A macaron display by Ladurée, the French pastry shop, at Bridelux, a luxury bridal show at the InterContinental Barclay hotel in New York.CreditBetsi Ewing

As with anything that has to do with wedding planning, preparation is key. Attending your first bridal show is no different. Bridal expos can be a great place to start while you’re on the hunt for inspiration, new trends and local vendors. Best of all, it’s all in one place and you have access to tons of freebies and discounts too. However, when you factor in the large crowds and the hundreds of vendors vying for your business, it can also be overwhelming and mentally taxing. Here are a few tips to help you survive your first experience:

1. Do your research before selecting a bridal show or expo. All shows are not created equally. Decide in advance if you want to attend a show that has more of a boutique feel with fewer vendors at a smaller venue or a mega show in a large venue with lots of vendors and activities.

2. Plan ahead and take a look at the list of featured vendors and speakers in advance. Once you’ve created a list of potential favorites, plan to visit those vendors first. This will help you manage your time if you don’t plan on staying all day.

3. Arrive early and bring your partner or a member of your wedding party. If crowds aren’t your thing, try to get to the show early or later in the afternoon. There will be tons of vendors vying for your attention and handing out literature, so having someone along means you can share the load and stay more sane in a frenzied environment.

4. Take notes during breakout speaker sessions. Bridal shows often feature wedding experts and seasoned industry pros that offer great tips that can save you money and time during your planning process. This is also a great time to ask questions.

5. Speak to the owner of the company that you are interested in or make sure you get the name and contact information of the professionals you spoke with at the show. You may have chemistry with the person at the booth, but he or she may not be the person you end up working with.

6. Schedule a follow-up appointment before booking. You may fall in love with a vendor at the show, but you may not have had the time to ask all of your questions. A follow-up meeting outside of the excitement of the expo can help you make a sound decision.

7. Take photos to share with vendors later. Most bridal shows will feature the latest trends that you may want to reproduce for your wedding. Having photos handy will spare you from trying to describe the centerpiece or tablescape that you fell in love with.

Read more on why wedding expos are still a thing.

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