TRAVERSE CITY — Bride-to-be Courtney Jurica is looking for something a little out of the ordinary for her wedding.
Jurica and her beau both have autism and she is heading to the Northern Michigan Wedding Expo to get some ideas on making the day perfect not just for her, but for guests who also have autism.
“I want to chat one-on-one with some of the vendors,” said Jurica, of Traverse City. “I want to have an autism-friendly wedding.”
That may mean having a room where they can decompress when things get too stressful or having a ‘silent disco,’ where people dance to music heard only through headphones.
The expo, hosted by the Record-Eagle, is being held from 4-7 p.m. March 20 at Kirkbride Hall in the Grand Traverse Commons.
Tickets are $5 per person for those who pre-register and $10 per person the day of the event. People can pre-register until midnight March 19. Half of the proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the Cherryland Humane Society.
The wedding expo is a first for the Record-Eagle, said Megan Fuller, digital sales manager and event coordinator for the newspaper.
“We’ve been trying to incorporate more events as a way to be more involved in the community,” Fuller said. “People can come and chat with local vendors and find out what opportunities are available to them in the local community.”
The event also allows the Record-Eagle to give back to a local charity, she said.
Nicole Anderson is co-owner of 4 All Events LLC, a Suttons Bay-based company that does wedding planning. She sees the expo as a great marketing opportunity for her and her business partner. It is also a way to let brides know exactly what they do.
“The two of us show up and we do whatever the bride wants done,” Anderson said. “We set up the centerpieces, the tablecloths, the bridal table — if that’s what they want — and tear it all down at the end.
“If you’re worried about how your decorations are getting set up, you’re not having fun that day.”
Amy Budrow of Fife Lake is heading to the expo with her two sisters to see what’s available in the area. She’s hoping the expo will help her decide whether to have a wedding and reception locally or fly to Nevada and do it Las Vegas-style.
She doesn’t want a huge wedding, but there may be some frills involved.
“Because I’m not a girly-girl I’m leaning toward the girly-girl wedding,” Budrow said. “I think it will surprise a lot of people if they see me in a dress.”
The first 100 people through the door will receive tote bags containing wedding-related swag and there will be drawings throughout the event. A free wedding announcement in the Record-Eagle — a $50 value — will be given away every half hour, and $100 in downtown Traverse City gift certificates will be given away every hour.
One lucky attendee could win the “ultimate wedding package” worth thousands of dollars in wedding services, Fuller said. Each vendor has donated an item to be given away, including $1,000 off the rental of Kirkbride Hall, a wedding venue; $500 off a two-night rental of Kirkbride Suite, which sleeps 10; $1,000 off a photo booth; $500 off a wedding photo package; a bridal bundle with hair and make-up for the bride; and more.
A lot of the vendors will also be doing their own deals, Fuller said.
“It’s an opportunity to be face-to-face with local vendors because there are so many in the area,” Fuller said.
Candace Tomei of Candace Paige Photography took her first wedding photos when she was 18 — about 12 years ago. She said she’s excited to be a vendor in the Northern Michigan Wedding Expo.
“It puts you in a place where you can showcase your work,” said Tomei, of Traverse City. “People can meet you and get a feel for your style.”
It’s also nice to be able to put a face to a name.
“I think it’s so much fun to be able to talk to people, to shake hands with them and show them what I can do,” Tomei said.
The expo is also a chance for those who may be new to the business of weddings to get their name out there. Like Marissa Griffore and Audrey Hartzell, best friends who formed A&M Beauty about a year ago. The pair do hair and make-up for any event, but focus on the bridal business. They are based in Kalkaska, but will travel to a wedding site for the big day.
Griffore, who is the make-up half of the team, said they bring a lot of energy to what they do.
“It’s usually a stressful day for brides,” Griffore said. “There’s a lot of hustle and bustle. We make sure that they look beautiful and they feel beautiful and their day is going to be perfect.”