So here’s a topic that divides my friends and I, and is definitely a source of debate for many brides. Wedding fairs. What are they, should I go and more importantly are they worth the cost and time to attend.
I remember arriving back in England after our Mexican holiday and almost immediately seeing an advert for The Wedding Fair at Bluewater. I was still in the extremely exciting early days (to be honest I’m still excited now) of our engagement and was keen to get the planning ball rolling. Cue a well timed email from Groupon offering discounted VIP tickets to the show and I’d booked us up for a visit the very next weekend.
I’m very lucky that Lee is actually super interested in planning our wedding, he’s had input from the very start and attending wedding fairs (yes fairs plural) has never been an issue for him. So off we went, unsure of what to expect but excited about the prospect of starting to plan our big day. We had VIP tickets and this included a glass of bubbles, a goody bag and reserved seats for the catwalk.
So off we went, unsure of what to expect and ready to start delving into the world of planning a wedding. I think the best way I can describe a large wedding show is like the Ideal Home Exhibition but for weddings. There are stands filling a huge area and suppliers offering everything you can imagine for your wedding. There are venues, dresses, photobooths, photographers, caterers, cake makers, beauticians, cake companies, videographers, sweetie tables. Literally anything and everything wedding related is covered. You walk around and chat to people, get given (thousands of) leaflets and occasionally get a few freebies or samples of the products you’re looking at. I was surprised that there weren’t more stands were you could actually buy things, at the time I wanted a keepsake that I could use to ask my bridesmaids to be part of our day but we came away empty handed. I also wanted to buy a wedding planner but ended up taking a trip to John Lewis to get something. I did get lots of ideas, a whole bundle of magazines and a glimpse into the crazy world of planning your big day.
Since our first trip to a wedding fair we’ve attended several different shows, some local, some national and a few which were free. I have genuinely found them useful. As a direct result of the first wedding fair we set up a visit to Leeds Castle. We had dreamed of getting married there but genuinely thought it would be out of our budget. Chatting to Sophie and Sam at the fair meant they could explain the packages they offered and made us realise that our dream was actually more of a reality than we’d realised. We also found our wonderful photographer Steve at a local Kent wedding fair. We got chatting to him and knew that we wanted him to do the photography on our big day. There are several other suppliers that we booked after meeting at various shows, but I’m keeping some of those a surprise for now.
I could tell you so much about different fairs and shows, but in a way I don’t want to spoil the surprise, so instead I’m going to give you my top tips for attending a wedding fair.
Some fairs are free but others require you to purchase a ticket. I’ll share a secret, I’ve only ever paid to go to a wedding fair once – and I’ve been to 7 in the past year (3 in the past week) and all but one of them was ticketed. The key is to keep your eye out for suppliers exhibiting at the fair that are offering free tickets. Or even better enter the competitions you see in magazines and on social media, as these are often for VIP entry. And if you can’t get your hands on a free pair then definitely take advantage of discounts that pop up all over the web, there’s no point paying full price (or paying at all) if you can get some money off – that’s more pounds to spend on your dream wedding!
Standard vs VIP
Are VIP tickets worth it? If you get a freebie then always yes, but if you’re paying for your tickets then I’d say have a think before you shell out up to £70 a pair for VIP. VIP tickets normally mean queue jump (I’ve never seen a queue for a wedding fair), seats at the catwalk, a goody bag and a glass of bubbles. Do you absolutely HAVE to have a seat at the fashion show – you’ll still get a great view if you’re standing and you might get a seat anyway if you’re there when it starts. The goody bag may just be a few free samples and you can buy a glass of bubbles if you fancy one. Personally I’d say save your cash, put it in your wedding pot and treat yourself to a glass of bubbles and still be quids up.
Do your research
Most wedding fairs will have a website of information about the show, with a page listing what suppliers will be present on the day. Quite often they’ll also put any show discounts they’ll be offering on the site. It’s great to know in advance if bands, photographers etc are offering something for booking on the day. It means that you can check them out in advance, look at galleries, reviews and feedback and not make a snap decision just because they’re offering £50 off for booking then and there.
Talk to people
This is how we ended up booking several of our suppliers. At a wedding fair you need to be prepared to have a chat with people and see what service they offer. Talking to someone face to face really helps you get a feel for them. Our photographer for example sold himself to us once we started having a chat. We’d stopped to look at his photos, which we loved. But what really made a difference was his personality and the way he spoke to us. I trusted him and believed he’d do a good job, we clicked and Lee and I both knew that he was the right person to take our photographs. Those little sparks of personality are the things that we never would of seen from his website, even though it’s well designed and professional.
To be honest I’ve actually really enjoyed going to wedding fairs, but then I’ve loved the whole planning process. For me it just another chance to spend a day getting wedding inspiration and talking all things wedding. I know Lee and I have been to more than most, probably due to all the freebie tickets I managed to bag, but I’d definitely say go to one early on just for fun. Even if you don’t buy or book anything it’s a great opportunity to get a bit of inspiration and it helped us to start setting a realistic budget (the ones in magazines seem very unrealistic to me – but more about that another time).
I hope this is a helpful guide for anyone who hasn’t been to a fair yet and if you’ve already been to some then I’d love to know what you think of them. If there’s anything else you’d like to know then ask away below and I’ll do my best to answer.
Have a wonderful weekend everyone,