As I mounted the slope up to the looming Earls Court. I couldn’t help but feel that I had been entered into some bizarre new sport. The eager expression of the other brides was undeniable. They seemed mentally prepared clutching their bottles of water and adorned with eco bags.
I watched, amused, as brides would try to match each other’s accelerating pace as if waiting for the moment to break into a sprint towards the entrance. Though I didn’t count myself among this group of keen brides, I couldn’t help but fall into this pattern of behaviour. What was the prize for winning? The perfect wedding? I wondered what would await me inside.
Wedding Fairs can be tough but with a little help they can be extremely useful and fun. At a good wedding fair you could find all of your suppliers in one day- worth a try!
So here is Mission Tie Knot’s Survival Guide to Wedding Fairs
- What’s in your bag?
- Notepad- for the details worth jotting down
- Pen- to do the jotting
- Water- makes you beautiful inside and out.
- Canvas bag- for all the flyers and freebies you will pick up
- Doing some research beforehand is a must.
Before you even buy tickets do a little research, if you are after a more bohemian or personalised feel to you wedding then maybe the big fairs are not for you. However one wedding fair is not the same as another. Check out our ‘Which Wedding Fair?’ article for tips.
Check out the fair’s suppliers list you will be able to find it on their website. If you haven’t already bought a wedding magazine, buy one and see what takes your fancy. If you are going to one of the big wedding shows you will find that a lot of the big advertisers in the magazines will be there, from cake designers to honeymoon specialists. Make a note of the people you want to talk to and the timed exhibitions you want to see.
- Should I take the Groom?
Before you make this decision check out if there are going to be enough exhibitors that would interest the groom and keep him occupied. Even the most dutiful of grooms is unlikely to be interested in bridesmaid’s dresses, cakes and flower stands. Most wedding fairs are geared towards women. If the fair is made up of mainly wedding dress stalls you will spend most of the day telling them to disappear, anyway, whilst you peruse the rails of dresses. Dress secrecy is important! You may not want him to get an idea of what your wedding dress will look like. It is up to you.
This is a tough decision which comes with pros and cons. I once went to a wedding fair where next door was a video gaming expo and I saw a lot of crest fallen grooms being beckoned into the wedding fair.
If you don’t want to go alone take your mother or a trusty bridesmaid with you.
- Early bird gets the appointments
Get a map and work out where the suppliers are that you want to see. This will only really be for the bridal dress boutiques but it is worth getting organised. Make a beeline for your favourites. Note that the big names will get booked up very quickly and you won’t get a chance to try anything if you leave it later than 11 o’clock to book a slot at the big shows.
- Get those sticky fingers out
It seems silly but no amount of magazine pictures and editorial bridal shoots can tell you what a wedding dress feels like. The rustle of the silk, the softness of the lace can only be determined by your fingertips.
This is the best thing about the big wedding fairs: you can find all of the designers there. This will save you the time and effort of countless afternoons off work (as the Saturday appointments were all gone) visiting bridal boutiques, only to discover that the dresses all look just like the pictures but feel dreadful.
- Chin up and elbows out
Don’t be nervous! When you see that Jenny Packham dress that you have been eyeing up for months, surrounded by a crowd of brides and their mothers, don’t get put off. Get in there. On my first wedding fair visit I went with my own very thick skinned mother, a true product of the ‘go get what you want’ generation and she did all the elbowing for me, shameful as I am to admit it.
The dresses may look white, pristine and delicate but they won’t be by the end of the day, thanks to eager brides’ fingertips. Remember you are just as important as all the other brides and you will regret it if you don’t get your elbows out.
Territory is a funny thing. You will definitely see the instinct kick in, or adopt it yourself. The dresses are only samples but you will see brides desperately trying to cling to the gown that they have set their heart on. Or try to block others from looking at it as if not wanting someone to have the same design. Don’t worry, I am sure you will feel a similar impulse when you find yours!
I remember bridal boutique assistants running around, desperately trying to stop mothers-of-the-bride from taking the sample dresses off the rails and walking around with them. Which brings us on to the next point on our list…
- Don’t get put off by a supplier, they are just exhausted
Usually the people running the stall will be very helpful, but it is hard work and after they have talked to hundreds of brides they will be exhausted. So don’t judge them too harshly and get put off by someone who isn’t at the top of their game. Or don’t let it get in the way of that perfect cake design you tore out of that magazine months ago.
Don’t get put off when you get told sternly by a dishevelled assistant not to take dresses off the rails. Most of these booths will only have one sample dress of each design. This is so their entire collection can be viewed without half of them off the rails in customer’s hands.
- To try on or not to try on
Everyone talks about the feeling that you experience when you try on your wedding dress for the first time. However the moment you try on any wedding dress even if it isn’t ‘the one’ is something you will never forget.
For me that moment was at the Earl’s Court Wedding show at the Sassi Holford Boutique stall.
Chronically shy the idea of trying on a dress next to three other women in a large changing area was truly terrifying. My mother and auntie had pushed me into it saying ‘Don’t be shy, it will be fun!’ I had not planned to do this, which was apparent as I stripped down to my bra and pants which to my horror were completely mismatched. My Wonder Woman pants were very out of place in this bridal changing room! Cringing in horror I looked around the tent at the other brides for their reaction but they were trying on dresses of their own and had eyes for no one but themselves, let alone my terrible choice in pants.
The assistant helping me was wonderful. I told her what I wanted and she dutifully pulled out the more low key dresses I was interested in. Then she turned to me and said, ‘this is a totally different style to what you are trying on but you have to trust me’. She then pulled out the puffiest, most fabulous dress from Suzanne Neville with a built in corset and I almost had a heart attack. And you know what, she was right! Next week I went to the Suzanne Neville boutique in Knightsbridge and picked the design of my dress. Job done!
So trying on dresses at a wedding fair may not be up your street but a lot of good can come out of it. The best part was when my Mum and Auntie asked the assistant to sneak them into the changing room and promptly burst into tears at the sight of me in my dress.
- Be open to influence
Often brides have a very fixed idea of how they want their wedding day to be. If you keep you mind open you never know what delights you may find.
I wasn’t looking for a honeymoon travel agent but after a brief chat at a wedding fair we found Turquoise. Best decision we made, they looked after us so well. They arranged our honeymoon to Bora Bora followed by shopping and fooding in San Francisco afterwards. It meant that our honeymoon was one less thing to worry about during our wedding planning.
So try on the dress you didn’t plan to or consider the singing waiters that you hadn’t thought of.
- Collect business cards & make a note of your favourite stalls
Make sure you mark down the stalls you like as you will never find them again. Trust me, rows of bridal boutiques and cake stands will start to merge together after a short time. You don’t want to spend half an hour trying to retrace your steps. You could even take pictures of the stalls you like as this is a great aid de memoir.