As I mentioned on Twitter, I attended a bridal expo on Sunday that was put on by Bridal Expo Chicago. I saw a lot at the expo and spoke to many friendly vendors along the way, but my overall experience left something to be desired. I’ve decided to write about my positive experiences as well as my negative ones, so let me know if you agree or disagree with anything I have to say!
The promotional efforts. Obviously, I work for a promotional products company, so it’s only natural that I would get excited about the various giveaway items at the expo. I lost count of how many vendors gave away promotional pens, and of course I snatched one from every booth I passed. Tote bags also made an appearance, though not as prominently, and I was sure to get those while I could as well. I also saw future brides walking around with lanyards, pins, and bite-sized cookies (which were DELICIOUS, by the way). My favorite promotional idea was done by Countryside Flower Shop – they gave each interested guest an orchid-adorned mini gift bag filled with their contact information!
The variety of vendors. Bridal Expo Chicago included vendors from virtually every aspect of the wedding industry, from photographers and DJs to florists and gown retailers. I also liked that the vendors’ booths were mixed well enough to avoid walking by two competing vendors in the same area. If you’re early in your wedding planning stages, then you’ll probably spend more time at the booths than I did, but it was still nice to have a variety! I wish they’d had more cake/dessert vendors, but I can’t complain too much because they did have a few.
The tendency (of SOME, not all) vendors to completely ignore and/or shun any attendee who lacks a V.I.B. (Very Important Bride) sticker. Okay, now for the bad. When you approach the registration table at the expo, you are given a round V.I.B. sticker to place on your clothing – probably to make it easier for people to spot “the one in charge.” I brought two of my bridesmaids with me to the expo, and while we walked from booth to booth I noticed that some vendors barely glanced at them (even though they were standing right by my side) and didn’t freely offer them any information or freebies.
On one occasion, I was offered a bridal magazine by a woman who stood behind a table PILED with them; when one of my bridesmaids approached the table to get one, the woman didn’t express the same enthusiasm and even said: “Sure, you can take one, too.” Really, woman-behind-the-table? That’s just rude. My bridesmaid may not have had a sticker on her chest, but that doesn’t mean that she wouldn’t be interested in planning her future wedding just as much! I didn’t pay for our tickets because I signed up for free ones, but I know I’d be royally pissed off if I paid $15 to get into an expo where I couldn’t even take any of the promotional materials.
The set-up of the expo itself. Quite frankly, I was both confused and annoyed by the way the vendor rows were organized. We had to wait in line to get into the venue, which was totally fine, but I felt like I was in line during the entire show because of the way everything was organized. I can only liken the set-up to a narrow hallway; booths were pushed against the walls on either side and it was IMPOSSIBLE to get through as soon as anyone paused to speak to one of the vendors, which meant that everyone behind had to either patiently wait or push past them.
There was only one path to follow so I didn’t have any choice which booths to visit first, and that path led straight to the stage and seating area for the 2:00 fashion show. The show was both fine and dandy, but I faced even more of a challenge once it ended. In order to escape the crowded room, everyone had to wind back through the insanely narrow pathway past all of the vendors…again. Why would anyone think that’s a good idea? My bridesmaids and I felt so cramped and flustered by the time we got out of there that we hauled ass to the car without even bothering to speak to the vendors a second time.
I attended a different bridal expo (also through Bridal Expo Chicago) at a different venue a few months ago and had a nearly identical experience, so I can’t help but assume that they have purposely chosen this inconvenient set-up. I understand that the venue itself is being “sold” to brides as a potential reception location and that they probably want people to walk through as much of it as possible, but can’t they figure out a better way to accomplish this? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I was so focused on navigating through the packed crowd that I barely even noticed the venue at all! Any convention or expo that I’ve ever been to has booths organized into rows within one large room, not within a winding hallway. Personally, I think that makes a lot more sense and would probably make it easier for brides to find exactly which services they need. If showcasing the venue is a concern, then I would suggest providing guided tours to interested brides-to-be before they leave the event!
I feel that, with just a few of these improvements, Bridal Expo Chicago could increase attendee enthusiasm and interest. I didn’t hate my experiences at the expos they’ve organized (quite the contrary – I had a great time despite my minor annoyances), and I’d probably attend again in the future if asked to go – but I’d have a much better time if the set-up changed.
What do you think about the Bridal Expo Chicago events you’ve attended? Do you agree with me or disagree with me? Let me know by leaving a comment below, and I’ll reply to you! In the meantime, if you need any promotional products for your wedding reception, your company, or your upcoming expo, don’t hesitate to visit Quality Logo Products. Thanks for reading!