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Many a blushing bride will saunter down the aisle in the coming year, but before that big day, a little planning is in order.

In fact, as soon as the ring goes on the finger — if not before — women start making their wish list for the day many have dreamed of since they were little girls.

According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, 12,382 couples were married in West Virginia in 2013, the most up-to-date statistic. Of those, 5,654 — about 45 percent — were first marriages for both the bride and groom.

For each of them, the 2015 Wedding Expo, hosted by the Charleston Civic Center, is here to help. On site you can discover more than 75 local vendors that have teamed up for the 11th annual event to be held on Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

“The Charleston Wedding Expo is truly a one stop shop for brides of all types, no matter how soon or far away their wedding date,” Civic Center Events Coordinator Bobbie Nichols said.

Here’s why.

Representatives from caterers, florists, ceremony and reception venues, honeymoon destinations, bridal gown and tuxedo shops, event planners, photographers, DJs, cosmetologists, limousine companies and more will be on hand to help couples plan every aspect of their special day. You can sample wine and cheese, wedding cakes and punches, watch a bridal runway show, compare amenities at different venues, see distinctive styles of photography and more.

Brides and grooms who register at the door are eligible for more than 80 door prizes valued at $100 or more including the grand prize, a three night honeymoon cruise for two provided by Royal Prestige.

But before you book that honeymoon, there are a few decisions to make along the way to becoming Mr. and Mrs.

Whether the bride dreams of wearing a princess-style ball gown, a sophisticated silhouette or doesn’t have a clue what kind of dress strikes her wedding-day fancy, the Expo’s fashion show is sure to help. Vendors and local models bring the pages of bridal magazines and television shows to life on the runway and at display tables for an up-close and personal look at fashion and color trends for the entire wedding party.

Jean Skaggs, of Jean Ann’s Bridal shop in Beckley, will have nine models ranging from 12 to 35 years old featured in her runway show at the Expo.

“We choose our models from girls who work for us and family and friends,” Skaggs said. “Most people think models are a [size] 2 but, when dresses are sent to us for shows they can range from [size] 6 to 16. That determines our models.”

Jean Ann’s carries 10 dressmakers including Allure and House of Wu, three bridesmaid dress companies and 15 prom dress companies. Prices vary from $99 to $1,700.

Like other shops, she offers a large variety in stock, but special orders can take “from 2 weeks to 6 months,” so getting that perfect dress early is key.

Skaggs said ivory and lace are trending for 2015.

For more information about Jean Ann’s, visit or call 304-255-0002.

Other bridal shops scheduled at the Expo this year include The Boutique by B. Belle Events, Nandel’s, Rose Tree and David’s Bridal.

While many brides opt for the traditional church wedding, some are drawn to the idea of a country club wedding, a destination wedding or something more unique. Vendors at the Expo bring endless options to the table.

“If you are looking for that fairy-tale venue — a really special place, look no further than Berry Hills,” said Eric Stacy, general manager of the country club located south of the capitol city.

There you will find the outdoor “Celebration Garden,” which seats up to 325 and the indoor ballroom with seating for 250.

“People are surprised at the rental cost for the garden which runs at about $500 for 4–5 hours,” he said.

For more information about Berry Hills Country Club, visit

For a West Virginia destination wedding complete with cabin accommodations for guests or the honeymoon couple, see representatives from Adventures on the Gorge. A ceremony with a view of the New River Gorge in Fayette County sets the stage with the natural beauty of the Mountain State.

“Wedding packages, on the low end can start at $4,000 and go up to $35,000, depending on the up-grades you choose,” said Jessica Campbell, director of events.

For more information on this option, email

The Blennerhassett Hotel, The University of Charleston and many other venues will also be featured at the Expo to answer questions about amenities, availability and cost.

From a simple cake to elegant fine dining, area brides can sample the wares of bakers and caterers during the Wedding Expo.

Booking nearly half their wedding business as a result of the expo, Laura Withrow of Cheerful Heart Catering in Charleston has attracted attention from brides there for four years.

Cheerful Heart always displays an ice sculpture, fruit carving and a smörgåsbord of candies, Withrow said.

A tip from the pro — Be sure to sample menu items before making a selection, and book your caterer six months in advance of the big day.

“We want everyone involved in making the decisions about food to come in and taste-test,” she said.

For more information about Cheerful Heart Catering, call Withrow at 304-419-5838 or email

Other vendors offering samples at the expo include Distinctive Gourmet, Liquid Catering, Zando’s Catering Unlimited, Inc. and more.

Preserving memories of your special day in photos and video is a must for the modern bride. Several professional photographers will display their work and offer a variety of photo packages at the expo again this year.

Amanda Parsons of Shooters Photography said she has been a part of the event for at least 10 years, and she loves connecting with clients at the expo.

When the big day arrives, she said her job is to make sure the bride knows Parsons “has her handled.”

“You have one chance to capture those memories,” Parsons said. “It takes a real professional to make the bride feel comfortable, to blend in with the family and really capture the spirit of the day.”

Newly remarried herself, Parsons, who normally shoots 40 weddings annually, is making time for her own family and has become very “selective with her clientele.” She expects to choose only 15 clients in 2015.

For more information on Shooters Photography, call Parsons at 304-521-3069 or visit

Other photographers expected to bring in framed photos and portfolios to display their artistic style include Elegant Productions Videography, Jessica Ellis Photography, Musick Photography, Sarah Garland Photography, and Shay Dolce Photography. For an entertaining twist to traditional photos, Shifoto Studios will display a photo booth.

Nichols expects “around 1,200 attendees with between 500–700 brides” at the 2015 event. Admission is $5. For more information visit

The average wedding costs an estimated $22,500, according to, a website resource “created to help couples understand real wedding costs.” But don’t panic. Most people spend less than $10,000 celebrating their nuptials — but those who have unlimited resources and go “over the top” drive the average sky high.

Either way you go, the wedding industry is big business. You can find helpful tips and spending guidelines by visiting

Planning your wedding day can be thrilling if you begin early and stick to your budget. The 2015 Wedding Expo is one place to start.

Reach Marta Tankersley Hays at, 304-348-1249 or follow @MartaRee on Twitter.

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