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Bridal Show Season

The weekend of January 17, 2014 we participated in the Bridal Spectacular showcase at Cashman Center. With hundreds of brides coming through and nearly one hundred vendors, you are often overwhelmed by the amount of time and energy (and funds) it takes to participate in the show. After hours of set-up you put on your game face and hope to capture a moment of time for a potential couple to offer your services. But the couples coming through really have no idea of how you got there and do not always appreciate your story. After all, it is their day and they are looking to celebrate. So I thought I would take a few moments to share of our story leading up to and during the show.

After much deliberation, we decided only one week prior to the show date that it was a great opportunity to participate to meet with couples to offer our services and network within the industry. With just days to plan and design, I had to put together an initial vision of what I was looking for with colors and a unique perspective. Not only did we have our own booth to put together (which I probably had enough in my treasure trove to create) but we were also participating in Inspiration Avenue. For those not familiar with Bridal Spectacular, Inspiration Avenue is an opportunity to create a showcase for your company based on a theme. With confirmation of having a 15’ x 20’ space (that is big space to fill!), I knew this had to be something unique, modern, and inspiring. Did I mention I just had a few days?

Fortunately, I have some great partners at By Dzign and RSVP Party Rental who helped me with the foundation and accents for both my booth and Inspiration Avenue. After literally running through the By Dzign warehouse for over an hour, I decided I should focus on the centerpiece first, then the linens. Greg is their lead designer who I have known for years. Knowing that we were on a tight timeline (and budget) I inquired as to something that fit my criteria of modern with a little bit of edge. It was then on to the linens and the chairs to give it texture and a little more depth. With a few trips to Michael’s for some accent pieces, I was ready to go!

Thursday night we began set-up and it is never as easy as it looks. There are often last minute adjustments to the design to take it to the next level. It is like when you shop online for an outfit. You love it, but you need to try it on to see how it looks and to know how best to accessorize it. With a few minor adjustments (and about eight hours of setup) we were ready to go! When creating something new and incorporating different elements that you have not paired previously, it is always a waiting game to see how it turns out. As showcased in the main photo above, the final creation was exactly what I wanted – contemporary, edgy, and a unique perspective.

During the set-up I also had a few minor distractions. Of course you want to visit with your friends in the industry and see what everyone else is doing. We also had the great opportunity to be interviewed by Fox 5 for the More Show discussing current wedding trends. Fortunately, I have had experience on television and also teach a wedding class, so I was versed on the trends from cakes to invitations and décor. What was interesting, while I am definitely more of a contemporary designer, every booth that the interviewer was drawn to was all about vintage. Yes, vintage and romance are still alive and well in the bride’s eye!

Lights, camera, action! We are ready for the show! One of our industry social media gurus, Andy Ebon, was at the show and I reminded him of when he first saw me at shows years before. He has always there to offer a helpful tip and focused on making sure potential clients knew who I was. It is about branding and having your name and logo front and center. Having showcased now for seven years, looking at a booth design is not always enough to tell the story of what you do. While the JMT Eventology sign was prominently display in both areas, we still had a little more to the story. Our tagline missing from our banner – Planners with a Design Perspective – was the key part to who we are. This is still something unique to the industry. While we are finding other planners and even some other businesses jumping on the “design” bandwagon, it is still a different perspective. We had many couples coming through asking if we were a venue or décor company.

The challenging part to wedding shows is being able to talk to couples and find out their vision and how we can be of service. We asked quite a few if they had a wedding planner – some of whom pointed at their mothers or mentioned their venue contact was helping them. Having worked in hotels for years, I know that my role was definitely very different than an independent planner, although many venues refer to the title as the “wedding coordinator.” The difference is, the venue contact will rarely assist with design recommendations, finding the best fit for vendors, and mainly focuses on coordinating their part to the process. They do not help with the budget, services review with the vendors, or even stay until the end of the evening!

At the end of the show, you have to ask yourself, was it successful? Did the couples actually stop to talk or were they able to differentiate your services from others? After all, this is one of the most special days of their lives. Seeing some of the amazing people at the show, I often question if the attendees really know if when they are walking by the booths and not stopping, is it because they are looking for the free cake or because they aren’t really sure of what they are missing. Wedding planning can be easier if you are looking for something simple and have a smaller guest list, but it can also be a very complex process in determining what is really the best fit, especially with limited funds and larger guest lists. If you are a couple attending the show and interested in finding different services, I highly recommend you take a few moments beforehand to create a strategy:

  1. Create labels with your names, wedding date, guest count, and theme. This will save you time and allow us to contact you quicker when we can read the information!

  2. Create a checklist of what services you are interested in obtaining. While you may not have considered a popcorn station, if it sounds fun, why not stop by and ask about it!

  3. Review the floorplan to know where certain vendors are located. Just like going to a shopping mall, know what is most important, but if you see something great while window shopping, stop by to learn more!

  4. Take time to talk to the different professionals at the show if they offer a service you need or you like their design. Sometimes even if you are not looking for their services, they can recommend someone who can help you.

  5. Once you walk around once or twice, go back to the people that you really like and set up an appointment!

  6. Share your story with us. We are here to help you and the more we know about what you are looking for, the more able we are to assist.

Showcasing does take a lot of time and energy. To keep great people returning to the shows, make sure to take time to visit with them and let them know you are interested and love their booth. And if you are walking over with a free sample of cake, bring us a slice, too!


Yours in Design, JMT Eventology

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