With the euphoria of your engagement starting to taper off, it’s time to start the planning process towards your wedding day. And one of the best ways to begin the planning process is by attending a local wedding show! A wedding show – also referred to as a bridal show, wedding expo or bridal fair – is a great tool for planning your wedding; even the busiest of brides will benefit from attending one.

In addition to finding creative inspiration from all the great ideas on display, you’ll have the opportunity to meet local wedding professionals in your area face-to-face. It’s a great opportunity to ask questions and learn more about their experience and what they offer. In essence, attending a wedding show is a great way to accumulate a massive amount of information in a very efficient amount of time.

Yes, they can be overwhelming and confusing; some of the larger shows feature hundreds of wedding professionals exhibiting their products and/or services! But they can also be an informative and fun way to kick off your journey towards “I do!” Here’s how to make the most of attending:

Dress comfortably.
First and foremost, wear your most comfortable shoes as you’ll spend the majority of the day on your feet. Next check in advance to see if a coat check service will be provided. If not, dress in layers and stick to a light jacket. Otherwise, it’ll be a looooong day carrying both a heavy coat and bag of literature around!

Create a “wedding” email account.
Provide this email address at the show, and reserve your personal email address for the professionals you actually do book. Trust me on this; some of my past clients have told me that in addition to being hounded by wedding vendors for days and weeks after the show, they still receive follow-up emails from wedding vendors years later.

Bring a companion (or two!).
Invite your Maid of Honor and/or mother to join you. Not only will it be blast for all, but it also gives you at least one person to bounce ideas off of. And when appropriate, they’ll prevent you from making an impulse decision you may later regret.

Also, feel free to invite your fiancé, as well. Someone has to carry that bag of promotional materials around!

Stay together.
Since you will likely quickly reach information overload, “divide and conquer” is a terrible strategy for attending a wedding show. When it comes to making decisions, it’s best to have all the decision-makers present and listening to the information being presented.

Avoid bringing children, if possible.
They will tire quickly and be extremely bored. And if your child isn’t cooperating, it will be difficult to focus for both you and the vendor you are speaking with. Hire a babysitter; you’ll be glad you did.

Do your homework before you go.
Take a look at the show guide provided on the bridal show’s website before you go! Visit each vendor’s website and do some light research. Cross the vendors off on your list that are not of interest to you. Not only will it save you valuable time at the show, but it will allow you to invest more time learning about the vendors you are interested in.

Please, wear your sticker.
Nearly all wedding expos will provide you with a “Bride” and “Groom” sticker upon arrival. Please wear it as it helps vendors identify who is who in your group. Those wearing their “Bride” sticker? They get they professional’s immediate attention.

Arrive early? Go left. Arrive late? Go right.
When most brides-to-be enter the exhibition hall, they always go to the right. I don’t have a reason why; it just happens that way. So if you arrive earlier in the day, head to the left. You’ll have more time to to meet and greet with those professionals before the flow of the room catches up to you.

Know the basic details of your wedding.
The size of your wedding party, the number of guests you are anticipating hosting, the venue (or at least geographic location you are considering), even the date itself will be helpful information to provide to each professional you meet with. Also, bring material swatches and ribbons, as they are helpful when speaking with  florists, bakers, planners, etc.

Walk away with appointments, not contracts.
Unfortunately, there is a wealth of information to each professional’s service and unless its a smaller, more intimate bridal show, there frankly isn’t enough time to have lengthy conversations. Respect the vendor’s time – they need to get their literature out to as many brides as they can! – and set appointments with them.

Ask if the vendor will honor their show special in the days and weeks to come. If they won’t, and seem overly pushy, feel free to politely decline and walk on. There’s no rush, so take your time and make educated booking decisions.

Bring a list of questions to ask.
Don’t rush from booth to booth just grabbing business cards and flyers, as you could’ve easily just stayed home and found vendors on Google while watching Netflix. The point of a wedding show is to get a feel for the personality of each professional you speak with, so ask them your hardest hitting questions. The best of the best are there to help you; they understand you are under no obligation to book or buy. Click here for a list of twelve questions you should ask at a bridal show.

Don’t make hasty judgements.
Take a minute to listen to the offer of each vendor before deciding if their service is of interest to you. If it isn’t, it’s perfectly okay to politely decline with a “No, thank you” and continue on. If unsure, take their literature anyways and hold on to it. You’ll be glad you did down the road should you decide a string quartet, photo booth, or day-of coordinator is for you.

Have extended conversations with vendors during the fashion show.
When the fashion show begins, all bridal show attendees make head over to watch. This is a great time to circle back to that vendor you really want to learn more about.

Take notes!
Prepare yourself for information overload. Bring a pen and quickly jot down notes on the literature you receive from each vendor. Better yet, bring a second pen of a different color and use that for the vendors that really capture your interest. Alternatively, you can bring a second bag for filtering the literature you receive.

Bring a bottled water and snacks.
Not only is the food at the concession stand expensive, but the lines can get pretty long, too.

Do enter giveaways.
Yes, nearly all of them are legit, and even if you don’t win, most companies will still offer you an exclusive discount or coupon after the promotion has ended. To avoid writing your contact information over and over again, consider preparing labels with your contact information before you come.

Feel free to ask about possible discounts.
Are you in the military? Is your wedding on a weekday? Early morning? Check to see if there are possible discounts for your specific situation. The answer is always “no” if you don’t ask.

Talk to other brides at the show.
It’s nice to be able to speak to someone that is currently experiencing what you are experience. You never know, you may make a new friend!

Ask your hired professionals who they recommend visiting at the show.
Is your photographer exhibiting a booth at the wedding show? If so, stop by and ask for their recommendations of reputable vendors you should visit.

Take a ton of photos.
Feel free to fill your smartphone with pictures of anything that inspires you! You can even take selfies with the vendors you liked meeting! Nearly all vendors are okay with you taking photos; but do politely ask before you snap!

Make social media connections.
If you’re really interested, ask to connect with that wedding pro on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or Snapchat while at their booth. It’s a great way to make connections without revealing your personal email or phone number; you can always disconnect from them should you choose to go another direction.

Ask any question except for “How much do you charge?”
For wedding professionals, it’s hard to give an exact price without enough information about your specific wedding day and vision. Also, to make a real comparison among vendors, you’ll need way more information from each professional than what a promotional flyer can provide.

Here’s a great list of twelve questions you should ask at a wedding show.

For large wedding shows, go both days.
It’s highly unlikely that you’ll see everything you need to in one day. Especially if the show is crowded and its hard to navigate to every booth. Take your fiancé on Saturday – or whichever day his football team isn’t playing! –  and then walk the show again with your mother and girlfriends on Sunday. This will ensure you covered it all.

Don’t procrastinate.
It’s highly likely the vendors you’re interested in will be talking to other brides with have the same wedding date as you. Don’t wait too long after the show to communicate! If a vendor really has your interest, ask for their email or phone number and send them a quick message right then and there. Trust me, they’ll make you a priority that very evening.

Most importantly of all, have fun!
Enjoy the cake and dessert samples! Hop in all of the photo booths and take silly photos with your girlfriends! And don’t forget to be yourself and try to make connections with the vendors you meet. It’s an opportunity to gain insight into what they are like to work with.

Photo Credit: Hildebrand Photography.