The Chicago Bridal Expo! (Or, how I succeeded in not killing myself, or a VIB, today.)


“Wear your pearls, Bullen!”

That’s what my darling Jamie texted me a few days ago to inform me that the Bridal Expo 2010 had a recommended dress code. While I decided to leave the pearls at home, I did wear a blazer and button-down shirt — dressing to impress, as any good MOH should. (As I ecstatically shared a few months ago, I’m Jamie’s Male of Honor.)

So! A “luxury, ultra high-end” wedding exposition! Fancy. I imagined breathtakingly decorated booths with friendly vendors dolling out fabulous swag and free champagne delivered by cute waiters in tuxes. Perhaps add some cascading flowers and towering ice sculptures, with a string quartet playing in the corner? And don’t forget about the cake samples! Mountains of cake samples. A low-key, yet high-energy event: that’s what “luxurious” and “ultra high-end” mean to me. At the most basic level.

What we got instead where long, disorganized lines, a mob of VIBs (Very Important Brides) scrambling to see every vendor possible in order to meet some crazy requirement to win the expo’s Grand Prize, and a clusterfuck of a venue that seemed more interested in pushing you along like feted pigs ready for the slaughter than allowing you to peruse and mingle. And let’s not forget the slurring* wedding gown designer who presented his new line at the “fashion show.”

Nothing, and I repeat, NOTHING, was high-end or luxury about this event. NOTHING.

Buyer beware, I say. I knew my pearls would be better-served elsewhere.

But, the drinks and laughs afterward with Jamie, Eric and Jamie’s mother, Mavis, made up for all of it.

(*Edit 1/27/10: I’ve no proof that the guy was intoxicated — that was just our initial impression. Maybe he was simply nervous? And red-nosed? Who knows? At any rate: it was uncomfortable to witness.)

18 thoughts on “The Chicago Bridal Expo! (Or, how I succeeded in not killing myself, or a VIB, today.)

  1. Good lord. The Des Moines shows I attended (yes, there were two) were similar but smaller and they did not recommend a dress code. Seriously? A dress code? And I didn’t need a ticket. And I haven’t received and spam from it (unlike the chicago show I signed up for but didn’t even attend.) Oh, the WIC (Wedding Industrial Complex) I am SO glad I’m staying away from you!

  2. You have to admit the “Couture” designer who was completely drunk off his ass as he made his way along the catwalk was worth the price of attendance.
    “Where do you get your inspiration?”
    “I get my inshpiration from lotsh of places, from all over, shometimes I go to a movie.”

  3. Duuude. The Des Moines shows were a little crazy, but nothing like the debacle you attended. We were in and out in under an hour both times–wha la! The second show didn’t even want me to register when I got there–we just walked in and ate cake.

    Didn’t get any vendors from either show, though. We talked to a few DJs, but we’re looking for a band.

  4. Dear Bob,

    I am amused at your opinion about our bridal event at the Swissotel, but shocked at your accusations about our guest designer James Clifford. Before you accuse people of being drunk, perhaps you might want to check a few facts. James fought for our country in the Korean War before getting into the design business. He has been in the business for 50 years and dressed two US Presidents daughters for their weddings. He is nearly 80 years old and perhaps was a little nervous on stage since he rarely makes appearances. The stagger you saw on stage has to do with an old war injury to his spine. I had lunch with him before the show. He had coffee, not Vodka. Admittedly, you have some valid points in your piece as it applies to the amount of brides we had that day. However, had you red our tips for attending, you would have learned that if you don’t like large crowds you should attend towards the end of the day and not when the doors first open when it is the most busy time of the day. And apparently our show was so “underwhelming” that not only did you stay for the vendors and the entire fashion show, you thought it important enough to take a photo and blog about it.

    1. Hi, Bill – Thanks for commenting.

      (Wow – the President and CEO of the Expo responds! NOW I’m starting to feel fancy!)

      First off, rather than blaming me for my experience at the Expo (“had you red (sic) our tips for attending…”), maybe you should listen to the feedback from your attendees. Not only were the VIB’s and their supporters overwhelmed on the floor, a surprising number of VENDORS were actually APOLOGIZING to us for the crowd and the chaos.

      In addition, the layout of the event and the processes of checking in were cumbersome and frustrating — no matter when you would have attended. Why a hallway layout? And why did each VIB have to wait in line to fill out and submit her contact info on cards at the event, when she already did that online registering for the expo?

      Regarding the designer who presented his new line: I was only mentioning what I saw — and he *appeared* to be red-faced and slurring. Maybe his speech was impaired because he was nervous — I know I would be. Who knows? However, this war injury you mention that impacted his walk is irrelevant, as I didn’t say anything about his “stagger.” He seemed to walk fine.

      Finally: I took a picture and blogged about it to let others know what to expect should they attend your next show.

      Oh, and we didn’t stay for the entire fashion show, which actually started 25 minutes after the 2:00 pm start time — we left around 30 minutes into the show, as we were overwhelmed.

  5. I was reading the responses to this post and couldn’t help but explain from a vendor’s point of view. I work in healthcare management and registered my office for this expo a few years ago. Let’s just say “Never Again!”

    First of all, when my staff arrived early the morning of the show to set up, we were directed to the front of the Swissotel where we had to park and unload all our supplies using Swissotel’s luggage carts. Not to mention we were rushed by the Swissotel staff to quickly get our vehicles out of the way.

    Once inside with all of our supples, haphazardly loaded on luggage carts, there wasn’t anyone to direct us where we needed to go, so we wandered around searching for our space.

    We also had to pay a substantial amount of money to have Internet access in out space which was not prepared and ready for us upon our arrival. I had to search for quite some time to locate someone to assist.

    Once the expo started, the layout proved to be a disaster. There were so many VIB’s herded like cattle through the small hallway setup of vendors that many of the VIB’s and guest passed us by because it would take too long to make it to us.

    This is just a small portion of the many disasters that we were presented with throughout the day.

  6. Its funny what happens when people get defensive. Your photo clearly shows the cattle ranch that is the expo. Did they have a branding booth? I would have TOTALLY gone if they did!

  7. BTW, The tips for attending link is here: http://www.bridalshowexpo.com/tips_for_attending.html

    Nowhere on this page do I see any advice about attending later in the day if large crowds aren’t your thing. I do see a mention of arriving early to avoid waiting in line, but we did arrive early and still got stuck in a really huge line.

    From the perspective of an actual bride attending, nothing about it felt like it was a special day catering to what is supposed to be the happiest day of my life. Instead, I got shoved down an endless aisle in a crowd of other unhappy brides, and honestly probably only got to see 2 or 3 booths for more than 1 second. It was a poorly planned and incredibly mismanaged event, and – like Bob – I had several vendors apologize for the insanity of the event.

    OH, AND – I’ve been deluged with emails and phone calls since that day, thanks to things I signed up for and drawings I entered. One of which is a noted scam, by the way – Which I learned from doing some simple google research. (http://800notes.com/Phone.aspx/1-631-470-5786/3)

    So yeah, brides, watch your back.

  8. Oh, and to address Mr. Brennans last sentence..

    “And apparently our show was so “underwhelming” that not only did you stay for the vendors and the entire fashion show, you thought it important enough to take a photo and blog about it.”

    First of all, with the amount of people there it would have been nearly impossible to turn around and go against the crowd to get out, or at least would have been very uncomfortable. As the windy hallway/corral stretched ahead of us and turned many times, we kept hoping that either we’d reach something worthwhile or find the end.

    When we reached the end, the fashion show, we decided to stay and see how it went. After it was 27+ minutes late starting (It was supposed to start at 2:00. At 2:27, I put my phone away and stopped caring) and began with hosts congratulating themselves, and was so crowded we were getting elbowed even while standing in the back of the room behind the light rig, we had had enough.

  9. Seriously, when the little itty bitty Bridal Expo held in teeny weeny Alpena, Michigan, beats all-to-Hell the Chicago Bridal Expo, something is SERIOUSLY wrong. I leisurely strolled booth to booth in Alpena admiring LOVELY items, vs in Chi-town we were bashed side to side, ping-ponging down the aisle by the multitude of VIBs attempting to get their cards initialed by 98% of the booths so in the wild chance their bride won the big prize (whatever that was…) they’d get to actually keep it. Why should each and every bride have to talk to each and every booth when they already have a (photog, dress, flower, whatever…) Why waste the exhibitor’s time and the bride’s time, hold up the pack behind you, and, counter productive to the mission of the venders to sell this stuff, and prevent a bride who really needs the vender’s stuff from actually getting to it?! As far as the rat-maze went, Dr Temple Grandin is doing wonderful work in how to get cattle to smoothly and happily proceed down the chutes so that they’re not all stressed at the end when the bullet lays ’em flat. Perhaps Chicago Bridal Expo should call her. I’d have appreciated it.

  10. Wow. I just want reiterate that I registered and received free tickets to the Chicago Bridal Expo in October 2009 but was unable to attend.

    Despite never even attending, I still receive unsolicited email from Chicago area wedding vendors almost daily. I know they got my email from my bridal show registry because

    A. this was the only Chicago-based wedding event I signed up for and

    B. when I go to unsubscribe, one vendor had me listed on their “Chicago Bridal Expo” mailing list.

    The spam is getting pretty annoying, as my wedding is 300+ miles away and our vendors are in place.

    I just wanted to put that out there–perhaps
    you should only sell the contact information for the people who actually attend.

    Thanks.

    1. Oh, Mavis! You’re awesome. (That was actually my mom who said “milking,” but I’m sure she’s learned her lesson now. :)

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