You've shared the news with family and friends, drank copious amounts of celebratory prosecco, and searched (and found) your dream dress on pinterest. In your head, you've pictured your perfect day and have played over (just a few times) that magical moment where you say "I do". Now it's time to turn those dreams and fairytale goals into reality and start making some hard and fast decisions. There's the venue to secure, a date to be decided upon and a location for the ceremony to sort. That's before choosing caterers, photographer and dealing, in the interim, with family politics. Hang on a minute, isn't this meant to be fun? Who knew booking the preliminaries could cause so much anxiety, stress and drama?!
Then there's the theming and style - are you going to embrace those boho festival vibes, urban chic or go for something more traditional? In short, with so much choice out there and so many decisions to make, it's difficult to know where to start. This is where the wedding fair comes into play. True, the idea of facing a series of vendors thrusting leaflets at you and endless sales patter might not appeal, but, play it right and you can come away rejuvenated, inspired and informed (as well as cross some things off that endless wedding to do list!).
Gorgeousness from Buns of Fun Bakery at Most Curious this year - inspirational and local!
Photo credit: Camilla Andrea Photography
Having exhibited at numerous fairs, both local, national, traditional, vintage, quirky and alternative - from tiny, intimate gatherings with only 8 exhibitors, to Excel in London with over 300, I have met literally thousands of brides to be and have experienced the very best and very worst of wedding shows. I have seen engaged couples quickly flit around the exhibition hall and leave within the hour, totally uninspired with nothing more than a few leaflets to show. Thankfully though, more often than not, brides and their entourage (namely Mums, maids and sometimes Gran) have an absolute ball. Here is how to achieve the latter!
Seek out exciting, and vibrant fairs. In an industry full of innovative minds, creative talent and visual inspiration, there is no excuse for bland, uninspiring wedding events where exhibitors stand behind their tables awkwardly exchanging a polite smile and perhaps a piece of literature here and there. In the last few years, more quirky wedding fairs, specialising for example in vintage, retro or festival styling have grown in popularity and are popping up across the country - if you are looking to move away from tradition, then it's worth seeking these out - they embrace creativity and select their exhibitors carefully to bring you some truly inspirational vendors. Leading the way (and my personal favourite) Most Curious - fresh and at the forefront of style, their London and Norwich shows are jam packed full inspiration, artistic talent and design. If you only go to one wedding show, prioritise Most Curious - I promise, it will not disappoint.
Most Curious Wedding Fair Norwich 2017: Pinktopia vibes!
Photo credit: Camilla Andrea Photography
Pre-register - it's always worth booking ahead to secure those VIP goody bags, discounted tickets and be first to find out about any competition, offers or freebies on the day.
Look at the list of exhibitors before you go and make a beeline for your favourites on arrival. Remember, you don't have to follow the crowd - why not start somewhere in the middle or even at the end? You will probably find these exhibitors are free to talk too, as the crowds haven't reached them yet.
Bring a bag to stash those leaflets, cards and freebies in. Also, bring some cash - as well as heavenly food and beverages, lots of vendors will have accessories, sample dresses etc on sale at discounted prices.
Ask questions. This is your opportunity to meet vendors face to face - they are often experts in their field with lots of experience of weddings and working with brides - tap into this expertise and use it to save you time, money and help you to make informed decisions.
Take advantage of offers. Small businesses are genuine in show only offers - they really are exclusive to the show. Exhibitors have to pay for shows and put a lot of work into setting up their spaces, so they want to make it worthwhile - offering a significant discount or freebie is a sure way to secure bookings - it's a win win all round.
Enter competitions! There are often loads at wedding fairs as vendors use them to create a customer base and increase their social media presence. At the smaller shows, your chances of winning are high! And, remember, you can always delete, unsubscribe or unfollow later.
Take pictures. Whilst some vendors might be a little precious about photographing their product, most of us love it (especially if you are going to give us a like or share ;) )- taking snaps is a quick and effective way to create a visual reminder of inspirational finds.
Two gorgeous ladies having fun trying on some tiaras (prosecco glass out of shot!)
Stay local for at least one fair you go to. Magazines, websites and national fairs showcase the big brands, but your local wedding fair is a chance to meet smaller businesses close to you. It is worth remembering that for most of us, showcasing our work on a national platform is simply out of our budget, but that doesn't mean what we do is any less good - in fact, local businesses and suppliers offer much better value for money as well as that all important personal touch.
Finally, Make a day of it and attend at least one BIG show that pulls out all the stops: glass of bubbly on arrival; goody bags, catwalk shows, talks and workshops. Bring your girls, leave husband to be at home and, most of all, enjoy!