One-stop Shop

Guests of the 2011 Southern Cape Fear Coast Bridal Showcase visit the booth of Don Baker, owner of Brunswick Town Florist. Photo courtesy of the Chamber of Commerce.

Guests of the 2011 Southern Cape Fear Coast Bridal Showcase visit the booth of Don Baker, owner of Brunswick Town Florist. Photo courtesy of the Chamber of Commerce.

What: Southern Cape Fear Coast Bridal Showcase
When: Sunday, February 17
1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Southport Community Center
223 E. Bay St., Southport
St. James, NC
Cost: $5/person; brides are free
Info: www.southport-oakisland.com
(910) 457-6964

Even with the onset of Pinterest, the online community where one can “pin” their favorite ideas from blogs and websites to personalized interest boards—or perhaps even because of Pinterest and an overload of inspiration—wedding planning can be daunting. Themes intermingle and mismatch constantly as brides have trouble deciding between looks of rustic country or tropical paradise. How about a large wedding that’s elegantly formal or a small family ceremony in one’s own back yard? Not to mention, once a theme is locked in place, there’s so much more to consider: the dress, the food, the favors… The list goes on and on.

Luckily, there’s the Southern Cape Fear Coast Bridal Showcase held each February. The annual event is presented in cooperation between the Southport-Oak Island Chamber of Commerce and the City of Southport’s Department of Tourism, and sponsored by 3 Cheers Party Rentals. This year the showcase will take place on Sunday, February 17th from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Southport Community Building. Here, regional representatives from florists, caterers, venues, planners, photographers, bakeries, jewelers and more will be available to answer any bride’s questions. Hopefully, she’ll find the perfect fit in every category for her big day.

“The Southport-Oak Island Chamber of Commerce is always looking for different ways to support its membership,” executive vice president Karen Sphar explains. “Weddings are big business, and with destination weddings being so popular, the chamber’s tourism committee felt a bridal expo was a great way to showcase our members to this niche market. In October 2004, the chamber, with the support of the City of Southport’s Department of Tourism—-who at that time had one of the biggest destination wedding venues, Southport Community Building—embarked on our first Southern Cape Fear Coast Bridal Showcase. The event eventually moved to an annual event in February, just after Valentine’s Day, in the hopes of assisting those who were newly engaged.”

For 3 Cheers Party Rentals, whose client base comprises 65 percent brides, it was a natural fit. “Every year we are excited about this show,” David Wallace, owner of the company, shares. “Most of our contact with the brides is over the phone or through e-mail. This gives us a chance to meet them face-to-face before the event occurs. Also, there are opportunities to meet new brides as well as other area vendors. We are often asked for referrals, [and this] way we can make good recommendations.”

Brides and loved ones involved in the wedding-planning process garner the most benefit. For those planning a destination wedding in nearby coastal communities, a quick February trip to Southport for the showcase allows them to select the crème de la crème of the industry. Engaged locals who aren’t sure where to start will gather a plethora of valuable information. Even those soon-to-be-married who think they’ve got their plans nailed down can stop by the expo to collect other creative ideas.

“The atmosphere at the Southern Cape Fear Coast Bridal Showcase is fun but professional as the vendors are ready to assist the brides and grooms with every aspect of planning for their big day,” Sphar details. “Brides and grooms get the opportunity to save time with a one-stop shop.”

Entry to the expo is $5 per person, though brides are admitted free of charge. Over $1,000 in door prizes will be given away during the showcase, and each engaged couple attending the event will receive the chamber’s Official Wedding Planner for free. “Inside the planner they will find helpful time lines, tips for planning a beach wedding, questions for your caterer, interesting wedding traditions, the etiquette of financial responsibilities, and a list of supportive local businesses.”

As for the vendors attending the Southern Cape Fear Coast Bridal Showcase, the excitement is just as high, from first meeting to each couple’s big day. “The atmosphere [of the expo] is always a positive one,” Wallace says. “At 3 Cheers we work with 300 to 350 brides per year. We see a lot of different twists to the weddings. I think it is really fun to meet the wedding party and see what is their plan. Once we figure out their plan, we can make it come true. At one wedding, I had a lady tell me that we created magic in one hour; that was awesome.”

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