What should I expect from a wedding fair?

I've fallen behind on my blog posts recently, as you're probably aware from my last post, but I'm back with a bang today to share some tips with you lovely brides and grooms-to-be about what to expect from a wedding fair (also referred to as wedding fayres, exhibitions or showcases) and how you can get the most out of it.

Wedding fairs are a great opportunity to meet suppliers and get inspiration for your wedding day

I attend wedding expos now as a supplier but, when we were planning our wedding four years ago (time flies!), I went along to a fair few (no pun intended!). Wedding fairs can often provide you with an opportunity to get some great discounts but will also give you a chance to meet suppliers, get inspiration for your big day or view a venue that you've been longing to look at since you said yes. If you've recently got engaged (congratulations!) or are attending a wedding fair or inspiration day at a venue for the first time, it's hard to know what to expect. So let's start at the beginning...

What exactly is a wedding fair?

A wedding fair is a prime opportunity for you to gather inspiration for your special day and meet suppliers that you might want to work with. Most exhibitions are held at wedding venues, which is a great opportunity to view a venue informally and see it set up, or in big conference centres, like London's Olympia, which can often take place over a weekend. Most wedding fairs cover a range of different suppliers but you can also find more specialist fairs that cater to niche markets, which are perfect for vintage-loving or alternative brides. If you search for "wedding fairs near me", you should get plenty of dates to add to your diary :)

Who will I see there?

There will always be a range of suppliers at any wedding fair and you'll often find a couple of suppliers in each category. The aim of the fair is to introduce you to suppliers that will fit with what you want for your big day, and no two brides are the same so it's good to have a mix of suppliers that can cater to different budgets or who have different styles. You'll have the chance to meet photographers, cake makers, wedding dress designers or wedding boutiques, florists, accessory designers, hair dressers and make up artists, entertainers and musicians, caterers, stationers, jewellers...the list goes on but I hope this gives you an idea! You may be able to see a fashion show to get inspiration for your dream dress (or suit of course! Sorry boys, I haven't forgotten you...) and see outfits paired with different hair styles and accessories. 

Who should I take with me?

Whoever you want :) You could bring your partner, your friend, your parents or go solo - suppliers and event organisers don't mind so it's entirely up to you. When we were planning our wedding, we often went together but I also went to a few with my mum or my friend. I took my dad along to a fair at the venue we'd chosen to give him a chance to take a look, so that's something you could keep in mind when choosing who to take.

Will I get free stuff?

To put it bluntly, suppliers are there to introduce themselves to you and want you to work with them, so there will always be an incentive for you. I've seen competitions to win a bottle of champagne in return for your email address or a big discount if you sign up for a consultation on the day of the fair...and of course, the best bit, there's usually yummy cake to try from the cake makers! You might just get a bargain on your dream dress or find the band you never realised you needed at a reduced rate, so it's always worth having a look around. My advice with free stuff is to make sure that you're signing up for things that you are genuinely interested in; the last thing you want is follow up emails about a service that wasn't of interest to you in the first place and on the supplier's side, it means they can focus on the couples that really want or need their services.

We haven't set a date for our wedding yet - does that matter?

It's not essential, but a ballpark date is always welcome, from a supplier's point of view, even if that's as vague as "2019". Some suppliers get booked up very quickly so it helps if you have an idea of a date but it's not the end of the world if you don't.

Am I going to be forced into buying something?

I hope not! Unless it's something you really want, in which case no force is used ;) Most suppliers will be asking for your email address if you're interested in what they offer so that they can send you more information and see how they can help. For example, if you wanted one of my hair pieces, I'd make a note of your name, email address and the accessory you want and send you an email later on to introduce myself further, ask if you're still interested in the accessory and see if I can help in any way. Another point that I should make is that, even if you've signed up to receive an email from a supplier, you're not tied into anything, so don't worry about that either!

So what are these top tips you have for me?

To finish up, here are my tips for helping you to get the most out of a wedding exhibition - I hope you find them useful!

  • Make a list of things you need or want for your wedding; it will help you to find suppliers that can offer advice and give you an idea of how much what you're looking for will cost.
  • If you've sorted out your budget, have this in mind when you look round. It'll help you to consider what you really want and where you're willing to cut back
  • Most fairs will ask for your email address when you come into the fayre. Make sure you specify if you don't want your details to be passed around to suppliers after the event (there's usually a box to tick)
  • Things tend to be busier in the morning at most venues but usually much quieter after lunch, from around 2pm. This gives you a perfect opportunity to chat to suppliers at greater length and take your time looking at all the little details as there will be fewer people around
  • Take a little notebook and pen to write down any suppliers you liked or ideas you saw that you hadn't considered. Pick up business cards and leaflets for things you like the look of and if you want a supplier to contact you with a quote or give you more information, scribble down your email address or phone number for them to call you later and they'll be happy to do that for you, with no obligation.
  • Wedding open days, open evenings and inspiration days are a great chance to meet a venue's preferred suppliers and can often be more intimate, giving you the chance to chat a bit longer with suppliers while viewing the venue in its full glory
  • Ask suppliers for advice if you need it. Most suppliers that I work alongside have vast amounts of knowledge in their field and will happily make suggestions for you.
  • Be polite (this goes for suppliers too!) - I say this because everyone has different taste and one supplier's style might not be your cup of tea. I heard a bride once say that she hated brooch bouquets rather loudly as she walked past my display, which wasn't necessary. On the other side, as a supplier, even if you're not interested in my services, I'd still be happy to talk to you and offer any advice if you need it, because at the end of the day, while you may not be interested in what I have to offer, you may well recommend me to someone else later down the line.
  • Eat the cake. Always eat the cake. And try the chocolate fountain, drink the champagne and try every canapé that's on offer...most of all, have fun :)

I'd love to know if you have any tips to add - or maybe you have a question that I haven't answered? Leave me a message in the comments and let me know!

Oh and if you want to catch me this Autumn at a wedding exhibition, you'll find me at the following places (eyeing up the cake and drinking way more coffee than I should!):

Sunday 24th September: Kingscote Barn, Tetbury, Gloucestershire 11:30am-3:30pm

Sunday 8th October: Nailsea Tithe Barn with the Portishead Wedding Network 11am-3pm

Sunday 15th October: Clevedon Hall, Clevedon 11am-3pm