Bridal shows are a fantastic resource, both for brides and wedding vendors. Brides get a chance to meet wedding vendors of every type all in one place, at one time. You'll gather great information and knock out most of your vendor research in one afternoon. Plus it's tons of fun, so get a few friends or family members to bring along with you!
Most likely there will be quite a few vendors at the show. Hopefully there will be a good mix in each category, spanning weddings of all budgets. Make sure to walk every aisle and at least see what each booth has to offer, even if you don't sit in for the sales pitch. You may discover great ideas you hadn't even thought about. In preparation, I would certainly bring my wedding planning notebook and a pen. Bring a bag to carry all of the fliers, business cards, and information you pick up along the way. And bring an appetite, because the catering companies will likely be serving up samples of their favorite dishes! If there's a list of the vendors that will be at the show, I would recommend doing a little research on them BEFORE the show. You'll be better prepared on who to focus your time on, check availability with, and questions to ask.
Many vendors will be doing giveaways and offering special show pricing. This is a huge benefit of a bridal show! I would enter as many free raffles and drawings as I could for services/products that interest me. Show pricing is also a great way to get discounts on their services, or free upgrades to packages. I would be wary of any show pricing that was only valid that day. You need time to go home and do research after the show, and set up a meeting to discuss in detail the services offered. I'm not saying you should never book a vendor while at the show, of course. Just don't do it solely for the show special.
Hopefully you're planning your wedding well in advance. By well in advance I mean about a year or more. A bridal show will be a great way to check availability and lock in dates. If you're perhaps looking for a wedding photographer, at a bridal show you'll be able to check with several photographers at different price points about their availability. As opposed to doing this research online, where you'd have to visit each photographer's website, contact them, and wait for a reply. If you find a vendor you like and they're available your date, move fast (especially if you have a more popular wedding date).
There's about 10 bridal shows a year just in my small city of Columbia, SC. I don't attend them all, but I advertise at 3 or 4 a year. A photographer colleague of mine organizes my favorite local bridal show, where you'll often find me. So if you're in Columbia or surrounding areas, check out bridecitybridalshows.com for their quarterly shows! If you have any questions about bridal shows, feel free to comment or message me.
Thanks for reading! I'm Trevor Mercer, a wedding photographer from Columbia, SC. I've been photographing weddings for over 10 years, and as a second-generation wedding photographer, I literally grew up in the business. I'm now providing wedding photography and videography for weddings in my state and well beyond, and I'm a 2016 winner in the Knot's Best of Weddings. I decided to start a blog and share everything I've learned about weddings through the years, and I hope it helps make your wedding planning a little easier. Please subscribe, share, and comment with your input or questions!