Bridal Show Survival Guide: 30 Tips

Bridal Booth Display - Danielle Brown Photography

Bridal Show Survival Guide: 30 Tips

If you’ve never been to a bridal show and you’re planning on attending to help source some vendors for your upcoming wedding, fair warning: bridal shows are A LOT. Bridal shows are even a lot for seasoned veterans (vendors and couples alike). We’ve put together a bridal show survival guide to help you navigate the next big (really more than 10 vendor booths and 30 brides all in the same space) bridal show you attend.

Bridal Show Survival Guide: Before you go

#1 – Why are you going to a bridal show?

Are you going to fact-find and see what you see/get ideas? Are you looking for specific vendors to book? There is no right or wrong answer to this question, but to get the most out of a bridal show. have a defined goal to keep you focused and on track. If something jumps out at you when you are going only for inspo, don’t be afraid to commit!

#2 – Create a wedding email.

I know this sounds obvious. A couple of great things about having a dedicated email address for your wedding plans…

  • Keep yourself organized by only viewing emails for wedding “stuff” and not have an important email get “lost” amongst your regular everyday emails
  • Use this email going forward as a married couple or delete the account if you decide not to use it. 
  • Time savings hack #1: don’t unsubscribe to all the e-newsletters coming to this account. Just delete it. 
  • Time savings hack #2: keep this email if you were the first in your friend group to get married and forward applicable emails to your friends getting married.

#3 – Commit to your wedding budget.

Remember that budget article you read on our site? Click here if you need to scroll through this again. Before you start attending the next 50 bridal shows (kidding, you’ll likely go to a couple though) have your budget for your overall wedding, plus specific vendors. When you’ve established your overall budget, definitely have a plan for specific vendors. In weddings, there can, not always, be a definite difference in pricing for the same wedding product or service.

#4 – Plan to attend in advance.

Yes, you can absolutely choose to go day-of. BUT… if you plan ahead (think one to two weeks or a month) you could save some money. Many bridal shows will offer discounted or free tickets if you purchase/sign up to attend a few weeks in advance.

Pro tip bonus #1: Start with a smaller show depending on how you feel about crowds. Any show hosted at a venue or smaller facility will likely feature a smaller group of show exhibitors and a smaller attendee list. If you want to attend a larger show with more vendors, they will be held at facilities like a convention center, arena, or other large-scale venue. If you’re curious and have issues with crowds, reach out (contact us form or email) and ask the show organizers directly how many vendors and attendees they are expecting. 20-30 vendors equals a small show, 100+ exhibitors is a big show.

Pro tip bonus #2: If you’re dipping your toe in the bridal show experience, Venue Open Houses are a great way to get started on a small scale.

Pro tip bonus #3: There’s a big difference between a full on bridal expo and a venue open house. In comparison a venue open house, will likely:

  1. Only feature THIS venue. A venue open house will NOT feature/invite other venues unless it’s a venue that is owned/operated by a company that owns multiple venues.
  2. Most of the non-venue exhibitors will be hand-selected by the venue (not always, but OFTEN) and likely these are already vendors that are on a suggested/recommended vendor list
  3. The variety of vendors (per category) is likely to be minimal compared to a commercial bridal show. Big bridal shows in Atlanta will often feature 10-15 wedding photographers, whereas a venue open house/small scale show, I’d expect to see one to five (max).
  4. Vendors (not the venue) at an open house may or may not work outside of this venue. Don’t forget to ask a vendor if they are exclusive to this venue or if they work at other venues.

Streamline the bridal show experience by…

#5 – Decide which vendors (specific categories) you want to see at the show.

Some bridal shows we participate in can have 100-200 wedding vendors for you to meet. No kidding. Seeing 150 or more wedding vendors will kind of feel like your brain got put into a blender. 

Look at your “Book Wedding Vendor” list that you have left and pick 3-5 categories that are “must visit” vendors at the show. If you’re getting married in 12 months, you have time to book a few vendors per month early on. If you’re getting married in three to six months, check out our timeline article to help you figure out what you need to do when.

Pro tip: Don’t feel bad if you haven’t stopped by or chatted with EVERY. SINGLE. VENDOR. Stay on task and on target with what you need and from whom. You’ll have a much more enjoyable experience if you skip vendors you don’t need. DO get info for later from vendors you need but aren’t ready for at the time of the show.

#6 – Check out the show exhibitor list for the vendors you want to meet.

Most bridal shows will have their exhibiting vendors listed on the show website. From there, feel free to do your research on the vendors’ websites/social media to prequalify if that vendor is worth chatting with at the show.

#7 – Prepare some qualifying questions for your list of vendors.

We suggest asking:

  • Are you available on my date? (Service-based vendors) What is the suggested lead-time to order your [product]? (Product-based vendors)
  • Pricing (starting or pricing options), as it relates to your budget
  • Have you worked with my venue? Or a similar venue? (On-site vendors)
  • Is there a travel fee (service-based) or delivery/shipping fee (product-based)?
  • What show discounts are you offering? How long do I have to take advantage of the show special? Some exhibitors will have show specials available during the actual show only versus some will give you a timeframe to take advantage of a bridal expo promotion/discount.

Bridal Show Survival Guide: At the Show

#1 – Bridal Fashion Show.

If the bridal fashion show, which most bridal expos have towards the end of the show, is important to you, arrive early to check out vendors and find your seat 30 or more minutes before the show to get a good seat. If the fashion show isn’t important to you and your crew, use the time during the fashion show to talk to vendors while the show is significantly quieter if you have more in-depth questions.

#2 – Be prepared for crowds and other couples.

During the height of the show, vendors will often be able to hand out information and answer brief questions, such as: Are you available on my date? What are starting/entry prices or price ranges for offered products/services? In-depth questions from couples are always welcome but may be best for during the fashion show or an independent conversation scheduled for after the actual bridal show. Try to be patient with vendors you want to talk to. We want to talk to everyone, but only can talk to one couple/group at a time!

#3 – Take the handouts.

Most wedding vendors at shows will have takeaway handouts for couples. Handouts usually give some/all information about their service/product. When you get home, try not to drop off the bag and forget about the handouts. Especially if you connect with a particular vendor, set their handout aside so you don’t forget to look at their info/options that night.

What to bring to the Bridal Expo: for you & the I Do Crew

Bring all the things. Depending on which vendors you’re targeting for a conversation/to book, make sure you have the following:

  • Notebook and pen. The first bridal show you go to will be overwhelming. Keep notes as you go. Using your cell phone is good, but a notebook just for the upcoming bridal show will help keep your impressions, inspiration and concepts in one place and not lost in your photo stream.
  • Fully charged cell phone. Maybe hardcopy notes aren’t your thing. Some vendors may have QR codes up to scan. You might want to take some photos of a particular vendor booth so you can remember it better. 
  • Bottle(s) of Water and a light snack. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! You will be SHOCKED at how fast you get thirsty from chatting up all those great vendors. Little snacks are good too! Don’t assume that a bridal show will have available concessions or a lot of catering vendors to keep your blood sugar up. Don’t get HANGRY!
  • A sense of humor. Have a great time. Wedding planning is stressful and approaching the day (including rolling through a bridal show) with a sense of humor and keeping things fun will make the day fun and less work.

Bring this to make your vendor conversation faster & easier

Show your targeted vendors you know how a show works. Your vendors are choosing you as much as you are choosing them. These three things tells a wedding vendor you are serious:

For your vendors at the bridal show

  • Couple Info Stickers. Make up a sheet of stickers with the couple’s names, cell phone(s), email(s), venue and wedding date. Some bridal expo vendors do drawings with paper slips. As a rule, vendors ask for at least one name (we suggest including both names) and contact info, plus your venue and wedding date for drawing forms. Slapping a sticker on the drawing form will save you time, plus, if you win, no worries that someone couldn’t read your handwriting!
  • Color swatches for your wedding. Depending on your targeted vendor list, showing color swatches to a bridal gown designer, florist, bakers, and custom invitation designers will be faster and more accurate than showing a picture on your phone.

For you at the bridal show

  • Bring a calendar or date book. Rather than expecting to book your services right at the show, Danielle Brown Photography wants to have a personal conversation with you to see if we’re the right fit for you, and if you’re the right fit for us. We’ll schedule a Zoom call or in-person meeting at the show, but don’t forget! Put us on the calendar (paper or on your phone) so you don’t miss out on your show special.
  • Be honest. It’s 100% OK to tell a vendor you’re not ready for them. As a wedding photographer (or any service-based vendor) we will not accept your wedding if you haven’t secured your venue. It’s the first question we ask couples at a show. Give a serviced-based vendor a reasonable timeframe for follow up. They may even be willing to extend the deadline for you on their show specials, depending on the vendor.

Bridal Show Survival Guide: Who should go

#1 – The Discision Maker AKA the Bride (or Groom).

Preferably, the decision-driving part of the couple is the best person to go to the show if no one else.

#2 –  The Supporting Partner AKA the Groom (or Bride).

We love to meet you as a couple. If one goes, shouldn’t the other? Just because you’re the more chill side of the couple, doesn’t mean you should skip the bridal show. We’ve noticed that our chill/supporting partner will often have a unique perspective and have interesting and well-thought-out questions (that the decision-driving partner didn’t think to ask). Because two are better than one. 😉

#3 – The I Do Crew.

Bring the entourage! Moms are great. Friends or one or more bridal party members are other great people to come with you.

#4 – The littles.

Check with your bridal expo ticketing policies if children get in free. Keep in mind, children tire easily. Most bridal shows start to finish are often 3-5 hours long (if you attend for the full show). Your little might not have the chops to hang with you for the full experience. Bridal expos can be crowded with A LOT of people and spaces may be harder to navigate with a stroller or child transportation device.

When you get home from the Bridal Expo

#1 – Go through your handouts and notes.

Don’t wait! Service-based vendors often book their calendar first come, first-served. Don’t loose your date and miss out on your first-choice vendors because you slept on your bag of bridal show goodies. Because you targeted specific vendors, you should have a more manageable stack of handouts to review.

#2 – Get your partner (and others if contributing) to discuss that night.

If you wait until “later” your memory of vendors and ideas won’t be as crisp and fresh. If you’re serious about getting the most out of any bridal, start talking it through that night.

#3 – Don’t dismiss vendors who are reaching out to you.

Vendors are reaching out because you opted in and you asked them to help you make an awesome wedding. After a few contacts with vendors you signed up with, if you feel like they’re not a good fit, feel free to unsubscribe/opt out.

#4 – Meet with vendors and hear what they have to say.

At the show, a lot of vendors don’t push you to book them on the spot. Instead of being pushy or high-pressure, they invite you to a conversation. Many vendors want to hear what you’re looking for and what’s important to you and your future spouse. It’s OK if you need to reschedule or if you have found another vendor. Be gracious and let them know you need to reschedule or cancel the appointment.

Are you planning your wedding? Check out more helpful articles on here.