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The Secret to Bridal Shows

Believe it or not, there IS a secret to these events; Many actually! And what you don’t know can definitely hurt you! Let’s peel back the layers of this cake and see what goes into these elaborate bridal shows…


Weddings and bridal shows sound almost like they go hand in hand – and of course they do – but make no mistake brides-to-be, they are two SEPARATE industries.

Weddings are predominantly a service industry, but can also include products. Capable vendors within the wedding industry clearly stand out: brand power, product quality, and a higher-than-usual price tag are usually tell tale signs of someone who is INVESTED in their business, usually because it’s all they do! And that’s a good thing for couples shopping for the right vendors.

You may shy away from these types initially, believing they’re out of your budget, or that you don’t need THAT level of service for the wedding day you’re envisioning. After all, most brides want a simple reception. But, many are surprised to learn that the simpler a wedding feels, the more costly in both time and money it can be to produce!  Think of a rehearsal on Broadway versus a high-school musical -- which do you think takes more to plan? Which has a higher ticket price? Yet, the stories are the same!

Likewise, the stark contrast between REAL professionals and amateur operations posing as such SHOULD be clear, but its not! Many inexperienced businesses cannot afford to research and develop their own brand, and so they either borrow or outright steal from other vendors to look and seem the part. And often you can’t tell the difference until your wedding day, when things fall apart and inexperienced “pros” don’t know how or make any effort to recover.

This “other” industry is the professional bridal show vendor… salespeople who peddle their crafts, novelties, and services by riding the coattails of the wedding industry, desperate to get in front of unsuspecting brides and wowing them with deals, samples and giveaways. These predators know their prey… and this “industry” is full of them. So be wary!


Another industry unto itself is the business of bridal show promotion! Made up of wedding-centered former and current professionals, these individuals and organizations spend considerable time and money advertising the show, making arrangements, and soliciting booths to vendors. But couples, make no mistake! These shows are PROFITABLE!

All the staff you see scurrying at shows are often unpaid interns or volunteers! Promoters use personal contacts, get deals on radio spots, and take bids from venues to host these shows often at little to no cost to them! BUT THEN they sell those booths you’re visiting to each vendor participating in the show, charging between $400 and $1200 on average PER TABLE for the shows seen every year in and around Syracuse! Did you realize that?

And now you understand why the people at the booths are trying so hard to get your attention! But there’s an even darker side!  Many promoters get into the business the same way as vendors… thinking that with minimal effort and the right contacts, they can turn a quick profit. So how does a bride know what to avoid? It all starts with WHY you want to go to a bridal show to begin with…


Many brides go to shows for one of two reasons: to find prospective vendors or for the free hand-outs. The temptation to participate for a chance to get tons of free stuff is overwhelming to many. But what you “win” is often cleverly designed to keep your attention longer than you mean to give it! The fine print at many shows and attached to many prizes often obligates brides into hiring the vendor who offered it.

The couples who attend shows to research local businesses who could perhaps be the right fit for their needs also compromise much! At the price these vendors pay to be seen by you, most are at the show for volume – to reach as many brides as possible and to get their advertising into your hands! That means you become victims of advertising before you know anything about the vendor! So the most clever, eye-catching marketing materials are more apt to win your business… not necessarily the best matched vendor for your needs!

By now you’re probably putting together how cleverly designed the “wedding machine” really is. Make no mistake, it’s a jungle out there! BUT there are GOOD people out there who want to be part of your day who actually have YOUR best interests at heart! Chances are, though, they are few and far between.  How can you tell them apart?


Fly-by-night businesses offer many incentives to get your attention, but most easily spotted is the “BIG” discount. Do you know how they can afford to offer such unbelievable prices?  Newcomers to the wedding industry often look up established businesses to see what they’re charging, and start by undercutting their price to get your attention. Then they offer a vastly inferior product or service disguised to look the same or better than the real professional’s. And when couples can’t tell the difference, the profits soar!

Real professionals usually cannot afford to arbitrarily discount their services, since the price they set has usually already accounted for the costs to research, market and provide their service to couples. Also, legitimate businesses are taxable, have employees, insurance, and a lot of other overhead to pay for that the charlatan doesn’t! Bottom line, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Not all discounts are a con game, however! Many businesses run seasonal specials or offer incentives for booking dates that opened up unexpectedly. Some also pass on savings they enjoy to their customers, such as if you pay in full, which saves the business costly processing fees. When they save, you save!

So should you go to bridal shows? YES! There ARE legitimate businesses there that you’ll want to consider! But you have to look past the sparkles, the glitter, and the freebees. SEEK OUT those booths where the person representing the business looks, acts, and talks the part! Ask them direct questions and demand direct answers. If they act “gimmicky”, they probably are! Real professionals delight in straight talk and will reward you with the honesty you deserve if you greet them accordingly.

Do your best to spot the egos in the room. There are bound to be many. But don’t mistake ego for confidence. Real professionals KNOW their product is superior and won’t have to try and sell it to you that way. They tend to be more composed, natural… and human! Many were once brides and grooms themselves and remember all too well what it was like to be sold to so aggressively, which is why they won’t act that way with you!

Bear in mind that with all the noise and the crowd, you may not be able to do much talking at the show, and that’s okay! Make it your mission instead to window shop. Take note of the booths and the people at them who you want to research further online. Call them! Set up face to face interviews. Mention you saw them at a show and would like to discuss things further. They’ll appreciate your being savvy more than you know!

With the world being so dependent on visuals… from the banners, business cards and brochures to social media feeds, text messages and emails, real professionals tend to value the bride and groom that resort to picking up the phone and having a real conversation than any of the tactics used by charlatans and amateurs. The name of the game when it comes to any type of shopping has always been buyer beware. And the wedding industry is no different.

But bridal shows can be a window into that world. And the eyes you use to look inside ultimately dictate if and how you’ll benefit. If you go with your eyes open and don’t buy into the sham and hype, you’ll learn much about who and what is available in your area, and more importantly, you’ll make well-informed choices as to the vendors and services you’ll need for a truly awesome wedding!

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