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Bridal show first of its kind in region

By Laetitia Clayton -- lclayton@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Brides-to-be who want a different way to plan for their big day will find just that at the Blue Ridge Winter Bridal Show this weekend.

The show -- set for noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Winchester -- will feature high-tech, digital presentations on four theater screens.

"The whole philosophy behind the show is totally different from a traditional arena show," said Nancy Craun, president of Blue Ridge Bridal Shows. "This show is all about being personal. This will give more one-to-one" time between the bride and participating vendors.

The Alamo's lobby will be set up as a conversation area, Craun said, with small cocktail tables where brides-to-be can talk with premier exhibitors. Then, at certain times, the theaters will show presentations of different wedding options, including venues, honeymoon spots and gowns and tuxedos. The participating wedding professionals, such as Shenandoah Caverns and America on Parade, will be able to give a full, big-screen presentation of their venues. And instead of a runway show for gowns, the screens will show the latest fashions from New York and Paris.

"The theater doors will shut and the lights will go down," Craun said, just like going to a movie. Each of the four theaters will show different presentations that last about 15 to 20 minutes, she said.

One theater will be dedicated to the grooms-to-be -- and maybe even some fathers -- where they can watch ESPN on-screen while enjoying a beer or other beverage. During commercial breaks, the guys will see on the screen things they need to do for their wedding.

"They're gonna have a check-off list," Craun said. "Brides have actually thanked us for getting the guys there."

Although Blue Ridge Bridal Shows has put on shows in the area for the past six years, this is the first time it has changed venues and gone digital, Craun said, with the aim of creating a more relaxing, personal atmosphere and offering brides-to-be a new way to plan their weddings.

Most brides shop and plan online now, Craun said, and the digital show will go hand-in-hand with that, but with professionals on hand for consultations.

Craun said she has never seen this type of bridal show put on anywhere else; the idea came up when she and her staff were brainstorming.

"We do tend to do things differently," she said, adding that because her company is relatively small, it can adapt to change easier than some of the larger bridal shows. The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema was the only facility in the area that could support the technical aspect of what her company wanted to do, she said.

"Even the exhibitors are not used to it [yet]," Craun said. "The brides absolutely are excited and they understand."

In addition to creating a high-tech, movie-experience show, Blue Ridge Bridal Shows has been working to distinguish the Blue Ridge region as a wedding destination, Craun said.

"The Blue Ridge Shenandoah Valley is an oval," as Craun defines it, including Interstate 81 from Hagerstown, Md., to Harrisonburg; Interstate 66 from Strasburg to Haymarket; and U.S 340 in West Virginia from Charles Town to Elkton. The region also includes a "little bit of western Loudoun to Leesburg," but no farther east than that, she said.

By defining the Blue Ridge area -- and keeping it apart from the Northern Virginia/D.C. region -- Craun said it distinguishes the region nationally as a wedding destination and draws people from all over.

In addition to the Alamo show, Blue Ridge Bridal Shows hosts four other shows in the region at Charles Town Races and Slots in Charles Town, W.Va.; the Winery at La Grange in Haymarket; the George Washington Hotel in Winchester; and Historic Morven Park in Leesburg.

Sunday's winter show is the largest, so it will focus on the entire Blue Ridge region, Craun said. The show already has the largest attendance Blue Ridge Bridal Shows has ever had, perhaps getting close to 500, which Craun said is her goal. They are renting four of the Alamo's eight theaters, but next year, they'd like to rent the whole complex, she said.

"The venue is what gets the brides there," Craun said. "All of the other vendors seem to fall into place."

Admission to the Blue Ridge Winter Bridal Show is free. Doors open at noon at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, located at 181 Kernstown Commons Blvd., south of Winchester. To preregister for the show, visit www.blueridgebridalshow.com.



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