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I got engaged last summer.

Let me try that again.

I got engaged last summer!!! 🙂

Shortly after the excitement settled in, came the question of the year: “and now what”?! I mean, really – how was I supposed to proceed? How was I supposed to get married? I’ve never gotten married before. Heck, I don’t even remember the last wedding that I attended! And all of the sudden I am supposed to plan my wedding, as if it’s second nature? I ‘ll admit that a wee bit of panic came into me. Okay, a lot. My fiancee shared the feeling.

Fortunately, that initial panic was soothed by a date to Barnes & Noble, where we found out through countless books that many people shared our feelings. There were so many resources giving advice on what to do next that that it almost took us to the other end of the spectrum – being overwhelmed.

Shortly after that date, we realized that we can take in as much or as little advice as we need – from books, friends, and family. So, by late 2012, via a combination of our own ideas, contributing ideas from our loved ones, advice from books, internet advice, and Pinterest (don’t laugh), we had pin-pointed the feel and structure of our wedding, decided upon our guest list and budget, and scoped out venues, musicians, caterers, and the like.

The only problem was that we did all of this — for the most part — online. of course we visited some venues and called some vendors and such, but to visit and call everyone on our list would take up time we simply didn’t have. That’s when I turned to bridal shows – wedding “conventions” where in a huge showspace, wedding vendors set up booths that exhibit what they offer – pretty much a one-stop shop.

My first dive into such an event was the Bridal Extravaganza held at the George R. Brown Convention Center. The Bridal Extravaganze was quite…an…experience. After having been inside of it for only a couple of minutes, I understood why many people had recommended downing a good amount of drinks before going in. (I hadn’t taken the advice. I should have.) There were people, booths, music, pamphlets, representatives, decor, and food samples everywhere — all in close quarters — and they were all competing for my attention through volume, flashiness, elaborate displays. You can imagine how I felt. If you can’t, I’ll leave it at this: one hour into the event, I devised a strategy – lay low, don’t talk to anybody, walk around quickly and stealthily, stick out a hand at each booth to grab a flyer, and move on — as fast as possible.

I was almost sure that I never wanted to attend another bridal show again. That is…until Swanky Girl told me that we should go to the I do! Bridal Soiree. And I couldn’t just turn her down! I love Swanky Girl, and I sure as heck was not going to turn down the opportunity for some fun with her. Plus, I really was still looking for many vendors for my big day.

So, off we went to the Royal Sonesta hotel on January 27 for Weddings in Houston’s I do! Bridal Soiree. Within a minute of walking in, I could already feel that this would be nothing like my first bridal show experience. For starters, the venue was gorgeous. In the event check-in area that sat next to a beautiful grand spiral staircase, we were met with smiling faces and given goodie bags. The goodie bags were great because they had plenty of room to put flyers inside.

We then made our way inside one of the Royal Sonesta’s ballrooms, which housed vendors at tables that had plenty of standing room around them – a great thing, as the room never felt even close to crowded. The vendors made themselves available through their body language, but never by trying to pour information down our throats – verbally or in paper form. Further enhancing the experience were the spectacular full-size displays that both adorned the space and showed off what each exhibitor could do. What a difference it made, when the displays were set out “comfortably”, rather than crammed into tiny spaces amidst handfuls of other displays, as they had been at the previous show I visited.

The displays weren’t the only element of the show that stood out – the quality of vendors and, most importantly, their relevancy to me, was impressive. I met quite a few vendors that I had not found online, yet peaked my interest. Some even had stores or showrooms near my home – The Woodlands. Here are some of my favorite vendors, which I have started working with, have set up appointments with, or plan on meeting with:

That Absolutely Fabulous Paper Emporium
This company, as their name implies, has everything related to paper! Apart from having Vera Wang and Crane & Co. products, their staff is very friendly, experienced, and passionate about what they do. They will make you feel right at home and want to help you design exactly what you envision. http://www.abfabpaper.com

Winnie Couture
Apart from carrying celebrated designs by Winnie Chlomin Lee, the environment of this storefront Winnie Couture shop (one of only a few in the U.S.) is relaxing and enjoyable, with helpful stylists that are kind and patient. http://www.winniecouture.com

Brickhouse Bridal
An upscale wedding gown salon located in my backyard? I like it already, although I haven’t had my appointment yet. It’s nice to know that The Woodlands has a recognized, upscale bridal shop that often holds trunkshows. http://www.brickhousebridal.com

A Memorable Event – Rental & Design
Another vendor who I will be visiting later this week, this rental & design company has many rustic-looking linens, centerpieces, and ceremony decor that are right up my wedding theme’s aisle – rustic chic. This is fantastic, as many of the rental companies that I have spoken with only carry more traditional decor. http://www.amemorableevent.com

Sculpting with Time Productions
This video production team had a simple booth set-up with a huge TV that was looping some of their video work. I guess they didn’t need anything else at the booth; their videos spoke for themselves. They were classy, artistic, and stunning. The male & female owners (soon to be wed to each other) have backgrounds in fine art, and it shows. http://www.sculptingwithtime.com

Cafe Natalie
Chef-owner of Cafe Natalie, Chris Nguyen, shook my hand at the I Do! Bridal Soiree and told me about all what his catering company offers. My favorite part were these words out of his mouth: “please take our event menu packages as a guide, only. We want to work with you to create a menu that is full to your liking”. http://www.cafenatalie.com

Last but not least at the I Do! Bridal Soiree was the bridal gown fashion show. I’ll be the first to admit that I am not the girly type that like to play dress up and flip through magazines of dresses. Yet, the gorgeous gowns we saw had me sitting with my jaw wide open, chills down by back – just because they were so incredibly beautiful. The standout designs, for me at least, were by Stephen Yearick and Pronovias.

While I enjoyed seeing the latest bridal fashions, Swanky Girl enjoyed chatting with stylists about the latest tends in bridal wear.

Carla Gomez

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