Here comes the brand: how marketers are cashing in on wedding season

Taco Bell has hosted 60 weddings at its flagship restaurant in Las Vegas

We’re officially in the thick of wedding season, where Instagram feeds everywhere are filled with posts captioned “best day ever” and an onslaught of honeymoon pics.

While irksome to some, it seems that brands are having no problem indulging in bridal bliss, even if for selfish reasons. According to research firm The Wedding Report, Americans spent more than $56bn on weddings last year, so it’s no surprise that brands are looking for a slice of that lucrative pie.

From wedding registries to the big day itself, brands are finding all sorts of ways to weasel their way into matrimony. Last year, Taco Bell began hosting weddings for $600 a pop at its flagship location in Las Vegas, which includes a chapel inside the restaurant for ceremonies and a private area for receptions. Those who opt to tie the knot within the chain’s four walls receive custom merchandise - including a sauce packet garter and Taco Bell branded champagne flutes - as well as 12 tacos and a Cinnabon Delights cake for dessert.

Domino’s too has something to offer brides and grooms: a wedding registry for “couples who prefer delicious melty cheese to crystal gravy boats.” Wedding guests who visit the pizza chain’s registry - which made its debut last year - can choose from a number of marriage-themed Domino’s gift cards, like the ‘2 a.m. Bachelor Party Feast’ for $60 or the $25 ‘Post-Honeymoon Adjustment to Real Life.’

Even Georgia-Pacific toilet paper brand Quilted Northern has found a way to pique the interest of brides. Its annual wedding dress competition asks designers across the country to create gowns using only the brand’s toilet paper, glue, tape, needle and thread. This year’s top 10 finalists were flown to New York City to participate in a fashion show finale event at Kleinfeld Bridal, where the winner received a $10,000 prize.

While toilet paper and weddings may seem an unlikely pair, senior manager of brand building at Georgia-Pacific Rick Busby says the competition helps it talk about Quilted Northern’s product attributes with consumers without getting into the nitty gritty details about what actually goes on in the bathroom. As a brand that Busby describes as having a “passion for craftsmanship,” he says the competition allows it to talk about the quality of its products in a way that’s lighthearted, yet not reliant on bathroom humor.

“We thought the toilet paper wedding dress competition really reflected those brand values of craftsmanship - the attention to detail, the artfulness and creativity that goes into it,” he says. “I think it gives us an avenue to talk to people in a different context. Most people don’t want to talk to us about the bathroom context necessarily. They would rather talk about toilet paper as opposed to how they may consume toilet paper.”

Busby says the effort also helps Quilted Northern reach the coveted young consumer segment in a way that’s relevant to their lives.

“It gets us to that younger generation that all brands are seeking to really cultivate new relationships with,” he says. “This is a way that we can kind of reinforce the qualities of our brand while reaching that younger consumer who’s actively engaged in this of time of his or her life.”

For Taco Bell, the brand’s wedding efforts are less about reaching new consumers and more about giving its fans what they want. As a brand that’s garnered a rabid fan base over the years, opening a chapel and reception room in its Vegas restaurant has proven to be a success for the chain, which has hosted 60 weddings since opening up its doors last year.

According to Alec Treffers, communication and brand engagement senior specialist at Taco Bell, the chain has more than 25 weddings booked for the near future.

“The demand is most certainly there,” she says. “There are definitely no plans to stop.”

She says the brand decided to turn its Las Vegas location into a venue of sorts last year after noticing how many people were already incorporating Taco Bell into their nuptials. From Taco Bell sauce packet proposals to after-party catering, she says the brand has “been part of some major love stories” throughout its history.

And as couples continue to throw tradition out the window in favor of weddings that reflect their relationship and interests, Treffers says the chapel provides a way for Taco Bell-loving couples to get hitched while seamlessly incorporating the brand into their ceremony.

“We’ve recognized this shift away from traditional wedding trends like a sit-down dinner and matching bridesmaids’ dresses, in replacement for a more personal affair – one where every detail of a couple’s big day reflects their taste, style and relationship,” she says. “With those two insights at our finger tips, we knew wanted to do more to help our fans say ‘I do’ in a way unique to them and create the ultimate Taco Bell wedding experience.”

The company recently expanded its ‘Party Room’ within the restaurant so that newlyweds can “celebrate their big day with twice as many guests as before.” It’s also rolled out a merch line for couples who can’t make the trip to Las Vegas but still want to have a Taco Bell-themed celebration.

Despite being located in Las Vegas, Treffers claims many of the weddings it hosts aren’t the typical last-minute, drunken affairs that the city is best known for. She says many brides and grooms go out of their way to say their vows within the restaurant, with one couple flying all the way from China.

“Many of the couples who have said ‘I do’ with us planned their wedding well in advance, and flew their family and friends out to join.” she says. “These weddings are the real deal.”

Similarly to Taco Bell, Domino’s created its registry after hearing multiple stories about couples ordering pizza at the end of their reception to feed people, or ordering pies for bachelor and bachelorette parties.

“Weddings are something that we knew were part of people’s experience with Domino’s for many years,” says Jenny Fouracre-Petko, director of public relations and charitable giving at the company. “It was something that we had heard for a long time from stores and customers.”

The idea also gave Domino’s the opportunity to expand its eGift card program, which lets people send gift cards friends and family via email. Since launching the registry in February of last year, Fouracre-Petko says thousands of people have created registries with the brand.

“People continue to have a lot of fun with it,” she says. “Obviously selling pizza is something that we think about every single day, but engaging with our customers in new and fun ways is something that we really think about too.”

In addition to Fouracre-Petko’s belief that “pizza and weddings go together more than you might otherwise imagine,” she attributes much of the registry’s success to the fact that weddings occur year-round all around the world, meaning it’s something that isn’t limited to seasonal constraints and the like.

It’s a viewpoint that’s likely shared by other marketers who are looking to get in on the multibillion-dollar industry. While high profile weddings like Harry and Meghan’s never fail to attract the attention of marketers, it’s clear that brands are finding ways to carve out a space for themselves in everyday matrimony as well.

“Weddings are sort of a perennial thing - they’re always going to exist and they’re always going to come back,” says Fouracre-Petko.

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.

Come on in, it’s free.

This isn’t a paywall. It’s a freewall. We don’t want to get in the way of what you came here for, so this will only take a few seconds.