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January 14, 2013

Vendors: Bridal show offers chance to connect

By Denise Richardson
The Daily Star

---- — The bridal industry had a strong local showing Sunday at the Foothills Performing Arts and Civic Center in Oneonta, organizers and vendors said.

Caterers, photographers, hairdressers, dress sellers and other vendors provided business cards and more to about 100 brides-to-be and their guests at the fifth annual Bridal Show in the Foothills atrium on Market Street in Oneonta.

Foothills Director of Operations Janet Hurley-Quackenbush said the event presented more than 40 vendors, up from 32 last year.

“It’s been the best show we’ve had,’’ said Kerri Green, owner of Celebration Creations Wedding and Event Planning who coordinated the show as a fundraiser for Foothills.

Green, who has planned 32 weddings since starting her Sidney business in 2006, said indications are that couples will spend more this year on weddings — $15,000 to $20,000, up from $10,000 to $15,000 in the past two years. She attributed the increase to couples being engaged longer and saving for their wedding.

In Otsego County, the average cost of a wedding in 2011 was $26,464, according to The Wedding Report Inc., which reported there were 487 weddings in the county that year. The average number of guests was 126 to 136, the study said, and reflected the number of wedding businesses at 75 to 83.

The local wedding market holds potential, said Bobbie Lipari Harlem, owner of the Carriage House Event Center Inc. and J&B Catering in Oneonta.

Lipari Harlem said she plans with Paula Fassler, owner of House of Brides on Southside Oneonta, to present a bridal show at the Carriage House at 790 Southside Drive from 6 to 9 p.m. March 2 and from noon to 4 p.m. March 3.

“This is our first,’’ Lipari Harlem said. “We are excited about presenting this opportunity.’’

The Carriage House is mostly booked for weddings this year, Lipari Harlem said, and is making dates for 2014. But in a market the size of Oneonta, networking is key, she said, and businesses refer clients to other companies and venue opportunities.

At Foothills on Sunday, several vendors agreed that while meeting brides-to-be was good for business, the bridal show provided important networking opportunities within the industry.

And other types of businesses are entering the wedding marketplace.

“Existing businesses are branching into the industry because they see they can sell some kind of service,’’ said Green, who also coordinated the Fall Bridal Show at the Holiday Inn in Oneonta in October.

Woodworking and glass-etching businesses can provide personalized wedding favors, Foothills show organizers said, and ice carvers and flame throwers offer entertainment.

Green also keeps track of trends. Some couples are planning events that reflect their interests and that provide activities the day before and after the wedding day. In colors, the trend is toward natural browns and greens and pastels, she said, and some couples are choosing recycled materials or using plants instead of cut flowers in the interest of environmental conservation.

Jennifer LePinnet of Delhi volunteered to model wedding wear with Rainbow’s End Weddings & More at the Foothills Bridal Show last year and on Sunday. Both shows provided information and ideas for her wedding, which will be in the Foothills atrium May 5, she said.

Planning a wedding is fun and stressful, Patty Rall of Delhi said, and bridal shows are helpful because “they have everything you need in one spot.’’

Rall said she attended the Fall Bridal Show and on Sunday made further connections for her Aug. 3 wedding to be at her fiance’s family farm in Delhi. Rall said she hopes the event is low-key and fun.

In the concluding event Sunday, models displayed dresses, gowns and other wedding clothes in a range of traditional and contemporary styles.

Hurley-Quackenbush attributed Sunday’s successful turnout to Foothills becoming better known for its bridal show and wedding venues, including the center’s atrium and two small theater spaces. Foothills offers “one-stop’’ shopping for weddings through its hotel and food-service connections, she said, and the center has dates for weddings booked as far ahead as 2015.

Lydia Palmer, director of event coordination at Morris Tent Rentals Inc. in Morris, said a majority of business comes through referrals from other vendors.

“We met a lot of new brides, new vendors — a lot of great leads,’’ Palmer said. This year, for example, through a connection with Project Anthologies, a sewing and crafts store recently opened in Oneonta, the company was able to display different fabric themes for table settings, Palmer said.

Cake-maker Majorie Landers of Cooperstown attended her fourth Foothills Bridal Show on Sunday and agreed that networking with other vendors is important to generate business.

“We recommend one another,’’ said the owner of Majorie Landers Wedding Cakes. On Sunday, she gave away eight cakes in sample pieces at the bridal show.

“It’s a wonderful event,’’ she said.

Jessah Serafini said the large attendance made for a worthwhile day presenting her photography business — Jessah Serafini Photography in Sidney. She met many prospective customers and networked with vendors.

“It’s been wonderful — a lot hot of happy people, a lot of inquiries,’’ she said. “It’s been great.’’