I went to an alt-wedding expo, and lived to tell the tale

January 17 |

When I was planning my wedding, the idea of going to a bridal expo and being surrounded by all that white, floufy-ness, and monograms gave me hives. When I read about our sponsor, Philadelphia's Lovesick Expo, I was left wishing it existed at the time of my wedding. In fact, I was like, "Burlesque, booze, and hand-crafted stuff? Sign me up!" So when a few commenters asked for a report, I jumped at the chance. (I believe my email to Ariel included the words "Me! Me!") And it was awesome!

I walked into Lovesick and was greeted with a make-shift photo booth with backdrop and brightly color curtains from Wren and Field Photography and Love Me Do Photography. After checking our coats (for free! Is it just New York where coat check is always outrageously priced?), we headed into the main area and immediately hit up the bar.

 

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Photo by Love Me Do Photography
The vibe was relaxed and friendly and it reminded me of some of the best craft fairs I've been to. Unlike stories I've heard of other bridal expos, the vendors mostly hung out by their booths — no one was chased down by an annoying chicken-dance loving MC or cheesy photographer. A few of the more outgoing vendors would ask "Are you looking for a photographer?" or "Are you getting married?" if they caught your eye, but that was the extent of it. (I have to wonder if anyone who isn't getting married goes to "normal" bridal expos …)

Everyone I saw was perusing the booths, chatting with a vendor, or just hanging out at the bar or in the upstairs mezzanine. There were a good number of couples together as well as ladies hanging solo or with their girls. DJs were up on stage playing an eclectic mix of not-annoying, not-super-poppy music.

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Photo by Love Me Do Photography

Soon after I arrived (I'm chronically late, what can I say?), the stage events started.

First up, was an awesome dance demo from Society Hill Dance. They started with couples in formal wear doing the standards — fox trot, rhumba, and tango. Then they showed their offbeat colors and had two women do a swing dance to some rockabilly. The director, Shana, said they work with a lot of same-sex couples.

After the dance demo, came burlesque and when I say burlesque, I mean full on stripping down to pasties. It was fantastic! Peek-A-Boo Revue has a university and does bachelorette parties — Philly brides: If you are looking for Offbeat bachelorette party ideas, I'd definitely check into that!

 

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The producers deciphering a raffle ticket name. Photo by Love Me Do Photography
After the stage events, came one of the most generous raffles I have ever seen. Sometimes you go to things like this and only a few vendors offer something or the offerings are kind of "eh." But not so at Lovesick! We're talking full on engagement and boudoir shoots, bridal bouquets, save the dates, event planning, handmade bow ties for your dudes or awesome butch brides/wedding party members and more!

One of my favorite raffle prizes was a flower workshop from Love 'n Fresh Flowers, which seems like a perfect option for someone looking to DIY their flowers. I, personally, was way too intimidated to try to do my own flowers. Love 'n Fresh Flowers offers organic and local flowers and just started a flower CSA (which is the awesomest thing ever!). Even awesomer, all the profits from the raffle went to Children Can Shape the Future, a charity that provides support for community education in Philadelphia. They raised almost $800!

Not surprisingly, there were a lot of photography vendors at Lovesick. Beyond that, though, there was an eclectic mix of vendors, including event planning, cosmetics, dress design, stationary, flowers, jewelry, DJs and musicians, and two photobooth vendors (the other was a traditional photobooth from Go Festive Fotobooth)! There was even a laser center (um, huh?), a mortgage/real estate broker, and author of a sexy, date night cookbook. (I, of course, bought the book!). You can check out the full list of fab-o vendors here.

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Photo by Love Me Do Photography

 

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Photo by Love Me Do Photography
Renee of Pineapple Farm Designs told me that she heard about Lovesick and thought, "That's our audience!" Her and her husband do all custom work and don't like it when people come to them and say "I want it to look like that." She pointed out a really cool, sparkly autumn-toned invite with a mountain bike, explaining that the couple had a mountain bike themed wedding and couldn't find anything with mountain (not vintage, not racer, but mountain!) bikes on them. Like most of the vendors I talked to Renee said they hadn't done any normal bridal expos — they're looking for brides just like y'all!

Kristen of Mountain Paper is planning her own wedding and had herself in mind when she recently launched her super affordable, eco-friendly stationary line. A package of invite, envelope, and reply card are just $2.25 each and all made with recycled paper using wind-power. My favorite part is her reply cards, which say things like "Just try and stop me!/Occupied having much less fun" and include a picture of a carrot, chicken, or fish for the menu options. We've seen it before: offbeat brides make the bestest offbeat vendors!

One of the most interesting vendors was Agran Events, a group of touring musicians in successful hardcore bands who are venturing into the wedding band business. They told me that they are struggling musicians who thought "Hey, I can play covers and I can play good covers, like the Smashing Pumpkins or The Strokes." They do play the pop songs they "can stomach" and a lot of The Beatles. Mostly, they just want to work with cool couples to make them happy. You'd get a group of awesome, working musicians who'll play the kind of music YOU like. If they existed at the time of my wedding, we'd have booked them in a heart beat!

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Photo by Love Me Do Photography
The only officiant vendor was the non-profit, Journeys of the Heart, to whom the producers were generous enough to give a discount. They never turn anyone a way because of money. Diane, one of the officiants, pointed out a picture where she was standing next to the couple, not behind them. The couple was elevated so she's not in all the photos. How cool and thoughtful is that?

Of course, our favorite Offbeat Philadelphia vendors were there as well, including Love Me Do Photography and Allebach Photography. Mike from Allebach told me that they had a great turn-out — a few same-sex couples and a lot of brides interested in the tattooed bride discount stopped by the booth.

Tom, one of the Lovesick organizers, told me that they had double the turn out they expected — almost 400 people showed up and everyone, vendors and guests alike, seemed super happy. They sure did!

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Photo by Love Me Do Photography

Basically, what I'm saying is that this was awesome! I mean, come on, there was booze, burlesque, and two free photo booths! You don't need to be engaged to enjoy THAT. If you missed it this year, add it to your calendar for next year! Seriously. Add it now.

This post features Offbeat Vendors! Check out their vendor listing to see how they cater to offbeat brides:


Lovesick 2014

We're teaming up with Lovesick to hit six cities across the US…

…are we coming to YOUR town?

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You guys, we are so freaking excited about these shows. We'll have at least one Offbeat Empire staffer in attendance at every show, probably get over-excited and clapping and squealing over meeting all y'all.

Tickets are only $10

 Buy tickets

  1. Hmm. Would you recommend going to one of these if it's not in the town you're getting married in and you already have photographer and officiant? I know there's one coming up in Chicago, but I'm getting married in my small hometown . . .

    • Hey,
      Actually one of the attendants I talked to was doing just that! She had a photog and some others so she was looking for a few vendors, but mostly ideas.

      I think it depends on what you're looking for. If you are looking for clothing, stationary, non-floral bouquets, or an engagment session photog then I think it's definitely worth it. If you're just looking for ideas or because it's fun, then it all depends on whether you want to spend the admission. Lovesick was $10 at the door I think?

      Hope that helps!

      – Becca

      p.s. I've heard the Chicago one is awesome and I'm pretty sure they have a alt dress designer and I'm sure they'll have stationary.

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    • There's one in Chicago? Do tell! Where and when is it going to be? I'm getting married in the 'burbs but would love more information on this!

      • It's called Indie Wed, being held on 1.29 at the Ravenswood Arts Center. I'm going and hoping it will be as cool as the Philly one sounds. http://www.indiewed.com, I believe.

  2. This is a great idea! We could really use one of these in Fresno, CA. With nearly half a million people I think there would be lots of interest!

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  3. Fun event! Interesting comment about the officiant standing next to the couple so she wouldn't appear in all the photos. It makes sense. I always step aside during portions of the ceremony, the couple is center stage. It's all about them! For those of you reading who plan on having a friend officiate, pass on the perspective..

  4. The whole thing sounds fantastic, and great fun even for someone who's not actively planning but one thing did jump out at me:

    "Like most of the vendors I talked to Renee said they hadn't done any normal bridal expos"

    None of my buisness how other people run their companies but I have to wonder why not? I'd be willing to bet there are more than a few couples who would love the kinds of ideas shown at this event who will just never know it was an option (how often do we hear that story on OBB?).

    Maybe if more offbeat vendors were at regular bridal shows it would encorage more people to try something a bit different.

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    • I can't answer for vendors, but I will say that most standard bridal shows charge a significant fee to have a table. If you're a vendor who offers nontraditional services, I'm not sure it makes sense to spend money to try reach a market that's uninterested in your work.

      • This is the impression I got too. Bridal expos are expensive and most of the vendors don't really want to do traditional weddings so it didn't make sense for them.

        • Ah ok, that makes sense.

          I suppose I shouldn't be suprised something wedding related costs a fortune!

      • I used to manage Go Festive! (the photobooth co. mentioned in this article). It's true, traditional bridal shows can be suuuuper expensive. The company is small and privately owned and some shows wanted $400-$500 just to set up a photobooth, plus they often require that you donate a door prize. When taking into account materials cost for printing photo strips, plus paying 1 or 2 attendants to work the booth and schmooze with customers it often was plain not worth it. The great thing about smaller or alt bridal events (aside from meeting brides and grooms who are really cool) is that they're often willing to take an in-kind donation (the company provides a free-of-charge photobooth and the expo waives the vendor fee). All vendors need to weigh the cost of attending a bridal expo with how much they stand to make in bookings directly related to that event.

    • Actually, if you don't want to wait all year to go, there are a few other alternative bridal expos coming-up in Philly or the Philly area. They're not run by the same people who run this one, but there is a lot of cross-over between them. There's one in March, one in April, and one in the fall.

  5. YAYYY! Thank you for featuring this event! I attended Lovesick Expo as well and thought what they offered there were definitely unique and different, unlike your average copy-and-paste pastel bridal vendor. The DJs from Hi-Society are going to be doing my wedding also — I can't wait! VNV Nation at your wedding? Uhhh… BADASS!!!

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  6. How cool! This looked like such an awesome wedding expo, and if it was just a wee bit more North, I would have definitely gone!

  7. If anyone went with a guy, how was he received? I went with my husband to a traditional bridal expo and he was basically ignored most of the time. That is what I hated the most!

    • Most of the guys I saw were talking to vendors and generally engaged in the whole thing.
      – Becca

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    • My hubby went with me and he seemed pretty receptive of everything that was going on. Especially with the burlesque show, haha.

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    • My fiance Todd and I went to LoveSick and he actually had a pretty good time (he's not a huge fan of crowds, so he was kinda uncomfortable, but not because anyone treated him badly). He also won us an engagement photo session with Maria Mack, which was AWESOME. And we both enjoyed the burlesque and the cash bar, plus going into Go Festive's photobooth (I used to manage that company and so we're both kinda addicted to photobooth pictures). The great thing about LoveSick was that it was at the World Cafe Live, which is an awesome venue (and would make a great venue for a rock 'n roll wedding) so we grabbed some cushy couch seats in the mezzanine and sipped beers while waiting for the drawing and watching burlesque. Plenty of room for a guy to relax and not feel out of place.

      A week later we went to a trad bridal expo at the Crowne Plaza Valley Forge (we went because it had one thing LoveSick lacked: free cake) and it was waaaay different. The few guys that were there kind of shuffled around behind their brides looking like zombies with wedgies. Trad expos definitely aren't guy-friendly. There was a drawing for doorprizes, and they had seven giveaways that were specifically for men at the very very end. Problem was, you had to be there to win, and most of them menfolk had booked it for the hills long before. Predictably, Todd was one of the winners (I was surprised there were seven dudes left in the room!) but they made all seven guys stand in front of the assembled brides and line up to get their prizes, which made Todd exceedingly cranky. His mom (who attended with us) asked, "What did he just win?" and my reply was "A lifetime of embarrassing memories." Still, a gift certificate to Mens Wearhouse is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. I should really take that guy to Vegas…

  8. Have you considered sharing links to other alternative wedding shows across the country? They can be difficult to find when searching online because you often have to wade through so many mainstream shows to find them.

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  9. I wish they had one of these on the west coast. If someone knows of one please let me know. Thanks

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    • SERIOUSLY. I would totally drive a couple hours to hit an event like this.

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  10. i'm so bummed i missed this…anyone know if there are any other bridal shows like this one in the philly, nyc, nj area??

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  11. My friend in Philly JUST got engaged, and this is her sort of thing. Any idea if it is a once-every-6-months vs. once a year sort of deal?

    • Hi! I'm Tom, on half of the guys that put on Lovesick. We will be announcing the next expo in the next few weeks. We are awaiting from some feedback from the vendors, but yearly is the most likely scenario. January is THE busiest booking month so its the best time to get to meet cool couples who like the idea of having a beer and listening to DJs on a Sunday afternoon. I will add that all of our vendors will stay on LovesickExpo.com for a year! You can check out the sites of every Philly-area vendor that was present at Lovesick.

      1 agrees
    • Once a year I believe. But if she's a Philly bride, I would call Allebach Photography and ask if they're doing any more offbeat expos (they're like THE alt photog of Philly, so if there's another event like this coming up, I bet they'd know!)

      • Oooh! Oooh! I just remembered – last spring there was a bridal event at the Manayunk Brewery. I just tried to find info online if they're doing one in 2011, but it might be too soon for that. It wasn't alt per se, but it was better than a full-out trad bridal expo. Maybe if you contacted Manayunk Brewery, they could tell you if it's happening again in 2011!

  12. "I have to wonder if anyone who isn't getting married goes to "normal" bridal expos …"

    Yes, they do. I had a girlfriend who started going to those bridal shows when she was 17 and went every single year, religiously… She tried to drag me with her a few times and I got roped into a few Mary Kay make up parties that were marketed as "free bridal makeovers."

  13. Re: the laser center. I kind of get that. Being of Armenian descent on my mother's side, I'd always had a problem with black chin and neck hairs (the old stereotype of the bearded Mediterranean/Near East women is not wholly wrong!) and one of my dearest wedding day wishes was that I wouldn't have to wake up and angle into the mirror to carefully and painfully pluck out any offending hairs, or have to slather myself in no-red-bumps cream after getting threaded or waxed before the rehearsal dinner.

    So in the year before my wedding I had laser hair removal four times, getting rid of about 85% of the hair. I still have two more to go, but starting the process before the wedding meant that I had a lot less problematic hair to deal with on the day of.

    Best of all? It's permanent!

    Full disclosure: I live in Taiwan where laser hair removal costs half or less what it does in the USA and the money did not come from my wedding budget, as it was something I'd have done anyway.

    • Wow I feel stupid! When I read laser center I was thinking laser light show. Makes much more sense now.

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      • I would so totally-absolutely-without a doubt have a laser light show at my wedding/reception, if possible! XD

    • I went to a trad expo a week after LoveSick and one of the door prizes was – I kid you not – laser butt hair removal. It just seemed like a really strange thing to raffle off. And when the organizer admitted that she'd had it done and "it was totally worth it!"… it made me feel like I knew a little too much about her butt.

      I'm totally with you on chin hairs though – I have those too sometimes.

  14. I went to this, and it was fantastic! Totally right up our alley! It was absolutely perfect as an alternative to the 'traditional' bridal expo. I took my fiance and his 'best lady,' and we had a blast. Not to mention, I got some great ideas and contacts for our wedding planning. We drove two hours down from the Scranton area, and it was totally worth it. This is the first that I've ever heard of an expo like this, but I do hope they decide to or have already made this at least an annual event. Totally worth it! :)

  15. I went to "Columbus Bride: The Show" in Oh. A few invitation folks turned their nose up at me when I said I was making my own invites and other said, " Cool, take this for ideas". I love this idea. Wish there was something in OH. maybe at my renewal in ?? Years

    • Ooh, I'm in Columbus too! I wanted to go but was too terrified of the snottiness. I just got a Capital Brides magazine, and it was scary too. Full of plastic surgeons with incorrectly-spelled ads and ads for Jags and Crown EuroCars' Mercedes. It seems to hew pretty traditional and pro-rich-people here.

      • I'm skipping the Hilton Polaris and Franklin Park conservatory this weekend. I'm going to the on at OU-Lancaster on the 28th cause that's where I live. But since we're doing most everything ourselves, I just go for ideas.

  16. I went to this show with my fiance and we really enjoyed it. I've already commented a bunch of time above, but I will say that the only thing I didn't like about LoveSick was that most of the vendors were photographers (who are awesome, amahright?) but I would have liked to see maybe a baker or two (since that's the only big thing we have left to check off) or some unusual entertainment aside from the Peek A Boo Revue (like fire spinners – I know there's a bunch of them in Philly).

    • I don't know if this is allowed, but if you need fire spinners in Philly, I can put you in touch with them. I spin fire (not for shows though) and I'm in NJ, but I know MANY performers who would be willing to do weddings – some even performed at mine :P

  17. I will also admit to being one of those people "who isn't getting married (that) goes to "normal" bridal expos …". We don't have alt bridal shows here in southern-western-middle Michigan, at least not to my knowledge. The main show (which runs every 3 months) is sponsoered by TheKnot.com and is pretty much the same companies every year. Several of the booths are staffed by obnoxious, overbearing salespeople who don't take 'no', even when it's 'NO ~evil glare~'. Bah.

    But there's free cake!

  18. Agran Events sounds so cool, it's too bad their website has NO info on it :(

    • Yeah – I noticed that too. I think they are really JUST starting out so if you are interested, it's probably worth it to drop them an email.
      – Becca

  19. I just wanted to vouch for Love Me Do Photography and Roots & Groove DJ's (Who were also at the Expo) I used them both in my wedding in October and they were amazing!

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  20. I did not attend this event, but Hi-Society DJs emceed my wedding in 2009 and they were awesome to work with. Totally professional and fairly priced. I highly recommend them.

  21. I WAS THERE! It was amazing. We are working with Hi-Society for our wedding in March (via OBB vendors) and that is how we found out about LOVE SICK. We are NOW also working with Allebach Photography and GOFestive! photobooths via the expo. We had our best lady there with us and she was sooo angry that her mother had dragged her to all of the 'normal' expos last year … she was so happy for us that LOVE SICK came to be (and she was a little jealous). Love Sick was exactly what Philly and NJ couples needed. We are so EXCITED to be working with Hi-Society, Allebach and GoFestive.

  22. Just wanted to send a big shout out for Unbridaled, another alternative bridal event in Philly (!) which, last I heard, is going to be around August 2011!

    And also… Spread the word… There is an indie bridal event scheduled for Baltimore/D.C. area in Spring 2012.

    For those couples looking for indie bridal shows across the country, here's the 2011 list (that I'm aware of):

    Philly: Lovesick (January 9, 2011)
    Athens, GA: Atelier (Jan 16, 2011)
    Chicago: Indie Wed (Jan 29, 2011)
    Palm Springs, CA: HITCHED (Jan 30, 2011 – likely another in 2011)
    ****UPCOMING****
    Saint Louis, MO: Off White (March 20, 2011)
    Pittsburgh: Hand(made) In Marriage (May 21, 2011)
    Philly: Unbridaled (TBA August 2011)
    NYC/Brooklyn: Urban Wed (TBA 2011)

  23. If you go to any bridal fairs I recommend Lovesick and the one at the Villanova Conference Center–I know, odd juxtaposition! But both were very groom friendly (and prize generous for both men and women) and the vendors weren't pushy and just there to get your email address so they could harass you. Which one wouldn't I recommend–let's just say I'm not fond of the huge 'cattle calls' in the city without naming names.

  24. Hi All! I am so excited that an event like this exists! My fiancée and I are planning a wedding next August and we'd like to incorporate as many ideas from the many different music festivals we've attended together. Anyways, my question is, is it best to attend one of these near the city you are getting married in or no? I live near Denver, but we're getting married near Boston, so I'm just wondering which event I should attend.
    Thanks!

    • Attend the event in Boston — unless you want to find your dream vendors in Denver, and then end up paying to fly them out to Boston for your wedding!

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