What should you expect from the UK’s biggest wedding show?
There are hundreds of wedding fairs across the UK every year, in all different shapes and sizes, aimed at different markets and offering different products. The National Wedding Show is the biggest of all the shows, and runs twice annually. It really is enormous, and if you are planning on attending – whether in London, Birmingham, or Manchester – it is definitely a day’s work. Here on the blog we have digested the event for you, and summarised what you can expect, and why you should definitely try out, the one and only National Wedding Show.
10 am: Welcome to the National Wedding Show
The first hour of the first day of the National Wedding Show is like the buzz in a theatre when the orchestra starts tuning. Exhibitors are putting finishing touches on their stands, dressing mannequins and firing up the audio visual equipment, and in the distance I can hear a string quartet come to life. The familiar classical tune they’re playing catches my attention and I tune in, thinking how cultured I am – and then I realise it’s ‘Happy’ by Pharrell. That pretty much sums up the National Wedding Show; all the classic elements of a white wedding, but with a fun side.
11 am: The Catwalk
The catwalk runs multiple times throughout each day of the National Wedding Show, and is always an entertaining and beautiful thing to watch. At 11am the action kicks off with two dapper looking guys (Matt and Nick, the programme reliably informs me) strutting their stuff, who are promptly followed by four bridesmaids, and I feel a little rush of excitement about the arrival of the bride! Then I remind myself that I’m not at a real wedding, and that I will look absolutely ridiculous if I cry.
The catwalk is really brilliant this season, with great music choices – ‘Chandelier’ by Sia is always a show stopper – and dramatic flair delivered by all exhibitors. Justin Alexander’s collection is beautiful, and really fun to watch because of the great production element; his models glided beautifully through streams of fluttering confetti, and make theatrical use of the revolving plate on the stage. Nigel Rayment’s collection brought a little more colour to the proceedings, with the mother-of-the-bride outfits and hats, showing off some beautifully tailored ensembles by Teresa Ripoll, Condici, and Ian Stuart.
Alfred Angelo closed the show with a spooky Phantom of the Opera inspired display, his brides entering in voluminous hooded gowns brandishing glowing candlesticks, before revealing their stunning dresses. The only issue was slight over-use of a smoke machine, which interfered with the impact of the beautiful gowns and made photography more difficult. All in all, a fantastic catwalk show – well done to the models, hair and make-up, florists, and prop teams.
12 pm – 2 pm: Exploring the Exhibitors
The layout at this season’s show seems more open and spacious than February’s event (which was the first NWS to be held at Olympia) and no exhibitors seem to have been tucked away in shady corners this time around. Olympia is such a beautiful space, with so much natural light and an essential airiness that ensures you never get that ‘trapped in Ikea’ feeling that some exhibition centres provoke, no matter how long you spend at the show.
There is a good mix, as you walk around, of different types of exhibitors. While there is a case for laying these events out into separate sections for florists, photographers, dresses, etc., this more ‘pick and mix’ arrangement means you don’t run into the danger of getting bored by seeing too much of the same thing.
There is, as ever, so much to see, hear, smell, sample, and marvel at in all corners. Every exhibitor has made a great effort to optimise their space (and none more so than florist Amie Bone, who created an incredible sort of Baroque four poster bed, absolutely dripping with flowers which smelled divine), and there is a lot of energy and a friendly, customer-service driven atmosphere. Fabulous venues from all around the world have stands where you can sign up to mailing lists and collect wedding brochures. For couples who fancy some Mediterranean sun for their wedding day, a few exhibitors stood out; Blue Lagoon Group from Greece whose brochure is the prettiest I collected all day, and Italian planners Tell Me Why and Buy Wedding In Italy both represent dozens of venues and locations in arguably the most romantic country on earth. For the UK, 5 Star Weddings’ favourites Blenheim Palace and Orchardleigh wedding teams were both displaying gorgeous imagery of their regal venues. I managed to collect a tonne of wedding literature and booklets, my favourite of the day being a tiny, 2 inch tall book of wedding photos by Lovexposed Photography, which struck me as such a cute idea for samples of photos after the big day – I am a sucker for anything tiny and handbag sized! Then, of course, there were thousands of beautiful dresses, but that warrants its own section (below).
A wedding show is a great place to shop around, and so many exhibitors are offering exclusive offers just for the show. As I walk around, most exhibitors catch my eye and smile and say hello, but there are no pushy sales pitches. Finally, I hear something that really catches my attention – “Would you like a massage?” Of course I want a massage; I am press – I carry around ludicrous amounts of heavy stationery at all times, and so after hours on my feet I am thrilled to sit down and have my back pummelled by Lucy from Massage the Senses. I also had some nail art applied, and had some hair buffed off my lower leg. If you were very committed, you could achieve a full day’s beauty experience at the National Wedding Show, and I see several girls walking around with fabulously styled hair. Having your hair done either before or at a wedding show is a great idea, because it can help any brides to be who may be trying out dresses for the first time, to contextualise the dresses against their hair and make-up.
A lot of effort went into the bringing together of all the right suppliers for the show, and there is most definitely a well-rounded and plentiful array of products and services on offer to any brides (and grooms) who are seriously shopping around.
With London Fashion Week still fresh in my mind, and the catwalk show still playing the background, I explored the length and breadth of the show looking for the trends and themes of 2015/2016 amongst the gowns on display. There were too many brilliant dress suppliers present to possibly mention them all individually, but I was excited to find Katya Katya, because I’m a big fan of the light and ethereal designs of the Latvian born Shehurina. Her dresses are among the most wearable bridal collections out there at the moment. Zaeem Jamal was also on my ‘one to watch’ list, and I wasn’t disappointed by the Egyptian and Mayan inspired dresses by the Kings Road based designer, who counts Jodie Kidd among his loyal clients. Ruth Milliam Couture had luscious dresses in champagne and blush tones, in luxurious materials, while Forget-me-Not Designs showcased 1950s inspired, shorter dresses with a really fun, prom-dress feel and beautiful lace detailing. Lastly, the hidden gem of the day for me was Alida Herbst’s beautiful floral Aurora gown, which caught my eye from a distance because it was so striking. For the grooms, Savile Row suit makers Cad & The Dandy were displaying some gorgeous hand-tailored suits in luxurious fabrics and vivid colours; perfect for a groom with a fashionable flair.
There’s still time to catch the National Wedding Show
Have we convinced you that you should have been at The National Wedding Show? You still have a chance this year, with the Birmingham show taking place next weekend (2nd to 4th October) and Manchester’s show on the 24th and 25th October. Visit the National Wedding Show website for more details, and to book tickets.
Did you go to the show? Let us know what you thought in the comments!