Sure, you’ve heard it before. But it’s still a fact: weddings have entered a new dimension. Today’s weddings are a couple’s ultimate opportunity to define their style in tandem. Example: think of the ill-fated Kid Rock and Pamela pairing. What comes to mind is bikinis, wife-beaters, yachts, and timeless proof that anybody can have a white wedding, right?
Obviously, style doesn’t always mean stylish. But that’s where the design process comes in, and where branding becomes important — even with weddings. Including yours.
You see, style isn’t just about choosing between the gown with black detailing or the chartreuse sash anymore. With the internet opening up a true global marketplace, and consumers getting more style-savvy by the week, there’s no longer any reason why each individual (and couple) can’t pull together a celebration that they and only they could conceive of. Tradition doesn’t stand in your way. And now, lack of available materials, ideas and products doesn’t, either.
Fortunately, no one’s talking about sewing your own wedding dress or sketching each invitation by hand (unless you really dig that kind of thing). No, today we have pros out there to hold our hands, many of them amazing. Their job? To help couples bring a unique brand to their wedding … and their love story.
But … Branding a Wedding?
We admit it. At first, the idea sounds a little cold or corporate, maybe even a little cheesy. But think about what good branding means. Brands are symbols, nothing more or less.
At their best, brands evoke cherished emotions — recollecting them, you relive positive experiences stashed deep in your brain. In this sense, virtually everything amounts to a brand. Your summer cabin. Your famous martinis. Your relationship. When people think “Rob and Kimela,” they already think of you in terms of qualities you could liken to your own custom brand: inventive dinner parties, hilarious road trips, eardrum-punching karaoke.
And a wedding — from the engagement to the bridal shower, and the big day to the happily-ever-after — is the ultimate relationship brand. It’s also a ton of fun, as couples get a chance to play designers, and turn their whole wedding-planning experience into a flesh-and-blood event.
The Fine Art of Working With Artists
Understandably, branding starts long before showtime. “As soon as a couple’s chosen their location, we can start the design process,” says Erin Sarpa of EandI, a prestigious design firm based in San Jose, California. “Location plays a big part in defining a style and telling us who people are. So when a couple chooses a winery or a big old cathedral, that’s where the branding begins.”
EandI, which specializes in event and retail design, is getting so much wedding work via word-of-mouth that they don’t need to advertise. When people see the results at the reception, they rush to adopt it themselves … making branding one of today’s biggest would-be “secrets” in the wedding world.
As couples become increasingly aware of how design defines them, custom invitations are becoming a must-have. Once couples start the process with EandI, designing that first piece of stationary becomes key. The invitations set the tone for the whole wedding, Sarpa explains. “Getting that wedding invitation is just like meeting a person for the first time. You get a million little impressions of who they are within the first seconds.
“When people look at a well-branded invitation, they should know what to wear to the wedding without being told.”
Because One-Size-Fits-All Doesn’t
Choosing colors has always been ultra-important. But now, creating a logo is becoming just as central.
To put it bluntly, monograms are practically last millennium. In their place, we see more and more couples tapping designers for iconic images to paste on everything, from invitations and menus to the custom business cards that today’s brides are handing to their vendors. Popular symbols in logos range from trees to flowers, but quixotic choices like basketballs and surfboards aren’t hard to find. In short, anything goes … as long as your logo conveys some part of who you are, and what your relationship stands for.
Needless to say, logos are central to designing the wedding website, too. Firmly in the realm of “must-have” for weddings, customized web sites are the focus of high-end design businesses, like Alberta’s Box Clever, who transform sites into stylized statements as well as nuts-and-bolts planning tools.
“A lot of wedding websites just offer templates,” says Box Clever’s Steve Mebs. “But let’s face it — templates are boring. Younger couples want design … something original and customized.” Box Clever not only designs websites, but like EandI, creates entire branding packages for couples, carrying a unique design all the way through from custom invitations to stylish slide shows.
The finished product is often so slick, you could mistake it for a corporate product. And yet, the overall process is fun, and intimate. Mebs blends a lot of photography into his print, web and multimedia designs. “It’s the perfect way for relatives who don’t know the bride or groom to get better acquainted,” he says.
Box Clever works closely with couples so that all the images, fonts, and colors on their print and digital materials match the wedding’s overall look and feel. “And it’s a lot of fun,” says Mebs. “The couples get deeply involved in the design process, instead of just picking ‘invitation style 23.’”
And yet, far from generating more work for an already-overloaded couple, branding can actually lighten the load. As Mebs points out, once everyone settles on a design concept, Box Clever follows through with all the print materials, so the couple doesn’t have to drag through a complicated selection process for every little scrap of paper.
Best of all, the designers usually deal with printers directly. “There’s no reason for couples to have to engage in this overwhelming process,” says Sarpa. “And handling the printing process ourselves lets us maintain the quality we want.”
It’s Payoff Time
Eventually, the big day arrives. And partly thanks to the branding, the couple has already spent weeks focusing on what makes them unique as a pair; what makes them really them. Today, you won’t see much evidence of branding at the altar, apart from the programs and color schemes, but the reception’s a different matter.
A stylish event. A single, unified design concept. A party that’s every bit as cool, elegant or funky as the couple themselves … and yet not overdone (think Beyoncé, not Britney). This is what a successfully-branded wedding reception looks like.
Because regardless of what some pop divas seem to think, there are plenty of ways to convey an understated yet powerful personal style. For example, many couples are designing their own soundtracks as favors. When they already have a logo and color scheme, it’s child’s play to throw together a gorgeously professional insert and CD label.
Scents and Sensibility
Another up-and-coming wedding favor is customized perfume. Kris Wrede of New Mexico’s Kismet Potions ushers couples through the process of designing a custom-tailored scent. “Every perfume has a theme, a mood, an emotion it’s designed to evoke,” says Wrede. “A cool, elegant couple is going to want a different fragrance than a passionate, ‘let’s fly to Rome this weekend’ couple.” For weddings, Wrede bases scents on themes, colors, floral designs — everything that helps define the event.
Couples can label custom perfumes with their logo, and hand them out as special wedding party gifts … or even to the entire guest list, if they’re feeling extravagant. Kismet Potions often creates separate scents for both the bride and the groom, and for the male and female wedding party members. But as Wrede points out, a headline trend in today’s fragrance world are scents that bypass conventional gender barriers. In fact, many couples prefer one signature scent that ‘speaks’ for both of them.
Of course, for many couples, such a design-intensive favor can be more than a little expensive. A far more affordable alternative is handmade soap. Simple enough even for all-thumbs types, a creative pair can design both the scent and the soap using simple kits. And the local print shop can churn out custom labels with the wedding logo.
My Cup Runneth Over
All great celebrations boil down to two essentials: the drinks, and the dancing. The first is another great way to define your brand.
You can often prevail on local wineries to produce bottles for your wedding with custom labels. Couples whose style screams ‘spare no expense’ can even have a unique vintage blended up and bottled. Of course, those with a lesser budget and a good sense of humor could always do the same with Uncle Morty’s homemade merlot.
Others, who aren’t passionate about wine, often create their own signature drink for the wedding, named after some favorite memory or event. An unexpected payoff is that the branding rewards could extend far beyond your nuptials. Imaging cracking a bottle of your personal vintage on your tenth anniversary … or surprising your spouse with a tray of signature drinks at your first child’s graduation. “See son, mom and dad aren’t so dorky … just don’t ask why it’s called a Lime Green Bikini.”
Of course, drinking isn’t necessarily everyone’s thing. Maybe you met in AA, or through a Mormon dating site. In that case, you could ring up Element H2O, who custom-bottles water for weddings with your logo on the label. Tubs of icy cold spring water make a great (and sobering) addition to a wedding reception, as well as elegant favors and out-of-town gift bag stuffers.
Redefining “Life Style”
The list of ways that you can go about branding your wedding is endless. But the key to doing it successfully is not to go overboard. As one popular web designer said recently, “make a list of the top ten things you want … then ditch four.” Keeping the branding focused yet understated not only makes for a super-stylish event, it also goes a little easier on the pocketbook.
It’s unavoidable – branding does cost money. On the other hand, you can reasonably see it as investment … in a unique experience you’ll never have again. America’s divorce rate aside, this is a once-in-a-lifetime union with one particular partner.
In short, the process of consciously branding your wedding is a unique experience that most couples find well worth the expense. After all, we can paste the photos into albums and freeze-dry the bouquets. But the wedding day itself is an ultimate series of moments — all-too-fleeting ones that have to be lived as they come. And during that time, we define our union in a way that we carry with us for the rest of our lives.
Besides … if we must be buried under an avalanche of expenses, contracts and credit card bills, we might as well do it with style.
branding your wedding, wedding branding, wedding design, wedding style