Celebrating Black Women in Business: a boho-inspired wedding photoshoot

Images by Amber Robinson Raleigh Wedding Photography – boho wedding party

In June of 2020, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the local wedding and events industry, in Raleigh, began to have conversations about the lack of diversity in our professions.  As with many people and groups, we tend to recommend vendors and work with the people that look like us. We may only refer our couples to black-owned businesses because they are black themselves.  Or maybe we don’t even know about all the black-owned businesses in our area.  It was time to get out of our comfort zone and begin to “Bridge the Gap.”

The amazingly talents of Elana Walker (Elana Walker Events & Elux) and Aneesa Glines (Harmony Events & The Graham Mill) put together a phenomenal virtual forum, “Bridging the Gap”, in order to bring industry professionals together.  The goal was to 1. Introduce us to black-owned business owners in our area and 2. Begin an open discussion about race and the wedding industry.  We heard from over 30 business owners, some of which I admit I had not heard of previously.  Others I had known of, but never worked with on an event. 

Images by Amber Robinson Gavin Christianson Bridal S Dot Davis Makeup
Images by Amber Robinson Gavin Christianson Bridal Boho Wedding
Images by Amber Robinson Taji Natural Hairstyling Lily Rose Events

The panel discussion challenged us to see things differently.  For example, when a black photographer walks in to shoot a wedding, accompanied by a white person, she was often mistaken as the “second shooter” rather than the owner of the business.  We were also challenged to set goals and make changes to the way we do business that reflects the people we serve and want to work with.

And so the work began.  I took a hard look at our company, and engaged in some hard conversations with black friends and black business owners.  It was easy to make some changes to our vendor list – where we make recommendations to couples on who to hire.  I admit, it did not reflect a diverse group of vendors, and we needed to make some changes.  Secondly, we added more specific language to our contracts that protects employees from being targeted or harassed at events.  If an employee is discriminated against due to race, either by a client or their guest, or another vendor, they have the freedom to leave that event and not continue working. 

Images by Amber Robinson Raleigh Wedding Photography Lily Rose Events
Images by Amber Robinson Raleigh Wedding Photography Amazing Graze
Images by Amber Robinson Gavin Christinson Bridal Fall Wedding

In a conversation with Amber Robinson (Images by Amber), she called me out on the lack of diversity in my social media content and website.  She pointed out that it does not reflect the clients I say I want to work with.  And so, we decided to create some of that content.  Because I also wanted to work with more black owned businesses, one the planners on my team, Dawn, and I and collaborated to put on a styled shoot in the Fall of 2020.  This boho theme was fun to create.  This was our first styled shoot ever, we are proud of how it turned out. 

More importantly, I loved getting to work not only with black business owners, but WOMEN in business.  You guys, things are changing.  I know this is just a couple steps in the right direction, and we still have a ways to go.  But I am confident that the tide is turning. 

Images by Amber Robinson Quizine Orleans NC Fall Wedding
Images by Amber Robinson Raleigh Wedding Greenhouse Picker Sisters
Images by Amber Robinson Fall Farm Wedding
Images by Amber Robinson NC Fall wedding Lily Rose Events

I believe black lives matter.  I believe women are competent and strong.  I believe that everyone deserves a fair shot at making a living doing what they love, and we all bring something to the table.

Images by Amber Robinson Sugar Post Raleigh Boho Wedding

I was honored to collaborate with the following black-woman-owned-businesses for this shoot.

Amber Robinson – Images by Amber Robinson  (photographer)

Tay Brown – Amazing Graze Barn (venue)

Taji – Taji Natural Hair Styling

Sharon Davis – S. Davis Makeup Artistry

Crystal Butler – Quzine Orleans (catering)

Gineen Cargo – Gavin Christianson Bridal

Images by Amber Robinson Raleigh Wedding Photography Lily Rose Events

Florals created by Dawn Carr of Lily Rose Events

Specialty rentals provided by Greenhouse Picker Sisters

Cake/ cupcakes provided by Shanda at The Sugar Post Raleigh

Thank you to our models:

Will Little

Jamine Terilli

Jabril McNeill

Ama Kwabia

Eleanor Burns

Rachel Chapman

5 Things Every Couple Needs to Know before Planning a Wedding

1. Determine your estimated guest count. Before you begin planning, it’s a good idea to consider how many guests may attend the wedding. Between the two of you, discuss how many people you would like to attend and how many you think may actually attend. It is probably helpful to include parents or immediate families in this discussion; and you’ll want to include anyone who is financially contributing to the wedding. Their input may sway those numbers one way or the other.

Knowing your estimated guest count will help in your venue search – you’ll need to make sure you have a space big enough to comfortably seat and entertain your guests. Your guest count will also have the most significant impact on your budget in terms of food & beverage and rentals. For every person attending, you will not only need to serve drinks, appetizer and/or a meal, and dessert, but everything they will need to enjoy those things – think china, glassware, flatware, and linen napkins. The more guests you have, the more tables you have. While venues often provide the table itself, table linens will have to be rented, and you’ll need a centerpiece for each.

Tuckers Photography Expressions of Love florist CE Rental NC Wedding

2. Budget Wisely. Be thoughtful about your budget. When planning a wedding, it can be easy to lose track of spending and before you know it, you’ve blown the budget. Be intentional about the things that are most important to you. I tell couples that their budget is just a list of priorities with a dollar amount next to it. It makes sense to spend more on the things that are important to you. Are you a big foodie? By all means, have fancy hors d’oeuvres and multiple desserts! Do you love music and want a party vibe? Splurge on a live band!

Consider the things that will last vs. those that won’t be remembered past your wedding day. Your photos (and video) will be something you cherish forever, perhaps looking back at them each year on your anniversary, and showing your kids. It’s well worth the higher cost to hire a professional photographer to capture all those important moments.

Your priorities may differ from your partner’s priorities. And that is okay. It’s important to discuss so you can account for all those things before you start spending. And check with anyone else who is helping pay for the wedding. They may have some “must haves” on their list, too.

3. Don’t hire your friends and family as vendors. Let your loved ones enjoy the day and celebrate with you! No one wants to work your wedding when they can be partying with you. Asking your friends or family member to “work” puts them in a tough spot of wanting to be a guest but also wanting to help you out. They will be pulled into responsibilites for the day that don’t allow them to relax and be a part of the festivities. Vendors should not consume alchohol while on the job; however, friends and family are encouraged to partake from the bar. Having a friend/ family act as your vendor creates a grey area in which they may not act as professionally as you’d expect.

Images by Amber Robinson Raleigh Wedding Photography Amazing Graze

4. You get what you pay for. You may have heard this, growing up, from a parent or teacher. If a deal seems too good to be true, it usually is. It can be tempting to hire a wedding vendor who gives you a bargain price. But buyer beware, that may come with more headache that it’s worth. Often, vendors who offer lower pricing are not making anything (or very little) from your event. “Doing a wedding” may be their weekend hobby they enjoy on occassion. You will probably discover they do not carry liabilty insurance, may not have a legally-binding contract (which protects them AND you!) and they may not even be licensed to do business in your state. You should expect to pay more for a vendor’s experience. Ask how many weddings they have done, how long they have been in business. You will feel so much more at ease on your wedding day, knowing you are in capable hands.

5. Hire a wedding planner! Already feeling overwhelmed by reading the first four? You need a wedding planner. Wedding planners can help you navigate all of these discussions and decisions. Chances are, this is the first wedding you have planned. You aren’t expected to know “ALL. THE. THINGS.” But guess who does? Yep, a wedding planner! He/she has planned dozens if not hundreds of weddings, and has seen it all. A wedding planner can help you avoid pitfalls, can calm your nerves when too many family members are weighing in, and always has a back up plan for the “what if’s”. A planner can take the vision in your head and make it come to life. They literally can do magic, if you trust them. Of course, I am a little biased, but I’ve been told that hiring a wedding planner is the best money spent.

JP Pratt Photography NC Mountain Wedding Meristem Greenhouse Picker Sisters CE Rental