As social justic protests swept across the globe and prompted new levels of awareness last summer, changes were also happening in the wedding world. Locally and nationally, professionals in the industry are uniting together to empower their fellow business owners who are Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC).
How does that relate to your wedding? Your big the people who help make your vision a reality. day creates memories that last a lifetime—and Here are a few simple things you can do to support planning that day can have a lasting impact on 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, and keep BIPOC-owned businesses in mind. “There are a multitude of amazing and talented BIPOC vendors who are looking for a seat at the table,” says Mikel McGee of 414loral. “These vendors are often the ‘best-kept secret’” and deserve more recognition (and clients). Also keep in mind, however, that you should view diversity as more than a trend du jour: Consider such businesses as you would any vendor, and hire based on merit, expertise in their field and whether their style aligns with yours.
Besides hiring traditional wedding vendors, think outside the box for other wedding needs. Shalisa Smith, makeup artist and owner of Shalisa Elizabeth Artistry, suggests purchasing wedding party gifts from a Black-owned business, for example, or having your rehearsal dinner at a BIPOC-owned venue. “The opportunities to support are endless!” she says.
2. THANK YOUR VENDORS BOTH DURING AND AFTER THE PROCESS. A little bit of kindness can go a long way in supporting all the people who work tirelessly to bring your vision to life. Offer to donate to an organization in their name or give them a gift card to a local business to show how much you appreciate them. Likewise, Smith notes, you can also thank them buying gift cards for their services to give to others.
3. CONTINUE TO SHARE THAT APPRECIATION FOR YOUR WEDDING VENDORS AFTER THE BIG DAY. Write reviews and testimonials about your vendors’ products and services. In a world of smartphones, we often judge by the reviews that are 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.
It’s little things like this that can help BIPOC- owned businesses expand to a larger client base, says photographer Amanda Evans. “Many times clients in any industry are quick to share a negative experience they may have encountered, but not as likely to share positive experiences. Word of mouth goes a long way in our industry. Tagging artists and vendors on social media, leaving reviews on Facebook and Google, and telling family and friends help our businesses to grow and thrive. I’m very confident that I provide a great service for my clients, but it’s a matter of potential clients knowing that I even exist.”
4. PROMOTE YOUR VENDORS ON SOCIAL MEDIA. Like, comment and share the work that your vendors post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. To put your intentions front and center, Smith suggests using a Black-owned business as a backdrop for your engagement or wedding photos and share them on social media. Or find a cool mural created by a BIPOC artist to pose in front of, such as those in Black Cat Alley in Milwaukee, which features an array of muralists.
5. BE OPEN ABOUT YOUR OWN BACKGROUND AND THE POSSIBILITY OF DISCUSSING DIVERSITY WITH OTHERS. Express yourself and share your heritage with your vendors. They can use it as inspiration in planning for your wedding. Embracing your families’ marriage traditions and beliefs can be a powerful starting point for planning your wedding, and it’s empowering for people to see you showcasing your cultural background, especially if they see people like themselves reflected in your celebration.
Planning with a more diverse team of vendors can also present an opportunity for discussions with friends and family. Sometimes these discussions take people out of their comfort zone, but they can also lead to constructive conversations where everyone learns something new or starts to see life from a new angle. Greater awareness and a deeper understanding of people who aren’t “like me” can help normalize the notion of diversity — that we’re all different in our own unique and beautiful ways, yet share as much or more in common with each other.
6. 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 more inclusive communities or helping level the playing field for people from marginalized communities. In lieu of registry gifts, ask your guests to donate to an organization in your honor. Or instead of party favors, 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 McGee, Smith and Evans, and are run by BIPOC leaders:
• ACLU of Wisconsin is a state affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Organization. It is best known for its work in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend the civil rights and liberties of all citizens.
• The DREAMer Next Door is a scholarship program for matriculating Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM)—young people who were brought here as children without documentation—who do not qualify for the federal college financial aid because of their DREAM status.
• The Milwaukee Urban League Young Professionals, an auxiliary arm of the Milwaukee Urban League, offers pro- fessional development opportunities through community service and networking.
• Public Allies provides leadership training opportunities with the goal of creating a more equitable society through more diverse leadership.