Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bridal Fantasies in Alberta

A flurry of holiday proposals means big plans – and big business – right across Canada.

Here in Alberta, retailers in the wedding industry were out in full force last week at two separate wedding shows. The first, ‘Bridal Fantasy’, was held at the Telus Convention Centre in downtown Calgary on January 17 and then at the Northlands Edmonton Expo Centre on January 24. The ‘Bridal Fantasy’ brand extends to a popular magazine of the same name, found on newsstands across the province, an online blog, and a jewellery line.

Also on January 24, the Roundup Centre at Stampede Park was the scene of Calgary’s ‘Wedding Fair,’ where over two hundred “wedding experts” doled out free advice.

Attending Bridal Fantasy was an especially fruitful trip for engaged couple Omar Macalam and Margarita Chua. At Calgary’s Bridal Fantasy show, they not only found the perfect bridal gown – off the rack and on sale – but also won a raffle prize in the form of a large gift basket from Ideal Protein.

On display were retailers and their wares from every aspect of the wedding industry: cakes, music, clothing, jewellery, table settings, and even two giant Hummer-limousines for a wedding or stagette party. A fashion show, complete with a Disney-esque castle in the background, displayed gowns and formal suits from Jennifer Scott Bridal, Beautiful Bride, and Derks Tuxedoes. A group of children in little white dresses and mini suits stole the show with their choreographed dance down the catwalk.

The Bridal Fantasy show attracted approximately three thousand shoppers in Calgary but broke records in Edmonton with a jaw-dropping nine thousand patrons; a third of whom were brides-to-be.

Gay Derk, president of Bridal Fantasy, says her show is part of a typical engaged couple’s full experience. Having been a part of thousands of weddings in this way, she has some time-tested advice for those planning a wedding.

“Have fun with it and have open, honest communication,” she says, “So many people get freaked out over what their mother wants, or his father wants, or their sister wants. Just forget it. Enjoy each other, have fun with your friends. Pick three things that are ‘hard and fast’ must-haves and let the rest go. Pick three things, talk about them honestly, and write down your budget. That’s what I tell people.”

Naturally, Derk married into the wedding industry. Her husband, Darryl, and his family have run Derks Formal Wear for almost thirty years. As a young couple, Gay and Darryl were burglarized. With a new baby in the home, she watched in horror as her new husband was pushed out a window. For three years he required intense physio-therapy every day. Meanwhile, Gay (who has a background and degree in pharmacology) ran the family’s tuxedo and bridal gown shop. She doubled its profits each year. When Darryl recovered, she had found her passion. Bridal Fantasy was born.

For those who missed it, a third wedding show, Calgary’s Bridal Expo, will take place in September at Stampede Park.

Published in National Post, January 30 2010

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