Today I went to my first bridal expo. The Ultimate Bridal Event is being held this weekend at the beautiful Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens.
We’re getting married in the United States. We don’t need to hire a local venue, celebrant, photographer, and so forth. We will be buying our attire here though so I was keen to look at gowns and suits as well as stationery and bonbonnieres. I also wanted inspiration and to taste some cake.
The Uber driver
I took an Uber to the Royal Exhibition Building. The driver and I talked the whole way, as it often happens with Uber. We talked about the US election and how much he enjoys driving around Melbourne. He is 71 and lives in Oakleigh. As we drove by his old primary school, he told me about the worst six years of his life. He’s Jewish, the child of post-WWII immigrants, and he told me about how he was racially vilified, bullied, and beat by other kids almost every day. And still he said he thinks most people are good and that he has a diverse group of friends that includes Muslims and Syrian Christians.
As we approached the Royal Exhibition Building, he asked me what I had planned there. I told him I was attending a wedding expo for the first time. He lit up. Before he retired, his family owned a bridal boutique. He asked me what I was looking for. I told him that I didn’t know – something pretty and simple that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. He told me to visit Raffaele Ciuca. I smiled, thanked him, and stepped out of the car.
I didn’t know what to expect from a bridal expo – a lot of pushy vendors, I guess, and a lot of luxury wedding experiences and products I can’t afford, but it wasn’t like that. Everyone I spoke with was friendly. Nobody was pushy. In a sea of white, slinky gowns, nobody made me feel like I didn’t belong there. Everyone smiled, congratulated me, asked me for details. Most of the vendors gave me bags, booklets, flyers, and business cards. They encouraged me to follow up in the days following the expo or whenever I was ready. There were a lot of giveaways you can sign up for (and hand over your email for marketing purposes).
The were about 200 vendors covering every aspect of a wedding: venue hire, event planning and styling, stationery, photo and video, celebrants, formal wear, jewellery, shoes, flowers, cakes, makeup and hair, music, bonbonnieres, car hire, and honeymoon planning. There were other services such as hen’s and buck’s nights, dance classes, teeth whitening, and house financing.
The expo is aimed at the average bride. Most of the gowns are white and traditional. There’s not much on display for the non-traditional or offbeat bride, but the expo isn’t where you shop. It is a great opportunity to talk to boutique consultants about what they offer. While only Raffaele Ciuca had a plus-size gown on display, other stores such as Fairytales and Ferrari have plus-size sample gowns and many gowns can be ordered in larger sizes. However, brownie points to Raffaele Ciuca for being inclusive in their display. The consultants were friendly and helpful and, with the Uber driver’s added recommendation, this will be the first store I visit when the time comes to try on gowns.
The fashion parade
The fashion parade happens four times in the day and last for about 35 minutes. It’s the highlight of the expo.
When you arrive, you receive a pink bag with a directory, giveaway entry forms, and an Australian Bridal Service Platinum Privilege Card. This card gets you incentives and discounts. It’s a treat to get it in the gift bag because it costs $60 otherwise.
As you walk through the expo, you pick up more bags and a lot of booklets, flyers, business cards, etc. There are discounts in there also. It’s worth taking whatever you want because it’s hard to remember everything.
Going to the bridal expo was a pleasant experience and I enjoyed it. I only wish I could have gone with my mom and my sister. Expat life is hard in moments like these. I chose to go alone and go early. It was a scorcher of a day in Melbourne and it was warm in the Royal Exhibition Building. I was glad to get out before it got crowded.
The Ultimate Bridal Event takes place this weekend at the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens. It costs $25 online and $35 at the door for a standard ticket or $55 online and $65 at the door for a VIP ticket. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit the website here.