Every year between November and February wedding professionals prepare for what we call Engagement season. Nearly 40% of engagements happen between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s day, and every year The Forever Bridal show but’s together with a wedding expo like no other. Couples from Fayetteville to Greensboro and anywhere in between come to this big event at the Raleigh State Fairgrounds.
Last weekend was one of the most exciting but overwhelming experiences I’ve ever experienced running a wedding planning business. There were nearly 1000 brides, 1200+ bride tribe members, and 204 exhibitors all under 1 roof. It was huge. Just like a wedding day… It took 16 hours to set up and 1.5 hours to break it all down. It was an incredible weekend.
Since this was our first show ever, I thought I’d share our experience and a few tips for future couples attending can make the most of the Forever Bridal Shows.
Preparing for the Show
As a wedding planner preparing for the show was a lot of fun, but tricky. We chose to work with Warren Estate since they were a new wedding venue and being their preferred planner, we thought it would be great exposure for both of us. And it was. However, designing a space that showcased both I as a planner and them as the venue was a challenge.
Every booth starts with the foundation. Your overall design concept.
I began using Warren Estate as our foundation. It’s a beautifully rustic venue that showcases the grounds, however, the venue is an outside tented venue so it was important to show that to the prospected couples. I design the booth to give the illusion of being inside a tent (however after putting it up we felt it was too enclosed of space and it didn’t feel as inviting, so we took off the front poles) with the help of Queen Bee Rentals. However, having the large custom picture frame with re-purposed barn wood truly shared the venue’s beauty perfectly. So I thought the idea of the venue was portrayed.
It takes a village
Just like a wedding, it truly takes s a team of amazing vendors to help pull off any design. As much as I’d like to say I’m a lady with many talents, it really does take a fantastic team to pull it off. If you looking to do a wedding show or open house, I recommend teaming up with vendors.
We had a vision of bringing the outdoors in. Teacup Floral’s I swear can take a simple direction like that, and make it into the perfect combination of rustic elegance. Using one of my favorite plants (Southern Smilax and Tree fern) she transformed our booth into a tented outdoor oasis. It was P E R F E C T.
As for aesthetics and designs. It took a combination of companies to create the tablescape I imagined. I love CE Rentals for their beautiful linens. I often use CE Rentals for upgrade rentals such as the Mahogany Chiavari chairs and the perfect green goblets which added just a touch of wilderness in a small way. As for the place setting, it tools several Bridal registries to complete this transformation. Macy’s for (chargers and plates), World Market for (flatware), Target for (the beautiful candlesticks holders), and Melted Candle Co for the custom candles. Lastly, no tablescape is complete without my favorite calligraphy designer Blush and Blue Designs for the stunning menus. She always makes the perfect design to complement the table.
As the weekend passed, I was belated to see so many couples enjoying the beauty of the tablescape. It makes all the time in the world setting up worth it.
As for the event, no show is complete without a sweet treat. At least that’s what I always say. I owe a huge thank you for the 400 chocolate cookies made by Buttermilk Boutique, LLC. Her pastries always taste ohhhhh so good.
I truly can’t say thank you enough for this amazing team. It was magical to see it all come to life.
Why participate in the show?
I learned a lot participating in the Forever Bridal Show. 1st it’s a lot of hard work. If your a vendor thinking about participating, plan plan plan. Plan to every last detail. 2nd have a goal in mind. Are you there to connect with brides and meet after or are you there to book them on the spot.
For us, our goal was to connect with couples. As a planner/coordinator my job is to help streamline their wedding planning so they enjoy their engagement. I remember 3 years ago, I was in their shoes. I also remember when my wedding day came I was kind of stressed mainly because I didn’t hire one of my planner friends to coordinate the day of. Sure I had my BFF and my future sister n law, but in the end, they couldn’t enjoy the day as I wish they could. However, during my engagement… It was a breeze. I use the same format with all my brides now. It’s about the organization, a timeline/planner and detailed budgeting. And that’s what I help our couples with.
So during the show, I made sure I conveyed that message. With our goodies (pocket planners and reminder stickers) and our conversation. It was important for me to talk with the couple, I wanted to learn about their vision and then schedule a meeting outside of the show for a coffee/wine date.
I am happy to say I’m doing just that.
Why is Forever Bridal perfect for couples
Now for couples, this is a great place to meet some amazing vendors under 1 roof. I won’t lie, it can be very overwhelming. I sure was and I was a vendor there. But the idea of meeting vendors faces facing, chatting with them and making connections is what you need. Honestly, it’s a great time to figure out what you like and dislikes right away.
During the show, I gave a few tips to the couples I was meeting. However, since I was in row 300, it was a bit too late. So here they are for future shows:
- Have a priority list. What vendors do you NEED to book?
- Have a 1-page print out of vendors: perfect for you to write your favs down along with the aisle number /booth they are in. Here’s one for future shows.
- Have TWO (2) bags: 1 for the vendor you LOVE (you want to learn more) and 1 for Not my style/not feeling them/didn’t really connect with them.
- Come early Saturday and start at the far end aisle 500/600 (it won’t be as crowded)
- Take advantage of both days. Your tickets are good for Sat & Sun. Use Sat. to walk around and see who are there and collect info. Use Sun to go back and chat with the vendors you loved.
- Consider talking with coordinators. I’m not just saying that because that’s what I do. I’m saying that because every bride should consider having one. I may not be in your budget, and that’s ok, but there are so of us. Someone will be in your budget. (just note, I do more than just show up and run the show. And to be honest, my brides love that. They know when their wedding day arrives EVERYTHING will be for the most part perfect (for at least what I can control))
Going to Forever Bridal will definitely help you plan. In the end, you may realize that hiring a full/partial planner may be a better option. Either way, it’s a great outing to spend with your girls and possibly the groom. PS I saw many grooms scared out of their minds hehe. But it was nice to see them there and chat to.
I’m glad we participated
In the end, I was glad we participated. I had a chance to meet some incredible vendors I never met before. (the wedding industry is HUGE I tell ya) and I got to hang with some I highly recommend. Remember, on average it takes 200+ hours to plan your wedding, hopefully, the Forever Bridal Show will cut that in half.
Whether your a vendor looking to participate or a couple who’s engaged, Forever Bridal show was an experience like no other. I highly recommend, go hungry there’s lots to sample (really good food) and be ready to talk about your big day. That’s what the show is all about.
Humongous Thank you to VMA Studios for the amazing images. You are the best! Follow him on Instagram and Facebook too.