Attending your first wedding fair can be pretty daunting.
What do you want to find out? Who do you need to speak to? How are you going to avoid all those stall-holders vying for your attention? What are you expecting to get out of the visit?
National or local fair?
Each wedding fair is different. You may choose to go to a huge national event (such as the National Wedding Show), where everything is on a vast scale. It will be noisy, busy, pressurised and demanding; however, you can expect every sort of supplier there, so you may possibly be able to resolve all your concerns on the spot.
Alternatively, you can attend smaller wedding fairs. They are usually organised by a wedding planner or else by the venue, often a hotel licensed for weddings. Attendance will vary, but, unlike thousands for a national fair, hundreds – or just a hundred, or even fifty– visitors will typically pass through in the day.
There may – or may not – be a bridal fashion parade as part of the event. If you choose well, you may get offered a drink and canapés on the house, which is always nice. There’s normally a ‘goody bag’ too.
By the way, the same wedding fair will not be the same this time as it was last time around. Weather, different stall-holders, punters – anything – may affect the atmosphere.
A national show will offer a vast array of photographers, cake-makers, florists etc. to choose from; however, you can expect a (much smaller) choice of suppliers at the local wedding fairs. Sometimes, these are vetted by the host venue, but not necessarily.
At a national event, where they will be crowds, you may not be given the time to ask the questions you want addressed. (Of course, you can take a card and contact the supplier later.) At a local event, you should get the chance to have a reasonably undisturbed chat with the stall-holder.
How do I make the most of a fair?
Your expectations will depend on your reasons for attending a show. In other words, if you’ve just got engaged and this is your first fair, you’re probably looking for ideas only at this stage. A more seasoned visitor may be targeting certain suppliers, and can be pretty precise about what he/she needs to find out.
Either way, don’t be bamboozled, especially when you arrive. You may find that the room or rooms are large, animated, possibly with flashing lights etc. and music playing. The room is meant to be a feast for the senses – and the number and variety of stall-holders adds to it. Imagine a middle-eastern bazaar, and you’ll get the picture.
If you can come prepared (even with notes) as to what you want and need, you can make the most of the fair. Suppliers will try and entice you to stop at their stall (either by engaging you in conversation or by offering a freebie). Don’t do what some people do, which is refuse to make eye contact and sneak through without talking to anybody. You don’t know what you might be missing.
The supplier is not going to be nasty to you – or force you into parting with money. Moreover, you may learn something of potential significance to you. They are professionals, after all, and helping you is likely to be in their interests!
In my experience, people have rarely considered a civil celebrant like myself until we chat, and many will get excited about the unexpected extra dimension that is available to them.
Of course, you can come to a wedding fair to enjoy yourself – they’re usually a great show, with fabulous displays – but the best thing is to come with an open mind. Engage with the stall-holders. Have a cheery chat. Make notes or take photos, if you want to remember certain things. If you’re not interested, politely move on. You won’t upset the supplier: he/she does not expect every encounter to represent business!
You’ll receive a load of flyers and stuff in the goody bag. A good idea is to go through this when you get home (before you forget everything that was said to you!) and eliminate what you’re sure is irrelevant. (Do this at least before visiting your next fair!)
If there’s anything that stood out positively, don’t leave it long before contacting the supplier. They may get booked up, of course, but bear in mind that, as time goes by, you are likely to forget what attracted you in the first place.
So go to a fair in a positive mindset. Nobody will be expecting you to buy on the spot (although this may actually happen). Just go, enjoy, chat and listen. Have an open mind. You never know what pearls you may emerge with!