Friday evening, brides and their guests descended upon the Brown Hotel  for the eighth year as the historic landmark hosted its annual Bridal Experience bridal show within the confines of the Crystal Ballroom. Upon entrance, attendees to go from vendor to vendor while sampling appetizers and desserts as prepared by Brown Hotel executive chef Laurent Géroli and his staff, as well as enjoy cocktails from the bartender stations in the ballroom and in the alcove between it and the three Broadway rooms. The ballroom was given a makeover, transforming the normally opulent venue into an opulent wedding reception with the help of Blooms by Essential Details , Boston’s Floral Couture , Country Squire Florist , Fleur De Lis Events & Design , In Bloom Again  and J. Elizabeth Designs .
None of this would have been possible without bridal show producer Ellen Fox of ShaFox Weddings & Events , who has overseen the Bridal Experience from the beginning in 2005. “Several years ago, [the Brown Hotel was] looking for an upscale, interactive, different bridal experience for brides. So, I was approached to come as a planner to bring in the area’s finest vendors, and we kinda came up with the concept of ‘it’s not gonna be a pipe and drape show.’ It’s gonna be show where it’s interactive, it looks like a wedding when you walk in. You can gather design ideas, you can sip fine cocktails, you can try amazing hors d'oeuvres. It’s a completely different experience than any show in town.” Fox continued, stating that the vendors who were involved in the eighth iteration of the bridal show were the “elite of the elite” in the city, offering an experience that can’t be experienced elsewhere.
Brown Hotel wedding coordinator Debbie Whitelock was also in attendance, the bridal show being the first for her as the hotel’s newest coordinator. “It’s been wonderful. We have a great team. Ellen from ShaFox Events & Designs did the show with us. She’s been excellent to work with, and this is her eight time at the show. It’s made my job easy because there’s been so much [that] she already had the answers to, things to improve on from last year. We look forward to working together in the future.”
Whitelock also attended the Louisville Palace Wedding Show , as did some of the vendors in attendance such as The Crashers , Louisville Bride – who sponsored the Palace’s debut bridal show – and Mert’s Cakes . When asked how she would compare her show with her neighbor up the street, Whitelock said, “I thought the Palace did an excellent job with their show. It’s very comparable in the way we have… it’s meant to feel very fun and relaxing, the same way the Palace’s was. I think what makes ours a little bit different is that it truly is meant to feel like a reception. When you walk in, you get the décor in the Crystal Ballroom, where you see it in a real wedding. When you walk in, your first impression is, ‘This is a wedding reception,’ and I think that’s a little different than what [Louisville.com and I] experienced last week.”
Mark Maxwell, lead singer of The Crashers, was able to perform at The Palace for their bridal show the previous Friday. At the Bridal Experience, it was a different experience for him and his band. “I wish we could show people-- that’s what I really wanna do is show people, ‘Look what we do!’ We wish we could show the fun that we have. It’s hard to do, and it’s even hard to get it online, but when you see it, it’s live. But we show up to a lot of these wedding things because that’s what we do. We’re just a fun wedding band.” Added lead guitarist Shane Eisenberg, “It was more audience participation [at the Palace], a lot of people to see us for what really we do. It was a really nice thing for us.”
Within the three Broadway rooms on the other side of the alcove held various vendors ranging from travel agencies and transportation companies to boutiques and the Brown Hotel’s own gift shop, Shop at The Brown. One vendor that caught Louisville.com’s attention was the United States Postal Service , who had recently reissued a 66-cent 2-ounce “wedding cake” postage stamp in Louisville. “A lot of folks are glad we’re here. I’ve got a couple of brides-to-be tell me that it was a good reminder on the passport information, ‘cause a lot of folks might have [a] honeymoon out of the country. The response has been great,” noted station manager Vincent Burke on the turnout to his booth.
In the alcove, a couple of vendors were on hand to help brides plan their weddings. One such vendor was Carol Gristanti , who, like Fox, has been a part of every Bridal Experience from the beginning. “Ellen Fox is a friend of mine; I did parts of her wedding years ago. When she decided to produce the show, she was asking some of the people that she already knew in the business. So, I’ve been doing it from the very first year; this is my eighth year.” When asked about how the previous shows compared to the 2013 version, Gristani said, “I think it’s good. It’s about the same. The caliber of the brides is very good, and it’s one of a kind. It’s very elegant. It’s not your cookie-cutter style wedding show.”
Speaking of the brides, Louisville.com was able to catch up to a bride for her thoughts on the experience before the show’s end. Summer Blizzard (yes, that is her real name) a health care trainer from Louisville via Chattanooga, Tenn., knew there were other bridal shows occurring at the same time as the one at the hotel, but chose to attend the Bridal Experience based on the photography from vendor Amy Shepherd Photography  used to promote the event with her fiancé. “We like it a lot. I mean, we have just been here for about 20 minutes or so, but so far, we love it. It’s great. A lot of really great vendors, new vendors that we haven’t seen at the other shows.”
Photos: Louisville.com /Cameron Miquelon.