I went along to the Quality Hotel Plymouth International on Saturday to observe the Taranaki Wedding Expo for a couple of hours and was pleasantly surprised!
Arriving just after 10.30, I'm at the main doors to the hotel and there sitting in all its glory, is a white stretch limousine creating a nice little stir of excitement with a few young ladies. Moving on with a smirk on my face, I line up behind others and wait to be greeted by cheerful staff who, after introducing myself, hand me a media lanyard. Reluctantly, I put it around my neck and wander through the lounge with its fireplace roaring to another room that took my breath away. A large open space had been re-created into a wedding reception set up with tables and linen, fairy lights and sashs - very impressive! But more enticing to the senses was the sweet sound of live music, a piano and vocal couple calling themselves Intermezzo - lovely!
I keep wandering through the passageways and rooms, passing many busy exhibitors when I come into the main floor with the runway down the middle. Flutarra is playing on the stage and its five minutes away from the first fashion show. I pick a spot for the best view and wait patiently. The room is buzzing with lots of couples, mums and daughters, groups of friends and families. They all mill around the stage when flutarra starts playing the wedding march. We're introduced over the loud speaker to La dress when models start the strut in gorgeous floor length bridesmaid gowns. Kingsway Menswear join in with their handsome fellas in black suits and colourful ties. Its pleasing a few in the crowd!
Next up is Jans closet with Mother of the Bride attire and another crowd pleaser, a young boy holding on tight to Nanas hand. We all "nawww, cute" at this wee boy when Fairy Britches is introduced and the crowd ups the papparazi anti - cameras are flashing left right and centre. I can't help it either, they're dressed in super cute outfits layered in tulle and dance in time to Lois Finderup's choreography. Its a very proud moment!
Then comes something new this year - a dance demonstration by Strictly Dance Taranaki. These two make it look so easy, but I do advise if you're thinking about your first dance and have two left feet, go and see them, they're professionals! The fashion show ends with Churchwood Bridal with some very beautiful wedding gowns.
I spend the next hour and a half visiting exhibitors, most of whom I've had the pleasure of working with the last few weeks, but also introducing myself to a few new faces as well. Most of the exhibitors are repeat customers to the expo - seeing the massive benefit of showcasing their services to couples planning their wedding. In return, those shopping around get huge discounts and deals on the day.
I'm pleased to go behind the scenes where the Flower Girl/Miss Personality competition is up next which has eight entrants, but I only catch five. Caitlin (seven), Navella (six), Milla (four) and sisters Aaliyah (two) and Jayda (four). They're all waiting patiently with their Mums after getting changed into their flower girl dresses. I ask if I can interrupt their game of ring-a-ring-a-rosey to take their picture, they all oblige. Caitlin looks up and says to me "do you like my dress?" I say "yes, its really pretty, do you like it?" She responds with a different enthusiasm "yep, but my Mummy doesn't let me wear it all the time". Us adults laugh while the girls continue playing.
Moving down the corridor I meet a Mum whose two young kids caught my eye in the Fairy Britches fashion show. Dakota (six) and Jorja (eight) attend Lois Finderup's modelling agency and its obvious why with Dakota and his face of a cherub angel and blonde ringlet hair; and Jorja with her beautiful blue eyes and long dark curly hair and sweet little smile. I ponder to ask their Mum whether she hires her children out, but quickly ask her permission instead to take a photo.
I finally catch up with Hayley Olliver from Auaha Group. Hayley has been the maestro behind the scenes that makes the Taranaki Wedding Expo a success each year. She happily jumps into the photo with the flower girl entrants before they go onstage.
Auaha Group created the event back in 2006 at the TSB Bank Stadium. This was the second year to be held at the Hotel and exhibitors agree that its a much better set up - creating a small and intimate show for customers.
Because of its smaller location, there is limited space for exhibitors so Hayley produces the Taranaki Wedding Directory, a free booklet handed out to those that attend the expo. It gives businesses who could not exhibit, the chance to advertise and expose their services to those that get a copy.
If you didn't attend the expo - I suggest you mark it on your calendar for next year. And if you missed your copy of the Taranaki Wedding Directory booklet, email Hayley Olliver at Auaha Group.