The 3 dark wedding industry secrets I unearthed at a mainstream bridal show

Guest post by Lydia Bell

Photo by JKCaliff

Shortly after my engagement, a friend who was also planning a wedding gently dragged me to a big bridal show in Atlanta. I knew it wouldn't be the most exciting experience for me. While we didn't have many things planned at the time, we definitely knew it was going to be a little untraditional. We know we weren't getting married in a church, we'd have a mixed-gender bridal party, and a big poofy dress was simply NOT happening. Plus, our budget was small. Not mainstream bridal magazine small — like, actually small.

Still, I figured what's the harm? Maybe I'll find a booth that inspires me. Maybe it'll be a little fun, expand my horizons. Maybe there'd even be free champagne?

There was no free champagne. And it wasn't fun. I will say that my friend had a fabulous time. This show was perfect for the dream wedding she had in mind. And of course I was happy to see her face light up at the booths. But it wasn't my thing. More than that, it left me some major knots in my stomach. It almost ruined the magic of wedding planning for me.

There are three big things about the wedding industry that I learned from the one and only big bridal show I attendedโ€ฆ

1. No idea is too offbeatโ€ฆ unless it's an offbeat budget

Vendors will entertain any wedding concept you can dream up. Want a green dress instead of white? Not a problem! (But if that dress is not designer? Well, that's just “tacky.”) Going for the “rustic feel?” GREAT. We have adorable mini Mason jars at $15 a pop. (Getting the same Mason jars at Goodwill? Well, that's just “in poor taste.”)

Vendors seem very eager and very interested in hearing all your unique little ideas about doing an original wedding. But they want to leave you with that one-of-a-kind “special order” bill. If you're not willing to pick up the tab, they'll quickly look past you to the next dazed bride-to-be.

2. You're not pretty enough to get married (yet)

So your partner has decided to commit their life to you. They love you more than anyone in the world. Well, hold on there! Whether you knew it or not, you just can't walk down the aisle looking like that.

Among the booths were multiple vendors for weight loss and breast augmentation. And it wasn't enough that the booths were there for women who might approach them with interest. Pamphlets were shoved into my hand as I passed. I felt like someone was telling me, “Congratulations! Let me make you feel body-conscious on what's supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life!” The feminist in me wanted to rip the pamphlets into tiny pieces and throw them in the air yelling about why their social construct of beauty was sickening! I didn't do that. I sheepishly explained that I'm actually really comfortable with my body how it is.

There is something really wrong with telling a bride she isn't good enough while simultaneously slapping a tiara on her head.

3. It's not really about the wedding day; it's about the souvenirs

Every wedding photographer and videographer had the same sales pitch: I wouldn't remember my wedding day. I would be far too stressed and far too nervous and the next day it would be like a dream. Apparently the real joy would come from having a perfectly packaged wedding book and video.

To be fair, I'm sure there are things that are missed on the big day. With all the talking and music and drinking, many things will go unnoticed that will be lovely to view in the post-wedding photos. But actual wedding amnesia? Hmmm. Seems a bit unlikely to me. And if I can't remember a moment of my wedding, well, I'm not so sure I want to have one then!

I'm sure there are things about big industry bridal shows that are appealing to some couples. I'm glad they exist for those couples. But for offbeat couples, a mainstream bridal fair can really leave you feeling like you're doing everything all wrong.

But you know what? You're doing everything exactly right! As long as you stay true to your authentic self, your wedding will be a success.

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Comments on The 3 dark wedding industry secrets I unearthed at a mainstream bridal show

  1. This is great and very true! I went to the bridal show in my smaller city and it made me feel sick and really stressed. We had a smaller budget and offbeat-lite ideas and the whole thing was so overwhelming. Between the $200 bouquets and PUSHY sales reps, I started second-guessing what we wanted for a wedding, and honestly what kind of girl I was, since I didn’t care about so much that was shown. I actually ended up chilling out for a while in the “Men’s Area”, where they had big comfy couches and a flat screen with college football playing. That definitely helped!

  2. Oh, Lydia! I went to that same Atlanta show – albeit a few years ago. It was pretty much just like you described and I left early after a quick walk around. I did see some beautiful flowers and tasted a good cake.

    In a way, though, the WIC show was helpful. The show helped me identify and then let go of clingy residual “but-you-have-to-have”s. It made me more confident in my own decisions – to order tulips online, to get a dozen varied small cakes instead of a big one, to actually appreciate the hips and butt my partner already loves. You see, WIC expectations are boggarts. They feed on our fear. And as Professor Lupin has taught us, if you can stare a boggart straight in face and shout “Riddikulus!”, it will lose its power.

    • Edit to say: Our decisions. Partner could not make the show, but credit where due, he was fully a part of the wedding planning.

    • And the winner of the most adorable comment goes to.. ding ding ding! <3

  3. The only reason I go to those things is for free cake.

    I had a lady try to push tanning services on me. When I told her I wasn’t into cancer-causing services, she offered a spray tan as an alternative. I laughed and told her that my people don’t tan.

    I got the Irish skin genes from my mother’s side of the family. I would look seriously ridiculous with a tan.

    There was some pretty good cake at that one, though.

    • An awesome advertising slogan for bottled water over here (Ireland): “So Irish, it thinks tan comes from a bottle.”
      I’ll be villified for my Persil-white skin, off-the-shoulder dress that exposes lots of scar tissue and B-cups (and hopefully a tattoo), and lack of gel/acrylic claws too.

      Except my hairstylist is my mother, who knows better. My bridesmaids have known me 23 and 7 years respectively, and know that if I say no then it ain’t happening. My back-up bridesmaids are my SCA friends, 2 of whom are male, and will be more disappointed that I don’t wear my hamster onesie. And FH and I regularly snark about Oompa Loompas and girls rolling around in Bisto powder…..

      I’ll leave the tanning beds to my brother who needs UV treatments, thanks. And Sally Hansen destroyed my college bathroom so unless she’s reimbursing my ex-landlord she can go jump…

  4. Plastic surgery? Maybe I skipped all those booths. I did see a couple of med-spa places, so maybe they had some sort of enhancement packages there, but I just smiled and kept walking.

    At one show I felt so warm and happy and another show I felt very lonely. But I was rarely accosted or given a hard sell. There are some shows I didn’t go to because I expected they were geared towards those with larger budgets, at least based on the vendor list.

  5. While I can’t say that bridal shows aren’t useful, because we found our non-denominational person to marry us and a photographer, I’d have to say that I was pretty disappointed with the large number of vendors who were appearance fixer-uppers, such as plastic surgeons, weight loss programs, cosmetic dentists, hair extensions, spray tan, etc. Also, the wedding gowns featured in the fashion show were something left to be desired–which I was shocked because I live in a large metropolitan city and the show had well over 200 vendors showing their wares.

  6. I love this post. I actually went “under cover” to a large, supposedly non-traditional, wedding expo in Los Angeles. I didn’t tell anyone I was from Offbeat Bride, and I attended to see how “our” peeps — super-geeks, LGBT community, tomboy brides, excited grooms, etc — would feel.

    It was so painfully gender-normative, so exclusionary to any couples other than “bride and groom,” and the one dude who admitted that he was there on his own (sans bride *gasp*) was mocked by the MC. I even ended up fucking crying at one point after talking to vendors — while pretending to be an planning-stage Offbeat Bride — and seeing their look of confusion, horror, pity, or the triple whammy combo, for the umpteenth time. And I’m not even feelsy!

    Seriously, screw wedding expos — it’s all about our Lovesick Expos. I promise not to make any of you cry. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • I loved Lovesick Expo. It was the only expo I would attend…Even more fun after a few cocktails, and gave me some great ideas!

      • At the risk of being a Negative Nelly (or kicked out of the Tribe)… the Lovesick Expo left much to be desired for low-budget couples. I attended here in Denver, and to agree with the other folks, it was fun. I drank (a $6 beer, cheapest thing there), I danced (while the $600 per 15 minute show) fire dancer was dancing, and I wrote down ideas. However, I couldn’t even come remotely close to affording any of the vendors. All of the photographers were more than twice what the one I found by myself costs, the floral arrangements, while stunning, were many hundreds of dollars more than what I’m going to be spending, the food was fantastic, but none of the vendors will drive into the mountains without many more hundreds of dollars on top of the food. It was fun, but didn’t provide me with any vendors I would ever consider hiring. More than anything else, it gave me ideas to research (mostly on OBB, for that matter) on how to do them myself, or in other ways.

        Perhaps anyone who can afford to be a vendor at any wedding expo, offbeat or otherwise, will rarely also be someone who is budget-friendly, but that there is my $0.02.

  7. It’s unfortunate that photography is being associated with the idea of a souvenir. Being a photographer, I disagree with that perspective. I feel I’m documenting part of a visual history for the couple and their families. That’s not a trivial trinket. Photos preserve significant moments for every family and those are a part of what is now passed down between generations. Weddings are rare times when most family members and close friends are together in one place. It’s the photos that capture the emotion and moments of that day and it’s one of the few things couples have left at the end of their wedding. If you walked away feeling that photogs were pitching a souvenir, then I think that says more about the insincerity of their intentions, not the value of the photographs.

    • I wholeheartedly agree. One of the biggest reactions I get from wedding clients is how thankful they were that we could capture moments that they missed. Photographers are able to capture all angles, literally, of a moment, rather than just one perspective of one person. It’s not trivial to acknowledge that brides can be overwhelmed with everything happening all at once, it’s nearly impossible to catch every little moment that you might want to look back at later on. I have never once pitched to a client that they wont’ remember their wedding day, but rather that over time they’ll remember less and less of the tiny little details and that photographs can bring those memories back to being as vivid as they were the day you got married. Whether it’s the moment you missed while you were looking away or another moment that you missed while you were off talking to a guest, photographers have the ability to show you so much more that happens during a wedding day than what you may catch. That, to me, is far from being a trivial little souvenir.

      • YES to being thankful for capturing moments that the bride(s)/groom(s) would otherwise miss! I had two photographers at my wedding. The second shooter was able to photograph guests at cocktail hour while my husband and I were elsewhere, taking portraits with our “main” photographer. Those cocktail hour photos are some of my favorites: seeing my college friends get back together, or watching family members reunite after not seeing each other for years (or even DECADES!)

        I would never have seen those moments without having photos of them, because I literally wasn’t there. So the photos are so much more than just a souvenir to me.

      • I loved that my photog got images from the procession before I came in. Getting to see the grins on my nieces’ and nephew’s faces as they led the processional (waving ribbon wands, they were NOT flower girls) was great. I didn’t get to see that as I was still in the lobby. There were other images as well that I hadn’t seen, of friends laughing and talking and dancing. A very precious one of my aunt and uncle dancing in front of my chuppah (as it was hanging in the reception hall) that I will love forever. That’s what makes the photos. I wasn’t there to see all those moments, but I can now!!

    • Thanks for your comment. I should point out that my fiance is a photographer himself. So I do have the utmost respect for the artform. However, the sales pitch they all gave me had nothing at all to do with capturing beautiful moments or even their talent and creativity. It was nothing but “You are going to be so stressed you won’t even remember it.” That’s a pretty negative spin don’t you think? If that were true, we could just pass out disposeable cameras to all the guests. But that’s not a very good sales pitch for one’s photography skills :/

  8. Um, the surgery thing is gross. But as for point 1 – they are businesses. Who paid a fortune to advertise there. They don’t have time to whoop with joy at your ideas when it means they make nothing from them. They just can’t afford to.

    As for point 2 – it’s entirely subjective of course – but I remember about 3 things from my wedding day. And I don’t even drink.

  9. I went to one bridal show in Philly that was EXACTLY like t his- but I did get a free cookie, so that was nice. Exactly exactly exactly- and then when I left them a review after the facebook targeted ads BEGGING me to like their page, the Facebook site moderator chose to invent a magical realm where she could instantly discover my address and serve me with legal action for providing feedback. And she was going to sue everybody who commented on the thread informing her this magical land was not real, and maybe she shouldn’t be in charge of social media. It was a 47 comment HOOT (I even tried to call the owner of the event board to inform her this volunteer was going crazy) but she never returned my calls- just deleted their comments, then the review section entirely. It was fascinating.

    And it’s such a shame, because there are legitimate, earnest businesses that go to these (I used to work them with my small-business travel agent mother), but they’re being ruined by big-budget all-ticket options.

  10. We went to a total of two bridal/wedding shows. One was an Open House type deal for a venue we were looking into, and they brought in several vendors they have good relationships with. Neither the venue nor their vendors were a good fit for us, so it was a good thing to do. We were really creeped out by a few of the vendors, honestly. The other expo we went to was Lovesick! It was awesome, even if we had most of the wedding planned by the time the expo came to our area. Even our wedding planner was a vendor that day!

    Not every expo is insidious, but not enough are offbeat budget friendly. Or body friendly, apparently.

  11. I went to a bridal show, (there isn’t a Lovesick Expo anywhere near me ๐Ÿ™ So sad) and I didn’t think it was that bad. I went with FH and a few friends, I didn’t really expect much, except free stuff and cake samples. But OK, I didn’t talk to many vendors for long enough for them to judge my budget, there were booths selling beauty products but after the initial anger I felt, I just ate some cake samples and shrugged it off, (Bitch, I don’t need your shit, I am big and beautiful), and we didn’t talk to enough vendors to feel pressure at all. Granted we live in Wisconsin so maybe people are less pushy…? I guess my point is, if you can’t make it to Lovesick Expo, (seriously where is the love for the Midwest), don’t be too scared to get ideas from mainstream bridal shows, just take everything with a grain of salt.

    • I’ve got to say that I’ve been to a few wedding shows in New Zealand and have thankfully been spared from a lot of these experiences. No e-mail or phone spam, no stalls promoting breast augmentations, etc. In fact, we’ve gotten some pretty great deals through them (such as our engagement shoot) and haven’t really felt pressured to “have” anything or “spend a set amount” towards our wedding. Perhaps it differs from country to country as NZ is fairly relaxed anyway?

  12. As a vendor who sets up at shows, and also as a person who pretended *gasp* to be a bride to scope out a wedding show, I definitely understand where this article is coming from.

    I often refer to a bridal show as a farmer’s market where there are SO many vendors with the same services vying for your attention. It can be VERY overwhelming for a bride-to-be. I get that! Here is a download that I have that talks about preparing yourself for the bridal show experience… I actually wrote that after attending that bridal show as a “bride” because I left feeling confused, overwhelmed and TIRED. And I wasn’t even planning a wedding!

    All of that being said, maybe think about things from the vendor perspective. For most of them, that is their livelihood or something that they are doing to highly supplement their income (along with just having a love for what they do). There are so many brides at those shows that sometimes vendors unfortunately quickly need to gauge a person’s interest and either cater to them or not depending on the feeling that they get from the bride-to-be. If there are hundreds of brides coming through in an afternoon, they really need to maximize their time and effort. They are also having to be “on”, stay positive and interact the entire time with potential clients. It’s super tiring!

    That being said… there is never an excuse for a vendor to treat someone poorly based on their budget. I’m really sorry that you had to experience that.

    My best advice is always to walk down the center of the aisle so that you are equidistant from the booths on either side and scope them out from afar (UNLESS they have food or cake, lol!). That way you can just walk into the booths that you are curious about and be less likely to be approached by vendors. Also, if you want to… just collect all of the info you are interested in and put it in a bag to take home and look at. I feel that it’s really overwhelming otherwise.

    And, yes… do stay true to yourself, your budget and your style. After all it is YOUR wedding and needs to be a reflection of who you are. Good luck with planning!

  13. I went to a similar bridal show, which was awful. However, later I tried a “wedding mixer” done by a local blog- it was awesome! You fill out a form beforehand, telling it which vendors you still need. When you get there, your name tag is color coded, and so are the vendor’s, so you only talk to people you want to. It seemed like the only vendors that had booths were ones with samples- one was a caterer, one with cake and cheesecake, and one with mocktails. It was relaxing, helpful and refreshing.

  14. I loved reading this so much that I want to snuggle with this post. It’s just so nice to see other like minded people who want their wedding to be about love. And if anyone wants a good laugh go search the collegehumor video called “How to plan a wedding in 10 steps”. Enjoy!

  15. I went to 2 bridal shows. One of them was small and meh, and the other was huge (for this area) and terrifying. They spent the entire afternoon plugging the door prizes, and when they finally had the drawing they revealed that the biggest prize was a $10k breast augmentation.
    All of the vendors also consistently assumed that my younger sister was the bride-to-be, and tried to ignore me completely. I guess I’m too old and frumpy to get married?
    My main take-away from the experience was that the whole event was more about vendors trying to get your info for spamming purposes than to actually connect with or build a relationship with potential customers. I didn’t fall for all of the “free give-aways,” but there were a few I did risk signing up for, and for weeks afterward I was getting up to 20 spam calls and texts a day, and mostly not even from the vendors I’d given my info to.

    • and when they finally had the drawing they revealed that the biggest prize was a $10k breast augmentation

      Excuse me while I pick my fucking jaw off the fucking floor.

    • At my old job we regularly did one of the big wedding shows (worst 3 days of my year, every year) and one of the things they offered vendors was a big list of attendees so you could contact them after. I can’t remember if it was included with the booth or an add-on — we weren’t going to touch it with a stick.

      The only thing I miss about that experience is that our booth used to be around the corner from Mike’s Amazing Cakes every year, which is really awesome cake.

    • “They spent the entire afternoon plugging the door prizes, and when they finally had the drawing they revealed that the biggest prize was a $10k breast augmentation.”

      Not going to lie, if it was a $10K REDUCTION, I’d jump for joy if I won. But really, a prize of any sort of body surgery is sort of icky if you didn’t know that’s what it was when you entered the contest.

      • This. I’m in the same boat. I’d jump at a reduction just to ease the back pain, not for the look of the thing.

    • My mother and I were checking out hotels for my upcoming civil ceremony. I get that I don’t look 25, but the change of expression when we pointed out that *I* was the B2B (in denim skirt, black tights, brown boots, and oozie-face tshirt) was somewhat… Interesting……

  16. As a wedding (cake) vendor, I have been to a lot of bridal shows. Here’s what I’ve learned:

    1) Most vendors really love doing something fresh and new, but there’s a slight chance your lacy Mason jar idea has been done to death. And as a vendor, we deserve a paycheck too, right? You might want a Day of the Dead sculpted skull wedding cake, and I might be really excited about the project, but I can’t lose money on the deal.

    2) There are some bad folks putting on bridal shows that will sell a booth to anyone with a cool grand to spare. There’s a few shows we no longer participate in because of all the teeth-whitening, body wrap, tanning booth vendors. Just because my booth is next to the vinyl siding guy (true story) doesn’t mean I’m a bad vendor. I can see how the really crappy vendors can make you feel not pretty – you must let the event organizers know you don’t want them there. If there’s more than one bridal show near you, do some homework and look for a vendor list. If it’s full of people you don’t want to see, find another one.

    3) As the cake person, I’m usually in and out without you knowing I was there. But I have sat through enough receptions to know that the day passes by like a whirlwind. The last wedding I went to the couple never got to eat any of the food they bought or the cake they bought. And it was a pretty low-key event. I don’t sell trinkets or souvenirs, but you are going to miss a lot of what’s going on during your special day.

    To answer to the spam e-mail comments, whether you sign up at a vendor’s booth or not, the event organizer is going to give every vendor a list of all the attendees. I personally don’t utilize these lists for mass spam; I might send you a personal e-mail if your wedding falls on a day I have no bookings. – I would rather make a connection with you at the show and give you my card and let you come back to me. It’s less work for me and when you do come back, I know it’s because you think we are a good fit for each other.

    • For two years, we were stuck next to the timeshare pyramid scheme people at a bridal show who would physically grab people and yank them into their booth to roll dice to “win” a chance to buy a cheaper night or something. Geh.

    • UGH aren’t the body wrap people the worst?!?!?! It’s like a cult. (fellow vendor here)

  17. I agree with a many of the things that the OP says but bridal shows are trade shows and every trade show has pushy sales people and direct marketing stuff. It’s one of the things my husband and I struggle with when we do bridal shows (we’re photographers โ€” and as tattooed, pierced, kilted weirdos, we don’t fit in at many of these shows). We are not sales people; frankly we suck at it. And I’m always disappointed when a vendor list for a show I really liked comes out with a bunch of weightloss and fat cream and automatic eyebrow-plucking machine vendors have replaced quality local florists and bakers. I’ve seen the same weightloss miracle cream at bridal shows and Home & Garden expos.

    But like the photographer above, I hate to see photography lumped into the souvenir category. My 2-year wedding anniversary is in September so I am saying this as a recent bride and a photographer: It’s not unusual to not remember much of your wedding day right after the wedding. Not every bride is the same but it’s a BIG DAY, even if you are having the giant circus extravaganza or whatever. I think it’s more about the emotional component than anything else. Bits and pieces came back to me in the ensuing weeks but getting the photos really helped bring back those details. And there were things that happened that I wasn’t present for that I was so excited to see afterward. I have my parents wedding album from 1964. And those photos are so much more valuable now that many of the people in them are gone. Also seeing my mom as a dish in her pillbox hat and birdcage veil and cocktail length ivory dress is a treat.

    I do get the “Yea! Be Offbeat! No. Don’t be affordable” thing that parts of the wedding industry have embraced. But don’t lump everyone into the same category. Some of the best weddings I’ve been to (as a guest or a photographer) have been HEAVY on the DIY. But if you are talking to a florist, who makes a living arranging flowers, don’t expect her to be excited about your tales of picking your own flowers and making your own bouquets while you take up time in her booth and thumb through her books “for ideas.”

    • Thanks for your input. That section seemed to be incredibly misinterpreted. My fiance is a photographer so I appreciate the artform and do not lump them all together. I do however lump all the photographers at this particular event together (with the exception of one awesome couple we met)

  18. This was a great article and, for the most part, SPOT ON when it comes to how WIC-y these events are. A couple additional thoughts:

    1. Bridal shows just simply aren’t the place to go if you have a tiny budget (as was the case with my wedding last year). My goal in going to the first show I went to was to try to enter a bunch of drawings and maybe get something free out of it. I did end up “winning” a free (not to mention GORGEOUS) venue, but it came with so many catches that it actually added more cost to my wedding instead of subtracting.

    2. Photography, in my mind, is essential for a wedding. It’s not so much that you get amnesia as you just simply can’t be there for everything. As a bride, you have a certain role in the wedding (even in a very offbeat/non-trad wedding). You can’t see every fun thing that every person at your wedding does. But photography does help capture that. However, there can be some great photographers out there who won’t pressure you, will give you what you want, and won’t break the bank. Mine was wonderful. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Hope your wedding was/is wonderful!

  19. I too am a wedding vendor at various local shows . I find a vendor Open House to be a much more relaxed setting to communicate with brides. I did one really big show last year and found the majority of the brides were so overwhelmed by the atmosphere that conversation was not an option. I don’t do giveaways to trick the brides into submitting their info and I only took the email addresses of brides that asked for information like stationery timelines, invitation etiquette, etc. I look at the shows as an opportunity to meet people and educate brides about the invitation process whether they buy from me or not.

    If at any time a vendor is rude and pushy to you, mark them off your list. You don’t want to do business with anyone like that.

  20. I had a one day gig at a bridal show almost a decade ago – passing out business cards for bachelor party entertainers to the bored grooms loitering around, staring vacantly into space. As soon as I got to the expo, I felt really terrible about what I was doing, and I wasn’t even a feminist at that point. But I felt like I was intruding on peoples’ relationships and assuming a lot about them by trying to slyly slip these business cards to the menfolk.

    I did see a really cool display with a carved watermelon that looked like a tiki owl. It might have had a lamp inside. But on the whole, I remembered the experience badly, and so when I got engaged, there was never any doubt that I would NOT be at a bridal expo!

  21. As I read this two bridal show invitations appeared in my inbox. I deleted one from an expo whose name rhymes with Bleak Abrasions and another e-mail from the same expo popped into my inbox, like a hydra. WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?! HOW DID YOU FIND ME!?*

    As a fellow Atlantan/Georgian Offbeat Bride, the only convention you’ll find me at is Dragon Con. ๐Ÿ˜‰ (If you go to bridal shows and like them, that’s fine, you do you, but I personally don’t like going to conventions where I can’t cosplay.) I was “THIS!”-ing so hard at that first point because the South definitely does have that “if it doesn’t cost a lot of money, it’s tacky” mentality for weddings. Couple that with a regional love for the “rustic” aesthetic and you get awkward situations where you’re supposed to pay a lot of money to get that “I just happened across this at a flea market” look. If you actually DID come across something at a flea market, people just “Oh honey, bless your heart” at you.

    *Rhetorical question; I may not have unchecked a “receive e-mails from our sponsors” box somewhere.

  22. My first bridal show was an offbeat one in DC, and I’m soooo glad I went to that one first! It was relaxed, fun, and I met a ton of very friendly wedding vendors. No one tried to shove information into my hands or trick me into signing up for stuff. I left feeling like I made new friends who had a slew of resources to help me plan my wedding.

    My second one came over a year later at one of those big shows at a large convention center, and it was incredibly overwhelming! After fending off overzealous vendors and putting on my poker face as people tried to explain to me WHY I needed their , I was exhausted, and it made me dislike the (mainstream) wedding industry.

    I ended up on a middle ground between what would be considered your typical “mainstream” wedding, and added our own offbeat flair. Regardless, we had the most wonderful night partying with our friends and family!

  23. Something I’ve noticed about traditional bridal shows is that they have NO interest in grooms whatsoever. It’s like they don’t exist!

  24. Yep, and the one I went to wasn’t even that big. I spent most of my time looking at the horrible rigging, staging, and lighting (I’m a theatre technician by trade)… until I realized there were child models walking in the “fashion show” under 300 lb truss held up on a water pipe with ratchet straps. (And yes, I have the photos to prove it!) Then I just worried.

    What I took away from the whole experience was resolve: okay, I’ve looked at how weddings are “supposed” to be done and given all but three of the thirty-some vendors a big pass (one even got a not so small “fuck off” when she got pushy, rude, sexist, and abelist all in the space of one conversation. I’m a feminist marrying someone on the Autism spectrum; best way I can think of to alienate a potential client.). Now I know doing our thing our way is exactly what’s right, and I know which vendors locally I’m not comfortable working with if I can’t come up with something manageable on my own. But of all thirty some of those people, the three I didn’t hate are the ones doing unique things in unique ways and say flat out “If your budget for cake is $90, we’ll make you the most gorgeous $90 cake we can.” Slowly, the standards of wedding planning are changing toward the “weird”. Budget, of course, will always be a factor, but eventually telling people there will be wild animals at your wedding won’t even make them bat an eye. (If I have anything to say about it anyway…)

    • LOL! I actually started off as a theatre major at Boston Conservatory so this just cracked me up. Actually, the tech was pretty decent at this show but the fashion show was very awkward to say the least…

  25. This post makes me very happy that I ended up going to a LARP instead of the one bridal expo I’d been considering in my area (Lovesick came around just a few months too late for me).

  26. I would rather meet my clients face to face to discuss their wedding florals. Wedding shows are so busy and not at all personal…I rarely participate in them.

  27. I had gone to my local bridal expo, and was actually rather bored with it – although I was impressed with the one legal service there who was advertising their experience with pre-nups, name changes, and adoptions.

    The only part I really couldn’t stand was the unsolicited spamming. When the organizers insist on you filling out those “raffle entry cards” to even get into the door, put fake info on them. You will be spammed with phone calls, emails, and snail-mail flyers from the vendors you really don’t want contact with (I don’t really go for raffles, so I won’t have regrets). If I go to another one, I will be “Lelu Dallas, 1060 West Addison, 867-5309, janet.weiss @ Wedding Date: 2/29/2015”

    (And if you get all the references/jokes, you’re a really awesome special snowflake.)

    Seriously, I was more offended by the spam than the weight loss bootcamp booths and the profusion of white tulle everywhere.

  28. After reading all the DON’T’ s what are off beat brides looking for at a wedding show? I work at a rental store with many off the wall items as well as traditional. What would you like to see displayed that would be appealing enough to check out other items we may have?

    • Honestly, just a variety of vendors who aren’t so “sales pitchy” and act like human beings. Vendors that include my fiance in the discussion! The reason that I compared the photography at this show to “souveneirs” is because of the weird desperation pitches that were just so negative and not photography oriented. I’d love a vendor that can really talk to me about the art they bring to the table. I do understand that vendors need to make money, but as vendors ourselves, I have to say there’s a right and wrong way to go about it if you’re hoping to find an offbeat client. There are LOTS of us out there, and plenty that do have big budgets to spend. Many people think of “offbeat couples” as just couples who are looking for something “weird” in their wedding. But I view them (…us) as creative individuals who are highly intelligent, often times not interested in gender stereotypes, and aren’t necessarily going to be impressed with a cookie cutter booth and cookie cutter sales pitch for that matter.

  29. I completely agree with this! I cannot stand those generic bridal shows. Granted, everyone has their own taste and maybe it works for some. I am a wedding planner in the ny metro area and I love when brides want to do more creative budget conscious diy decor, flowers, etc. It is so much more fun, so much more creative, and it shows your personality! I am going to be at lovesick brooklyn as a vendor in January 2015! I can’t wait. I did toasted this past April and it was fantastic as well. See you there!

  30. The OP gets one thing right for sure: the sick trend of body shaming that infests bridal shows.Yuck! Show producers need to ban all health and beauty vendors, in my opinion.

    As for the budget questions, I will give a wedding vendor’s perspective. Because I used to be one.
    I provide X service for Y price. I would have brides come to my booth, ask for my pricing, and then actually get angry! They would get indignant that “I charged so much” (I charged the industry standard) and they would tell me my services weren’t worth that much! When you come to my booth with a minuscule budget and want a luxe wedding, I’m going to smile, be polite, give you a brochure, and move on to the next potential client. I have paid a lot of money to buy my booth space and decor for the show, and I am there to connect with brides who will hire me. If you are on a tight wedding budget, there are amazing ways to get a beautiful DIY wedding for less money. Heck, bridal DIY is a cottage industry! Just don’t get all offended and outraged because my services cost more than you can afford.

    Lastly, photography. This can be a big expense. Yep. It’s also one that many couples overlook or ignore until they are closer to the wedding date – after they’ve paid for the venue, dress, catering, etc. (meaning: by this point, they’ve pretty much run out of money). So they skimp on photography. I even did this for my own wedding!!! Biggest mistake ever. Your wedding day will FLY by, and you really won’t remember all of it. I beg you, cut the budget somewhere else, trim some of the decor, ditch the favors, do whatever you have to do, but don’t go low-budget on the photography. Those photos (and video) will be what you share with your children and grandchildren.

    • I agreed with pretty much your whole comment except for banning all health and beauty vendors from bridal shows. Just because you are comfortable with how you look doesn’t mean everyone else is. Yes, vendors that hard-sell with the feeling that you aren’t beautiful enough are the scum of the earth and that isn’t okay. But a health and beauty vendor going to a bridal show to offer a service to those that might be interested shouldn’t be condemned because you don’t need or want that service. Its one thing if they are telling you that you aren’t good enough, because that isn’t true, but if I’ve been thinking “I’d feel better if I lost a little weight before my wedding” and I see someone that has a product or a style of work that I’m interested in, I shouldn’t be shamed for wanting to pursue that and I shouldn’t be told that’s wrong of me to feel that way. Using the “ban all health and beauty vendors” logic: I feel like chapels and officiants shouldn’t be allowed to have booths at bridal shows because I’m having a completely non-religious ceremony and I feel like their presence is pushing religion into my wedding. Just because you are comfortable in your skin and feel that everyone else should be too does not (and should not) mean that everyone is required to share that view.

  31. 1. I’m a wedding vendor and have done a few bridal shows. Just FYI I’m 5’9″/120 pounds + the weight loss people aggressively stalk me (as well as a 9-month-pregnant vendor next to me once last year + the rest of the vendors) not just before shows during set-up but afterwards during clean-up as well. Sigh! 2. CAN YOU GUYS PLEASE DO A LOVESICK IN L.A.? 3. CAN YOU GUYS PLEASE DO A LOVESICK IN L.A.?

  32. I went to one big wedding show here in London, and the best part was that I found the lovely lady who is making my dress. Other than her, and the fun trying on tiaras, I found more useful ideas and stuff for my wedding at the London Knitting and Stitching Show. ๐Ÿ™‚

  33. I’m sorry that you had such a terrible wedding show experience. This is why I have a few former brides that I’ve worked with in my booth to talk to everyone. Very laid back and relaxing.

  34. THIS is why I love OBB (and OBE generally) so much! I am so thankful there is a supportive community who actually wants to help each other plan meaningful weddings and live meaningful lives with their chosen families. As long as you plan the wedding YOU want, you WILL remember it! Good luck! (btw, I really love mason jars. They are so versatile!)

  35. The first comment is funny coming from offbeat. They tend to always praise being as cheap as possible but when a photographer tries to submit photos to offbeat bride for feature they are told “the details are not right stylistically” but wait how is that true when the bride told me every idea she had she got off of offbeat bride… Is it because it looked cheap?! Hmmmmm and your photographer didn’t mean you would forget TOMORROW, but I have been married 4 years and look through my amazing album now instill go “oh yeah, I remember that!” you won’t remember in a few years or in 20 years when your kids want to hear about it or your grandkids… They probably won’t be able to see your Instagram hashtag photos by then or the images on your cd………

    • If you (or any other photographer) ever have questions about why a submission was declined, we encourage you to contact us directly. We’re always happy to discuss the factors that go into choosing which weddings to feature… I can definitely say that perceived “cheapness” is not a factor.

  36. I went to a couple of big bridal shows with my mom. For me, it was more about spending that time with her, enjoying the traditional bride-to-be stuff for a few hours. After the first show, I pretty much knew that none of the vendors at those shows were the right fit for us, but it was fun to be “girly” with my mom while we looked at cakes and flowers and big poofy dresses. (Don’t worry, I did my best not to take up time or space from paying brides. I’m too shy to get in a booth to talk to anyone!) It was just nice to share that with my mom and let her play the traditional mother-of-the-bride for a while, too. Plus, there was soooo much free cake! And I can’t turn away free cake ๐Ÿ™‚

  37. Okay wait… So this was basically a a commercial for your expo? What about all the indie, unconventional wedding shows out there who’ve been around longer than yours. Create a directory if you really care about your audience. Our city alone has like 3 or 4. I just attended one this summer. There are tons including yours. This just seemed like a forced post under the guise of advertising your expo. I love this blog but am a tad disappointed.

  38. Yikes! Weight loss and body augmentation at a wedding fair well that’s just even more horrible than the stands who aren’t interested in you because your wedding isn’t in the next x months. I went to 4 wedding shows (uk) don’t think I used any of the vendors but it did give us ideas and knowing what we didn’t want!

    The best one was in Bournemouth and had their local Drag Artists doing musical numbers which was a nice change. Most of the others we should never have gone to, expensive venues, posh suits and only white dresses.

    • I once went to a wedding expo and was constantly advised by vendors that the expo was for couples who intended to marry. I was there with then-future husband who is now my actual husband. The only reason I could come up with for this constant comment was that they could clearly tell I’m not 20-something. If they thought I was too old for their expo, then my ancient self (30-something) and my hard earned bridal budget was quite welcome to invest it elsewhere. I did enjoy the free champagne though. I figured a bottles worth was best to soothe their insulting misguided ageist approach that impinged greatly upon my feelings.

  39. Thank you for this post!! I am newly engaged and I was considering going to one of those local bridal expos but I am definitely going to steer clear now! The last thing I need is someone telling me how everything should be while I am trying to find my footing! Plus, I get more than enough inspiration from Offbeat Bride anyways! You guys are seriously awesome!

  40. I attended one big bridal show. I originally planned to go to the huge one right after we got engaged, but I had a panic attack looking at the website and reading everything I “should” do to “prepare.” I finally decided to go to one a few months later if only to get some free magazines, see some dresses, and see what I did not want. I had orange women try to sell me spray tans, and they were HORRIFIED when I told them I didn’t want a tan. (The irony is I’m sitting here burnt five days before my portrait, but that’s another story.) I was so pissed at the weight loss booths that every time I got a cupcake or cake sample, I ate it in front of the weight-loss hawkers’ booths, staring them in the face and smiling. I was determined not to turn the wedding into a body image nightmare after years of weight struggle, so that was pretty fulfilling. Also? Everyone was horrified that I was planning my wedding “only” six months in advance. Good. Lord.

    • The thought of your aggressive cake eating in the face of the weight loss booths is filling me with glee. ๐Ÿ™‚

  41. I never attended any big wedding expos (having heard enough horror stories from friends, and knowing that my “$4000 or whatever people donate/share” budget wouldn’t likely be welcomed), but had AMAZING luck at my city’s Pride festival! Portland (East) has an LGBTQ “Bridal Expo” tent as part of the annual festivities, and while I didn’t end up using any of the vendors there – sadly, money prohibited – they were all WAY cool, and chatted with me about everything from choosing a venue to how much cake I would need, with no pressure and no gimmicks. It might have just been the chill vibe of the location, or the agreed-upon values of the vendors, but I felt so welcomed and supported regardless of being a straight chick marrying a straight dude! I’ve heard that other cities have similar vendor expos woven into their Pride events: highly recommended, especially if you care about supporting businesses in your community that share your views.

  42. LoveSick came to Boston in the middle of a typical snow storm. (Sorry Ariel, all of that slush, sleet, and snow is a typical January day for Bostonians! There would have been school if it was a weekday.) There were a couple hundred of us braving the weather… If the venue could hold more at a time, I’m sure there would have been more to see! I completely enjoyed myself, and my MoH (who I “lightly” dragged with me) did too.

    If you want to go to a bridal expo that caters to the unusual, OffBeat side of you (no matter how “lite” it might be), LoveSick is deffinately a show to be a part of. Even when your tires are not riding on clear pavement. ๐Ÿ™‚

  43. Only been to one, with a friend who was getting married. I noticed intense obvious staring at my left hand to see if I had a ring. When they saw that I didn’t, they wouldn’t even make eye contact, let alone speak to me. It was ridiculous!

  44. this is all so true! I went to this tiny little bridal show in the middle of no-where, and I was very angry when someone forced a weight loss pamphlet into my hands. I’m a big girl- a big, Beautiful girl who eats very healthy, works out, and ROCKS her curves. The vendor learned very quickly that I wasn’t just some stupid girl who would do anything to lose weight for my wedding. After pointing out to them that eating a diet of only 5 different foods, drinking their “magic water” (it was simply distilled water wiith artificial sweeteners and flavors) and getting $50 “weight loss massages” from their company was not healthy- (have you seen what artificial sweeteners do to the body? Yikes!) I was quickly brushed off and they went to the next “Big girl” they saw. It was sickening.

  45. When I do bridal shows, my main goal is to merely show what I’m about and say ‘hey, here I am if you want me.’ I do see colleagues sometimes go after people aggressively and they do actually get those clients and in a way I suppose I miss out by not being that way. But, I’d much rather just show what I can do and have people choose to hire me rather than be aggressive about it. I can’t stand being sold to… Why would I do that to other people?

    But, in defense of vendors, you do have to realize that we often pay upwards of $700-1500 to even be there at the show for only 3 hours. This is something I don’t know if people realize. I mean, you complain about prices, but know that we are not just there for free, and it’s extremely hard to pay $1500 for 3 hours that may just be a gamble. I’ve had shows where I gained several clients and I’ve had shows where I had no bites whatsoever. That’s pretty tough to take, I’m telling you.
    Take $1500 out of your bank account and stare at it. Now, go play some poker and place ALL of that money on just one bet. That might change how you look at vendors at a bridal show. <:) Give them and their almost visible desperation a little bit of a break.

  46. Ah, I wish there was a Lovesick Expo coming to Minneapolis! I only went to one standard, typical bridal shop and it was awful. It’s where just about everyone in the city gets their dresses, but I felt so uncomfortable there and the attendant was just not good. Another family there asked if we were going to the bridal show next day. I had no idea it was even going on, but decided after that dress shop I definitely didn’t want to go. I ended up getting my dream dress at a consignment store that specializes in formal wear.

    I see no point in going to a bridal show when I’m not getting married right in the city I live in, already have my dress and am not making my bridesmaids shell out $200+ for a designer dress.

  47. Please don’t assume all bridal shows and vendors are the same based on this post. My husband and I are wedding professionals in a large metro area and know how overwhelming it can be. If you don’t need a service, walk by. If approached, say no thank you and keep moving. And if someone asks your budget, that’s just rude. But understand that if you ask for pricing on the spot, many services can’t tell you exactly since we need a chance to sit down and find out exactly what you desire in order to price accordingly. We always give an average price range and some information for the bride to take home and peruse at her leisure. We also get overwhelmed by the big shows and select to do one that is smaller in city at the edge of the metroplex. Finally, many shows will not give a hardcopy list of vendors to the brides that attend. Either the vendor must pay large fees to appear in a magazine that is given to brides or the brides must go to the show website and see the list. They do give us a list of attendees but personally we don’t use it. We only send one follow up email to those with whom we spoke. So while the shows sponsored by off beat bride may be great for those that attend don’t write off the rest of us so quickly and give us a chance.

  48. Here is my biggest dilemma…since there are no “offbeat” shows at all in dallas….I have to take my “offbeatness” TO a regular show in the hopes that some of my brides (or their friends) show up and see my awesomeness. lol!!!! I always feel the need to INVADE the boring and ramp it up a bit. I believe having fun as a vendor AND a client is simply the best!!! Herez to hoping soon Dallas will have more creative/offbeat shows – until then…I’m signed up for one in January – but i’ll do my darndest to bring myself to it as ME…and hopefully encourage my future clients to ALSO be themselves!!! That is what I truly love about that part of the industry. When people find their own way and their own voice for the celebration <3 ๐Ÿ™‚

  49. HIGHLY disagree with number three, re photos. My husband is a wedding photographer and could not be more sincere or invested about capturing a couple’s wedding. He charges modest fees for the work involved, and creates timeless images. When he and I got married, we didn’t hire a professional because we couldn’t afford it then. Every time he shows me an impactful image of a couple that they will have forever, my eyes tear up — both because of the emotion in the photo, and because I have nothing like it of us. Pros are worth every penny. He does meet ups to pitch the job, walk throughs to see the venue, 12+ hours day of, and post production. Add those hours up; it is way more than you think. He is a true pro and cares. As do many, many other photographers. Yes, the studios are a “mill”. But independent artists are just that — artists. And they should be respected as artists.

  50. My fiance and I went to a massive national wedding fair (in the UK) expecting the worst but as we didn’t really want much it wouldn’t have mattered, turns out we had fun. We are both full on metal heads in our looks yet everyone was friendly to us and quite welcoming. Of course, some stalls are as you expect, especially the dress ones, but most were just regular people. We met some nice people, had lots of free champagne, got a couple of ideas and our only complaint was lack of free cake.

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