Attending wedding fairs is a regular thing you must do if you supply a service to the wedding industry. Over the years I’ve been to many large and small ones, in some weird and wonderful places. It’s a fair trade off for both the exhibitors and the couples who attend. The couples get to meet all the suppliers they may need under one roof, whilst the exhibitors get to showcase their services and talk directly to potential customers in their target market. If I’m honest, wedding fairs can differ hugely in how they are organised and how good the selection of exhibitors are for the couples who attend. I’m pleased to report that the Ulster wedding show was a refreshing experience from my point of view.

Normally a lot of work goes into preparing for a wedding fair. Prior to the event you’re getting promotional material like flyers and leaflets designed and printed. Roll up banners etc. and competition forms should you decide to run one. I usually spend time editing promotional videos as well as putting photo albums together to showcase on the mac for couples to view as they walk past. Add to this – packing the van the night before, travelling to and from the venue, setting up at your stand and then chatting to couples all day, along with mums, aunties, bridesmaids and grannies. It’s an exhausting experience that you perform with a smile on your face no matter how you’re feeling. From the moment we arrived at the Odyssey on the Saturday morning, I knew that this was a professionally organised event.

We were greeted by two friendly girls that were working at the event. They registered our arrival on the clipboard, supplied us with exhibitor lanyards and another guy Eamonn introduced himself and showed us to our stand. A personal touch that usually doesn’t happen from my experience. More often than not it’s a case of fending for yourself and finding your own way around the venue. The stands were spacious, well constructed and an electric supply was installed and ready to go. The flooring on the Odyssey was well supported and covered in an immaculate purple carpet. After a few minutes you completely forgot you were actually standing on ice! Whilst we set up our stand James the show organiser came over and introduced himself, telling us that the sandwiches, tea and coffee would be ready around 11am in the exhibitor room he had assigned just off the main arena. It was a complete surprise to me that this service was being laid on for us, and something I’ve never came across before at a wedding fair.

As we hadn’t eaten all morning this was a godsend, so shortly after 11am we headed off to find the caffeine and said sandwiches. The sandwiches turned out to beautiful, I’d describe them as gourmet with fillings like sun dried tomatoes, chicken and pesto. I don’t mean to rant on about them, but when you’re hungry and in a venue like the Odyssey, good free food and coffee is a big deal !! Coffee was available all day for the exhibitors and a regular top-up was required to help keep momentum going throughout the day. Saturday was a busy day but Sunday was crazy. I spoke to lots of couples over the weekend. It’s always good to meet couples face to face rather than chatting down a phone or over emails and facebook messages. The win your wedding worth £25,000 was a big attraction and with over 20,000 couple entries in N.Ireland alone, it had a massive response! It’s also a good indication of just how big the wedding market is. I had a walk around some of the other exhibitors at the show.

I already knew a good few of them but it’s always nice to introduce yourself to other suppliers you wouldn’t normally see. Some notable ones where “Love22” wedding stationery. Their examples were bespoke, creative and unique. I particularly like the 3D wedding invites complete with a set of old school red and blue glasses included. Michael from “The Wine Rack” in Stewartstown had the stand opposite us and always had a crowd of people around him. I may at the next show offer free wine tasting samples in the hope of having a similar attraction. After 2 days of hearing him talking about all the different wines he has to offer along with the extra services he can provide, he’s clearly an expert of all things wine related. “The Jungle N.I” were also attending just around the corner. The smell of their stand alone had a nice earthy outdoor feel, wood paneling and wood chips giving a sense of the outdoors and Lynn was there to talk over the exciting options for hen and stag weekends. I’ve been to “The Jungle” myself on many occasions as it’s just down the road and I can vouch for it being a must visit for anybody that’s keen to add a little excitement to an otherwise average weekend. The service and staff are exceptional. I also bumped into Ryan and the rest of the guys from “Exclusive” wedding band. I already know Ryan from working with him at lots of weddings we’ve both been booked for. They are easily the best wedding band I’ve ever heard, and I recommend them to couples all the time. Competitively priced and absolute value for money, I can never get my head around why people would book a 2 piece band for the same price as a real proper 5 piece wedding band. Go and check them out !!

Sunday came to a close and after some lucky couple had won the £25,000 wedding the day was almost over. Another girl brought us over our parking pass which meant we didn’t get charged for parking either: another bonus when in Belfast. A few thank you’s are in order. One to my assistant for the weekend Emily who was a hit with all the couples. Girls like talking to girls and the conversation flowed at my stand for a full two days between them, whilst most of the men secretly moaned to me they couldn’t wait to get out – lol! To Eamonn & James who made the whole experience an excellent one, I’m sure there were a lot more of his staff involved in running it but that’s the only two names i can remember. I’ll definitely be doing the next one when it comes around again in September. Competitively priced, well organised and pleasant, friendly staff. I’d recommend attending the show to anybody, exhibitors and couples included.