Carolina Bride

The Bridal Showcase

Held in January and August, The Bridal Showcase celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of Carolina Bride. We talked with organizer Margaret Hooks about the history of The Bridal Showcase and what brides can expect at this year’s event.

How long have you been working with The Bridal Showcase?My husband and I own the show. We purchased the Show in 2001 and renamed and re-developed it as The Bridal Showcase. We celebrate this year as our 10th anniversary!

Have you worked with other bridal events similar to the one in Charlotte?Not me specifically, but my husband has. As the owner of Party Reflections, he’s participated in several of the smaller wedding shows around the region and he was actually involved as a major sponsor with this show and the previous management. After 10 years of producing the show, the previous management offered Dan (my husband) the opportunity to purchase the show, as he felt he was the most knowledgeable of the industry and the actual event.

That is where I come in – he purchased it and put me to work! Having been fully involved in wedding production since 1989, we knew this was a perfect “marriage” for the companies and the rest is history in the making.

What is your inspiration behind promoting this event? I enjoy every aspect of The Bridal Showcase! From the vendor end, I know I am providing them with a venue to display and present their services along with an invaluable marketing tool, face-to-face contact with brides, grooms, and the families and friends who are involved.

As for the brides – the joy on their faces and the excitement of the journey they are about to take in life – I want to make sure they have every available opportunity to meet and experience the services that are provided for them on their special day.

How long does it take to organize the event before opening day? We are constantly promoting and selling the show. We are always looking to update and “perfect” the show. In this venue you don't have to re-create the wheel each time – we just want to keep it fresh, organized and professional. And for the brides we focus on entertaining and informing and showering them with prizes!

What types of items are featured at a bridal showcase? Caterers, Bakers, Special Event Rentals, Linens, DJs, Photographers, Videographers, Bridal Gowns, Formalwear, Bridal Registries, Jewelry – you name it, we've got it! With more than 205 vendors to choose from, I am sure your need will be met!

What (do you think) is the most popular exhibit this year? We have so many vendors so many arenas of the bridal industry that you can’t pinpoint one specific type. I love to see the plethora of information these brides have available at their fingertips in one day at one place!

Is there a "must-have" item or trend that will be featured in the 2011 showcase? With so many different types of vendors, each one would have a “stand-out” item in their industry. For example, in photography the new thing is the Boudoir sessions – brides are offering these to their grooms as a wedding present (Critsey Rowe Photography/Couture Boudoir). Party Reflections has launched an entire department specifically for specialty linens called the Linen Gallery. Belk is constantly updating, as exampled by the launch of their new brand this year!

Can people planning a wedding of any size budget find exhibitors that work within their budget? Absolutely.

Are there exhibits that grooms and men can enjoy? Oh yes, we take care of the grooms. We provide a grooms’ lounge with TVs featuring some games, comfortable couches and the Convention Center sets up a bar. We also include them in honeymoon opportunities; of course, they have to work at it! They will participate in The Groom's Dance Contest. Did I mention that we have food and cake available all throughout the show floor?

How many people attend The Bridal Showcase annually (for both shows)? We average 950-1500 brides/grooms for our January show and 450-600 brides/grooms for our August show, and that does not include the entourage that comes with them! Total attendance in January would be upper 1,800-2,000; August would be 1,000-1,500. Though I must say, August has stepped up considerably in the past few years – almost becoming a January equivalent.

Why is there a showcase in January and again in August? Are the same vendors featured at both events? Yes, I am so glad that you have asked this question. I think especially for the vendors this is important! These shows have two completely different dynamics. The January show seems to have the brides that come in so excited as they have just gotten engaged at Christmas, they want to know what's out there and available and are starting the “shopping” process! The vendors are thrilled because so many people attend that they are able to get their company name and information in front of them!

The brides that are coming in January specifically to visit a particular vendor are usually the spring/summer brides: April, May and June. As I stated though, some are just shopping. They may be as far as a year out from their wedding date, which is why our August showcase is so important! Not only do people get engaged every day but they are getting married in the fall and winter too! Sometimes I don't think vendors are as aware how imperative it is to present in August as well. This show tends to be a serious “shopping” event and so many vendors tell me they have great booking success at this show. I think it important to maintain visibility, promotion and marketing in this competitive industry – don't let your competition be there and win away your business!

The Bridal Showcase is this Sunday, Jan. 23, from 12-5 p.m. at the Charlotte Convention Center, Tickets are $12 at the door, but you should register online to avoid lines at www.carolinaweddingsandevents.com

Continue reading real wedding stories! Up next: ‘She said yes! - Nicole & Jeff’

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