are and what that package includes.
3. Ask vendor specific questions – I realize that you are expecting the professionals to tell you what you need and provide what they promise. However, there are a lot of start-up businesses or hobby vendors who don’t make servicing weddings their primary careers. Don’t find this out on wedding day because then it will be too late. Be armed with some key questions that will separate the amateurs from the pros. One key question for most vendors is “Are you certified, licensed, insured in your field?” BONUS TIP For a detailed list of vendor specific questions, email
2. Bring a bridal party member and/or the person contributing to the budget – If you are like every other bride, you have been dreaming about your wedding all your life. Bring those with you who can pull you out of the clouds when needed. Leave the children with a sitter. Kids get tired and lose focus easily which will not allow you to give the attention you need for shopping and getting ideas. You will be grateful for the help in sorting through everything. Some venues and vendors are more popular than others so you may need to make a decision quickly. Having the person attend that is paying for or contributing to the wedding may mean you getting the facility of your dreams over having to pick your second choice. Have you asked those closest to you to be in your wedding party yet? Do you know that each member of the bridal party has responsibilities leading up to and on wedding day? BONUS TIP For a list of bridal party duties, email email@example.com.
1. Be a winner! – You can’t win if you don’t sign up. Almost every vendor including the show producer have some sort of contest, promotion or prize which is designed to collect your information so they can contact you later about their products and services. However, you can use this marketing technique to your advantage by saving money on your wedding. Vendors may be offering “show discounts” that are applicable only if booking services at the show, but you may not be ready to book that particular product or service until a month or more after the event. If someone really made an impression on you, contact them and ask if they will still extend the discount. In most cases they will honor it…I know I do. It never hurts to ask!
Budgeting for Your Big Day
Planning your wedding should be fun. In our society there is no ritual requiring as much social awareness and etiquette or that is as costly as a wedding. Weddings are detailed emotionally charged events. It is no wonder that this is such a stressful time for brides. We have compiled some very helpful hints to help you focus on the right activities, the right choices, at the right time - to help avoid undue stress and costly mistakes.
1. Put together a realistic budget before you hire any vendors.You don't want to go into debt planning your wedding or special event. Know in advance what you have to spend. Then do some research on pricing before you sign any contracts with vendors. Keep your guest list to a minimum if you are on a tight budget and don't invite everyone you know.
2. Weddings are expensive. The average formal wedding in the Austin area costs about $30,000 for 150 guests. You may be able to save some money if you schedule your celebration on a Friday or a Sunday, even more on a weekday evening. You might need to consider timing your reception to avoid mealtime and do not serve alcohol or limit the alcohol to one specialty drink. The best advice is to hire the best, most experienced wedding planner available. This will save you money, keep you on budget, and avoid costly errors no matter what your budget. Click Here for a useful wedding cost estimator.
3. Throw away the word "perfect." Remember to be flexible and maintain your sense of humor.
4. Don't procrastinate. The best venues, caterers, and other wedding professionals book early. You want the ability to pick the best vendors available in your price range and that means begin to hire all your wedding professionals as soon as the date has been set.
5. Research a minimum of three vendors in each area for a proper comparison.
6. Hire your wedding consultant or event planner first, before other vendors. Once you have a working contract with your planner, then begin the search for other wedding professionals. Most venues and vendors LOVE it when a couple comes in with a planner and they even offer discounts and/or upgrades for having one. I've saved my clients up to the cost of my services in negotiated discounts or upgrades.
7. Be honest about your budget with all your vendors. Your don't want to waste their time or yours with estimates that don't fit your needs.
8. Be honest with yourself about what is the most important factor for your wedding. If you are most concerned with having a gourmet sit-down 5 course meal, then you may not be able to afford to rent that perfect ballroom too. Write down your priorities and adjust your budget accordingly.
9. Get it in writing!! Don't assume anything. Read your contracts. Most importantly, consult your mate. It's his or her wedding too.
10. This is BY FAR the most important: Do not hire wedding professionals because they are the least expensive. You get what you pay for. Research the vendors and make educated choices.