Blind bride-to-be series – wedding fairs

To be honest, I didn’t really know that wedding fairs were a thing. But I liked the sound of them – lots of people in one place who can help you put your big day together – and there’s cake! What’s not to like! Well, maybe the crowds are something not to like – I’ve done big exhibitions before – but I thought we could start small.
I discovered that really there are two types of wedding fairs – the venue-specific ones, and the larger geographical ones. The smaller, venue-specific ones are more intimate. They’re good if you want to know more about that particular venue, they’re usually either free or fairly cheap to get in, and it’s easier to get an overview of who’s there and what they’re offering. The bigger ones tend to be more busy, but you do get a better choice of venue. We picked up information about places we hadn’t even heard of before, and two of them ended up in our shortlist of places to book an appointment and talk with the wedding planner. So overall, I was glad that we did both types of event. We may well do more before the wedding, but we’ve done all that we’re going to for this season.
Any bride to be can write a post about wedding fairs, but I wanted to focus on the particular aspects of organising a wedding as a blind bride – because that’s what this series is all about. I want to share tips about things that worked – or didn’t work – for us, so that they might be useful for others.

1. Planning before you go

Whether you go to the wedding fair with your partner, as I did, or with a friend/relative, it’s good to have a think about what kind of exhibitors you want to visit. It’s possible you don’t know what you’re looking for in some cases and the inspiration comes when you get there, but if you can discount some things that aren’t relevant – children’s entertainment isn’t relevant for us – it’s easier to plan your way round the event. You don’t have to visit every stand and you get to spend more time talking to the people who are offering what you’re looking for.
I suppose some people might want to, but as someone who’s blind, attending this kind of event with no sighted assistance is not my idea of a fun day out! There are lots of people milling around and apart from the fact that it’s easier when someone else is in charge of navigation, it’s a nice activity to do with someone else.

2. Be prepared for lots of paper information

Poor trees! The wedding industry is a visual beast and it relies a lot on glossy brochures, leaflets, and magazines. You may well get a goody bag – I enjoyed the chocolate and the hair mask that I found in ours, but the main point is to give you further information about the exhibitors, and it will probably be a business card, a magazine, or a glossy leaflet.
At other (non-wedding) exhibitions, there’s been a web page with links to all the exhibitors’ websites, and I found it really helpful, but none of the wedding shows I went to had anything like this.
I can’t read printed materials. If you’re in the same position, you either need a way of taking down contact details, to ask the vendors to email you, or to have a helpful fiancé who agrees to type up the contact details later!
We put all of the relevant contact details on our wedding planning spreadsheet that we can both access. This gave me the chance to check out some of the websites for myself, but the whole exercise created a lot of paper for the recycling!

3. Talk to people

The person with you can describe the displays, but I found one of the best ways to find out more was to talk to people directly. There were a couple of people who seemed to be repeating the exact same speech to anyone who came by, but most, especially the smaller businesses, were interested in getting into a conversation, finding out what you’re looking for, and telling you about what they have to offer. Then you can begin to suss out if there is a connection there, and if you want the person or business to be part of your big day!
Especially when people are creating things themselves, they have a closer connection to the end result than something that’s mass-produced. I want to support local businesses anyway, but I find they are also more open to describe their products and customise them to make them a bit more unique, special, or tactile.
Having said that, if there are a number of people selling similar things, it’s also good to have a trusted opinion about which products look nicest/more professional as it’s natural for people to put their own products in the best possible light.

4. It doesn’t all have to be decided straight away

It might be that you want to attend a couple of fairs or talk to a number of florists, cake designers, or make-up artists. For me, these events are just about making connections. I find exhibitions too noisy and too full-on to have proper conversations anyway, but once you’ve got someone’s contact details, you can find a convenient time for you both to chat, or you can visit them, or carry on the conversation in some other way. The fair is just the beginning of the conversation!

5. Customer service counts!

Most of the people whom I work with every day have never encountered a blind person before, and to me that’s normal. I don’t expect people to know what’s helpful or what I need, but I do expect basic courtesy. If someone doesn’t like eye contact, that’s fine – I can’t do it either. But if I am asking the questions and they spend the whole time only looking at my partner while they answer them, that’s not cool and they probably won’t get our business!

6. Smaller events tend to be quieter

Big events are good, especially if you haven’t decided on your venue yet. The single-venue events don’t tend to advertise their competitors.
I have other sensory issues anyway, but if you’re going to an event as someone who is blind, talking to the vendors and your companion is going to be important. The smaller events did have music as well, but it wasn’t as loud, which made talking easier for us. Overall, I preferred the smaller ones, but there’s a place for the larger ones too as they definitely helped us with our choice of venue.

7. Hands-on experience

I wouldn’t ask to touch anything that other people were going to eat, but when it comes to rings, dresses, flowers etc, most people are happy for you to handle them carefully.
One of the biggest problems I’ve found as a blind bride-to-be is that I just don’t know what’s out there. Most other brides head straight to Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration –but I can’t – because they’re such visual sites. There are blind people on Instagram, but I lasted about 2 days because it was really all about the images.
Going to the wedding fairs was good for me because it gave me the chance to touch some of the products and decide what things I liked, what I thought would fit with our theme, and which materials I wanted. Having real objects in front of you makes this much easier.

Coming soon

I hope some of these tips were helpful – either to other blind brides-to-be or to anyone exhibiting at wedding fairs.
The next article in this series is about choosing your wedding venue, so let me know in the comments if you have any questions that you’d like me to answer.

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We got engaged!

I knew about the picnic. I knew we were going to Watership Down for a walk. It had been in the diary for a while. What I didn’t know was that S was planning to propose to me there!

Last Saturday morning started like any other, apart from the fact that S disappeared to the shops in the morning. Not that unusual really, but normally we would have gone on route. I didn’t think any more of it though.

The night before we’d been out for dinner to celebrate our 4.5 year anniversary. Ok it’s not common to celebrate half years, but when you start dating on the shortest day of the year, it makes sense to celebrate on the longest one as well! Easy anniversary to remember!

Anyway we set out in the car and drove to Watership Down. I haven’t seen the series on Netflix, but I did read the book, both as a child and an adult, and was looking forward to see whether we could spot any rabbits up there!

We walked for a while until we came to a nice spot at the top of the hill, far away from all other people and sounds of traffic. This would be a good place to have our picnic.

I was a little surprised that S wanted to go for a walk – that’s usually something I would suggest – but I thought he just wanted to do something nice for me. And after all, if you’re going for a picnic, nobody wants to have it in the car park or on the side of the road.

As I was sorting out the picnic blanket, S stopped me and said we’d had a stow-away. I was thinking maybe something grim that was attached to the blanket in the bag – a slug perhaps? A snail? But no! It was a cuddly owlbear (a creature from dungeons and dragons with the head of an owl and the body of a bear).

It was designed to be a dice holder, but this particular owlbear was bearing a note that S had hand-written in Braille. Actually the owlbear was going to deliver the ring too, but the box was too big to fit in his zip-up tummy where normally the dice would go, so the next thing was that S handed me the ring and asked me to marry him! I said “yes!!!”

Actually I didn’t say very much for a while – for once I was lost for words – but at least I got the main answer right and said yes!

He had been planning this for a while. It had taken time to find my ring, which is tactile and in the shape of an owl sitting on a branch. The stone is the main part of his body, and you can also feel his face and ears. Perfect for an owl-lover and I also love the tactile design.

I also love all the thought that went into it – finding somewhere in the middle of nature to do it, because he knew I would like that. Writing the note in Braille, although he doesn’t actually know Braille and had to look up how to do it on the internet. Finding my owl ring.

We did then have our picnic, although to be honest I was more excited than hungry!! The sun was shining and it was a lovely day for a picnic – so of course we had to at least eat the Colin caterpillars before they melted!

It was then time to tell the families! We sent a picture of my hand wearing the ring and the view of Watership Down. My mum understood the significance – other people took a bit longer!

So – I left my boyfriend on Watership Down and came back with my fiancé! The very next day I started my wedding planning spreadsheet – it’s quite impressive and already has over 10 sheets, partially filled out, and ready for new ideas as I get them! It’s not going to be a big wedding, but I love a good project to organise!

Planning the wedding

I’m not going to document everything here, at least not in advance, but I am planning a new wedding section on the blog to talk about the experience of planning everything, and the big day itself.

It’s different for everyone. I know as a blind bride-to-be I’ll have some extra considerations that other people don’t. A lot of the advertising in this area is very much image based, so I’ll need good descriptions. I will need help with some things, particularly around colours, but I have very definite ideas about others!

So from time to time I plan to share parts of the journey here on the blog.

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The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.