The Friendors: RVA’s Progressive Wedding Professionals

As laughter drifts down a sun-drenched hallway in Richmond’s Church Hill neighborhood, it feels like any late-summer get together between friends. The clink of glass punctuates three or four simultaneous conversations, and nearby, someone has set out a few plates of sushi.
But getting closer, something is different about this afternoon. Those criss-crossing conversations aren’t about other friends, or what’s going on that weekend, but about the camera lenses that provide the most flexibility. The luxury lipstick brand that’s easiest to custom-blend. The best queer-celebrating local venues. Arranging world-class bouquets using only local flowers. Just around the corner, someone is explaining how to get a beautiful sheen on formal hair without the curl falling out, while another pulls some amazing headphones out of his bag like it’s a magic hat.  These people are here for a reason.
This is a snapshot of Richmond’s progressive wedding industry. As our city has moved forward into the 21st century, a new crop of young, independent business owners has sprung up. Frustrated by the old, narrow attitudes toward weddings, these entrepreneurs have found a kinship with one another, and with the clients they serve: that every wedding is as singular as the couple hosting it. Together, they’re working with people in love to transform the entire industry into something that gives clients choices, honors the lives they actually live, and creates authentic celebrations instead of the predictable, stuffy events of the past.

 

When business owners friend each other IRL, doughnuts happen.

It’s a natural alliance. Most of us are Xennials or Millennials, and we come from the same communities as our clients. We meet casually, at each other’s parties and get-togethers, or at events we’re working on. It’s almost always in innovative spaces, like the one we’ve created on this warm, sunny afternoon.

Signature cocktail designed by EQ Events. Champagne, fresh strawberry puree, and hops-infused simple syrup – all in a diner sugar dispenser topped with rose gold. The Friendor Fizz!

Styled shoots are nothing new. In this industry, fantasy events are created all the time. But just as the new generation of engaged people are looking to create more intimate, authentic weddings, the new generation of vendors are building something better than surface business relationships: actual friendships.

Makeup artist Nicole Laughlin finishes styling Sara Mallory of The Freckled Flower Farm
Custom floral design for a portrait space by The Freckled Flower Farm
Hairstylist Cecily Morgan works with Kelly Waldrop of The Freckled Flower Farm

So when we created our afternoon hangout, it was for a very specific purpose. We wanted to share our talents with each other the way we do with clients. We were looking not just to appreciate the work that happens around us on job sites, but to understand it.

It’s fun for us, but it’s also a way to better respect our clientele. Weddings and events are heading in a new, refreshing direction, and honestly…we’re all pretty happy about that. Part of working in the intimate spaces we develop with clients is having warm relationships ourselves, and understanding the deeper philosophies each of us bring to our businesses and the events we contribute to.

Photographer Shawnee Custalow passes along the camera to let the rest of us take her portrait. Full disclosure: she did the settings.

Walking around Church Hill, we naturally split into pairs and threes, showing off the styling provided back at the shared studio of Nicole Laughlin and Cecily Morgan. For a moment, it seemed that we might look a little odd, wandering around, drinks in hand, with a camera and brightly colored records. But we didn’t. It was a golden afternoon, and we were surrounded by Richmond’s signature diversity, creativity, and vibrancy. We simply looked like what we are: part of the city.

EQ jams with DJ Ant Boogie, also known as our buddy Anthony Bryant.

And isn’t that the beauty of RVA? We enjoy such a wealth of local innovation, so much so that nothing really seems that weird. We have world-class dining, art, and amenities, and the rest of the world is starting to notice. Richmond was even a finalist in the Destination category for a British LGBT Award in 2017, among cities like Barcelona, Stockholm, and Amsterdam. That’s extraordinary, and we’re so proud to be a part of it.

Excuse me, is this the Total Badass section? Professional stylists Cecily Morgan and Nicole Laughlin stand with apprentice Ashley Sanchez in what is obviously going to be the cover of their first album.

Part of the reason we all live and work here, and refer our wonderful clients to one another, is the creative norm. Richmonders are a prolific bunch, unafraid to buck traditional systems and do what’s authentic to their own experience.  It’s our job to help you translate that into your most joyful moments. With each event, we come closer to the Richmond we’re building, together.

EQ Events proudly recommends the vendors featured here

Click on the images to learn more about them!

Anthony Bryant, DJ Ant Boogie
Shawnee Custalow, Photographer
Sara Mallory & Kelly Waldrop, The Freckled Flower Farm
Nicole Laughlin, Makeup Artist
Cecily Morgan. Hairstylist