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It’s Showtime

January is the beginning of wedding show season. While helpful, they can also induce panic if you walk in blind, which is why we’re here to help.

By Jennifer Steffy Swanson

Winter may be the off-season for weddings, but it’s peak season for wedding shows. Whether the question was popped during the holiday season or he put a ring on it earlier in the year, couples at every stage of an engagement can benefit from checking out a show a two. You’ll get an idea of what’s available locally and, if you’re at that stage in the planning process, save you money on certain services as some vendors offer super discounts to couples who sign service contracts at a show. If you’re planning to attend a show for the first time, what should you expect and how can you get the most from a show without getting that crazy blank look in your eyes? Engaged asked wedding and event planner Andria Mederios, owner of Infinite Events and Candy Buffets, for some tips.

1. Size matters. Large shows with lots of vendors can be good for that reason — they have lots of vendors — but they can also be a little hectic. Smaller shows will have fewer vendors, but you’ll generally also have more opportunities for one-on-one time with vendors you’re interested in learning more about.

2. Do your homework. If you’re ready to book a vendor or service, know who’s going to be at what show and, if you’re interested in any one in particular, that they’re a reputable business. Do a little research ahead of time and you may be able to find out who’s offering day-of deals. Some vendors will be offering their best deals of the year at these shows, which means you could save hundreds to thousands of dollars.OMG! This show is only eight hours long? But there's so much to see!

3. Plan your time accordingly. If you want to avoid lines, arrive early. Also, seats for the fashion shows are first come, first served. However, prizes are mostly awarded at the very end of these shows and you must be present when winners are announced in order to remain eligible for giveaways. If you don’t want to be there for the full show, come a little later.

4. Be practical. You’re going to be doing a lot of walking and standing so wear flat shoes. Also, even though it’ll be cold outside, it’s likely to be warm inside (lots of people, lots of movement, lots of breathing — you get it). Bring a tote large enough to hold your coat and any papers, marketing materials or goodies you pick up.

5. Don’t go alone! Bring two or three friends or family members with you. It can help to have a sounding board for ideas and even a little moral support. Also, if you’re running short on time, you can divide and conquer: Send your maid-of-honor to grab info from caterers while mom hits photographers and you focus on venues.

6. Avoid spam. You will be invited to register for all sorts of fabulous things. Before you go to a show, create a dedicated all-thing-wedding email address because some vendors will continue to email you after the wedding. By creating a new email account, you can avoid receiving mountains of spam in your everyday inbox, and it’ll be easy just to cancel the account when you’re ready.

7. Printers are your friend. Pre-print self-adhesive address labels with all of your contact information (name, email address, telephone number and wedding date) to avoid having to write all that info each time you want to register for something.

Upcoming bridal shows:

Jan. 5: The Southern New England Bridal Expo. The largest bridal event in southern New England, this expo features more than 140 exhibitors. Fashion shows at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. will feature designs available at local salons and men’s clothiers. In addition to prizes from participating vendors, brides will have the chance to win one of four pearl necklaces from Baxter’s Fine Jewelry and a five-night stay at the Radisson Aruba Resort, Casino and Spa. 10:15 a.m.–5 p.m. $13 with pre-registration or $17 at the door; children younger than seven are free. Rhode Island Convention Center, 1 Sabin St., Providence, southernnewenglandbridalexpo.com.

Jan. 12: A Celebration of Love. A bridal show featuring more than sixty vendors and continuous fashion shows. Pre-register to become eligible for prize giveaways. 11 a.m.–4 p.m. $10 at the door. Quidnessett Country Club, 950 North Quidnessett Rd., North Kingstown, 942-9800, ribride.com.

Jan. 12: Grand Wedding Expo. A spectacular bridal event featuring more than eighty industry vendors and a fashion show. Brides who attend will be among the first to receive the new 2014 edition of Rhode Island Monthly’s Engaged bridal magazine (for free!). Prizes and contest giveaways include a photography and video package courtesy of Perfect Pictures and Engaged. Noon–4 p.m. $8 in advance, $10 general admission. Venus de Milo, 75 Grand Army Hwy., Swansea, Mass., 508-472-3093, grand-wedding.com.

Jan. 26: Grand Wedding Expo. A spectacular bridal event featuring more than eighty industry vendors and a fashion show. Brides who attend will be among the first to receive the new 2014 edition of Rhode Island Monthly’s Engaged bridal magazine (for free!). Prizes and contest giveaways include a photography and video package courtesy of Perfect Pictures and Engaged. Noon–4 p.m. $8 in advance, $10 general admission. Rhodes on the Pawtuxet, 60 Rhodes Place, Cranston, 508-472-3093, grand-wedding.com.

Feb. 9: Cherish the Moments Bridal Expo. Bridal show featuring vendors from fashion to photography, makeup and everything in between. Brides and couples who register are eligible for prizes and giveaways. Fashion shows at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. 11 a.m.–4 p.m. $5 admission. Jacky’s Galaxie Restaurant, 383 Metacom Ave., Bristol, cherishthemoments.net.

Feb. 22: Newport Bridal Show. One ticket gets you into a bridal show held in two beautiful venues: Rosecliff and OceanCliff. The event features more than eighty industry professionals, and free transportation is provided between locations. Fashion shows at noon and 2:30 p.m. at both locations. 11 a.m.–4 p.m. $15 in advance or $20 at the door. Rosecliff, 548 Bellevue Ave., Newport; OceanCliff, 65 Ridge Rd., Newport, 821-0200, newportweddingexpo.com.

March 30: Get Pink Bridal Show. Sponsored by the Rhode Island Wedding Group, the Get Pink Bridal Show features cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction and top-of-the-line vendors. Possibly the best part? All proceeds are donated to breast cancer charities. $5 for tickets purchased by Dec. 31, $10 thereafter. Noon–4 p.m. Hyatt Regency Newport, 1 Goat Island, Newport, 239-2131, riweddinggroup.com.

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