Thursday, January 21, 2010

How I Work a Bridal Show Expo and Have Fun!

Here's the stuff that doesn't tell you!  I’ve been to quite a few New England bridal show expos, and I plan to go to several more because I LOVE them.  Hey, since I’m stuck with a long engagement anyway, I figure I might as well make the most of it.

Bridal trade show expos can feel overwhelming.  Or so I hear.  Maybe if my wedding was in four months I’d feel too pressed for time to want to meander around and only have 2 minutes to look at a vendor’s wares and not have enough of my questions answered as s/he’s trying to promote to hundreds of guests that night.  But for me bridal trade show expos are perfect because I don’t like to drive and do the legwork.  I’d rather take a quick look, decide no or maybe, and sleep on it.

A lot of times it seems like vendors don’t understand that unlike them, professionals, who have done hundreds of weddings, we’re NEW at this.  So when they ask me at the bridal trade show expos if I have any questions, I don’t even know what to ask.  They ask me what style of photography I want and I have no idea what kinds there are.  They ask me what material I want my gown to be and I don’t know what materials are even available.  And I don’t think “the pretty but cheap kind” is quite the answer they’re looking for.  But instead of letting that upset me, I just laugh.  I have a year and a half to figure out this stuff, and I’ll learn as I go.

And in the meantime, I get to look at lots of pretty flowers and dresses.  Vendors at New England bridal show expos give me free hand massages and creams and ask me if they can take my picture so I can see their photo booth.  I get free skin analysis.  And I’m not going to deny it, the best part is I get free dinner.

That’s right, they FEED you at these things.  Well, some better than others.  A few bridal trade show expos have had nothing but a cookie and a couple pieces of candy.  Several of them have had fruit and cheese.  But you know you’ve really hit pay dirt at a bridal trade show when they’re catered.  They have carving stations, pasta stations, and waiters circulate with the BEST little hors d'oeuvres.  And they don’t turn away from you if you’ve already had one.  Nope, they keep coming until you let them know you’re stuffed.  And then you go get yourself some coffee and a sample of wedding cake.  One bridal trade show that has held two bridal shows since I got engaged is Spinellis.  Of all the bridal shows I’ve gone to, they are the best.  If I was looking for a traditional dinner and dancing reception I would pick them in a heartbeat.  I don’t live too far from them, it’s beautiful inside, and they have totally won me over with their catering.  They have the most food, it’s very good, and not only do they have the wedding cakes but they have an enormous pastry buffet.  WOW.

I am telling you brides, go to these New England bridal show expos.  If Adam didn’t require a marriage visa to stay here with me I think I’d just ask him to stay engaged forever and I’d keep going to these things.  On the other hand, you could probably get your fiancé to go with you.  Not at first, oh goodness no.  Joke about it with him about how much he would hate all the girly wedding talk.  But casually mention it was catered.  You keep going to them, bring your maid of honor or your mom along, gradually raving more and more about the food, and he’ll be asking YOU to tag along next time.

There are just a few tips I’ve learned from attending these bridal shows:
  • Don’t pay for anything.  At least for those of us planning a wedding in Massachusetts, there are plenty of free events.  
  • Check the ads carefully to see if there’s food or not.  If yes, they WILL say so.  And if it says it’s featuring catering from somewhere, you’ve hit the jackpot, you’ll basically have dinner free that night.  Otherwise eat before heading out. When food isn’t advertised the most you’ll get is a cookie or a Hershey Kiss.
  • Create an Email address just for wedding planning. This way when you enter raffles and end up on the vendors’ mailing lists it won’t clog up your regular Email.  Plus every bride to be needs to take a break from wedding planning stress, so it’s nice to just not have to look at that stuff during those times. 
  • Start a filing system.  Mine is easy.  If I look at an album and see heads cut off and blurry photos, I don’t take that photographer’s card.  If I get a pamphlet from a florist and think “They’re not bad, but it’s too bad there’s no price list,” I leave it in the bag.  But if I try a cake  and think, “Wow, this is REALLY good, and the rates  are reasonable,” I fold the corner, and  once I get home I stick it in a 2 pocket folder that I keep at home.  One side is for invoices once I’ve made deposits or payments.  The other side is for my favorite potential vendors.  My Email system is similar.  There’s folders with: “maybe,” “favorites,” and “confirmed.”  
  • Embrace the raffles, but don’t let them fool you.  Some bridal show expos have tons of raffles, so your chances of winning something aren’t bad.  However a lot of the prizes are not prizes, they’re sales.  And some of these sales are NOT good deals.  The first prize I won was a $200 album.  Wow, $200, that’s a lot of money!  But I had to book with them that night, and buy a wedding package from them, which is typically well over $1000.  Buyer beware.  I do recommend you try the raffles though, because sometimes they just say, “Here’s your free bottle of champagne, enjoy.”  I’ve even seen cash prizes.  And I DID benefit from one prize that was basically just a promotion.  I won 2 free tux rentals, plus the rest of the tux rentals at 50% off.  So yes, I did have to shell out money.  But they let me come in at my leisure, so I could shop around a little first, check online reviews of this company, and then go in to book them.  It turned out that it really was a good deal.
  • Bring someone along.  Since I can’t bring Adam, I bring my mom.  I think if I went alone, it would either be boring or stressful.  It’s good to have someone with you to chat about non-wedding stuff as a distraction, so you don’t get too overwhelmed.  Because the show is NOT the place choose a vendor.  You need to go to a bridal show expo  with the attitude that it’s just a fun night out where you get to look at pretty stuff and eat.  If you DO find a vendor you like, of course refer to step 4 for staying organized with the serious business of selection.  But don’t feel like  you failed because you don’t know which vendor to pick.  It’s like dating.  Go have fun, but if you don’t expect to meet Mr. Right every time you go.  He’ll come along when you least expect it.
Photos courtesy of:                        Quinn.Anya                     Neeta Lind
Neeta Lind                        Jennifer Schwalm               Tracy Hunter

    Thursday, January 14, 2010

    Massachusetts Wedding Venue: Spinellis, Lynnfield MA

    Spinelli’s bridal show expo was even better the second time around.  I worried a LITTLE about my expectations being too high.  But unlike the other New England bridal show expos that are at country clubs or hotels instead of restaurants, the food is just from whatever vendors show up and they just bring a little something (or not, in some cases) since they're an actual wedding venue with their own catering, they're expected to be more full service.

    Spinelli’s had so much good food at the New England bridal show expo that I was totally stuffed by the end and turning down the wait staff coming around with passed hors d’ourves.  They had 2 kinds of stuffed chicken, one with cheese and red peppers and it was hand carved in front of us so it was nice and moist, then another one with asparagus on, 2 kinds of pasta, one with marinara sauce and the other with a rich Alfredo sauce, little eggplant puffs, stuffed mushrooms, spinach pies, scallops wrapped in bacon, chicken quesadillas, veggie turnovers, spring rolls, and steak fillet so tender it was like BUTTER.  Then there was the wedding cake, cream puffs, chocolate covered strawberries, strawberry cheesecake and champagne.  Mom asked me to thank Adam for marrying me.  Haha, we ate VERY well at the bridal show expo that night.  And again:  FREE.

    I do wish Adam could be a part of these bridal show expo visits.  But even if he wasn’t in England, I know that they wouldn’t be as fun for him.  There aren’t that many grooms in attendance anyway.  So I don’t need to feel guilty that I get all the fun without him.  He’s happy for me that I’m having fun.

    Working the vendors area at this New England bridal show was second hand at this point too.  I asked about the pretty flowers I liked and laughed at the horrible and was able to sail right past the wedding gown and tuxedo booths with confidence cause I'm all set with them.  So I didn't win anything at the bridal show expo tonight, but it was still fun.

    I’d really love to have Spinellis cater our wedding, but I bet they're pricey for off site visits (they want couples to use use them as their wedding venue since they have to maintain their facilities).  For just the reception, it's about $60-$70 for a plated dinner, but that does include a champagne toast and cake (and their cakes are fantastic).  They are a gorgeous wedding venue, all Tuscan style inside with (fake?) marble.  It's exactly the LOOK I like, and it would make for beautiful photos.  But I still think renting a house for Adam’s family to stay in on their visit from England and having a wedding ceremony plus reception there will work best for us.  It'll be cozier for our tiny guest list too, instead of doing a separate reception hall that's meant for 200 people.  And since we don't want dancing after dinner, a ballroom wouldn't allow the sort of fun backyard activities we're looking forward to.  I'm sure when the time comes I'll find a pretty house and it'll feel like a much more intimate wedding venue than a restaurant.

    Readers, what is your relationship status?