If you recently got engaged, congratulations! Whether you’re in our area (Austin, San Antonio, and central Texas) or anywhere, now, comes the fun, or shall I say, stressful part: wedding planning!
If you haven’t already started your frantic researching and planning, then now is a great time to start. Check out any of the great wedding websites for lots of helpful tips. By the way, Jason & Diana (ABDJs’ owners/managers) are also certified wedding & event planners, and they write this blog with plenty of planning tips & resources, to help you plan your big day. This little old blog gets over 40,000 visitors per month!
Now that you’re engaged and most likely already changed your Facebook status, (haha) it’s time to get to work! Besides using Google and wedding websites, you should definitely consider attending a bridal show. For our market, the next Austin Bridal Extravaganza is happening on Sunday, September 18th, at the Palmer Event Center, from 12 pm – 5 pm, in Austin, Texas.
It’s a huge event with hundreds of wedding vendors present. We have never had a booth there, but we actually went as guests before our wedding (we, Diana and Jason, got married in October 2016). The bridal extravaganza has tons of vendors for everything you need for your special wedding day in Austin or central Texas.
Bridal Show Warning!
Let me warn you, it’s somewhat of a sensory overload when you walk in. There are vendors everywhere, there are flashing lights, music, and lots of people. There are hundreds of vendors, such as: DJs, photo booths, catering companies, venues, wedding ceremony officiants, live musicians, bakeries, florists, wedding invitation companies, etc.
You even get to sample some amazing food and cakes, yum! We’re not trying to scare you off, but we just wanted to let you know what to expect. If you don’t like crowds, perhaps you should consider going in the late afternoon on Sunday, when it’s less busy.
Attending a bridal show is a great way to start your planning, since you can get lots of quotes for just about everything you need for your wedding in Austin, central Texas, and beyond. So here are the top 13 tips on how to make the most out of your bridal show visit and more importantly, how to book the best wedding vendors!
Tip 1. Decide on a budget before attending.
It’s important to have a budget in mind before you attend a bridal show. This will help you narrow down your choices and allow venues and suppliers to provide you with a quote based on your specific budget. You don’t have to have everything planned out, but a rough overall estimate will help. If you can even break it down into vendor categories, that will definitely help. Example: DJs are usually 8-10% of your total budget (most common).
Tip 2. Create a separate email address.
Chances are, you’re going to be writing your email address quite a bit during a bridal show so it’s best to create an email specifically for wedding planning purposes. This ensures that you can keep all quotes and communications in one place that’s away from your work and personal emails. Create an email address that’s easy to remember, like: [email protected]
Tip 3. Take Pictures, lots of them!
There is so much to see at a bridal show and you never know when inspiration might strike so use your phone so that you can easily some pics of ideas that you might like to use. Maybe you fell in love with a particular florist’s arrangement, take photos to remember what you loved about it. If you don’t book that florist, you at least have an idea of what you love!
Tip 4. Come hungry.
Wedding shows include caterers and bakers so come hungry if you want to try out food and cake samples from various suppliers. Most bridal shows will also have their own general food booths so you definitely won’t leave with an empty stomach. Warning: you’ll probably be tired of cake by the end of the day. haha
Tip 5. Have your calendar or planner ready.
Many wedding vendors are ready to offer discounts to couples who book a consultation with them at the show so have your calendar at the ready so that you can take advantage of these types of offers.
Most will try to create a sense of urgency, wanting you to pay a retainer on the spot. We advise against that, but it’s your call. We recommend getting cards and even written quotes from the vendors you love. Many will honor their quotes for up to 7 days after the event. If they promise this, be sure to get it in writing. This is the best way to avoid being pressured and having buyer’s remorse. Be sure to do your research on the vendors you loved. Check out their social media and of course their recent reviews!
Truth Warning: Many companies will offer amazing discounts, but here’s the truth: most will simply create a higher rate, then offer you the “new, discounted rate,” which is what they would charge you to begin with. 🙁 Example from a DJ company: a 5 Hour wedding would normally cost $1500 (before the bridal show), but today, at the bridal show, it’s $2000, but if you sign up and pay your non-refundable deposit now, you can save $500!! It’s a sales tactic that’s often used at these events.
Tip 6. Wear the right clothing.
Not only should you wear comfortable shoes because you will be on your feet all day but you should also wear clothes that will make it easy to try on wedding gowns or tuxedo jackets, should you want to.
Tip 7. Compare Vendors.
Always do your research on your favorite vendors from the show, or even those not at the show. Shop around and compare vendors. It’s a good idea to narrow your search down to your favorite 3 vendors for each category. What is it about your top 3 vendors that you really like? Is it their prices? Reviews? Branding? What makes them the best choice?
Once you know these answers, contact them using the method you prefer to be contacted by. If it’s email, then email them. Facebook, Instagram, phone, in person, or whatever. Don’t let them force a phone call if you’re not ready for it. I hated this when shopping for wedding vendors. (Yes, we had to hire a few wedding vendors, too, so we know exactly what you’re going through). 🙂
Tip 8. Ask the Right Questions
Now that you have your list of favorite vendors, it’s time to contact them. Make a list of questions and find out more about your vendors. Good questions to start off with, are: Do they offer packages? What is included with the packages? How many hours will the package include? How much are additional add-ons? Have they been to your venue, if you already have one?
By the way, feel free to copy and paste our Frequently Asked Questions (just remove our answers) and send them to your DJ/DJ company. We want to help you with our great tips and resources, even if you don’t book with us! Though we can’t imagine why you would book anyone else. 🙂
Tip 9. Check Reviews
After the bridal show, it’s time to start doing research. We mentioned reviews above, but it’s important enough to mention it again. Look at recent reviews and how many a vendor has. If a particular vendor claims to have been in business for “years,” yet only has reviews starting from 2017, you should be careful with this vendor.
Many vendors will “close” their business online, then rename their business to a new name, and start collecting new reviews, to hide their recent bad reviews. 🙁 No one is immune to bad reviews, but those who do this, probably aren’t the best choice for your hard earned money, in our opinion. These companies are certainly not the best wedding vendors!
– What to Look for With Reviews
Look at how many reviews the vendor has. How many years back do they go? How recent are they? (Some vendors may have their last reviews from 2015, which is strange). Do the reviews mention different staff, or just one person? If a vendor has only 5 stars, this is awesome, but it’s not always 100% accurate. It’s hard to please everyone, every single time. We even had a few unhappy customers, a few years ago, but it was mostly due to a lack of adequate communication on what their expectations were, versus what we actually offered. We have not had a less than 5 star review in many years, thankfully, because we implemented many changes and created a planning system to cover every detail of a wedding or event.
If a vendor has an absolutely perfect record, this is questionable, too. Look up your favorite restaurant. Chances are, even they will not have all 5 star reviews. Be aware, many vendors pay people to remove their bad reviews. If there is a less than perfect score, just be sure to check how recent it was. Have they had any more reviews that are 5 stars, since then? Most people consider reviews within the last 3 months as relevant.
Does that particular business have more than one Google or Yelp account? If so, this is a red flag. Look up the business owner’s name(s) and you’ll be able to find the businesses they are associated with. You’ll be glad you did.
Tip 10. Thoroughly Review Contracts
Contracts are VERY important. If you decide to sign a contract at the bridal show, be sure to read all the fine print and ask questions. What are the cancellation policies? How much of a deposit is required to book? I
f the wedding is cancelled for any reason (Covid cancellations were rough), are there any refunds? (Most vendors do not offer refunds and can require as much as a 50% deposit). When is the final payment due? There are many more questions to ask, but these are the most important ones that come to mind.
Tip 11. Be prepared to spend some money.
There will always be tons of sales at a bridal show and you never know when you might find a suit or gown that you love, so come prepared. You may even find a supplier that you love, which means there’s a chance you will need to put down a deposit or retainer right there and then, to secure them for your wedding date.
Tip 12. Bring your theme colors along.
If you already know what colors you will be using in your wedding, bring a few fabric swatches along. Many of the vendors will be more than happy to offer advice and tips based on your colors and ideas. Feel free to show them photos from all the Pinterest photos you saved!
Tip 13. Be patient.
Bridal shows are very busy so it’s important to be patient and take the day slowly. Don’t get overwhelmed. Chances are, most vendors will spend several minutes with every couple so keep this in mind when walking around. Trust us, if you’re interested, they’ll speak to you as long as you’d like! 🙂
Bridal shows are one of the few times where you will have everything you need under one roof so be sure to take full advantage of this opportunity. Overall, attending the bridal shows can be a great experience, and a great way to book the best wedding vendors in one weekend! We hope these tips have been helpful. As always, if you have any questions, please contact us and we’ll be happy to help!
Here’s a handy little map of how to get to the Palmer Event Center. Just click on it and enter your location! We hope we made the cut of the “best wedding vendors” on your list! Happy wedding planning!
– Austin’s Best DJs & Photo Booths
Here’s a map on how to get to the Palmer Events Center, below.