Today we’re joined by Kathy Baxley-Stewart of The Charleston Bridal Show. Kathy is going to give us a behind the scenes peak of the show and share her experience in putting a bridal show together! Enjoy:
I’m Kathy Baxley-Stewart. I have owned and produced The Charleston Bridal Show since 2007. I actually came to own this business sort of on a fluke, as I like to say. I previously was the Event and Teaching Ministries Coordinator for a large church here in Charleston. I organized many meetings, picnics, bbq’s, retreats, etc. as well as secured the curriculum for the adult Sunday School classes of the church. Starting to feel as though I was being called to do something more, I had a friend that mentioned to me that she had seen a wedding business listed in the local newspaper that was for sale.
See more after the cut!
I had originally thought it must be a wedding planning business, and even though I had also directed several weddings for friends and family, I wasn’t sure that this was something I wanted to go into full time or even part time. Brides can be fun to work with, but also a bit of a challenge as well, if you know what I mean? :) After much prompting by my friend I decided to call and the business for sale was a bridal show named “A Wonderful Wedding”. The owner of the show and I sat down and discussed terms and what it would take for me to run this business. I took the challenge and a huge leap of faith, deciding that this was an event I could run. After my planning experience for literally thousands of people, it was a venture that I felt great about pursuing.
What does it take to run a successful bridal show? Lots of thinking ahead for sure! Everything from the layout of the event space, hiring staff members to help with so many things and doing my best to please hundreds of vendors in a one day show… as well as the brides that come to our 2 shows each year. (We have one in winter and one in summer.) After our very first show, I realized that Charleston was becoming a mecca for weddings. It seemed to be happening in record time! So with that, having a bridal show that highlighted the name change was obvious. Our show then became The Charleston Bridal Show. Over the 8 years we have been doing the shows, our branding became known around the Charleston area and has now spread all over the country. We have actually had vendors come in from Canada to participate.
I actually work from my home office many days, but a typical day for me starts around 8:00 a.m. Checking emails, looking for the newest trends in social media advertising, perhaps meeting with new clients to discuss what the show can do for their business and since I have made so many friends in the wedding industry, sometimes we just meet for coffee and to talk “wedding”. Of course, speaking to my vendors is very important to me. If my vendors are extremely happy with each and every show we do it’s a win win for everyone. The day usually ends around 6:00, but if there is a vendor that needs something that can’t wait, I’m available. I am a stickler for returning phone calls and emails. I don’t think you can have a successful business without being prompt.
One of the “funniest” or maybe not so funny things that happen to us at each and every show are “stalking vendors”. And what I mean by that is that they are vendors who don’t want to pay for a space at the show, but actually come into the show and pass out business cards to the brides. Oh…how my paying vendors do not like that at all. They will let me know immediately if they see anyone doing this. My husband has learned to spot these “stalkers” in a quick glance. Police are always in place at the shows to promptly help him escort them out.
One of the things that always interests me about the brides themselves is that I have had several over the years have to leave the auditorium at the show to find a seat and sit down. All the while a mom or bridesmaid fans her and calms her nerves. Yes, a wedding can be daunting, but really, it’s why these vendors are here. To help a bride in every aspect of her planning so that nothing seems overwhelming. They want more than anything for that bride to enjoy her day and make it the most special she and her groom have ever had.
I know we haven’t talked about wedding trends. Oh my! I could go on and on about them. Over the years we have seen so many come and go, but honestly, it is the bride’s day. Each and every bride and groom are different. Each have special moments or memories that they want to highlight at their wedding. Some love the beach with it’s muted soft colors, others go the more traditional route completely… and then some love the eclectic flare and bright colors that identify them personally.
A bridal show, however cliche’ it sounds, really is a one stop shop for planning. Could a bride plan her wedding all in one day after attending our bridal show? Yes, she could, but will she? Probably not. So much of the fun is taking some time to decide what is perfect, sleeping on it night after night and just the fun thoughts of all that shopping! The Charleston Bridal Show is here to make that shopping a fun experience, perhaps save you a little on gas and time. Also if we can take away a little of the stress and nerves that may accompany planning a wedding, then we are more than happy to help make that special day a little more fantastic and stress free.
Wonderful, thank you Kathy! For more information about The Charleston Bridal Show, please visit their WeddingLovely Vendor Guide profile or head straight to their website.
Do you have any questions or comments for Kathy? Add them to the comments below!