During my visit to the USA this December, Chelsea and I decided to visit our first Bridal Expo. It was pure coincidence that the show happened to be in town at the same time I was visiting, but even so we still wanted to make the most of the opportunity and visit while we had the chance. Although we are not officially engaged yet, we do have plans to marry, and are currently in the process of putting together our UK fiancé visa application. Of course, there is a proposal in the works… but Chelsea is not allowed to know the details yet. We’ll be sure to share when it happens though!
Our current plans to marry are in the UK, at The Alverton to be precise. However, we still thought that the Bridal Expo would be a great opportunity to see what lies ahead. We were able to get some valuable information about the huge variety of wedding services, as well as grab ourselves a few freebies along the way too. And, of course, once we are married we are planning an American ceremony for all of Chelsea’s family that were unable to make it to the wedding itself. The expo gave us a chance to scout venues, suppliers and caterers to this event too.
The Bridal Expo
As we entered and paid our $18 entry, we noticed a large booth to our immediate right. This was the Lakeway Inn booth – the hotel hosting the event. Here, we were able to find our first freebies. A woman approached us to discuss block bookings at the hotel for guests that would be visiting from out of town. While I talked to the sales rep, Chelsea was able to sneak away and find us both cheeses, prime cuts of steak and even sparkling wine to sample.
The centre of the booth was adorned with a huge ice sculpture of a swan. While the sculpture looked impressively elegant, Chelsea and I could only wonder the price that such a magnificent centrepiece would cost. We marveled at the beauty of the craftsmanship for a few moments, tempted to reach out and touch the cold ice. Eventually we decided against it, not wanting to ruin the chisel work.
As we turned around and left the Lakeway Inn booth, we were presented with a view of the whole foyer. It had become significantly more crowded in the few minutes that we had been inside. There were brides to be, surrounded by their bridesmaids, hotel staff, wedding models and sales reps for a staggering amount of local businesses crowding the floor. We took a moment to pick our way through the crowd before reaching the grand staircase.
Beneath the staircase sat a pianist filling the room with music, and to the right stood a bride and groom (models we presume). It was easy to imagine, from here, how a wedding in this venue would look. And although the hotel lobby was beautiful, neither Chelsea nor I had ever envisaged our own wedding in a hotel. While our chosen destination is a hotel in the UK, part of what drew us to the venue was how it did not look or even feel like a hotel. It is, for us, the perfect blend of hotel convenience and manor house elegance.
Climbing to the top of the stairs, we were presented with another view of the lobby. From here we could once again see the foyer in full. The bride and groom were posing at the bottom of the stairs for the videographer – something Chelsea and I know that is important for us on our wedding day. The room overall seemed a little emptier from here, much calmer. We were able to take stock and gather our thoughts before heading into the main hall.
The centre of the main hall was set up as a small stage, not something we were expecting as we entered. Although we were aware that there would be a fashion show taking place in the evening, there was also a surprise waiting for us on the stage. Sample dance lessons! Although we were offered the opportunity to take the stage and try ballroom dancing, we were both too nervous to do so in front of such a large audience.
Freebies & Tasters
Around the edge of the main hall were a variety of different stands and booths. We were overwhelmed with the choice, so decided to start at the very beginning and work our way around the hall. Some of the very first stands that we visited were make up and bridal hair salons. As I talked with the sales rep, Chelsea filled out a number of competition entries. Most stalls included a competition of some sort, whether it was a draw or raffle. The stand pictured above, set up by Mary Kay, Chelsea actually won a free makeover from!
Of course, as well as hair and makeup, there were also a huge variety of bakers and caterers. This is where we gathered the majority of our freebies, and they were delicious. Most stands included displays of their work, in addition to samples of cupcakes, cake pops and even canapes. We were easily able to move from stand to stand, gathering leaflets, business cards and plenty of free samples.
Progressing further around the room, we noticed a large amount of example centrepieces. These were tables that were set up to showcase what wedding tables can look like. Everything on these tables could be hired, from the cutlery and tableware, to the drapes and chair covers. There was even a whole stall dedicated to chair covers and sashes of different colours.
None of the tables were exactly what we were looking for, but that is because we already know what we are looking for. We have plans for our centrepieces, our cutlery and even our flowers. We know we are probably much more prepared than the average couple, but we look at that as an advantage. And, even though none of the displays were to our personal preference, it was still great to gather some inspiration.
Finally, we finished moving across all of the stands in the main hall. We were full, and had another bag full of freebies. But, of course, as we were leaving, we could not resist visiting the Lakeway Inn booth one more time. We were able to grab a few more cheese and cracker appetisers, steak and sparkling wine.
Overall, we enjoyed our time at the Bellingham Bridal Expo. It was a great time, full of people with similar expectations. We were able to grab a huge amount of freebies and sign up for some competitions too. For any other long distance couples looking to close the gap, we would definitely recommend visiting a Bridal Expo together.
Unfortunately, in a LDR, the chances are that most of your wedding planning period will be spent apart. So if you get the chance to visit an Expo together, even if you have not started planning a wedding yet, it can still be an incredibly useful experience. Not only are you able to understand more of what both of your preferences are, but you might also find a few surprises too!