The Wedding Expo

Not long after we got engaged, Sylvia started looking into wedding shows as a way to fish for ideas on elements that we hadn’t quite figured out. It made sense in a way really; if you needed ideas and there were a bunch of people standing around trying to sell you their services, you can get a better handle on what to expect or look for or maybe even seriously talk about hiring someone for something. However, we sort of managed to get most of the major elements figured out before any of them were even scheduled to happen. The first that we ended up actually attending was the Luxury Bridal Expo in Schaumburg a couple of weeks ago. We invited our good friends and fellow engaged couple, Dave and Amanda, to tag along since they were earlier in the planning stages and figured it would be a good idea to have some company. Also, the event was right next to IKEA and who can say no to those amazing meatballs? We all packed into the car and headed out to get some ideas and to “look at the freaks” as well.

After we parked, we walked toward the hotel it was being held in and there were a couple of companies outside showing off their crazy transport ideas. There was a party bus of some sort and one of the ridiculous stretch hummers that seem to be popping up more and more frequently. I started to get a bit nervous when I saw just how many people were milling around just in the check-in area as well as when I noticed that all of the brides were getting VIB stickers. When we made our way to the actual check in station, Dave and I were herded forward and away from Amanda and Sylvia so that they could sign in or something. I got kind of peeved because I know the thing had ‘bridal’ in the title of the show, but really? The grooms aren’t worth giving the time of day and you’re trying to separate us from our future spouses? Who does that? It was weird and it felt like we were being treated as second class just because we weren’t the brides. I get that it’s a special day for the bride and that most grooms might not care, but both Dave and I did care enough to show up and it didn’t feel right.

When we were all reunited a couple of minutes later, we were handed some weird bingo card thing and were told that if we could get at least 80% of the vendors to sign off on their respective squares, then we could get entered for a raffle for a huge honeymoon package or something. I dunno, it was never really made quite clear to me and that was fine because didn’t really matter. Dave and I were given the task to get the signatures and it was nice in a way because it did give us something to do, but it felt quite sinister at the same time. I wasn’t planning on talking to anyone at this thing and the sudden idea that I had to somehow interact with at least 35 or so vendors all for a signature just to enter a raffle was more pressure than I had expected going in. It was actually brilliant on the part of the expo people because it forces you to talk to everyone if you want a shot at a prize, but there were like 40 or so booths and a lot of overlap and multiple vendors for the same thing. After two DJs, the other four or five all looked the same to me. Same thing with photo booth companies. It was fun getting the signatures, but I quickly hit a point where I thought, “why am I talking to another photographer and making nice to get a signature when I booked mine a couple of months ago? Stop asking me if I want a videographer because we don’t want one.” We eventually wandered through most of the booths before the fashion show was supposed to start, so we wandered over that way to find somewhere to see what was going on. Yes, there was a fashion show.

The way they designed the space, there were far less seats than there were attendees and we ended up having to stand for the whole thing. While waiting for it to start, I realized just how fatigued I was by everything going on and how overwhelming it was to be approached by so many people trying to get you interested in spending a bunch of money for things we either already had booked up or just didn’t want/need in the first place. I also had a thought and started counting. I looked over and said, “Dave, do you realize that, in this room of several hundred people, we are two of about eleven men?” He had a good laugh about it and the girls did too when he passed the info on to them. It wasn’t until this point that I really understood that these things aren’t designed for grooms at all, which I think is a bit of a shame, but what the hell do I know anyway?

At this point, the fashion show started and I can’t really remember much other than making a bunch of snarky comments about dresses that weren’t attractive. One of the models was clearly  happy to be doing the show, but was trying so hard to not look so happy about it. Something about failing to keep a straight face while trying to model/sell wedding dresses just made me laugh so much. She ended up being my favorite and I thought of her as Queen Bride because that was totally the kind of vibe she was giving off while showing off whatever dress she was modeling. Anyway, the runway show ended and I we tried to really push through the last few booths that we needed signatures for because it was pretty clear that we were all done at that point. We were tired, hungry and fatigued from being assaulted by vendors to for a few hours.

It’s a grueling process to have so many people try to sell you something so hard for such a long time and it kind of hit a nerve with me at one point. A DJ was showing me their web site and how you could specify music that you didn’t want played and how you could use their database tool that was connected to iTunes to confirm what tracks they could either flag as must plays or don’t play and I just wanted to shake him and say, “Why should I pay you hundreds of dollars to make a playlist and do all of the work for you? Isn’t the whole point to give you minimal input and you just do it?!” I think that was when I really realized that I wasn’t having fun anymore.

We finally managed to make our way out around this point and enjoyed a fantastic afternoon at IKEA before heading home. It turned out that poor Amanda was far more overwhelmed than I was as she just not as interested in planning a wedding as Dave is. We all commiserated about it over lunch and blew off steam about it and had a good laugh. I can’t recall if I actually said it to Sylvia then or later that I had no interest in attending another one ever again.

I ended up bringing up the experience at work to a few co-workers (mostly female) over the next few days and everyone was shocked that I’d even gone. I think my favorite responses were, “oh god, why did you go?” and “you know those aren’t for guys right?” It was interesting how universal the confusion was on the part of my largely female group of co-workers.

Now with all of that adventure and overwhelming whatnot, you’d think that I’d actually stick to not going to another one, but I’m just not too smart sometimes. Sylvia reminded me a few days ago that Carnivale (our venue) was putting on another wedding show and she asked if I wanted to go. I actually did have an interest in going because I wanted to see the space again, as did Sylvia. I’m not exactly sure what happened, but just the two of us, somehow turned into her mom and dad tagging along, which actually sounded like fun.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me, because while it was good to see the space again and to briefly chat with our contact at the venue, it was just as overwhelming to me as the Luxury Bridal Expo. The flow and variety of vendors was far far better, but I’m starting to think that I just don’t like the idea of so many people trying to sell me stuff. I think it’s because my dad has been a salesman his whole life and is actually good at it. To be in huge rooms with lots of people trying to be great salespeople, and a lot of them aren’t so great, it’s just kind of obnoxious and ends up being draining because I’m on the defensive the whole time. There were at least a few times at both shows where I would leave my work number if they asked for it or intentionally misspell my email address so that they wouldn’t have such an easy way to get a hold of me.

The one thing that was really great about the experience was going with her parents because it was good to hear what they thought about everything. It was nice to find a reason to try and show them that a photo booth could be fun and I ended up getting a chance to meet the one wedding cake guy that they’d seen without me. I think her poor dad was either quickly bored or just as overwhelmed as I was because he definitely started to pick up the pace to get through everything at one point. We did get through it all in fairly short order too, which was pretty nice.

I dunno, it’s hard to say if I’m totally alone  in this, but I just don’t understand how people can get excited by wedding shows. My favorite memory from the two of them was how good the snacks were from the vendors at Carnivale, which I’m pretty sure isn’t the point. I’m also pretty sure that anger isn’t a healthy reaction to DJs and utter terror at the sight of a tuxedo/suit shop isn’t normal either. I think the ultimate irony in all of this is that the really central reason behind even going in the first place didn’t actually happen. At least, I don’t think I’ve heard any ideas so far from Sylvia that were borrowed/generated by wandering the halls trying to get a signature on a card or while trying to find the guy with the really tasty guacamole. Thankfully I think Sylvia is just as done with wedding shows at this point as I am and that makes me love her so hard that I can’t even begin to describe it.

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