It’s January, which means that wedding show season is upon us. I’ve spent the last couple days getting the details together for my booth at the Spokane Bridal Festival on Saturday (I’ll be in booth #331, come say hi!) and I wanted to share my top five tips for making the most of wedding show.

1. Plan ahead. If you can, purchase your ticket in advance (they’re usually cheaper, plus you won’t have to wait in line for a ticket) and make plans to carpool because the event fees for parking can be high. Make a list of all the vendors you’re looking to check out — photographers, venues, caterers, makeup artists, etc. — so you don’t get home and realize that somehow, you didn’t talk to a single makeup artist!

Pro tip: If you’ve already got your dress, or don’t want to watch the fashion show, plan on chatting with vendors at those times. The crowds will be smaller, which means you’ll have a better chance to learn about vendors’ services.

Processional down the mountain on foot with music after the ceremony

2. Bring the right supplies. There are often a lot of sweets at wedding expos or shows, and after you’ve had a half dozen cake samples, your blood sugar is going to spike (and then crash). To keep yourself from going crazy, bring some healthy snacks — dried fruit, cheese and crackers, or veggies — to keep from overdosing on sugar. Make sure you have a pen and paper, so you can fill out all the paperwork for inquiries and giveaways. Bring a planner or calendar (whether physical or an app) so that you can make appointments with vendors at the show.

3. Take your time (and a friend). Whenever I attend a show or expo, I like to make a round to scout everything out, and then make a second (and third) round to talk with vendors. This way, I know if that vendor by the front door had the coolest XYZ or if there’s someone tucked away in the corner with more amazing stuff. It’s also good to have a friend, because you’re going to need moral support, and an extra set of eyes to check things out. Sometimes, I’ll take a little break after I chat with people to talk things over with whoever is with me, and make any decisions that need to be made, like scheduling an appointment or booking someone on the spot.

Pro tip: If you take your break between the fashion shows at the Spokane Bridal Festival, you’ll find plenty of quiet seating near the stage.

Arbor Crest Spokane // Emily Wenzel Photography

4. Schedule a follow-up. If there are a couple vendors you’re really interested in, ask at the show if you can schedule a follow up appointment in the next week or two. I, personally, love when a couple does that. If we can schedule an appointment for a few days after the show, I’ll be able to give them my undivided attention, and I can make sure that we’re going to be a good fit for each other. Sometimes, the deals or specials offered by a vendor will only be available at the show. Bummer.

Pro tip: Oftentimes, your wedding expo ticket is good for the length of the show (the Spokane Bridal Fest one is), so if you go on Saturday, you might decide that evening that you have more questions, or want to book, you can come back on Sunday and see us again.

5. Take notes. Use that pen and paper (or an app on your phone) and take notes about vendors. There are often dozens, if not hundreds, of vendors at a wedding expo, and you’re going to talk to more than a few of them. Taking notes will help you remember which contests you entered, what packages the photographers offered, and why you liked this caterer or that baker. Wedding shows can be very overwhelming, so it’s easy to forget those details.

Epic First Look Excited Groom // Emily Wenzel Photography

Even if you’re not planning your wedding where you’re attending a show, there are benefits to attending a show. Besides free cake samples, there’s tons of inspiration, and you might find vendors who will travel (like me!) or things like a dress, which you can buy where you live. Have you been to a wedding expo or bridal show? What are your tips and tricks for making the most of them?