Wedding Planner

Meet the people working to end racial bias, include more diversity, minorities and LGBTQ+ in the wedding industry

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — Chanda Daniels is the creator of A Monique Affair, a wedding planning service, and Chanda Daniels Planning and Design.

“Every couple’s story is so different and I can walk that path with them,” Daniels said.

Daniels has been creating stunning weddings since 1999, emphasizing diversity and inclusion long before “D&I” (diversity and inclusion) became the buzzword it is today.

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“I had to figure it all out on my own, and it was a tough journey because there was no one like me,” Daniels said.

In addition to physical differences from other planners, Daniels, who is happily married to his wife, noticed that LGBTQ+ representation was virtually non-existent.

“After doing some research and looking at bridal magazines, I saw that there were no people of color and absolutely no LGBTQ+ couples,” Daniels continued. “For me, that was one of my passions because I didn’t want couples to have to show up to every wedding setup and have that opportunity of being turned down because all they do is is to express their love.”

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It’s been a ride, but you could say Daniels has arrived. She has been named top planner by publications like Brides, Harper’s Bazzar and Martha Stewart Weddings. She also shares industry knowledge that had been hidden from her for so many years.

“There was a need that wasn’t being met and people were just trying to do that,” Daniels replied.

Daniels is a founding partner of the Ethos West Collective, a group formed in 2020 to showcase black professionals in the luxury wedding space. Floral designer Melissa Sullivan, owner of Le Bloomerie, is a member.

“The cases were sent to me without hesitation and it’s great to tell you the truth,” Sullivan said. The Ethos West Collective helped her expand her client list and increase her sales.

“I approach floral design as if you were creating a painting or some type of artwork,” Sullivan replied.

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Her work speaks for itself, but Sullivan told ABC7 News that her three years in the luxury wedding industry were tough in some ways. She had to deal with micro-aggressions and the hostility of the premises.

“Customers are often surprised to see me sometimes if they’ve never seen me before, it’s a bit of a shock,” Sullivan added. “Sometimes I’m there and people think my assistant is the owner.”

Sullivan, like most wedding professionals, must be approved to work at a venue. In the wedding industry, there is what is called a “preferred vendor list”. This is a list of everything from florists to caterers and even DJs that the wedding venue prefers or requires couples to use.

“I made two vendor lists. Just two,” Sullivan continued. “I have to say, I would have to jump some hoops or be someone’s best friend to make it to that supplier list.”

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Preferred vendor lists have been the source of access control for decades, and whether intentional or not, so are posts.

“In the summer of 2020 – with the racial unrest following the murder of George Floyd, we really started having conversations as a team as well as with the marriage community,” said Anna Price Olson, editorial director of Brides. . “(We) realized we weren’t as intentional with our inclusivity as we intended to be.”

The 87-year-old brand launched its Diversity Pledge that summer to highlight its commitment against racism and its results so far.

In 2020, Brides called for 20% of their new real marriage stories to include black couples and overall 50% to include diverse couples. In 2021, 27% of new Real Wedding features released included black couples and 54% included diverse couples.

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“These are numbers, but our goal here is that we wanted you to feel seen and we want you to see a wedding and a bride and groom who might look like you,” Olson explained.

In the fourth quarter, 100% of new stories published by Brides with multiple sources had BIPOC voices. The Vendor Roundup released this quarter included more than 30% of companies belonging to BIPOC. Brides has been collaborating with the Ethos West Collective since 2020.

“My world has expanded knowing them and all the amazing people who are part of the Ethos West collective. From florists to photographers to planners and discovering talents that I didn’t know before,” Olson said.

There is clear evidence of progress. Daniels, Sullivan and so many other wedding professionals have grappled with the painful reality that some don’t equate darkness with luxury, but they plan to keep working at it to make sure they do.

“We’re locked into a certain style and type of wedding and that’s not all we do,” Daniels continued. “It’s about giving people the opportunity.”

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