Wow. Adding to the things that no one tells you about: giant-mega bridal shows can be a little like stepping into a reality show called “Jersey-licious Gets Married”. Yep, I just made that name up.

I got a bit over-excited right after the BFE proposed, and began looking up all things wedding: locations, dresses, invitations, bridal shows. Something about bridal shows really intrigued me, and just seemed to embody the typical wedding experience. So within a week or two I’d selected two shows to go to. One was a small show only a few weeks away, and the other was over two months away. The second one was the big’un, the grand mc-daddy of all bridal shows. The Orlando Perfect Wedding Guide Bridal Show. I was wriggling in anticipation. Everything I’d ever need for my wedding would be found at this magical place! So two months later, off we went, to this ginormous bridal show.

 

As we walked in, I repeated my list to my BFF /maid of honor/ ride-or-die partner: engagement photographer. invitations. favors. transportation. We were gonna hit this show like gang busters and beat the system!!! Yeah baby, yeah!

 

Wow. Um, wow. First of all, yall know I’m the Queen of free, right? When we get to registration (and P.S. this show was not free) there was NO FREE SWAG BAG. Even the first bridal show I’d gone to, which was TINY, had adorable little bags they gave out, and I used to collect invitation samples, business cards and the like. Knowing that a little show like the first one had bags – a show which was small enough to be held in the bar at a golf course, no less – I figured the mc-daddy show would have a bag. Which I’d been counting on so that I’d have a place to store all my bridal show stuff which I knew I’d get. If I wanted a bag, I’d have to pay $10 for it! Really? Yall have met me. So, uh, NO. I was irritated and I was already starting at a negative.

We passed through the bridal expo’s fashion runway show. It was surreal seeing dress after dress on the runway, broken up by the occasional flower girl, junior bridesmaid or ring bearer. After the first few they all started to look alike. The haze of white dresses made me grateful that I’d already selected my dress. It’s easy to see how people get overwhelmed by the process of picking a dress. I was in a daze just looking at them and I didn’t even need to pick anything out! The runway ballroom was flanked by breakout rooms devoted to wedding dress attire of all types. Now I realized these were amazing deals, and like all amazing deals, brings out the feral instincts in the masses. I saw women scrambling over each other to grab at racks of $20 flower girl dresses like bat-shit-crazy Black Friday shoppers fighting over the last trampoline at Wal-Mart. I saw one lady scurrying out of the show with THREE FLOWER GIRL dresses. Three? Really? What are you doing, planning ahead to your next wedding (the though invokes memories of me saying “may it be the first of many!” at someone else’s shower a few years ago… long story)?? Maybe pulling a Miley Cyrus and having three weddings? Or are you gonna sell those on the flower girl dress black market? Really? What the heck?!?

 

We passed the dress mobs and headed to the main event: the tradeshow. Most of my excitement still intact (event though I didn’t get to get one of the cute little “bride” t-shirts because I didn’t want to pay for that either… I’m telling you, NOTHING WAS FREE AT THIS SHOW) so I was curious to see what we’d find.

 

Ultimately we found… nothing. As in, nada. No ideas regarding invites, transportation or anything else. Apart from the useless flyers I had thrust into my hands and was too awkward to decline, I got one (1) free sample of wedding cake. I took it because I was hungry and they weren’t serving anything in the way of snacks or beverages – at least the first little show I went to had an open bar and food – and I think  my taking a sample pissed off the cake vendor once she realized my wedding package with Disney Cruise Lines includes a cake. I also received two (2) cute little Groom Mickey/ Wedding  Minnie pens from the Disney Fairytale Weddings guy. I think that one was a pity gift.

 

I did meet possibly the creepiest couple ever to run a photography studio. Actually they weren’t fully creepy – the dude was a weirdo and the woman was an asshole. We walk over to their booth to see what they had to offer. He didn’t have a full portfolio of photos to show (warning bell #1 went off in my head). Warning bell #2 went off when after hearing that we were looking for engagement photos only, and not wedding photography, he told me he’d do my wedding photos for free if I paid for his cruise! Pay for the cruise of a photographer I don’t know, whose work I haven’t seen, at the cost even higher than what the Disney photographers already on board would cost? I was ready to walk away after strike #2, but there was a cool little wheel you could spin to win stuff. I won a free boudoir session! As I’m getting excited about this the woman a-hole looks my physique up and down and says “you can spin again if you want”. WTF?! Yeah, strike #3. I didn’t even wait for the full measure of that insult to set in. I looked her in the eye, thanked them for their time and walked away. I took their brochure so that I could remember what photography company to NEVER use.

 

The next stop was the invitations people. One invitations guy told me they could customize my beach -themed invites with stamps of hibiscus flowers and seashells. Another told me they could do custom invites for the low, low price of $600 for my 50 invites. I was starting to think that my little wedding wasn’t big enough business for these people… and I started looking at the other attendees. Tons of perky, young, thin girls wandering about, usually wearing a “bride” short made by their bridesmaids and trailed by their bridesmaid sorority-posse all wearing matching “team britney/staci/bailee” shirts, also made by the bridesmaids. We passed booths for huge decor companies, photobooths (that was a fun stop), event production, impersonators (there was a REALLY bad MJ impersonator), event management companies, major floral, companies devoted to backdrops, and DJs. Sandals resort even had a booth! How can my wedding really stand out amongst this kind stuff? Even the Things Remembered guy didn’t offer us free stuff or any informational brochures once he learned the scope and size of my event. They were all looking for brides that were throwing knockdown, kick-ass mega weddings and parties for 500. It was hard not to feel a little pitiful. And then, just in case I was doubting just how inconsequential our wedding was to these people, we got to what I refer to as the Vegas section of the show.

 

It started first with the invitation vendors: AS I was talking to one, I noticed some of their custom work. And I mean CUSTOM! Invitations on handmade  paper created by homeless Indonesian orphans, featuring peacock feathers and delivered with jumbo cupcakes. I KID YOU NOT. The only thing I’m exaggerating about is the Indonesian children, but only because I can’t prove that fact for sure. The rest? Totally true.

 

Next to the orphan children’s sweatshop invites was the other boudoir session people. Now, I’m not a prude by any stretch of the imagination, but I don’t think most people want their boudoir photos blown up as samples and used as advertisting at tradeshows where everyone can see your… goods. Part of me was hoping they were only models, but does that make a difference? Essentially it was a booth decorated with nothing but pictures of… you know.

 

Then there was the fist pumping crowd! Across from each other: a couple of event production companies, and one DJ group. One had a corner booth with models wearing scanty hot pink and black outfits that matched the hot pink and black booth decor. They were giving out information while people milled about their cocktail tables and sampled stuff. Big hair, fake tans and boobs and small clothes. Yep, we’d entered the Jersey-licious portion of our tour!

 

 

It pretty much continued like that for the rest of the afternoon. Booths with strobing and flashing lighting that would simultaneously blind you and think you’d just been transported back to the worst night club you ever visited during your college years; booths with pumping music that made it so hard to hear that the people manning the booth didn’t bother to chat but just handed you their fliers while they convulsed in time to the music. I knew we were finished when we made it back to the wedding cake booth and all of her samples were gone. So I gathered up all my wedding goods in my arms and we headed back to the car.

 

The Perfect Wedding Guide Bridal Show was a bit of a bust. I was majorly disappointed, and on top of that, I’ve been getting emails from their vendors ever since. Mind you, this how was on July 1st. I just opened my spam folder to 6 different emails from one very persistent wedding dress shop, not to mention the emails I keep getting saying “it was great to see you at the show!” when I didn’t visit their booth. Well, at least I can say I did it! I visited a major wedding show and survived! I also learned a few things:

 

1 -Bring your own swag bag and cocktails. Actually bring a swag bag full of flasks for cocktails.

2 -If a stationer suggests using clip art of hibiscus flowers on your wedding invites… walk away.

3 -Apparently big girls are banned from boudoir photos

4 -Fist pump while walking through the DJ section

5 -DO NOT make eye contact with the impersonators.

6 -Never stand between a bridezilla and an amazing flower girl dress sale.

7 -It’s ok to laugh and then walk away when a stationer tells you he can create your invites for the “low low” price of $600 for 50 cards.

8 -If you steal a vendor’s cake samples, LIE and tell her you’re having a magnificent 250 person wedding so you don’t get the evil eye.

9 -Always travel with a large posse. People give you a wide berth when you’re with a gaggle of girls, especially if you’re all dressed alike and wearing ribbons. The free swag flows faster because they think you’re wedding is much more important.

10 -Next time, we’re making t-shirts!! And maybe tutus??