As Civil Rights protests swept across the globe last summer, changes were happen within the wedding industry. Locally and nationally, wedding vendors and publications came together to uplift and empower fellow business owners who are Black, Indigenous or people of color (BIPOC). How does that relate to your wedding? Planning your big day, in itself, will create memories for a lifetime, and while it might not be obvious, that planning can have a lasting impact on the people who help make your wedding vision a reality. Here are seven simple steps you can take during your wedding planning process that can make a significant difference in furthering economic equity for BIPOC vendors.
1. CHOOSE YOUR VENDORS WITH INTENTION.
You’re already researching businesses, styles and prices, so take a few minutes to research the owners, too. Hire BIPOC-owned businesses when possible, but don’t forget that these businesses should align with your style and not just your ideals. As Chris Mai of Goodco Studios points out, “We want engaged couples to hire vendors because they’ve connected with their work—not [simply] hiring BIPOC because of a moral obligation. This is why equal representation throughout the industry is so important from the top. Showcasing how beautifully diverse our community is will empower couples and vendors everywhere. “ Christina Wachspress of Novella Theory Floral Co. says that she and her husband, Akili, entered the wedding industry because of their experience in planning their own wedding six years ago. She explains, “We wanted to change that process for other couples who felt they didn’t fit into the typical engaged-couple box. We didn’t see our style or personality and certainly not our appearance as a couple represented in the wedding blogs, publications or portfolios of vendors we interacted with.” Nowadays, a quick Google search can provide a few lists and directories of BIPOC-owned wedding vendors and restaurants. One such list, Vendors of Color, created by Jaime Ta of Jaime Ta Creative and Marcela Pulido of Marcela Pulido Photography, highlights BIPOC vendors in the Pacific Northwest region. Backed by experience and a wealth of knowledge, this duo is eager to further the diversification of the wedding industry. As Ta states, “Wherever you are at, it is always a good time to continue or start doing the work of being inclusive.” She adds, “Supporting vendors by hiring us for their wedding or event speaks volumes, because money helps pay our bills, helps level some of the economic disadvantages that BIPOC folks continue and will continue to face.”
2. BUILD RELATIONSHIPS WITH YOUR VENDORS.
Relationships are the foundation of every community; they uplift and open doors. You’re going to send your planner countless emails during the planning process, so while it may feel like a business relationship at first, thinking of that vendor as a friend could turn that correspondence into a lasting camaraderie. Rachel Larsen of Everglow Handmade says that she has received inquiries from brides looking to build relationships that last beyond the wedding date. “It is refreshing, and I am so encouraged by these brides!” says Larsen.
3. THANK YOUR VENDORS BOTH DURING AND AFTER THE PROCESS.
A little bit of kindness can go a long way in supporting the hard workers who bring your visions to life. Chas Thompson Thomas of Wildflower Portland recalls a couple who offered to donate to an organization in her name or to give her a gift card to a local business to show how much they appreciated her, which, as Thomas says, “was incredibly thoughtful and just rad!”
4. CONTINUE TO SHARE THAT APPRECIATION FOR YOUR WEDDING VENDORS AFTER THE BIG DAY.
Write reviews and testimonials about your vendors’ services and products. In a world of smartphones, we often judge by the reviews that are right at our fingertips. Taking a few minutes to write about how well your vendors treated you or how beautiful their creations are can help them immensely. And good old-fashioned word-of-mouth referrals help both the vendors and your engaged friends seeking advice. It’s little things like this that can help BIPOC-owned businesses bloom.
5. PROMOTE YOUR VENDORS ON SOCIAL MEDIA.
“Like,” comment and share the work that your vendors post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. A simple click is a great way to help them receive more views, although Ta reminds us to ask ourselves if we’re also doing this work outside of social media.
6. HAVE ENGAGING CONVERSATIONS ABOUT DIVERSITY.
Ta suggests that progress also can be made by having discussions about racial justice, diversity and inclusion with wedding vendors. Express yourself and share your diverse heritage with your vendors. They can use it as inspiration in planning for your wedding. Embracing your own unique marriage traditions and cultural beliefs can be a powerful starting point for planning your wedding, and showing off your background can empower others to feel confident about their own. Planning also presents an opportunity for these discussions with your friends and family. Officiant Jimmie, a Black officiant based in Portland, says that some people have chosen not to hire him out of fear that it will cause a conflict with their friends or family. While it is a difficult conversation to have, confronting the possibility of such a conflict could be an opportunity to have a constructive discourse with your relatives. Having these conversations can educate, bring awareness and allow others to better understand, accept and normalize the fact that everyone is different in their own unique and beautiful ways.
7. PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS AND INCORPORATE CHARITABLE GIVING INTO YOUR CELEBRATION.
Consider forgoing the traditional wedding registry and instead donate to organizations that are working toward a more inclusive community or helping lift up marginalized communities. In lieu of registry gifts, request that your guests donate to an organization in your honor. Or, instead of giving favors to your guests, leave a little note card at their place setting informing them that you have donated in their honor to your organization of choice. As always when making donations, be sure to vet the organizations beforehand to verify that they are legit. Don’t have time to research them? Here are a few local organizations that were suggested by Ta and are run by BIPOC leaders:
Equitable Giving Circle aims to empower the BIPOC communities of Portland through small donations, event fundraising, volunteering and community building in an effort to advance economic equity. Its community involvement ranges from supplying those in need with community supported agriculture boxes to offering training and education in diversity, equity and inclusion.
Feed the Mass is a nonprofit cooking education organization that offers affordable cooking classes to the community. Its goal is to empower community members by giving them access to knowledge about healthy eating and cooking, as well as providing meals to those in need during difficult times.
Vendors of Color was started by Ta and Pulido to help promote diversity in the wedding planning industry. This free directory listing of Pacific Northwest BIPOC vendors helps couples find vendors of color and hire them for their weddings.