No one knows about love quite like wedding vendors do. After all, they are surrounded by it every single day—whether it is capturing a couple's special day, overseeing their vows, planning the reception, and more. And while no love story is the same, every romance deserves to be celebrated.
In the spirit of Pride Month, we asked 30 LGBTQ+ wedding vendors to share their stories, tips, and goals. We wanted to know how they got into the business of weddings, what the past year taught them about love (hint: A LOT), and what Pride means to them. But perhaps, most importantly, we asked how the wedding industry can do better. Because while we've made strides in marriage equality, we still have plenty of progress to make. Like ditching the stereotypical roles of bride and groom in favor of more inclusive terms to celebrating love—no matter what it looks like—for what is: love. Whether you're an engaged couple, a wedding professional, or just a guest, we all have a role to play.
Ahead, learn from planners, photographers, officiants, florists, and more on marriage, Pride, love, and allyship.
For Houston-based wedding planner Darryl Moore the meaning of Pride is simple. "Having the courage and self-love to be who I am unapologetically: A proud gay Black man who plans and designs love parties (weddings) every weekend."
A United States Navy veteran who served during the "Don't Ask Don't Tell Era," Moore founded D'Concierge Weddings in 2007 and has been planning beautiful, modern weddings around the country ever since. "My goal has always been when people look at our wedding [they] can never put a date stamp on the look or details," he shares of his approach.
As for what Moore learned about love in 2021? "I’ve learned that creativity is key! Maintaining a successful marriage or relationship takes love, patience, work, and focus. Lockdown forced us to become even more creative within our relationships. My hopes are people continue to love the way/who they choose without judgement. No love story is the same."
It was the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage in 2015 that led LaToya Papillion-Herr to found Waning Moon Weddings by LaToya. “The ruling was a catalyst for creating safe, supportive, and loving spaces for couples getting married,” the wedding officiant and premarital coach shares. “I had learned that while the laws had changed, many vendors views had not.”
Now, New Orleans-based Papillion-Herr takes “great pride in being an anchor at the altar and an advocate for diversity and inclusion in the wedding industry”—she married the love of her life in 2013! “Since Waning Moon Weddings was created on a foundation of diversity, acceptance, and inclusion, I have become the officiant for couples of varying religious backgrounds, spiritual beliefs, abilities, gender expressions, ages, ethnicities, etc. I'm also a proud champion of love with magical southern charm!”
For Papillion-Herr, Pride boils down to two powerful words: Confidence and freedom. "Freedom to feel empowered, celebrated, and worthy. The confidence to be boldly ourselves without fear of discrimination, harm, or alienation. Pride means the confidence and freedom to live.”
Melissa and Adrienne Longo
Behind New Jersey-based photography business Electric Love Studios is wife-and-wife team Adrienne and Melissa Longo, photographer and videographer respectively. “Other LGBTQIA+ couples absolutely love that we are a wife-and-wife team,” admits Adrienne. “They know that their love is safe and honored with us behind the lenses.”
While Adrienne has been a professional photographer since 2009, Melissa started videography in 2016 and it wasn't long after that the duo combined their talents. Adrienne laughs, "At first I was mad that she didn't want to be a photographer, but quickly realized it was the perfect way for us to fully serve wedding clients together!"
When we think of Pride and what it means, immediately we feel proud of who we are individually and as a couple.
For the couple, Pride takes on several meanings. Adrienne offers, "When we think of Pride and what it means, immediately we feel proud of who we are individually and as a couple. Pride is being one step closer to eliminating the fears of being a target, and instead, creating a celebration of love. It tells the world we passionately exist. Pride means fighting for equal rights for ourselves and our friends."
Brooklyn-based wedding planner Jove Meyer unofficially entered the industry in 2008 while planning his best friend's wedding. The experience led Meyer to create his own company, Jove Meyer Events, in 2012. "We take a relaxed approach to weddings, ensuring it is a fun and personal experience that infuses our couples love story, personality, and relationship," he says of his work. "At Jove Meyer Events we believe your wedding should be authentic to your love story, and we take pride in creating custom bright, bold, and fun celebrations that bend, if not break the rules!"
For Meyer, not only is Pride a celebration of the present and future but a reminder of the past, too. He says, "Pride means so many things to me. It is a reminder of how far we have come, but also of how far we have to go. Pride started as a riot 50 years ago—LGBTQ+ people were sick of being mistreated and discriminated against, so they stood up and said enough is enough. The first pride march was a riot, it has evolved over the years as it has become global and now it is a reminder that we still have to keep fighting for full equal rights."
And while Pride does take center stage in June each year, Meyer reminds that "support, love and real allyship should extend beyond one month a year!"
Kristen Griffith VanderYacht
When no one was hiring florists in New York City in 2013, Kristen Griffith VanderYacht took matters into his own hands and founded his own studio. “I wasn't going to let a little thing like an employer keep me away from flowers,” he remembers. Fast forward a few years, VanderYacht moved to Seattle and rebranded his business to the now-renowned studio Wild Bloom Floral. “I’m so glad that I did.”
Many may recognize VanderYacht as the head judge on Netflix’s floral design competition show, The Big Flower Fight, but “others might know me as their local wedding florist here in Seattle, Washington,” he says. The florist’s creative approach is simple, too: tell a love story through flowers and “approach design from an artful perspective with an emphasis on architecture, color, and texture.”
He says of Pride, “Pride is the time of year to reconnect with the magic inside that makes us special. It is a time to unapologetically and boldly choose love over fear and judgment. Pride is a beautiful reminder to respect the journey and struggle the LGBTQ+ community has traversed while at the same time celebrating our triumphs! It is the right to choose to live your life however you see fit that goes to [the] heart of Pride.”
“After everything that happened last year, I have learned that love persists, even in the face of so many challenges,” offers photographer Tawny Ballard. “Without love, I don't know how any of us would have gotten through 2020.”
My hope is that when couples are planning their wedding, they do not have to fear.
Owner of her eponymous St. Louis studio Tawny Ballard Photography, Ballard’s foray into the wedding industry, however, wasn’t exactly planned. “I had been a photographer for a long time, but had never considered weddings,” she admits; until she photographed a friend’s big day five years ago. “At the end of the night, when I was done with the wedding, I remember telling my partner, ‘This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.’” And she’s traveled around the world to document wedding days for clients ever since.
“My hope is that when couples are planning their wedding, they do not have to fear," says Ballard. "They should confidently plan their wedding knowing that any vendor will gladly serve them. So many of my couples dread reaching out to vendors, not knowing what kind of reaction they may get from them because of who they are or who they love. I want transgender women to feel confident walking into any bridal store to get the dress of their dreams. I want wedding vendors to understand non-binary folks' pronouns and not have to continually correct people for getting it wrong. I want same-sex couples to not fear reaching out to wedding photographers, or caterers, or venues because they know they will be accepted and celebrated anywhere.”
When wedding planner Andrew Roby entered the industry in 2005, he was looking to disrupt it. "I was tired of seeing the same type of things over and over again. I wanted to infuse my Miami style into events and weddings that I felt needed a bit more life to them," he explains. Thus, Andrew Roby Events in Washington D.C. was born.
"My company, Andrew Roby Events, started off with the idea that weddings underscored the real meaning of family, relationships, and what unconditional love looked like no matter the skin tone or sexual orientation," says Roby. "We believe environments are carefully curated based on the personalities of the people inside them and not based on trends that can easily lose the personal touches our clients deserve. It's these carefully thought out memory-making opportunities that make wedding planning so rewarding for us."
Jonathon Dakarai of Apollo Fotografie
"Becoming a wedding photographer happened by chance for our founder, Jonathon [Dakarai], or maybe it was fate," says Liv Schultheis of Apollo Fotografie. "When they were working at HBO in the casting department, a fellow employee asked them to photograph her friend’s wedding, and they loved their photos. It sparked a new career goal as they were inspired by helping couples document the most special day of their lives...love at first click!"
Led by Dakarai, Apollo Fotografie is a group of talented San Francisco wedding photographers who take a "storytelling and editorial approach" to every wedding day. "We take comfort in knowing each of our couples so when it’s time to create, it’s like we’ve known each other for years!"
Schultheis adds, "This world would be a whole lot better if we just made an effort to be less horrible to one another. Let's start there. Let's love each other better."
Rev. Whittney Ijanaten
"My approach to weddings is simple: lead with a laugh and accompany the couple's love story in all its layers," reveals Rev. Whittney Ijanaten, owner and lead officiant at Rev I, do Officiating in Los Angeles.
While Rev I, do Officiating was founded just over one year ago in February 2020 with the "intent to provide a safe and affirming space for LGBTQ+ couples and their families," Rev. Ijanaten has been in ministry for nearly a decade. "I specialize in affirming all love," she emphasizes.
However, the officiant envisions a day where "we won't have to specifically advertise that we affirm everyone, it will just be!" Adding, "Love is flexible, creative, and magical. It takes on many forms and has no limit."
For Michael Bak, owner of Detroit floral studio Michael B. Anthony, 2021 has taught him "that love is a very precious gift that should never be taken for granted." Having loved weddings and flowers since he was a child, Bak entered the industry in 2013 with the support of his parents and then-boyfriend (now-husband!).
"As a child, I always loved decorating and gardening. My parents embraced that and gave me all the resources I needed. My now-husband (boyfriend at the time) also supported me in my decision to be a wedding florist. My approach to weddings, especially with my couples, is I embrace bringing out their characteristics in the design. Personal touches like that really stand out and make a wedding."
A marriage is a marriage and love is love, after all.
In terms of where he hopes the wedding industry will be in the years to come? It's quite simple: "My hope for the wedding industry is that marriage is viewed as two people [who] are in love and that's all that matters. In the future, I hope same-sex weddings are not labeled as a 'gay wedding.' A marriage is a marriage and love is love, after all."
Karla Villar of Once Upon A Vow
"As a season (month), as an event (marches/festivities), and as an ongoing personal lived experience, Pride has morphed over time into something much bigger than I ever understood it to be," acknowledges wedding officiant Karla Villar. "More than ever before, for me Pride (all of it) is a badge of honor to be part of a beautiful and brilliant community and it's a sense of personal responsibility to our collective past, present, and future."
Villar got her start at Once Upon A Vow in 2018 after leaving their role in education. "My sister, Daniela VillaRamos, started the business in 2015 after leaving her non-profit world and brought me into the fold," they explain. "Our goal is to simply reflect back [the couple's] truth—their reasons, values, and vision. We celebrate the full love story and the journey to the wedding and make clear the significance of their choice—their commitment to join forces in this lifetime through marriage."
Based in Boston, Villar also hopes that her work with Once Upon A Vow has a larger impact. They say, "We center IDEAS (inclusion, diversity, equity, accessibility, and social justice) in our work and seek to collaborate with other vendors interested in being more than just LGBTQIA+-friendly. Once Upon A Vow and other small businesses are working with each other to co-create new opportunities and shift paradigms. We believe we're part of the solution and seek to close the opportunity and wealth gaps that exist in the industry, which currently reflects the same inequity and disparities we see everywhere."
Working in weddings has had an unexpectedly powerful impact on Jen Martens of Jen Plus Colour. "At age 19, I was actually married to a cis-het man and like most relationships, I learned so much about myself and the kind of love I wanted out of life. I always say that working weddings helped me get a divorce," she admits. "I would see the love and admiration between couples and wanted that for myself."
Now with her partner, Amanda, for almost five years, the beauty expert takes a progressive and unique approach to her California business. That includes tossing away gendered verbiage, explaining, "I have a service structure that can easily work for any wedding party inclusive of all genders. I knew that I had to create a place for people to come where they felt comfortable, heard, not judged, and welcomed."
Brian A. M. Green
Brian A. M. Green is an Atlanta-based wedding planner and owner of By BrianGreen. While he started his namesake business in 2008, he has over 16 years of experience in the events industry. "We make sure we 'bring the fabulous' to every event we create," he shares of his business mantra. "Creativity defines who we are as a team, and it’s about creating that fabulous factor for our clients in a way that speaks to their personalities—while creating an incredible experience for their guests. I get the honor of creating and executing a memory that will last them a lifetime."
When asked what Pride means to him, the seasoned planner had much to say ("This will be a long answer," he joked!). "Pride means always being my authentic self. Showing the world who I am, unabashedly, and for me—it also means, using my voice to speak up for people who are yet to find their voices," Green explains. "To me, Pride is celebrating the past and paying tribute to the Black and Brown trans-women who began this fight for equality back in 1969. It means knowing that it is upon their shoulders that we stand and that the fight is far from over and the mantle is now ours to pass on to the next generation."
Love is love. It really is that simple.
As for ways the wedding industry could do better for its LGBTQ+ couples? "Marriage isn't defined as gay or straight in the statutes, it is simply marriage. It's not a 'gay wedding'—it's just a wedding, and a couple is just that—a couple. One, who against all the odds in this world have found each other and are ready, willing, and able to commit to loving each other as a unit. Why people would want to discriminate against love has always confounded me. Love is love. It really is that simple."
Curtis Cassell of QUEERA
The concept for Curtis Cassell's gender-neutral fashion brand QUEERA was born out of conversations with coworkers one summer. "We would always end up talking about what we thought our weddings would look like. With half the staff part of the LGBTQ+ community, I heard a lot of the same questions revolving around what each of us would wear: 'Suit or a dress? Suit or a dress?' I hated that there were only two options, literally, black or white," Cassell explains.
To solve this problem, the designer began sketching tuxedo jumpsuits, which later transformed into ball gowns for men and an "exquisite corpse of tops and bottoms." As for the brand name QUEERA? It was originally an "homage to the queen of bridal herself": Vera Wang. However, per Cassell, now just the name QUEERA can stand on its own.
Cassell also doesn't consider QUEERA a bridal brand. "I hate the word bridal, it just sounds so gender-exclusive to me and formal wear sounds dull," shares the designer. "In every facet of what we're doing, I'm making sure I work with people who are just as passionate about lifting up the community as I am. There are no labels to read or get but something you feel and decide for yourself instead. That's what we’re doing, undefining anything required to follow the same path of what looks right. That's why I like creating capsule collections, to inspire others to follow new romantic fantasies."
Photographer Tia Nash of New Orleans studio Tia Nash Photography began their business in 2017 in an effort to "bring queer representation into the wedding industry." They explain, "When my wife and I were married in 2015, we struggled to find photographers with anyone who looked like us in their portfolio."
Now a self-dubbed "personal historian archiving family memories," Nash's goal is "to show future generations how vast, beautiful, and diverse love can be. Many kids grow up imagining what their wedding could be like, but I never did. I never saw a wedding like the one I wanted. Every time I deliver a gallery, I think about the future generations of kids who will grow up seeing LGBTQ couples fully in love and happy. In my photos, I hope that kids can see a potential future for themselves."
Ever since kindergarten, Daniel Colonel knew he wanted to be a pastry chef. He graduated from The Culinary Institute of America in 2014 and worked for various cake designers prior to the pandemic. Now the owner of Daniel Colonel's Cakes in New York City, he laughs, "I guess you can say that I am living the dream!"
"I love creating flavors that are fun and nostalgic," he shares of his work. "Getting to know the couple and their love story is my favorite part of the process and I love making something beautiful, delicious, and something that is very personal to them. Knowing that the top tier is saved for their anniversary, it's extra important to make the cake special. It is a way of reliving the wedding all over again!"
As for Colonel's definition of Pride, it "just means being proud of who you are and your growth!" Adding, "Marriage is the bringing together of two people. It's not based on religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Love is love is love is love!"
Evelyn R. Avila
"Pride reminds me that I am not alone," shares Los Angeles-based wedding photographer Evelyn R. Avila. "That I have a big community of people around me that are just like me. It means to celebrate who you are."
Specializing in weddings and elopements, Avila decided to pursue photography full-time after quitting her desk job of 12 years. Thus, Eve Rox Photography was born. "I’m more of a go with the flow kind of gal and try to document your day as it unfolds without so much equipment around me to interrupt your day," she says of her photography style. "50 years from now when your wedding album is passed amongst loved ones you want them to feel like they were there when they see the photographs."
Jason Mitchell Kahn
"Pride is looking back at the last ten years of my career and having been a part of so many LGBTQ weddings which weren't even possible before," says planner Jason Mitchell Kahn of his namesake firm Jason Mitchell Kahn and Co. His "love affair" with wedding planning began during his tenure at Soho House New York, where he ran all events. When same-sex marriage was legalized in the United States, he published Getting Groomed, a planning book for gay grooms, and was quickly considered a prominent name in the industry.
"I run a tight ship on site but am known for 'Keep Calm and Marry On,'" Kahn says of his approach. "I have always sought to work with brides, grooms, and those who don’t identify with titles."
When asked what 2021 has taught him about love so far? "Love is so powerful it transcends even the toughest of times and circumstances. There is a need for love in all of our lives at all times and we will always find a way to express it," he shares.
"I often feel so grateful for the generations of LGBTQ+ people who came before me. Without them showing the world who they were we would not be able to do the same," admits EJ Dilley, a Colorado-based photographer.
I often feel so grateful for the generations of LGBTQ+ people who came before me. Without them showing the world who they were we would not be able to do the same.
While she had taught art and photography since 2003, she didn't start her namesake business until 2014. "Much of it was sparked by things that were changing in education, but mostly I wanted to feel the freedom of owning a business," she explains. As for her photography approach? Just consider her a "fly on the wall, capturing every detail for you to look back on in the years to come. I want you to cry happy tears when you sit down and scroll through your gallery. When it’s all over and the photos are in your hands I want an email from you saying, 'Damn you, how I will I ever choose what to print and hang on my walls?' That is the perfect ending in my mind. And, I hope we meet again and again as your family grows."
She adds on Pride, "Pride means being able to live my life without hiding. It means I can introduce my wife to strangers and not feel scared to be who I am."
Osiris and Michele Harvey
When Osiris and Michele Harvey tied the knot during a New Year's Eve nuptials, they did so without a videographer—and "regretted that decision very much." However, the choice became their inspiration to start a wedding filmmaking business of their own, Modern Love Productions, and the wife-and-wife team documented their first wedding together in the fall of 2017.
"Deciding to film weddings was one of the best decisions we've ever made—as it allowed us to work together and be creative every day and celebrate love," the Harveys share. "Women are still a minority in the wedding filmmaking community, and as an LGBTQ and Latinx-run business, we love embracing and telling inclusive love stories. Our mission is to spread joy, love, and open hearts and minds by capturing inclusive wedding stories on film."
"Even before I started my own company, I was curious as to what it would look like to bridge the gap for LGBTQ+ couples who didn't see their type of love reflected in popular wedding magazines, blogs, and social media," shares Emily Gaikowski, planner and owner of Heartthrob Weddings and Events. "I know many queer people share the feeling that the wedding industry doesn't often 'get' queer weddings, and I set out to create a space that's focused on the joy and excitement that should always be at the heart of wedding planning. I love seeing LGBTQ+ couples taking up space, displaying their love, and feeling proud about the wedding or event we produce together."
The Los Angeles-located planner believes Pride "is an ideology that it's OK to be visibly queer and true to yourself." She also isn't a fan of the "love is love" narrative either, rather, she says, "I think all love is different. Queer love is special!"
Texas photographer Riley Glenn of Riley Glenn Photography tells us, "Pride to me has always been about being able to celebrate who you truly are and appreciate all those people before us that got us to where we are today."
Her career in the wedding industry started when a friend asked her to second shoot for them. "That first wedding was so magical," Glenn exclaims. "It was an intimate wedding and they added several of their own unique interests and flair to [celebrate] their union—from there I was hooked!"
Now that Glenn has captured weddings and elopements for a few years now, she has a vision of what she would like the industry to look like. That includes "more acceptance" and "education." As for her thoughts on love? "Communication and patience are going to get you the furthest. If you can make it through a pandemic and still be in love, it is probably meant to be."
Reverend Melissa Ashmore
Reverend Melissa Ashmore got her start as a wedding officiant in 1999 after overseeing her brother's wedding ceremony. However, Texas-based officiant and owner of Running Reverend admits, "I stopped for a few years because it didn't seem fair that same-gender-loving couples couldn't be legally recognized across the country."
In short, her goal for every ceremony is to portray what the couple believes, or doesn't believe, about "love, marriage, and the Divine." Adding, "I like short and sweet but always significant ceremonies."
And after officiating plenty of weddings in both 2020 and 2021, she's found that "love perseveres and people find a way to celebrate their love." After all, she says, "You don't have to have a big in-person crowd to be married."
Tara Robertson founded her Philadelphia-based studio, Tara Beth Photography, in 2012—when same-sex marriage, unfortunately, wasn't legal in the United States. "I wanted to give LGBTQIA+ couples the same memorable artwork that straight couples were receiving. Now, same-sex marriage is legal, and I'm still creating art with so many incredible couples!"
Robertson says of her company, "Tara Beth Photography has always been a women-owned, queer-owned, company meant to be a calming and adventurous addition to weddings and elopements all over the world! Thankfully, this is exactly what this company has been! I love to dive into weddings and elopements with everything I have and create art that is unique to each couple."
Love is a magical gift that we have to take care of. Everyone deserves love.
And on a personal note, Roberston admits she fell in love in 2021 and thus has learned so much. "Love is about communication and vulnerability. Love is about letting each other be who they are. Love is about respect and appreciation. Love is trust and honesty and being good to each other. Love is crying and fighting, and learning with and from each other. Love is so much intentional effort. Love is a magical gift that we have to take care of. Everyone deserves love."
“In 2010, I quit my corporate job in California, packed my bags, my camera, and my tiny chihuahua, and moved away from all things familiar on a quest to meet new people and document their stories. I was desperate for connection outside of my very religious upbringing,” shares photographer Steph Grant of entering the wedding industry.
Her tenure as a wedding photographer has been riddled with milestones: From capturing the first lesbian Indian wedding in the United States in 2013, to founding the Promote Love Movement, “a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community raised in religious environments to come together and share our stories,” in 2015, to speaking on the California Senate floor. “I have proudly shared my personal story alongside and through my professional work and podcast. I believe that by sharing our stories together, we can soften hearts and, ultimately, save lives.”
As for how the wedding industry can do better? “Not everyone is a bride and groom," Grant reminds. "Never assume. Never Label. So let’s update our websites, shot lists, and contract verbiage. Give your couples the option to label themselves if they would like to. Inclusive language matters more than you think and can make all the difference for a couple. We want everyone to feel included and safe when they come to us.”
Specializing in elopements, intimate weddings, and lifestyle portraits, Debbie-Jean Lemonte of DAG Images began photography about 10 years ago. "My approach to weddings is simple; go in open," she says. "I've been blessed to [have] photographed different kinds of unions and each story is different from the previous. With that in mind, we take an adventurous, candid, and natural approach ensuring that not only do our couples have an extraordinary experience, but the photos will serve as beautiful memories that were captured while being their full and authentic selves."
For Lemonte, Pride means one thing: freedom. "Freedom to be me in all ways. Freedom to love whomever whenever. Freedom to simply exist as me. Fully!" She also reminds us that Pride doesn't just concern those in the LGBTQ+ community. "We need allies," Lemonte exclaims. "We are people who love, want to be loved, and given the same rights as others."
Planner Justine Broughal's path into the wedding industry was no doubt unconventional. She was working at a church in Portland, Oregon when the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015; a decision which her church strongly disagreed with. "I felt the sharp disconnect between the status quo that tolerates discrimination and arc of history that is bending toward justice. I knew that I had to break out of that sphere and remake my work around equity, inclusion, and vibrant diversity," shares Broughal.
That defining moment brought Broughal into the events space with the launch of her company, Together Events. "Aiming to create environments centered in radical love and acceptance," Broughal says, "Together Events is a socially conscious wedding and event planning company that celebrates all bodies and all love. We plan and design gatherings that celebrate partnership over patriarchy."
As for Pride, she sees this month as "a time to learn from and celebrate the work of queer activists, change-makers, and straight up fabulous people who have fought and lived and loved throughout 'herstory.' We honor and remember the Stonewall Riot and the leadership of incredible trans women like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Riviera. Pride acknowledges that we still have a long way to go in the fight for liberation for all of our queer siblings and fights to move us forward."
Bibi Quiles of DJ Keelez & Associates entered the industry over 10 years ago due to a "lack of LGBTQ+ representation in the wedding world," adding, "I dove headfirst into making sure the community had access to everything they needed without the fear of being rejected or ridiculed."
Quiles' views on love are simple: "I have learned that love conquers all things. No matter how bad things seem to get, if you have the right person or circle of people by your side you will make it through most anything that life throws at you."
And how can the wedding industry do better? Quiles offers, "My hope is that the wedding industry realizes that there is more than one type of couple out there and begins to show representation as well as practice inclusion on all fronts."
Talia Margaret Leister
"Simply put, Pride to me means saying it's OK to love who I am exactly as I am. It's the support that we show each other. It's the freedom, and it's the love," shares wedding makeup artist Talia Margaret Leister.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Leister opened her wedding beauty business Simple + Sultry in 2018. Offering hair, makeup, and tanning options for couples, Leister uses her experience from her own wedding as the model for her approach. She explains, "I try to keep in mind what it was like when I was getting married and give people all the information and options I would have wanted, from the intro email to the touch-up kit I leave you with."
In the coming years, Leister also hopes to see a shift in the beauty industry toward inclusivity, with "more options for those who are non-binary or not within gender norms." She adds, "Services are still very much geared towards men or women, makeup is still genderized."
"I shot my first wedding assisting a studio while trying to learn more about photography businesses in my hometown in 2010 and got totally hooked on the energy and joy from the experience," says photographer Justin McCallum. Four years later, McCallum moved to New York City and opened his eponymous studio, Justin McCallum Photography.
He says of his approach, "My business values connection, authenticity, community, and inclusion, so I center all of those in my work. As a fat, queer dude I make it a point to have everyone I work with feel like a freakin' rockstar, see themselves represented, have their love affirmed—and genuinely laugh while they do it."
That affirmation of love is also what makes Pride so powerful for McCallum. "To finally celebrate yourself and have Pride in who you are is an act of love and rebellion," he shares. "Whether it’s at a march or party or just meeting up during the month of June, Pride serves as a reminder that we are not alone and have so many people out there who empathize with us and want to celebrate who we are."