Choosing the color scheme, the dress and the flowers are among the many details that most brides-to-be look forward to when it comes to planning a wedding. Consider for a moment that more than two million weddings take place each year in the U.S. and that Americans were estimated to have spent some $30 billion on these events in 2008. With numbers like that, the happy couples and their guests aren’t the only ones who should be getting excited about the idea of an upcoming wedding. R&I shops could stand to make a hefty profit on these happy occasions if they so choose.
From the dresses, flowers and decorations to the dinner, cake, music and gifts, opportunities abound for retailers who target the wedding market, and R&I professionals are no exception. After all, what bride and groom doesn’t want their wedding to be a memorable event for themselves and their guests, and personalized products are one way to make that happen.
Once the major decisions like location, color scheme, dresses and who will make up the wedding party are out of the way, the focus shifts to the smaller details. With a little bit of homework and some marketing savvy, you and your shop could help fulfill that need and rake in some hefty profits along the way.
Few things create a more memorable experience for the new couple than the personalized items and mementos that will remind them of their special day long after they say “I Do.” It can be something as simple as a ribbon with the couple’s name imprinted on it that wraps around a favor-filled box to a sterling silver cake knife engraved with their names or initials and their wedding date. Adding a personal touch to a wedding can be done in a thousand different ways and, lucky for us, with thousands of different products.
Napkins, matchbooks, toasting glasses and cake knives are just a few examples of some of the wedding items personalized with the couple’s names, initials or monogram. Today, the number of products that can be personalized and marketed with wedding planners and gift givers in mind has grown tremendously thanks to the versatility of laser engraving and the full-color capabilities of sublimation.
It’s traditional for newly-married couples to toast their commitment to one another at the wedding reception. Another long-time tradition is to have those toasting glasses or goblets personalized with their names and the wedding date as a keepsake. Personalized cake knives and servers also are popular wedding day mementos.
There’s a wide variety of wedding day items that can be personalized, not to mention many suppliers who offer these types of products. For example, Gravograph, Duluth, GA, offers several “New Beginnings” products specifically geared toward the wedding market that includes items such as crystal champagne flutes, stainless steel cake knife and serving sets, trays as well as engravable gift items for attendants and the bride and groom.
Creative Gifts International, Canton, MA, offers toasting goblets and knife sets with crystal inserts that are very popular right now. They also offer wedding cake tableaus, a tray of sorts that the cake rests on during the ceremony which can be used by the couple later, as well as various types of cake toppers that sit on the top layer of the cake as a decorative piece. These come in a variety of designs and materials such as acrylic, glass, brass, plastic, etc. When engraved or sublimated with the couple’s photo, they add a very nice personal touch to the wedding cake and serve as a treasured memento.
Attendant gifts are another area where retailers can cash in on some generous profits. The list can include the bridesmaids and groomsmen, ushers, the flower girl and the ring bearer just to name a few. The minister and musicians might also receive gifts.
It’s tradition for the couple to give a gift to each of these people that says “thank you” and “you’re special” while staying within budget. What could be better than having a message from the bride and/or groom placed directly on the gift item, making it both unique and personal?
Xenetech Global, Baton Rouge, LA, offers several gift items for this purpose, including heart-shaped, silver-plated jewelry boxes and key chains. One of Creative Gifts International’s most popular attendant gifts is the Tussie Mussie, which is used by the bride and her attendants to carry their floral bouquets.
Other popular bridesmaid gifts include vases, jewelry such as a bracelet or pendant and metal, glass or wooden boxes that can be engraved or sublimated and may or may not include a gift of jewelry placed inside. Other items that can be personalized in ways other than engraving include things like embroidered tote bags or cosmetic bags.
Retailers who want to target the wedding market should offer a good selection of the more traditional items, but they also need to keep their finger on the pulse of the market to keep track of new and popular gift ideas. Some popular items for groomsmen include pocket knives (particularly Swiss army knives), money clips, flasks and glass or pewter tankards. LaserSketch, Ltd., Lemont, IL, has a nice selection of these items and more, including a wide selection of Zippo lighters that can be engraved.
One of the more popular groomsmen gifts at Creative Gifts International is a drink holder known as a cozie or Koozie. They offer one particularly popular model which comes in 10 different colors with a metal plate on the front for engraving.
| Gift ideas for the ring bearer and flower girl should be age-appropriate. For instance, a young boy might like a bat or bank with his name on it, while a girl might enjoy a pendant with a name or personal message engraved on the back. Or, if you choose to enter the embroidery market, a bag with their name embroidered on the front is a nice idea as well. A Christian medal such as those offered by Classic Medallics’ Singer Division, Mt. Vernon, NY, is another popular item for attendants.
Weddings offer many opportunities for engraving and sublimation professionals, including the guest book at the reception. Instead of a plain book and pen, remind your customers how much more special it would be that day and in the future if both of these items were personalized.
Retailers who currently cater to the wedding market say when it comes to these events, you should be ready for almost anything. For example, Linda Draper from Engravables Plus, Boothbay Harbor, ME, recalls one customer who happened to be a cattle rancher who purchased a set of toasting glasses and asked to have “Bull” engraved on the groom’s glass and “Heifer” on the bride’s glass.
Draper says she was also surprised to learn that some brides order their engraved items more than a year before the wedding, while some grooms wait until the week before the wedding to place their orders. And as far as engraving fonts go, she says she has found that most females prefer a script font and most males prefer Roman. Both of these pieces of information can help you when you’re working with the couple.
It’s become a popular trend to include wedding favors at the reception. These are considered a type of memento or keepsake that each guest can take home with them as a remembrance of the special event. When you consider that most of today’s weddings average over 100 guests, it doesn’t take long to realize that offering to make and/or personalize wedding favors as part of your services could be a very lucrative business
There are many different types of items that can be used as favors. A tea light candle or personalized bud vase are a couple of ideas, while some people prefer picture frames. For a more personal touch, these items and many more can be engraved to include the date, the bride and groom’s names and even a short message or sentiment.
Traditional weddings are still very popular and make up the lion’s share of those held each year, but weddings with a particular theme are also a popular trend. A tropical theme or something to do with motorcycles, Hollywood, etc. can be used during the wedding ceremony, but it also can be carried over to the reception by using decorations and favors with that same theme.
EJ contributing writer Dale Gruver of GLG ART Custom Engraving, Tampa, FL, can attest to that. He was approached by a customer planning a wedding with a tropical theme who asked him to create some wedding favors for the occasion. He used a combination of his laser engraving system and sublimation to create some very unique table toppers and other favors for his customer (see the July 07 issue of EJ for an article on how these items were created).
Themes can also be more subtle, such as with weddings that take place around a holiday. For example, someone who is having a December wedding could use engraved ornaments as their wedding favors, or a leaf-shaped ornament could be used in an autumn wedding.
Bride & Groom Gifts
Gifts for the happy couple are yet another area where there’s potential for huge profits for R&I shops, especially if you carry some of those items in your store as opposed to taking in outside items. Engraved silver trays continue to be a traditional favorite when it comes to personalized wedding gifts, but there are so many choices these days that it can be fun to suggest both the traditional and not-so-traditional gift ideas to customers.
With all of the technology available today, almost anything the couple enjoys can be incorporated into a unique gift idea. The best way to come up with these ideas is to ask your customers questions. For example, are they avid golfers? Are they wine connoisseurs? Award suppliers like R.S. Owens, Chicago, IL, offers elegant gift sets for wine drinkers and golfers that include a wooden carrying case filled with various accessories, complete with an engraving name plate for personalization.
Xenetech Global offers two versions of its popular silver-plated wine bottle stoppers. In addition, Creative Gifts International has laser engravable optic crystal stoppers.
| Wedding photos are a huge business all by themselves. Everybody wants their special day captured on film and they pay a lot of money to professional photographers to ensure this happens. R&I shops can make these photos even more special by creating personalized products in which the photos can be displayed. Personalized picture frames and photo albums are among the most popular photo gift items, and with the right touch these items can become treasured keepsakes all by themselves.
Besides the rings exchanged during the wedding ceremony (which, by the way, are popular items to have engraved with names or initials, a date and even a short message), some couples also present each other with another meaningful or personalized gift on their wedding day. This is something you might want to suggest to the bride and/or groom if they come into your shop without the other. A classic gift for the groom is engraved cuff links or an engraved watch, while the bride will typically enjoy things like personalized jewelry or a picture frame that she can place a wedding photo in after the special day.
Some couples also will present gifts to their parents on their wedding day. Again, this is a great opportunity to suggest a personalized product such as an engraved picture frame or some other item which would serve as a treasured memento from the
As you begin to think about weddings, remember that a great deal of effort and decision making goes into planning these events. Make it easy for customers to work with you by offering ideas as well as a list of engravable items for them to consider.
While engraving may be the traditional method for personalizing wedding day items and gifts, it certainly isn’t the only method available these days. “Weddings are high value and an excellent opportunity for sublimation or, as we call it, digital decorating,” says David Gross of Condé Systems, Inc., Mobile, AL. Sublimation provides R&I professionals with endless opportunities when it comes to the wedding and gift market, he says.
For example, even before the wedding takes place, the couple’s engagement photo could be used on a variety of different items, including coasters or Koozies for the couple, their parents or even used as wedding favors. Any image relating to the wedding and a sentiment could be used to create an attendant’s gift or a wedding gift for the bride and groom. For example, Gross said one idea is to use a photo that captures the church or a flower arrangement along with the name and date to create a unique glass plaque or even a tile mural for the newlyweds.
A whole realm of possibilities opens up when a shop adds a laser engraving system to its equipment lineup. Instead of using a rotary engraver to simply place a date and the couple’s initials or name on a champagne flute, a laser offers R&I professionals the ability to engrave a photo or image directly onto a wide variety of items and substrates.
Besides lasering photos onto items, another popular idea is to have the couple’s wedding invitation lasered onto a gift item such as a plaque or the inside of a photo album. Believe it or not, lasers can even be used to create the wedding invitations themselves.
Trina Lawson, a trainer with Gravograph, offers advice to anyone who may be planning to laser a wedding invitation. “Don’t scan it in unless the original image is very crisp,” she says. “Your quality will be much higher by typing the words in manually if you can match the font.” Lawson also suggests making two passes at lower power when lasering wood to keep the flame down and produce a higher quality image.
When engraving on a new surface for the first time, it’s a good idea to experiment on some samples first. Dennis Frank of D & B Photo Albums, Dubuque, IA, says he always sends along some scrap wood with each order placed for just that reason. Once you’ve tested it, you know exactly what settings to use to get the results you want, says Frank. He also suggests that engravers be creative and experiment when they’re using a laser.
“Using different gray scales instead of always using black and white graphics allows you to get some interesting results,” he says. “I always color fill our albums for higher contrast between the engraving and the wood.” Frank said he uses Cabinet Magic furniture polish to wipe off the excess paint because it cleans and polishes the wood at the same time.
Engravables Plus, an Internet-based company, uses both rotary and laser engraving for its products. Before adding a new product to their inventory, they consider it very carefully to be sure it will work with their laser engraver. They consider whether their laser has enough power to engrave that item, whether the item will fit in the machine’s table dimensions and, if it’s metal, whether a metal marking solution will allow it to be laser engraved, freeing up the rotary engraver for other jobs.
Reaching Today’s Couples
If you’re looking to increase your business by tapping into the wedding market, most experts agree you should seriously consider using the Internet to reach potential customers. More than half of engaged couples (considerably more according to some statistics) do research on the Internet as part of their planning process.
Also consider that the biggest percentage of brides and grooms are in their 20s and 30s, and this is a group that tends to spend a lot of time on their computers. Keep in mind that this is also how more and more guests tend to research gift ideas and/or shop for gift items these days. Rex Tubbs of The Engraving Connection, Plymouth, MI, can attest to this. “I’m doing more business through the Internet today than I am from my shop. Today’s couples are very Internet savvy.”
Tubbs has had people send him rings to engrave from as far away as California. Although the economy is down in nearby Detroit and the rest of the country, he says his business continues to grow. Tubbs says he is a firm believer that couples should hire a true “wedding engraver,” an expert in the field, for all of their engraving needs just as they would hire a wedding photographer and/or videographer for their picture and video needs.
A computer is mandatory if you want to create a web presence. Most brides and grooms-to-be will E-mail you with questions and/or requests and they expect a prompt reply. Retailers advise that you should check your E-mail at least a couple times each day—maybe when you open and close the shop. If you do not respond, potential business will go elsewhere.
Adding wedding engravables to your website is a must if you plan to increase your sales by reaching this market. But even then just showing the items you offer is not enough to get a potential customer to make a purchase. The items you present should include engraving on them. This will not only give potential customers ideas when it comes to what types of things they can have engraved, but it looks more professional and offers viewers a better idea of what a finished product will look like. Customers want to see exactly what they will be getting.
Tubbs suggests that retailers should also offer more than just pictures of the types of items they can purchase. “Don’t just show products. Provide extra value on your website by offering viewers helpful information,” he says. For example, consider giving information about the history or tradition of these items and explain how or why they’re used in the ceremony.
Another service Tubbs provides is to offer some sample wording for wedding rings, and if guests register on his website they will receive even more ideas and suggestions through an auto-responder E-mail message. For example, each time a guest visits the engraved wedding ring page of his website they automatically receive an E-mail with an engraving idea. If the guest registers then they will receive five E-mails over the course of the next month with additional information. Tubbs says this has been a great marketing tool as he has a very high success rate of converting these site visitors into customers.
Bridal shows are another way to get your foot in the door. They help you learn about the industry and allow you access to potential customers in the wedding market. At these shows, engaged couples can see what you’re able to do. By bringing examples of popular and new items and creating a beautiful display for them you can catch the eye of many attendees. Experts in the field suggest having plenty of brochures and business cards on hand to pass out, but they warn this isn’t the time to get rid of those tired marketing materials. Make sure your materials are fresh looking and up-to-date, otherwise, if they’re worn or unprofessional, they could actually hurt rather than help your business.
Another marketing tool that Tubbs uses is giving customers a special gift when they spend a certain amount at his shop. “Some people like to go from shop to shop and ‘cherry pick,’” he explains, adding that he offers people an incentive to do all their shopping in one place. “I want to be their engraver for every wedding item.”
One very important sales tool to offer wedding customers is some type of bridal registry. Whether it’s on paper or in electronic form, this allows the couple to list what they would like to receive as gifts.
When creating a display in your showroom that a bride or groom will be attracted to, it’s important to consider current trends as well as some of the longstanding traditions associated with weddings. For example, one idea is to decorate the display with flowers (please use only high-quality silk and keep them clean). Other decorating ideas could involve fabrics used in weddings such as lace and ribbon.
As mentioned, the items you offer should be displayed in a way that attracts attention. This is a very emotional time for the couple so make them think “happy wedding.” For example, an engraved frame should include a wedding photo with a smiling couple. A cake server should be personalized, but you can draw even more attention to it by tying a ribbon around the handle. A serving tray could have a wedding invitation or wedding photo engraved on it rather than just the names and date. Pull them in by anticipating their wants and needs and by exceeding their expectations. Show them what they want to see—beautiful items that they will want at their wedding and beyond as they begin their new life together.
While it’s true that the summer months are the most popular time of year for weddings, remember that weddings occur all year long. It would be a great idea to increase the size of your display during the busier time, but don’t ignore this market during the remainder of the year. Make sure you have items on display in January and February too, even if the display isn’t as extensive as the one you might have in May and June.
Experts say that if you really want to get a slice of the wedding market, it’s best to familiarize yourself with the industry. One way to do this is by looking through bridal magazines to see what’s popular and what’s not. Many of these are really just large catalogs to guide the happy couple along their path to the altar. From these, you’ll be able to see what trends you need to stay on top of depending on where you’re located. For example, some trends such as using only the colors of black and white for weddings might be more popular in big cities than in small towns.
It’s important to consider who your customers are and then try to get into the minds of those customers. Know that the bride and groom are likely to be somewhat anxious and unsure about how to proceed, and be ready to make life simpler for them. If they can leave your shop feeling good about their experience and feeling as though you were helpful and professional, not only will they be more likely to purchase their wedding engravables from you but chances are they’ll remember you down the road for their future personalized product needs. Millions of couples are in the midst of planning their weddings and are likely searching for some engraving expertise. Why not be the person to fulfill those needs while boosting your bottom line?
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