By Alyson Krueger
For many couples who are planning a wedding, vendor selection is a key part of what brings their vision to life. They are searching for vendors who share their style, amicable personalities and work ethic. But for Maya Kachroo-Levine, 28, and Wyatt Cain, 29, who are getting married May 2, 2020 in San José del Cabo, Mexico, they have additional criteria when it comes to vendor selection: the company must be women-owned.
They hatched the plan while picking out an engagement ring at a pop-up event of jewelry designer Anna Sheffield. “The woman who was working there was so passionate, so fun to work with,” said Ms. Kachroo-Levine, a freelance journalist and copywriter in Los Angeles. “It sparked the idea, ‘why don’t we only use women for our wedding?’”
They say it also felt good to put all that money toward women entrepreneurs.
“My entire wedding team — it’s strong, fabulous women,” Ms. Kachroo-Levine said. “They are all so smart, they care very deeply. They are so fun, and they have such a beautiful eye for curating an experience. I couldn’t have gone with better people.”
Ms. Kachroo-Levine tapped the Los Angeles based fashion designer Nayantara Banerjee to create her wedding dress from sustainably produced fabric they picked out together. The wedding will take place at Flora Farms, a female-owned bohemian farm and restaurant full of fairy lights and wooden furniture. The night before the wedding, guests will dine at Casa Natalia, an 18-room boutique hotel full of local art that was launched by a Belgian woman who now lives in Cabo.
Gone are the days when couples choose wedding vendors solely based on their offering or location. Now many brides and grooms, are choosing companies based on their origins and ownership. And like Ms. Kachroo-Levine and Mr. Cain, many want to support female businesses.
For some couples, it’s about using the power of their purse to support entrepreneurs who have historically had fewer opportunities. Other couples simply feel more comfortable working with women. In some cases, they are even paying more to work with independent, local women business owners rather than larger corporate entities.
“Overall conscious consumerism is on the rise in industries across the board, and we are seeing that in weddings as well,” said Kristen Maxwell Cooper, editor in chief of the Knot. “Throwing a wedding can be such a big purchase, so more and more we are seeing the next generation looking at how they can harness the social footprint of their wedding.”
When Veronica Wells-Puoane, 32, the culture editor of MadameNoire, a lifestyle publication for black women, planned her commitment ceremony to Soils Tshepo Puoane, 34, a musician and music teacher, on Aug. 17, 2019 in Avon, Ind., she decided to work with women vendors and mostly black-owned businesses.
“I just feel like weddings are so expensive, ” said Ms. Wells-Puoane, who is also a founder of Upton Underground Market, a market for black women entrepreneurs. “And if you are going to spend money, I feel it’s important to spend money with the community and people who don’t have as many opportunities.”
Ms. Wells-Puoane said that seeking out these businesses made wedding planning more stimulating and fun.
Her ceremony was held at Avon Gardens, a lush outdoor space full of blooming flowers in Avon that is owned by Karen Robbins. Kounty Kitchen, a soul food restaurant owned by Cynthia Wilson in Indianapolis, catered the reception. Mama P’s Bakery and Cafe, a woman-owned bakery in Indianapolis made her wedding cake. Pantora Bridal, a black female-owned bridal shop in Brooklyn designed her dress. A friend and owner of an eyelash extension company in Indianapolis, Asian Minks, tended to her eyelashes and eyebrows, and her sister, Vanessa Rae Wells, served as her wedding coordinator.
“I will continue to patronize the businesses I worked with,” she said. “My father already ordered another cake from the baker.”
Other couples hope to use their weddings to inspire their family and friends to shop women-owned businesses.
Ashley Warren, 30, a stay-at-home parent in Waco, Texas, and Petra Warren, 37, who works for Sherwin Williams Distribution, were married July 28, 2018, at Paradise Cove in Orlando. Aside from the venue, they decided to hire only female vendors to set an example for their two daughters, who are 5 and 7. “I like to show them they can grow up and do anything they want to do,” said Ms. Warren.
Sensing the demand for services offered by women-owned businesses, other companies are working to match clients with these specific vendors.
For wedding music, the Warrens turned to Our DJ Rocks, an Orlando company of all female D.J.s. Kristin Wilson started the company 10 years ago when she was a part-time D.J., and found other women who could work the room more instinctively than their male counterparts.
“We can look at the bride at the table and tell right then how she is feeling, if she’s antsy, if she’s ready to start dancing, what she needs,” she said. “This intuition, I want to believe it comes more naturally to a woman.”
Now the company is so large it can produce music for nine events a day. Ms. Wilson estimates the company serviced between 800 and 900 parties and conferences last year. A big part of her growth is customers looking for female vendors. This year alone she worked five weddings where all the providers were women-owned.
“It started in 2015 when L.G.B.T. weddings became legal in Florida,” she said. “I don’t know why but same-sex couples wanted female D.J.s.” Now the trend has only grown.
The comfort-level matters to others, too.
“That was another reason we wanted female vendors,” said Ms. Warren. “I wanted a photographer that I felt comfortable with. It wasn’t like, ‘I have to hurry up and zip my dress before she comes in,’” she said. “It was more like our vendors were members of our family or a friend. There was no awkwardness to it.”
In March, Yelp launched an initiative where companies could mark their businesses as female-owned. To date, more than 70,000 businesses in the United States have done so. Reviewers have even gotten on board, said Miriam Warren, the company’s senior vice president of engagement, diversity, and belonging.
“We are seeing a trend of reviewers also mentioning if a company is owned by a female. It’s up 20 percent since last year and 54 percent since five years ago,” said Ms. Warren. “People want to be able to champion businesses. They want people to know where their resources are going.”
Natalie Neilson Edwards has a similar objective, although she’s tackling diversity of all kinds, not just gender.
After she got engaged over Thanksgiving in 2014 she couldn’t find the vendors she was looking for. Her parents are from Jamaica, and her partner is African-American, and they really wanted vendors who not only looked like them but also understood their cultures. “What I was really craving is any sort of magazine, any sort of blog, where I could see myself represented,” she said.
After having difficulty finding vendors that spoke to her cultural needs, she created Broomstick Weddings, a website that highlights a range of vendors across genders, sexual orientations, and ethnicities. Her company has a blog, a podcast, and a real wedding section. “I want to use my site to amplify people of diverse backgrounds in the wedding industry to offer more inspiration.”