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Weddings are Getting Branded With Personalized Favors and Experiences

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At Michelle Bonnice and Colton Flores’s wedding in Austin, Texas, in September, guests were given custom menus with a thank-you note from the couple; drank espresso martinis from an ice luge with the letters “M” and “C” carved into its side; and left with party favors of koozies featuring an illustration of their dog.

It was all part of Ms. Bonnice and Mr. Flores’s vision for their nuptials. “I wanted guests to feel like they were being invited to our event, for me and my husband, with our brand showing who we are,” said Ms. Bonnice, a 30-year-old engineer at Salesforce.

Like Ms. Bonnice and her husband, many couples are choosing to have so-called branded weddings, in which numerous elements are customized with a couple’s logo, illustration or other personal touch. They can range from small details, such as monogrammed place settings, to larger, more elaborate endeavors, like light fixtures that beam bespoke designs onto the dance floor. According to a recent survey by The Knot of nearly 10,000 couples, 63 percent felt that personalization was the most important part of their planning process.

To make their branding dreams a reality, Ms. Bonnice and Mr. Flores worked with planners at Simply XO Events, a wedding planning company in Austin, who created a nine-page inspiration board with various designs and suggestions for personalization. They ordered items from Etsy and other vendors, some free (a logo on guests’ photo booth pictures) and others on the pricier side. (Custom graphics displayed in front of two bars were over $2,000.) The end result “turned out great,” Ms. Bonnice said. Her only regret? Not having their logo appear on the aisle during the ceremony, too. “If I could have afforded that, having another custom moment there would’ve been really cool,” she said.

For some couples, the purpose of a branded wedding is to have a clear, cohesive representation of their shared values and their lives together. Others hope to stand out in a sea of cookie-cutter events or emulate the high-end look of celebrity weddings — and many are willing to shell out the money to do so.

Becca Atchison, the founding partner and creative director of Rebecca Rose Events in North Carolina, said it was not uncommon for couples to dedicate 25 to 40 percent of their budgets to branding alone. Trista Croce, the founder and chief executive of BTS Event Management in Phoenix, often sees clients pay “anywhere from $6,000 to $15,000” on branding, she said. And Nico and Lala, an online company specializing in branded weddings, offers customization packages starting at $1,000, with logo creation among its more expensive options.

Most of our couples are looking for branding to truly elevate the look and feel of their wedding,” said Lauren Perkins, the sales and marketing director for Nico and Lala.

Any aspect of a wedding can be branded, Ms. Atchison said: “The sky’s the limit.” For her team, the process can start long before the big day, as clients often also want logos on their save-the-dates, websites with specific fonts and patterns and custom bridesmaid and groomsman proposal boxes. “Couples are looking for a level of customization that is so far beyond what was out there even as recently as five or six years ago,” she said.

Millennials and Generation Z are leading the branding charge, said Allison Cullman, the vice president for brand marketing and strategy at Zola. One primary reason for this, she said, is social media. Young people “care more about what their wedding will look like in a social feed” than older generations do, Cullman said.

“Weddings have become a competition — who had the best details, who had the best band, who had the best food, all these things,” said Nicole Killeen, 30, a media strategist in Middletown, N.J., whose wedding in June included several branded elements. She and her husband, Christopher Corley, a sales executive, decided to have customized cornhole boards and napkins featuring their initials, and personalized matchboxes.

“It wasn’t that I was trying to blow everyone’s wedding out of the water,” she said. “I’m not Kim Kardashian — I don’t have that kind of influence on people.” Still, seeing other couples’ branded weddings on social media made her want to put on a standout event. “I’m a competitive person,” she added.

Some branded weddings do go viral on social media — which can motivate couples to put in the extra effort. “I’ve met a couple of brides who posted a few photos of their weddings and now they’re full-time lifestyle interviewers, just from doing that,” said Mackenzie Rising, a 27-year-old digital strategist in Dallas who offers wedding branding consultations for couples.

Couples on a tighter budget might choose the do-it-yourself route or other more affordable options. Ms. Killeen, for example, used the online design service Canva to create a logo, which she added to their invitations, wedding signs and seating chart with a Cricut printing machine. For any items she couldn’t brand herself, such as matchboxes for favors, she uploaded the logo to the custom goods site For Your Party, which then printed it onto her chosen items. The most popular custom items on For Your Party include cocktail napkins and matchboxes, said Sari Mintz, the company’s owner, who added that customers spent an average of $500 to $1,000 per order on branded goods.

Although creating so many personalized touches took a lot of time and energy, it was worth it to Ms. Killeen. The branded elements made the wedding “feel special and unique and gave it a little more of a luxurious feel for everybody that got to enjoy our day with us,” she said.

There are some drawbacks, however, especially for couples putting on D.I.Y. branded weddings without the help of professional planners. The more custom items you order, wedding experts say, the higher the chance for quality issues, shipping troubles and wide-scale mistakes. Ms. Croce of BTS recalled incorporating one groom’s family crest into dozens of details, only to discover on the wedding day that her team had been sent the wrong version of the image. The groom wasn’t fazed, but “my heart dropped into my stomach deeper than you could ever imagine,” she said.

The potential for day-of disasters aside, most couples are happy with the results. Dianna Hughes, a 33-year-old marketing consultant in Miami, was elated when videos of her branded wedding earned over 257,000 views on TikTok. The three-day event, held in Lake Como, Italy, in July 2023, featured a custom newspaper with a front-page headline announcing the couple’s nuptials, candles hand-painted with the names of their guests, sweatshirts embroidered with their personalized logo and more. Seven months later, Ms. Hughes is still in awe of the scope of the branding and its impact on the entire event.

“People literally tell me to this day, even if they didn’t come to my wedding and have just seen it on the internet, that they’ve never seen details like what we did,” Ms. Hughes said.

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