You’ve Won a Free Trip at a Bridal Expo! Is it a Scam?

Are bridal expo prizes a scam? Hear from some Brides of Long Island about their experience winning expo prizes.

(Courtesy of Long Island Bridal Expo)

At one point or another, you’re bound to attend a larger bridal expo on Long Island. Attending a bridal expo can be very beneficial in your wedding planning, especially if you’re short on time!

Aside from vendor booths, DJ sets, and fashion shows, most bridal expos feature drawings for some pretty epic prizes. It’s easy to enter – just provide your contact information, cross your fingers, and wait to see if you’ve hit it big! But many “lucky winners” question the legitimacy of these rewards. Is it all too good to be true? Are these so-called prizes just a part of one big scam? We met with a few Brides of Long Island who “took the bait,” and they shared their experiences with us.

MORE: Six reasons you should go to a bridal expo

How Do You Get the Prizes?

All of the BOLIs who we spoke to say that they were told they won various prizes. Most were a set of wedding bands, champagne flutes and some sort of vacation. Some were offered a canvas print or baseball tickets too. But, of course, there was a catch. In order for the brides to collect their prizes, they had to attend a presentation from a cookware company. BOLI Elizabeth says the seminar she attended last year was given by Kitchen Charm. She adds that she and her fiancé at the time could only attend half of the seminar, so the company told her if they went back to sit through the whole thing, they could get their prizes.

BOLI Admin Suzanne had a slightly different experience in 2016. She says that when she was called, they just told her she won a trip and needed to attend a meeting with other winners. She wasn’t told about the other prizes of rings and champagne flutes until she arrived.

(Champagne flutes Suzanne used at her wedding)

What Happens at These Presentations?

All of the BOLIs attended the presentation with other winning couples. Suzanne and BOLI Emily say they watched a cooking demonstration and were able to try the food that was prepared with the cookware. During the demonstration, everyone says the host is a pretty good salesman to try and get couples to buy their products with the incentive of a prize upgrade. According to Suzanne, all of the brides in attendance were pretty impressed with the quality of the cookware and what it could do.

But Do You Get the Prizes?

Yes! Most of the BOLIs say they received the promised prizes for just listening to the demonstration. However, they were told that if they purchased something from the presentation, they could upgrade their prize. For BOLI Elizabeth, she weighed the cost of a knife set versus an eight-night vacation. She and her fiancé decided to make the purchase, because she figured they’d get a nice knife set AND a trip. 

Emily says she did not purchase anything extra to upgrade, but received an information packet of how to claim the other prizes. She adds that she and her fiancé had to put in some work to order the champagne flutes and wedding bands, but they were successful.

BOLI Samantha was more than happy to attend the presentation to collect her prizes. She says that she received vouchers, just as Emily did, to order her engraved champagne flutes and wedding bands online.

(Elizabeth’s favorite pan she purchased)

Does It Cost Anything?

Obviously, if you buy the cookware or knives, it will cost you that price. The price ranges depending on the cookware you purchase. If you don’t buy anything extra, and just accept the free prizes, it does still cost you a little bit. Emily and Samantha say they paid shipping for the rings and champagne flutes. And most of the trips you will need to pay taxes and possibly airfare as well.

Suzanne says at the presentation she went to, they were told they had to make a purchase in order to get any of the prizes. She and a few other couples agreed to buy some cookware to get their prizes – in fact because so many agreed they all received three trips. However, she says the following day she called the cookware company to cancel the order, but she was able to keep her prizes.

(Samantha and her husband’s wedding bands)

Was There Pressure to Buy?

As it’s their job to make a sale, the people giving the demonstrations do pressure couples to make a purchase. Some salesmen are pushier than others. According to Suzanne, her sales person was not nice to anyone who didn’t make a purchase. Emily says she felt a little pressure to buy at her presentation in early 2020, but no one was forcing her to commit. In fact, she says the host kept reminding the couples they would walk away with the prizes no matter what. Samantha had a similar experience as Emily, and says the host told them from the start they wouldn’t need to purchase anything to get their original prizes. Elizabeth says her host was very laid back, and very good at his job and at no point did she feel pressured to buy anything.

Did They Actually Use Their Prizes?

Most of the BOLIs say they used their engraved champagne flutes at their wedding, and some used the bands as their wedding rings. While Samantha and her husband continue to wear their bands for special occasions, Suzanne decided to sell hers shortly after receiving them. 

Unfortunately, it seems the trips could be too good to be true. As mentioned above, you may still be required to cover airfare and taxes. And most BOLIs say there are a ton of blackout dates. If you can find dates that work for your schedule, you can travel anywhere in the U.S., the Bahamas, Dominican Republic or Mexico. Both Emily and Elizabeth hope to use their trips soon, as they put their plans on hold due to COVID-19. Samantha hopes to use her Mexico trip soon as well. She says she’s been working with a great travel agent with the company who has been helpful answering questions about COVID.

(Emily’s champagne flutes – Photo Courtesy of New York City Elopement Photographer Apollo Fields)

(Emily’s husband’s ring – Photo Courtesy of New York City Elopement Photographer Apollo Fields)

Where Were These Bridal Expos?

The expos that the BOLIs attended were throughout Long Island. They are the bigger ones that have a ton of vendors, as opposed to smaller expos at specific venues with their preferred vendors. The expos are run by different companies. Not every expo offers these contests. And if you’re not into being contacted, we suggest you could politely decline or provide an email address you create specifically for wedding planning.

Emily says that the expo she attended was at Nassau Coliseum in January of 2020. And the cookware presentation was held at a hotel in Garden City. Elizabeth says she attended her expo at the Garden City Hotel in September of 2021. And that cookware presentation was somewhere in Syosset. Suzanne attended the expo at the Marriott in Melville back in 2016, and that presentation was in Plainview.

Why Are They Targeting Brides?

While there’s no scientific proof of why bridal expos are targeted, it’s probably because brides are in the market for new items. For example, most brides are registering for cookware and houseware items – such as that crockpot or a set of brand new knives. So, these companies work with the companies running the bridal expos to offer prizes in exchange for awareness of their products.

But, Is It a Scam?

Bottom line. Most of the BOLIs we spoke to did walk away with some sort of prize. Whether they purchased something to get those prizes or not, they all say the presentation and the company running them seemed legit. Yes, it seems sketchy that every bride wins. And yes, it seems sketchy that you have to attend a presentation and get ‘pressured’ to buy something. But the reality is, you need to do what you feel comfortable with. If the person calling you sounds sketchy, just politely decline the ‘free’ prizes and laugh it off. But if you’re curious to see what is all about, take it from the BOLIs who attended – they walked away with some nice champagne flutes, a set of wedding bands and some trips they hopefully can use when the pandemic is over.

(Elizabeth’s wedding bands)

(Samantha’s champagne flute)

If all of this sounds way too out of your comfort zone, there are some tips we have at BOLI to protect you. First, we suggest you set up an email account specifically for wedding planning purposes. No matter how you contact vendors – be it an expo or not – your inbox might be flooded with tons of emails about their products. It’s best to keep that separate. Next, don’t give out any information you’re not comfortable with. And be prepared. If you do attend any presentation outside of the expo, be prepared to walk away if something is too good to be true or just seems off.

MORE: See the industry’s top wedding professionals at the Long Island Bridal Expo