Bridal Blast at Germain Arena a one-stop shop for the wedding party

A model wearing a wedding dress from For The Bride walks the runway during the fashion show at the bi-annual Bridal Blast at Germain Arena on Sunday, August 23, 2009, in Estero. David Albers/ Staff

Photo by DAVID ALBERS // Buy this photo

A model wearing a wedding dress from For The Bride walks the runway during the fashion show at the bi-annual Bridal Blast at Germain Arena on Sunday, August 23, 2009, in Estero. David Albers/ Staff

If wedding bells are in your future, there’s one stop you might want to make before saying “I do.”

From 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug.18, Bridal Blast returns to Germain Arena. Brides-to-be can browse the latest in matrimonial merchandise, including venues, caterers, entertainment, photographers and more. There even will be a carriage company, complete with Clydesdale horses, for those wishing to add a bit of old-fashioned romance to their special day.

Bridal Blast

What: A semi-annual bridal show featuring an estimated 120 Southwest Florida bridal exhibitors

When: 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday

Where: Germain Arena, 11000 Everblades Parkway, Estero

Cost: Brides enter free, but must pre-register online. All others $7

Information: www.bridalblast.com

The semiannual bridal show, held in August and February, draws as many as 500 brides, said show producer Mary Ann Crooker. Nationally, the average bride’s age is 27, and the average groom’s age is 29, Crooker said, but the Germain show draws brides of all ages, many of whom bring their attendants and families to help them navigate the estimated 120 exhibitors.

Brides enjoy free admission if they register in advance; all others enter for $7. Free entry requires preregistration at www.bridalblast.com.

Here’s another national average: “The average American wedding is about $28,000,” Crooker said. “But 15 percent will spend more than double that. It’s amazing.”

It’s worth noting that the typical trousseau now includes more than in decades past. Once, a photographer was the wedding standard; now, capturing your special day could mean hiring a photographer, videographer and a photo booth. The Bridal Blast event program lists more than 40 photo-related vendors.

That’s not all. A peek into the program reveals an array of pre-wedding services, ranging from the traditional — including florists and invitations — to the decidedly modern, such as cosmetic procedures to premarital counseling.

With all the pre-wedding options available, a wedding planner has become an increasingly popular option for many brides, noted Paige Simpson, a wedding planner and event manager at Bellasera Hotel in Naples. Simpson is also the president of the Naples Chapter of the National Association of Wedding Professionals; Bridal Blast is held on behalf of the association.

“With the amount of never-ending information out there in cyberspace, now couples need more assistance and guidance in how to select the right information to make their day exactly how they envision it,” Simpson said.

Social media have influenced how the typical wedding day might be planned and remembered, Simpson added. Many couples increasingly look to the photo-sharing website Pinterest as a way to help plan their wedding. Some of Simpson’s clients have even lamented that unique wedding ideas are not quite as unique as they once were.

With the spread of social media, weddings have also moved from the private to the public sphere, as guests post their photos to social sites such as Facebook and Instagram. Many couples might not be aware their wedding day has its own hash tag and is trending, Simpson said.

Still, some things never change, Crooker said: If you’re coming to Bridal Blast, wear comfortable shoes. Bring a pen — or, better yet, come with pre-made labels that bear the bride’s name and contact info, as many exhibitors will have forms to complete for follow-up information.

“That really will save a lot of time for them,” Crooker said.

If you’re getting married, Bridal Blast has an app for that. Download it free to your smartphone and search exhibitors by category and name, complete with a link to the exhibitor’s phone and website.

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