You have a choice. Either you can Google your way through the search for vendors, reading hundreds of poorly written or dubious reviews about wedding cakes, string quartets and hair stylists, or you could turn up at a beautiful hotel, be given a free glass of champagne*, and be spoon-fed the wedding industry's most prolific experts. It's your choice, guys.
In all seriousness, it really is that simple: wedding fair organisers do all the hard work so that you don't have to. When you walk through the doors, you can be sure that the vendors and suppliers attending the wedding fair are the best in the area – they are tried, tested and recommended. They've tasted their cakes, heard their music and seen their Elvis impersonation, and judged each worth promoting within their space. All you have to do is turn up and take it all in.
I say this as a veteran of Berkshire wedding fairs, having attended many during my time as a wedding magician, as it is the best way for me to demonstrate my act to hundreds of newly engaged couples every year. While many book me on the basis of my videos on social media, word-of-mouth or online reviews, there really is nothing quite like a couple having the opportunity to see my work for themselves, up close. And it's just the same for the cake makers giving out samples, the photographers exhibiting their work and the Elvis impersonators shaking their hips – they all want to have the opportunity to convince you that they're right for your event.
For those who need a bit more convincing, here are my top reasons you should make time to attend:
1. See the Venues
It may sound a little obvious, but it's worth bearing in mind that wedding fairs are usually held in popular wedding venues, such as hotels and manor houses. Coincidence? I think not, and neither do you my cynical friend. Of course, wedding fairs are a perfect opportunity for venues to get you through their doors – but it's a win-win situation. While attending, you not only get the chance to view the interior of an excellent possible venue, but to also meet vendors that are particularly well suited to that venue, too. You could walk away with a ready-made event within the space of an afternoon.
2. Watch the Catwalk
Trying on dress after dress in boutiques and stores can get rather tiresome, especially if you're not entirely sure what you're after. I mean, they're all white and long, right? And they all look very same-y on the hanger. However, it's worth remembering that wedding dresses look very different on the hanger than on an actual human lady, and so seeing the dresses being worn could be a big help when deciphering which style will suit you. Some wedding fairs, particularly the larger ones, host a catwalk to exhibit wedding dresses and suits for the attendees. Suppliers get to showcase their newest and fanciest garments, and it is a great way for brides to see different styles of dresses all in one go.
3. Meet the Suppliers
So many suppliers, so little time. When it comes to weddings, there are so many to choose from, the choices can be as overwhelming as the cheese aisle in a well-stocked Waitrose. Sometimes, all you need is for an expert to point you in the direction of a really decent brie, right? At a wedding fair, you can be sure that the suppliers have a good track record, and are industry experts. Even if you don't settle on the suppliers you meet at the wedding fair, it's still a great opportunity to speak with vendors and suppliers and benefit from their years of experience. There are also usually cake samples.
Obviously, you'll be looking for suppliers for your basics – bakers for the cake, caterers for the food, seamstresses for the dress and florists for the flowers – and while these guys are crucial, it's worth remembering that the finishing touches and little extras often make a wedding. If you're short on ideas, give yourself some time to really look around and take in the kinds of services on offer. I've seen caricaturists, harpists, temporary tattoo artists, photo booth suppliers, David Beckham look-alikes and ice sculpturists. And magicians. Don't forget the magicians...
Go Big or Go Home?
When it comes to wedding fairs, there are the big ones such as The National Wedding Show and The Wedding Fair at the ExCel Centre in London, and smaller local ones at popular venues - many hotels near you probably hold one. You may be thinking that the larger the wedding fair, the better; however, both have their pluses and minuses.
At a big wedding fair, you can get a lot of inspiration. You'll see a variety of different vendors in a very short space of time, and while all the confetti and satin might leave you in a wedding induced semi-coma, you will leave the fair with a much better idea of what possibilities are out there. Treat it like a mental wedding mood board or scrap book and go nuts with the PVA in your imagination.
Smaller more intimate wedding fairs are better for those really trying to nail down their options and settle on vendors. If you select the fairs you go to carefully, you could end up finding everything in one swoop – but be sure to go along to a few so that you have a frame of comparison. I mean, there's a lot of free wedding cake out there just waiting for you. And champagne.**
I personally attend the more local and intimate wedding fairs organised by Berkshire Wedding Fairs. They hold several every season at lots of the top wedding venues in the area, showcasing the best that Berkshire has to offer.
*I can't promise that there will definitely be free champagne, or any kind of beverage. Except tap water.