If you want my opinion, attending a wedding fair is a poor way to find wedding vendors. I’ll give you my reasons…
1. First of all, the vendors have, in many cases, paid a hefty sum of money to be at these events. That means they are under serious pressure to make “sales” to wedding couples to recoup the cost of the fair booth rental. This may translate into aggressive / pushy sales tactics and a lot of “yes-person” behavior rather than straightforward honesty about their services. Also, the operation hosting the fair will generally ask for your e-mail address + phone number when you register or buy tickets, and will then pass this list along to ALL the vendors at the fair (this “list” is really part of what they are paying for in their entry fees), and if you give them your “real” e-mail address or phone number, you will inevitably be hit by a sea of spam e-mails / cold-calls. Once again, when vendors are shelling out large amounts of cash to participate in one of these fairs, its a natural tendency to try and get everything they can for their “investment”, and the e-mail / phone list is of course another avenue to booking potential clients (even if it amounts to straight-up cold calling!). I would NOT recommend giving out your actual e-mail address or phone number if you do end up attending one of these events (shoot, just make one up!).
2. Second, at some of these fairs you will run into the same “cadre” of vendors who all refer business amongst each other. Many of the smaller fairs are hosted by wedding professional “associations”, local wedding planners, rental companies, catering companies, DJ outfits or by a wedding venue – entry to the fair / expo / showcase may be restricted to vendors in the “network” of the show host, and the prime booth locations may be given to certain “preferred” vendors. So without knowing it, consumers are being steered towards vendors who may be beholden to other vendors in ways the consumers are totally unaware of. I personally do not think this is a healthy (or organic) environment to be shopping for wedding services in.
3. Finally, with all the online avenues like Yelp, Wedding Wire and such where you can not only find vendors but also read feedback from past clients, why would you want to waste time and energy walking around a fair that you PAID an entry fee to get into? I can understand the role these fairs played 15 years ago, but I believe this type of forum has become a dinosaur in today’s world where so much information is available online. Plus, there is no guarantee you will arrive at the fair to find a single vendor that “jives” with your style, personality or vision for your wedding, so the idea that these fairs are time-saving mechanisms is kind of a stretch.
My personal advice – do your own homework in the privacy of your home (or at work if the boss isn’t looking), and use the online tools at your disposal to find a group of vendors you are interested in discussing your wedding with. That way YOU can decide who might be an appropriate match without any external pressure or influence. Once again, I may be preaching to the proverbial choir here, but that’s my 2 cents on this subject.