Spring is approaching and that means wedding season is not far behind. While planning a wedding can be a challenge for some couples, for many Black, Indigenous and people of color in Minnesota, finding venues and vendors to meet their families’ needs can be even harder. But one local business is helping to change that.
Colorful Weddings connects couples to businesses owned by people of color who specialize in catering to cultural weddings and celebrations.
At the most recent Colorful Weddings fair at Mosaic Venue near Downtown Minneapolis, Lauren Alvarez and her fiancé, Noel Garay, were one of a few dozen multicultural couples, families and friends exploring the local businesses set up around the room.
Alvarez is Cuban and Garay is Nicaraguan. Alvarez says she has been struggling to find the right venue and vendors to meet her family’s needs and noticed other businesses didn’t appear to market their services to people who look like her and her family
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“All the pictures, literally all of them, everywhere were all white people,” Alvarez said. “We were like, ‘I don’t know how we’re going to make this work for our family.’”
Alvarez says she found out about the Colorful Weddings fair through a Facebook group for people of color.
Reena Maheshwari is the founder of Colorful Weddings. Even as a longtime event planner, Maheshwari remembers having a similar experience to Alvarez when planning her own wedding.
After struggling to find a venue and vendors to meet her own Indian and Nigerian families, she said it became even more clear to her how the Minnesota wedding industry focuses primarily on white customers. She knew she wanted to find a way to help change that experience for others.
“None of my pictures are going to fit a white or bright aesthetic. This does not apply to me,” Maheshwari reflected. “So how can we change that narrative until we start doing things for ourselves first and really show people what we’re about.”
Maheshwari says the goal is to not only cater to multicultural couples, but also to help business-owners of color who are part of the wedding industry.
Nneka Onuma is Nigerian American and the owner of Sweet Heaven by Nne, a custom cake design boutique that provides custom cakes for weddings and other occasions and cake decorating classes. Onuma has been involved with Colorful Weddings since its start and participated in both wedding fairs.
She says she has enjoyed being part of this collaborative. Onuma has been a business owner for a little over two years now and says getting started as a business owner of color can be a challenge.
When it comes to weddings, sharing what services she provides with her community can sometimes be a challenge. Networking through Colorful Weddings has helped her connect with more clients and help her business grow.
“Most people don’t know that there’s a whole plethora of other vendors who provide a diverse experience in regards to where they’re coming from,”Onuma said. “It has been a bit of a struggle and that’s one of the reasons why when this was presented I said most definitely I will be a part of it.”
Maheshwari says a lot of venues in the Twin Cities area have a list of preferred caterers. She says it works well for venues but often puts multicultural couples in a tough spot. Maheshwari says she spends a lot of time meeting with venue owners to change that.
Maheshwari hopes helping to create more resources and safe spaces for business owners of color to come together not only helps them but creates more representation for Black, Indigenous and people of color in Minnesota’s wedding industry.
“It just needed to be started,” she said. “There’s a lot of folks catching onto the fact that how do we incorporate this into our philosophy and help support these ideas and make sure that we’re diversity friendly because we want to be but obviously we’re doing something to turn people away. Just being able to get to know a variety of vendors and just expand in that way really helps.”