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In June of 2020, we published an initial list of 70+ Black-owned wedding businesses. As part of our ongoing efforts to highlight and promote Black-owned businesses, we’ve started this series featuring individual vendors.
Allison Davis is the founder of Davis Row, a boutique wedding planning company based in New York City and Charlotte, North Carolina. Allison shared her number one piece of advice for couples, her thoughts on the future of the wedding industry, and her tips on planning a more environmentally friendly wedding.
How did you come to be a wedding planner?
I worked in the music industry for many years and decided to change it up just as streaming services started to become popular. I always enjoyed live experiences - going to concerts was what first sparked the idea that music was an industry I wanted to explore. I realized that planning and producing events was similar, so I took a lot of people out for a lot of coffee to learn more about what their world was like. I started out thinking I wanted to work on experiential/marketing events, but after working my first wedding I knew it was My Thing. Seven years later and I’m still so energized by the experience!
Tell us a bit about Davis Row - what’s important to you as a company?
Davis Row is a boutique-style company. We pour a ton of time and care into very few events each year, which allows us to build relationships with our couples and really work together in partnership. It’s important not only for us to be welcoming and affirming for members of marginalized communities, but also for us to help our clients build vendor teams that hold the same values.
We would love to hear about the name Davis Row and what inspired it!
I’m a word nerd (I studied linguistics in college) and wanted to create a name that described the support of my family. It’s more literal than it seems!
What do you look for when choosing couples to work with? How do you know you will be a good fit for each other?
We connect pretty quickly with couples whose top priority is creating an amazing and one-of-a-kind experience for their guests. Of course they want to infuse their personal style, have incredible food, and carefully consider details that matter to them - but above all else, they want to make sure that everyone has a great time. Our team is hospitality-minded, so we’re on the same page from the very beginning.
How far out from the wedding do couples usually begin to work with a wedding planner?
For full-service, start-to-finish planning, it can be as far as a couple of years out or just a couple of weeks - it all depends on the scale of what they’re trying to accomplish and how quickly they want to move. If you’re getting married in a city that’s popular for weddings, have a large guest count and want to get married in an area with limited large venues, or are adamant about a popular venue or date, aim for at least a year. A lot of couples are coming to us in a panic about the feasibility of starting to plan a 2022 wedding, but it’s still possible to make it happen!
What seems to be the hardest decision for couples to make during the wedding planning process?
I see a lot of couples struggle with their guest lists. I always emphasize that guest count and budget are inextricably tied together: the best way to “find” more dollars is to reduce the size of your party. And in most scenarios, a guest count of over 200 means you have limited venues to choose from. But even cutting the list by 10 people can be super difficult when you’re in your 30s and have built lots of strong ties. It can also be tough to negotiate how many guests parents will invite, especially when they’re making a significant financial contribution. My advice is to start assembling your list very early, and be prepared to have conversations about editing.
What trends are you seeing in weddings right now?
Small, luxurious weddings are gaining a whole lot of traction, and the restrictions of the pandemic have accelerated their popularity like crazy. It goes beyond health and safety concerns: couples are realizing that rather than stretching their budgets to host everyone they know, they can really go all out for a small group. A $50,000 party for 10 people is very different from a $50,000 party for 100 people.
Many couples are also looking for opportunities to reduce or eliminate waste and are looking for vendors and service providers with sustainability practices. They’re giving more thought to what happens to everything after the wedding is over - particularly flowers and food.
Where do you hope to see the wedding industry go in the next few years?
More modern! We have a lot of work to do in terms of representation and inclusion, of course, but we could also stand to update how we do business. So much of wedding planning is about building relationships and experiencing options up close before making decisions, so it’s challenging. But we’re constantly working on ways to make our industry feel less foreign to newly-engaged couples, and a huge part of that is modernizing how we operate.
Do you have any tips for couples trying to plan a more environmentally conscious wedding?
Go for the simple changes: edible favors rather than items that are likely to be left behind or thrown away, rented furniture and decor, and reduced or eliminated paper products all contribute to the environmental-friendliness of your wedding. In general, as you go along, think about what will happen to every single item at your wedding after your wedding is over. It’s easier than it sounds! Also: communicate with your vendors and service providers! Especially floral designers and caterers. Some are just waiting for the prompt to offer you suggestions and help you make adjustments.
What are some brands you’ve seen doing well to make the industry more inclusive?
(Holden, of course!)
The biggest strides are coming from publications like A Practical Wedding, Equally Wed, and the dearly-missed Catalyst Wed Co. Zola is working hard on this as well. But there are also small businesses and brands all over the world that are sometimes the only welcoming and affirming option for every couple. All of the brands I mentioned have vendor directories, and it’s worth taking a look to find like-minded vendors if inclusivity is important to you.
What’s your favorite thing about being a wedding planner?
On wedding day, after guiding my couples through one of the most complex undertakings they’ll ever deal with together, I love to watch them enjoy everything with their family and friends. Weddings are beyond special - it’s maybe the only time in your life that everyone in your community gathers to celebrate you. When couples invite me in to support them, it’s such an honor. I love it.
What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to a couple planning their wedding?
Figure out your priorities first. Find your why. You’re going to be dealing with a lot that’s unfamiliar, but if you know what your priorities are the decisions are much easier to face together.
As part of our series highlighting Black-owned wedding businesses, we’ve chosen to donate to a charity of the business owner’s choice with each post. Allison chose Know Your Rights Camp, an organization set out "to advance the liberation and well-being of Black and Brown communities through education, self-empowerment, mass-mobilization and the creation of new systems that elevate the next generation of change leaders".
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