Bring your fiance with you for at least one trip to the event, and then go again with your mother, your maid of honor, future mother-in-law or girlfriends. Going twice allows you to really take in everything you need to see. Do your best to stay together or at least, have cell phones handy so you can arrange to meet at vendor booths where you are especially interested. If you are the bride and the groom is somewhere else, if may be difficult to make a choice later about a specific service unless both of you are present to hear the information.
If you are the mother of the bride and are gathering information for the bride and groom, make notes on the business card, brochure or flyer that you think might interest them the most. Bringing a small notebook and pen to make special notes is helpful. If a vendor gives you information that you especially like and want to follow up with at a later date, put that information in a special bag, not with all the other stuff you may collect. Don't weigh yourself down with unnecessary items. Bring what you need for the day to keep your shoulder free from bag weight. Leave your purse at home in favor of your own lightweight carrying bag. Some vendors will give you one, however use your own bag to separate vendor information that is of special interest to you and use the vendor bag for everything else. Another idea is to bring a red pen and mark the vendors' information in a special way that will indicate your level of interest, e.g., "call this one!" Make notes on business cards, the brochure or flyer for easy reference later.
Bring a small notebook and pen. You never know what tips or ideas you'll find out and want to write down. You will never remember which vendor told you what. It is possible to see 16 photographers, 8 videographers, 10 bakers, 12 disc jockey services and several ministers. There's so much to see that by the time you get home, you may forget. Bring your PDA or personal planner so you will have your bridal shower, rehearsal, wedding and other important dates handy. It can also be helpful if you choose to make an appointment with one of the vendors. Ask about the exhibitors' availability if you are interested. Be sure not to make speedy judgments on whether the information offered might be of interest to you. Take one minute to listen to their offer and if a vendor offers you literature you do not want, don't take it. Be polite. Just say "no, thank you" and walk on. Vendors appreciate your candor because they spend a lot of money on their wedding flyers, promotional pieces, etc. Some vendors offer drawings for prizes.
Prevent writer's cramp! Bring address labels to save time in filling out registration blanks. Computer savvy? Make your own labels (or business card) on your computer. It is helpful to include your name, the groom's name, complete address, your wedding date and location, phone numbers and e-mail address. This is very helpful to the vendor when you request additional information. If you don't bring labels, print very clearly when registering for anything.
Don't register for everything! If you know you will not need the service, don't register. Otherwise you may be receiving unneeded information from their mailing list for many months to come. You don't have to give your contact information out to everyone -- provide it only to those vendors that make your short list. Most shows offer a bride and groom sticker when you register. Please wear it! It can become confusing for vendors to identify everyone who attends, and if they know you are the bride, they are more likely to give you that little bit of extra attention. Material swatches and ribbons that suggest the colors of your wedding are helpful when speaking with florists, bakers, balloonists, gown shops and other professionals. Know the size of your wedding party, your color scheme, and the location of your reception facility.
Bring your credit card -- not your checkbook -- in case you want to book any services or give a deposit to hold a date. You will often find discounts that are available only at the show. If you are comfortable with the vendor, by all means, go for it. A word of caution... although most vendors are reputable, if a wedding vendor goes out of business before your wedding, you can usually get your money back if you use a credit card but you will be out of luck if you pay by check.
Proceed with caution and choose wisely. Read the fine print. If you see one of the vendors you have already hired at a show, ask them for referrals to other reputable vendors you may need. They may have worked with them at previous weddings and can make a valuable referral. Wedding venues often have "preferred vendor" lists available upon request.
Larry James performs the most "Romantic" wedding ceremony you will find anywhere! He is a nondenominational minister, professional speaker, author, and relationship coach. He performs "customized" wedding ceremonies in the Greater Phoenix area, statewide, and nationally. You will find lots of tips, checklists, ceremonies and relationship articles on his website. Larry James has been voted "Best Officiant" in the Greater Phoenix area by the Wedding Chronicle's 2007, 2008 & 2009 Reader's Poll.