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Gifts are the Icing on the Wedding Cake

Engaging Concepts, strategic consultants to the wedding industry, gather the top tastemakers in wedding planning twice a year at the Engage! luxury wedding business summits. The events are famous for beautifully wrapped gift bags and branded merchandise, which incorporate function, fashion and fun. Attendees receive gifts before and during the three-day affair, including pre-arrival gifts that build buzz.

Rebecca Grinnals and Kathryn Arce are the masterminds behind Engaging Concepts. "There are lots of wedding and event conferences, but most are targeted to specific groups like caterers, photographers or florists," says Grinnals, company founder and president. "At Engage! we bring together everyone who touches the luxury wedding market."

Wedding and event planners mingle and network with high-end wedding personalities, including party planner Colin Cowie, bridal fashion designer Monique Lhuillier and cake maker Sylvia Weinstock. Gift planning begins five to six months out, since many products are custom designed. "We are willing to invest in our gift bags to keep the brand, event and story consistent," says Grinnals.

Alison Howard, a San Diego-based wedding planner, was so impressed by the gift bags that she devoted a 10-minute videoblog to the bag she received at Engage! Las Vegas last summer. "This was the first time I'd done a swag bag blog," she says. It was one of her most popular posts.

Each Engage! event has its own color story and logo, coordinated with the location. Engage!12 Palm Beach took place in December at The Breakers hotel. Its signature colors were "Tangerine Tango," silver and white. Two months before the event, Engaging Concepts sent out "countdown cubes" (photo cubes) to generate enthusiasm and mark the days until the conference. Three weeks before, guests received shoe bags and packing tags with suggested items to pack.

The "bling ball," a signature giveaway at Engage! events, is a name tag bearing a silver chain with Swarovski crystal balls that indicate how many of the Engage! events you've attended. Orange Lucite clipboards, pens and notepads were given out at the opening session. Male and female guests received separate gift totes with gender-specific items. For example, men received shaving items, while women got makeup, nail polish, accessories and orange pashminas. Everyone's bag contained other items too, including a Tango Trio cocktail kit in a branded suitcase, snack tins and an assortment of cleverly labeled products such as a clear vinyl luggage tag with shoe shine wipes for men, makeup remover for women, sunscreen and stain-remover wipes.

On day two, guests got a "Vitamin E!12" meeting kit in a customized orange juice box, with a custom USB drive, logo journal, eboost packet, logo microfiber screen cloth, and lip balm and striped pencil as a straw for the carton and more.

The events generate lots of social media feedback, as guests blog, tweet and post photos that may be relevant and useful to their clients. Grinnals notes a boost in attendees' use of Instagram, with over 700 Instagram photos transmitted from the Las Vegas Engage!.

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