Romantic Companies Around America
While candy and flower shops might be busy this Valentine's Day, they're not the only ones selling romance. Here are seven unique and fantastic businesses fueled by love.
For 25 years, one Indianapolis-based company has served up a taste of romance to nervous men looking for a creative way to pop the question or to couples wanting to give guests a fun favor on their wedding day.
Fancy Fortune Cookies specializes in personalized fortune cookies with flavors that run the gamut from chocolate and cappuccino to bubblegum and green apple.
Three or four times a month, the family-owned company is called upon to help with marriage proposals by baking specially made cookies with personalized proposals – and sometimes a little bling – inside.
"A few times we have had some very trusting individuals ship us their engagement ring," Erin Jump Fry, project manager for Fancy Fortune Cookies, told BusinessNewsDaily. "It never leaves the site of either my husband or myself, and we will actually bake the ring into the hollow part of the cookie along with the fortune saying 'Yes?' or 'Will you marry me?'"
The company also makes wedding day cookies, complete with special sayings like "With this ring I thee wed" and "Love doesn't make the world go 'round; love is what makes the ride worthwhile."
Being a part of such special events is an amazing experience, Fry said
"I love knowing that it's something they will remember and share as a couple forever," Fry said. "It's a small way to be involved in some of life's most magical, memorable and meaningful moments."
The cookies, which sell for between $27 and $87 for 50, are available online at fancyfortunecookies.com.
While beachfront marriage proposals and weddings are already romantic, one team of artists literally helps build on that romance.
Florida-based Team Sandtastic has been crafting giant professional sand sculptures for nearly 20 years, with a repertoire that includes specialized proposal and wedding castles.
The team of sculptors, led by Mark Mason, constructs about two romantic sand castles a month, and has a perfect record when it comes to getting the bride-to-be to say yes.
One of the most unique proposal creations went to a man who had always promised to propose to his girlfriend in front of the Eiffel Tower.
"We brought the tower to him on South Beach in Miami," Mason told BusinessNewsDaily. "We carved it with a likeness of the two of them at the base, and she said yes."
A castle created for a fisherman – with a carved medieval castle and the groom pulling in the "Catch of a Lifetime" – was among the team's most fun wedding creations.
Another was for a couple comprising a New York bride and a Pueblo, Mexico, groom.
"We carved a collage of icons from those two towns, and it was very unique to them," Mason said. "They liked it so much it became the evening's focal point for photos."
Mason enjoys being part of such romantic events.
"We understand it's a big responsibility to entrust your special day to a sculptor," he said. "It's something we take very seriously."
Pucker up for a Kiss Portrait
Few things are more romantic than a passionate kiss, which is why one company is giving its customers the chance to hang one on their walls.
DNA 11 has been immortalizing smooches for the past five years with their KISS Portraits -- colorful lip portraits aimed at couples looking for a modern way to show their special bond.
DNA 11 co-founder Adrian Salamunovic said the company came up with the idea when looking for ways to attract female customers.
"We're huge fans of Andy Warhol, so that was part of the inspiration; also think of those famous Rolling Stones lips," Salamunovic told BusinessNewsDaily. "This concept combines pop art, fashion and bio-art with a feminine twist."
To craft the "kiss," DNA 11 sends customers a kiss collection kit complete with all-natural lip gloss and a kiss collection pad with enough sheets to ensure they get the perfect smooch.
Co-founder Nazim Ahmed said it's nice to create something that is simultaneously romantic and a wonderful conversation piece.
"It's a great feeling to know that our art will be an intriguing part of someone's home," Ahmed said.
The portraits, which cost between $300 and $500, come in all different colors and sizes, with the ability to fit up to four kisses on one canvas. They are available online at dna11.com.
Proposal event planners
Michele and Marvin Velazquez specialize in romance. Known as the Heart Bandits, they run their own marriage proposal and romance concierge consulting service, planning personalized and unique marriage proposals for people all over the world.
Whether it's coming up with marriage proposal ideas, offering engagement ring advice or making photographer recommendations, the Heart Bandits take care of every detail to ensure the special day is nothing but perfection.
Michele Velazquez hatched the idea for her romance business after her boyfriend proposed. Marvin Velazquez did a good job popping the question, she said, but it could have been better.
"For instance, he proposed to me on a sunset cruise, but waited until the last minute of the cruise to propose, so we basically had to get off right after," Velazquez told BusinessNewsDaily. "Also, there was no one to take a picture of my special moment, and I really wanted that."
The duo has planned a wide variety of proposals in a variety of settings, including on the beach, in a park, with helicopter landings and on horses.
The Heart Bandits' most unique project was in Mexico, for a girl who was read a fairytale her whole life about a blonde, blue-eyed cowboy who would one day come take her away to live happily ever after.
"We recreated that childhood fantasy and arranged for her boyfriend to ride up to her on a white sandy beach in Mexico, on a horse, and whisk her away into the sunset," Velazquez said. "He proposed to her on another part of the beach that was set up with tiki torches and rose petals."
Seeing how happy and grateful her clients are makes the proposal business a special job, Velazquez said.
"It feels amazing, because I get to help people plan one of the best days of their lives," she said.
Hot air balloon rides
Scott Lorenz has been taking romance to new heights for more than 30 years. He's the owner and chief pilot for Westwind Balloon Company, which offers romantic hot air balloon rides over the lakes and woods of southeast Michigan.
While always popular for a romantic date, Lorenz said he's also been flooded in recent years with would-be grooms looking for a memorable way to pop the question. During his flight season of May through October, Lorenz said he has at least one proposal flight a week.
"It is an experience that is so unique and so profound," Lorenz told BusinessNewsDaily. "It is unforgettable."
The flights, costing $695 per couple, last about an hour. Once they get a few thousand feet in the air, Lorenz grabs a camera and films the proposal as a keepsake for the couple. So far, no one has turned down the marriage offer on one of his rides.
"There is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide when you're in the balloon," Lorenz joked.
In addition to the proposals, Lorenz has had newlywed couples fly off into the sunset following their nuptials, and some brides and grooms who use the hot air balloon as an attraction for guests at their wedding reception.
"It is really rewarding for me," Lorenz said. "It's really a thrill."
Wedding cake toppers
For more than a decade, Magical Day has topped off wedding cakes with its own creative touch.
The Georgia-based company specializes in custom wedding cake toppers, offering couples themes featuring dancers, musicians, hunters, beachgoers and members of the military.
The toppers, which are between 4 and 7 inches tall, are customized to portray the bride and groom's hair color and complexion and, if applicable, the groom's facial hair.
Owner Kim Lipscomb said she came up with the idea for the company after struggling to find a cake topper for her own wedding that didn't look all the others.
"I had this desire to make it a creative endeavor," Lipscomb told BusinessNewsDaily.
The most popular cake topper is the motorcycle-themed option, and Lipscomb says the most unique one depicts the groom seated in a wheelchair in a flower garden.
In addition to the cake toppers, which cost between $20 and $160, Magical Day offers a variety of other wedding accessories, including guest books, unity candles and flower girl baskets.
Lipscomb said it's wonderful being part of such a love-filled time in a person's life.
"It makes me so happy to know that our products are treasured keepsakes that witness a couple's love on their commitment day," she said.
Disney and Twilight wedding gowns
Dressmaker Alfred Angelo gives brides the opportunity to have their fairy tale wedding.
One of the world’s leading makers of wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses, Alfred Angelo released its line of Disney-inspired dresses in 2010. The collection, which costs between $600 and $1,200 per gown, was inspired by the essence, style and personality of seven iconic Disney princess characters: Ariel, Sleeping Beauty, Belle, Cinderella, Jasmine, Snow White and Tiana.
Alfred Angelo's Michael Shettel designed the Disney Fairy Tale Weddings collection, which includes grand ball gowns in layers of tulle and sparkle net, with updated fit and flare styles.
If Disney isn't your thing, the designer also recently released a dress inspired by the Twilight saga. The gown is a replica of the wedding dress worn by Kristen Stewart in "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1."
The gowns are sold in 2,500 wholesale stores worldwide, and in the company's own Alfred Angelo Bridal Stores in more than 15 states.
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Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who spent 10 years working as a newspaper reporter before working in public relations. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cbrooks76