Introducing the Fellowship for Change Class of 2024By
WeddingPro is pleased to introduce the 2024 Class of Fellowship for Change, a program that gives pros from historically underserved communities in their first years of business the chance to pursue their passions and accelerate their growth through expert-led education, one-on-one mentorship and so much more. Research shows not enough small business owners in underserved communities get access to funding and education that will truly help them thrive. That’s why we created Fellowship for Change. We can’t wait to see how these Fellows grow their businesses over the course of 2024 and beyond.
And now it’s time to meet the Fellowship for Change Class of 2024!
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? Our very first wedding was so magical! We didn’t know what to expect, but we wanted to give it our all, and to see the smiles after one sip of the bride and groom’s signature cocktails was a key indicator that this was where we ought to be.
I stand for…integrity and hospitality.
My clients are…superheroes in their own way! They appreciate life and those around them.
If I could…quit my full-time job and pursue my aspirations 1000% with my girls in tow, I’d do that.
One time… I put together a Queen’s Day, a women empowerment event, in less than 30 days with an excellent turnout of 15 women, including a panel of entrepreneurs. I wanted to encourage the ladies to step out on faith into entrepreneurship.
Carla Welechuk Kowski
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? I’ve always loved weddings. Father of the Bride and The Wedding Planner are two of my all time favorite movies. I wanted to be in the wedding industry to help clients have a stress-free experience. My own wedding was a nightmare and I wanted to help clients have a better experience for their big day.
I stand for… being your most authentic self.
My clients are…happy and easy going. They want an experience that expresses who they are as people.
If I could…talk to my younger self, I’d tell her to stop stressing over the small stuff.
One time I… worked with six brides in one day.
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? I love being a wedding caterer. I’m one of the first vendors a couple gets in touch with when they start planning their wedding, so I get to see their dream come alive from the very beginning. It brings me so much joy to help couples plan all the little details surrounding the food that will make their wedding even more special. I also love hearing from my wedding clients that their guests are still talking about the food at their wedding months after the fact – it makes me so happy to know that my food left a lasting impression on such an important day.
I stand for… creativity, quality, and authenticity.
My clients are…down-to-earth food lovers who appreciate bold flavors and top quality!
If I could…I’d eat my way through each continent, then recreate all my favorite flavors and dishes when I get back home.
One time I…cooked on a sailboat along the most beautiful part of the coast in Northern Vancouver Island for a week – it was so cool to cook and whale-watch at the same time!!
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? I am somebody who loves making run and gun documentaries, but the “light bulb” moment was actually when I realized how much a wedding day is like a film set. You have a set designer, a makeup artist – all these vendors coming together to give this couple something really special. Plus, it’s not every day you hire a camera crew.
And yet, despite all the frills, weddings are a compilation of raw, genuine emotional episodes, with a strong love story as the core narrative. As a filmmaker, it’s a proposition that continues to spoil me. To make films that stand the test of time.
I stand for…bringing everyone value.
My clients are… my future friends. We have a good time and live in the moment – and the final product shows that.
If I could…just travel the world with my camera, I would. I mean, I do – but like 24/7 ideally.
One time I…learned how Turkish lamps are made in Mexico City!
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? Choosing to immerse myself in the wedding industry wasn’t a mere career decision but a culmination of passion and purpose. The spark ignited from a deep-rooted desire to turn dreams into reality, fueled by creativity and a commitment to curate exceptional experiences. My journey into event venue ownership and design was a purpose-driven choice, inspired by the joy of nurturing family, exploring innovative ideas, and challenging conventional norms. This path, woven with boundless creativity and an unwavering pursuit of excellence, is a testament to my dedication to inspiring others to embrace their unique celebrations at Domain Ave.
I stand for… embodying a purpose-driven life, inspiring others to embrace uniqueness and celebrate creativity with love and authenticity.
My clients are… individuals seeking not just events but unforgettable experiences that reflect their unique paths. They become part of a community, establishing meaningful connections as we collaborate to bring their dreams to life.
If I could…turn my flair for creativity into a daily routine, I’d be crafting moments of joy, infusing every day with the same passion that defines my journey in the event industry.
One time I…went skydiving and enjoyed every moment of it.
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? When COVID halted my accounting ambitions, a Master Mind Group nudged me towards a hidden passion. Under the guidance of a seasoned planner, I quickly found joy in wedding planning. As I embraced the creative, service-oriented world of weddings, I discovered not just a profession, but a source of true happiness. It was the unveiling of my true self, and the joy I’d long sought.
I stand for… strong foundation of trust and excellent work ethnics.
My clients are… respectable, kind, and loving, appreciating the financial worth and expertise that goes into wedding planning. Their trust and generosity, combined with this understanding, make every event both special and financially respectful.
If I could… I would living in Europe, immersed in a culture rich with love, creativity, and beauty. From Paris’ romantic charm to Barcelona’s artistic energy, every aspect of European life inspires with its history, cuisine, and art.
One time I…planned and designed my sister’s wedding, never imagining that one day I’d be doing this full-time. It’s a journey that started as a single, special occasion and evolved into a passionate career.
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? It sounds so cliché but I love love. I’ve always been overly excited to attend weddings and that excitement very quickly turned into me asking friends and family if I could help with their wedding planning. Help was readily accepted and I soon found myself directing vendors, helping photographers, assisting with wedding outfits, arranging florals – for free. And so I gradually dipped my feet into the wedding waters, doing a few day-of coordinator gigs here and there. Each one left me so much happier and fulfilled (and tired) than my day job and so when the opportunity presented itself to maybe try event planning full time, I took the leap and here we are! Who doesn’t love a huge party to celebrate something awesome happening for others?!
I stand for… event magic that doesn’t bring with it stress and credit card debt.
My clients… the best of the best – they’re quirky and shy and imperfect and in love.
If I could…make it work financially, I’d quit my other part-time jobs and just run my business full time.
One time I…planned an election day victory party with one week’s notice in a state two time zones away. It had great food, fantastic local drinks, appropriate decorations, a camera crew, and plenty of swag.
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? In 2014, my wife and I were stressed out trying to find a bilingual officiant in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex that would incorporate our families’ traditions on our special day. We wanted to find an officiant who spoke to our hearts and professionally combined English and Spanish on our wedding day. Since then, I decided to bless other couples in that struggle by making a difference in the wedding industry by writing and officiating meaningful and beautiful ceremonies.
I stand for… both personable and memorable ceremonies celebrated in the language of a couple’s heart. Regardless of the type of ceremony a couple wishes to celebrate, I accompany them to officiate the beautiful ceremony they envision.
My clients are… diverse and have different cultural backgrounds, faith traditions, distinct wedding tastes, and preferences; each is loved and respected. Each client is unique, and each has their own story; each ceremony is crafted alongside them so that on their special occasion, their ceremony will be all they envision it to be.
If I could…develop and build a team of professional officiants who could perform wedding ceremonies in all languages, that would be the dream! I would be thrilled to tell the love stories of all couples in their heart language. Unfortunately for us today, we are limited to celebrating beautiful and meaningful ceremonies in either English or Español.
One time I… officiated a wedding ceremony for a client that spanned three generations. I first married the parents, then a few years later for one of their kids, and just last year, I officiated their grandkid’s wedding ceremony. Pretty cool! I can’t say if I’ll ever get to do that again.
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? I have wanted to play a part in the love rituals that are weddings for as long as I can remember. Flowers and plants have always been special friends to me, and there is something very enchanted about facilitating their presence on a couple’s special day. I love using the medium of flowers to honor the cultural and familial traditions that create meaning for my couples and their families.
I stand for… equality, respect, and love. To me, weddings represent heightened ideals, our best intentions, and the idea that love is the most powerful force in the world. They are also a reminder that we can create our own meanings when the traditions of the past no longer serve us.
My clients are… stylish, visually dramatic, sweetly romantic, and really care about their impact.
If I could…give everyone on my team health insurance and a 401k, and pay them well enough to afford their own home, I will have succeeded at my purpose as a business owner.
One time I… helped my friends build and run a community fridge mutual aid project to help feed our community.
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? I’ve always been intrigued with the fashion industry and how designers would manipulate fabric to create masterpieces. I remember being a little girl and always looking through my parents wedding book. Little did I know that it was planting a seed for me to one day be in the wedding industry. I started out as a ready-to-wear designer but got hit by bridal cupid in 2018 when I worked for a bridal designer. I loved how helping a bride find her dream gown was more of a relationship experience rather than transactional. As a bridal stylist (at the time) I became best friends with every bride I worked with. During that time I realized that your bridal gown is the most important fashion expression that you will ever present to the world! I look at your bridal gown as being a generational fashion piece. Its the only gown that you can pass down through generations, take pieces of it to re-design, and have the photos forever. In 2020 I transitioned over into fully designing bridal
My brand Page XVII (17) is for the bride who has a story to tell. She walks in the confidence that God gave her and is not letting her past define her. I love being a bridal designer because I am able to be a part of one of the most important days in someone’s life. Being in the Wedding industry gives me the opportunity to leave a fashion impact that will always be remembered.
I stand for… love, purpose, service and designing fabulous wedding dresses!
My clients are…inspirational! I am always inspired by them to become a better person. I love telling their story through their wedding dress. Each one of them is unique, beautiful and has a story to tell.
If I could…travel to a different country every year to design my bridal collections, I would! I love getting inspiration from my surroundings.
One time I…got chased by an elephant on a safari in South Africa!
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? I was always the kid who preferred setting up the party, rather than participating in it. Once I got to college and realized it was something I might want to do for a living, I got a job at a bridal salon to learn more about the wedding industry. I loved being able to be a part of such a personal experience and I knew from then that I wanted to plan weddings.
I stand for… love and transparency.
My clients are…wanting to marry the person they love while having the best possible time. They usually want a luxury/modern feel without the price tag associated with it.
If I could…create a one-stop shop type of company that takes the fear out of wedding planning, I would do it within the next 5 years.
One time I…got a pretty bad review and didn’t know how not to take it personally.
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? I spent the past 17 years pouring myself in to students as a high school Agriculture Education instructor. Three of those years were spent teaching floral design; brave brides entrusted my group of high school students with their weddings and I realized I loved making people’s floral dreams better than they imagined. When I did not return to the classroom, I decided it was time to stop talking about owning my own floral business and do it, so I did. I stuck with weddings and events because I enjoyed the challenge of taking a bride’s Pinterest idea and elevating it.
I stand for… collaboration, being genuine, and learning something new every day.
My clients are… a melting pot of styles and tastes; from rustic, wild, and free to traditional, tailored, and luxurious!
If I could…move to a secluded cabin in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I’d already be there!
One time I… was accepted into Fellowship for Change!
Jessica Frances Medina
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? When I shot my first proposal, the real life & true time emotion made me cry behind my camera. I knew in that moment that this candid moment and the feeling it gave me was my calling!
I stand for… the Asian American community and the Queer community.
My clients are…humans who love each other like crazy, and aren’t afraid to show the world. They are down to earth, laid back, and love to have fun!
If I could… If I could pet every corgi in the world, I would. I even have one tattooed on my arm!
One time I…got married in Joshua Tree, California and had the time of my life marrying my best friend in the desert!
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? I had the amazing opportunity to spark my career by planning my close friend’s wedding in 2022. I remember on the wedding day watching her and her loved ones enjoy every moment without having to worry about the details and I immediately knew that I wanted to be part of something that would change couple’s lives while giving them last memories.
I stand for… inclusivity and authenticity!
My clients are…visionaries who love to explore wedding ideas that truly resonate with who they are!
If I could…live abroad and serve clients from all walks of life then I would be a happy planner!
One time I…battled a moo-ing cow who was commenting a little too frequently during a ceremony!
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? Truthfully, there was not a singular moment that made me decide I wanted to be in the wedding industry. I love love and value celebrations! To celebrate is to live and all we have is this moment right now. I produce weddings and events with the intention of rejuvenating the human spirit. It is my wish to empower and guide everyone (who is interested) towards a life of boundless joy and fulfillment and that can start with a celebration.
I stand for… a life full of passion, love, gratitude, and joy.
My clients are…genuine angels with an appreciation for thoughtful design-forward aesthetics.
If I could…I’d produce fashion runway shows for my favorite fashion houses.
One time…I had the opportunity to source decor for Universal Music Publishing Group’s holiday party.
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? I’ve always loved weddings, but despite being the type-A planner friend, being a wedding planner felt unrealistic. Like, is that even a real job or just a thing in TV and movies? Then, as the story often goes, I planned my own wedding. I loved deep-diving into the world of wedding planning. I spent way too much time on Reddit and Facebook, learning from others’ struggles, regrets, successes, and ideas.
However, I quickly noticed how the wedding industry was catering to a singular audience: cisgender, heterosexual women. In other words: brides, brides, brides. Why are we normalizing grooms not being involved in wedding planning? And where is the representation for all my queer guys, gals, and non-binary pals?
So, I decided to use my event and project management experience to be the change. I spent months devising my business plan and developing my brand and website until I officially launched Weddings by Kristy. We drop all assumptions about couples and their weddings and instead focus on identifying their priorities and using those to guide the planning process. Our goal is to help every couple plan an authentic wedding through personal details & purposeful planning.
I stand for… making wedding planning an inclusive, joyful experience for all couples.
My clients are…kind, thoughtful humans who aren’t afraid to be themselves.
If I could…plan a wedding/event for any celebrity it would be Taylor Swift.
One time I…saved someone’s life by performing CPR (this is your sign to take a class).
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? I have always been chasing weddings. The question was what exactly would I be doing in the wedding world. I considered planning, photography, and my calling was becoming the officiant, the person who makes the entire day legal. I’m an 80’s baby so my love for Disney Princesses made me want to have a fairy tale wedding one day. My finances weren’t on the level of my dreams but when I did get married it was small, cute and special. That’s what I believe I give couples…Their fairy tale wedding centered around the budget they can afford. I do perform large weddings but I have a soft spot for the couples that calls and they just want to be together. I remember when love made time stop and the fairy tale was just being next to my person. So I’m a storyteller of couples love stories. I love on couples, calm or nervous couples, and I celebrate them.
I stand for… diversity and inclusivity. Love is love!
My clients are… fun loving people who want to bring their friends and family into their story. Nobody wants their big day to be boring and unmemorable.
If I could…have one profession it would be to travel around and officiate weddings. I think it would be fun to say I’ll be in Hawaii tomorrow and Canada on Friday.
One time I…ran off and joined the military (Army). My mother was so mad at me but its been over 20 years and she is still one of my biggest fans and supporters of my decision. I’m thankful I get to serve our country.
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? There are many moments but the way a bride looks in the mirror with confidence and happiness or her father or mother cry at her beauty or the first look when the grooms face lights up, I like to think that because of my talent they shared these beautiful moments and for a second I feel proud that I could give them that.
I stand for… honesty, integrity and hard work.
My clients are… more like friends by the end of the process, they share a big day in my life and I treat it as an honor, they are appreciative and kind and enjoy the natural glam aesthetic I provide.
If I could…give my kids a secure, bright, safe home and future for my kids, as a widow and single mom, that would be amazing. I want them to see you can achieve the world even through the obstacles.
One time I…got to do hair and makeup for a bride and her mother, who was terminally ill, in the hospital, I had another wedding across town that day but drove before sunrise downtown the opposite way to do it for them because this was last minute and they couldn’t find anyone, something kept telling me to do it, and I’m so happy I got to be a part of that special day, she passed a few days later but I was happy they got that memory together.
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? I started by planning my siblings’ weddings, as well as my own. Each one was unique, telling a different story for each special day. And I must have done well because even one of my bridal attendants left my wedding declaring that it was the “best-planned wedding ever!”
I stand for… honesty, integrity, transparency, and mutual respect.
My clients are…fun loving people who love the luxury, modern, and romantic vibe for their weddings.
If I could…check an item off my bucket list, I would take a two-week Mediterranean cruise to France, Italy, and Greece.
One time I… planned a gala for 900 people without using any fancy software.
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? Being intimately involved in the planning and execution of that ceremony opened my eyes to the profound impact a wedding officiant can have on a couple’s special day. Witnessing the power of a well-crafted ceremony to unite two people in love, surrounded by their closest friends and family, ignited a passion within me. I recognized the potential to contribute to the creation of lasting memories, to be a positive force during a pivotal moment in people’s lives.
I stand for… crafting ceremonies that resonate with the essence of each couple’s unique love story.
My clients are…not just individuals seeking officiation; they are partners in co-creating moments of joy and commitment. Each client holds a special place as we collaborate to make their wedding ceremony an authentic and meaningful expression of their unique wedding vows that will be a catalyst of their lives from engaged couple to spouses.
If I could…enact change in my world, I would choose the path of a traveling officiant in doing so, I would be able to spread love and unity across diverse communities, celebrating the uniqueness of each couple’s union and fostering a sense of connection that transcends geographical boundaries.
One time I…was frustrated with college roommates, took a walk and ended up at an Army recruiter’s office. Two weeks later I was off to serve in the US Army.
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? Very long story short, but I ended up pivoting my bachelors away from Pre-Med Biology and Chemistry, and finished with a BA in English Literature. During that time, I was struggling on what direction I wanted to do as a career, and I used baking to get me through/distract me from the toughest part of my Biology degree. A friend asked me to make her wedding cake and I decided to say yes, since I saw it as a great challenge and how could I even say no? SO. I did it. With the help of Youtube tutorials, constant sighs of frustration, a long day with bridesmaid duties (in heels), I finally delivered my first wedding cake. When I took a step back, I was hooked. I later enrolled in culinary school, became a pastry chef, head of my wedding cake department at the hotel, and later started my own business. But it all started with a simple yes or no question, that led me to one of my best decision of my life.
I stand for…being kind and being understanding to every situation.
My clients are… wonderful people who are always looking for something creative, fun and luxurious.
If I could…I would travel to sights that I’ve never seen, eat foods I’ve never eaten, and live experiences that I’ve never experienced… and write about every moment so that I could share it with others.
One time I…was on the Food Network’s Spring Baking Championship.
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? I love seeing people happy. Weddings for me are a start in a couple’s journey, a gateway to roads explored and unexplored, yet an important stepping stone. Every detail contributes to the memories they’ll cherish and being part of that, adding that heartfelt touch and witnessing their joy and that of their guests, that’s the WHY we are in this business. We’re happiness architects, building moments that echo through a lifetime.
I stand for… creativity, positivity, efficiency, respect and authenticity.
My clients…radiate a shared desire for a touch of luxury that become the heart of every celebration we create, and it conveys a special energy for their celebration.
If I could…I wouldn’t hesitate to set sail and make my home on a boat forever.
One time I… topped conch croquettes with caviar, and we created a masterpiece we really cater to every palate.
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? After assisting my first wedding I knew I wanted to be a wedding photographer. There is nothing else quite like it. Being able to capture such an important moment and help them preserve their memories is the best.
I stand for… inclusion and diversity.
My clients are… refined and have a great love for giving back.
If I could…be a classical pianist I would be playing every stage.
One time I… performed in a masterclass.
Norman I. Graham
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? After being ordained in 2022, I realized my first ceremony wasn’t so bad. I also noticed that now that I can perform more weddings, why let this “talent” go to waste? From being ordained by accident (doing a favor for another colleague), I now felt that this accident might have been a sign all along (since I’m a frequent wedding attendee) and decided to go with it.
I stand for… joy, a good time, good laughs and a good cocktail hour after the ceremony.
My clients are…versatile. They are unique in their own ways, while being original and all like my feedback when asked.
If I could…officiate destination weddings (minimum 7 a year) and get a free trip, while getting paid, I would.
One time I… was a co-officiant for a Texas Style Themed Wedding. The couple booked me on Tuesday and their wedding was on Friday (the couple did everything else except confirm who was marrying them). The bride found out a day before the wedding her grandmother booked a pastor for them and because she didn’t want to upset her grandmother, she asked if we can co-officiate her wedding.
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? A few years ago, I started a podcast with a mission to encourage others to dream big, use your gift and walk in your purpose. My favorite thing about that podcast was interviewing amazing individuals who were pursuing big things, not without fear, but despite it. While it was my mission to encourage others, I ended up encouraging myself to use the gifts I have been given. My gift of writing, storytelling and bringing people together was not being used, and I knew I had to change that, despite my fear of the unknown. The wedding industry was the unknown, but I was motivated by a dear friend who believed in my gifts and gave me the honor of officiating her wedding. Needless to say, a series of events led me to where God had been directing me to go all this time, but I was too stubborn and too afraid to listen to. I’m incredibly grateful for the journey so far, and the many lives I have the opportunity to touch, one love story at a time.
I stand for… having big dreams and walking in your purpose.
My clients are… down to earth and open minded.
If I could…If I could solve world hunger, I would!
One time I…walked from the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower.
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? For thirty years we have served people with our food. The wedding industry, inexplicably, chose us and we love it!!
I stand for…serving people with genuine care, enthusiasm and excellence.
My clients are…the best! They really care about the quality of the food that they are providing for their guests.
If I could…cater 500 weddings a year, I would!
One time I… catered a wedding on the beach in Hawaii and I had to build a smoker in their backyard from concrete blocks.
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? In 2018, a very good friend and colleague asked if I could assist them with their wedding day of management, even though at the time I was just a social event planner. Even though it was new territory, I jumped at the exciting challenge. Witnessing the celebration of love and helping manage the chaos behind the beauty was so magical to me. It’s when I knew that weddings were where I was meant to be. I know a wedding is one of the most important days of a couples lives, and I take great pride that I get the honor to be apart of their special day.
I stand for… diversity and accessibility. Everyone deserves to feel taken care of and listened to.
My clients are…thoughtful, fun, and grow to become close friends.
If I could… travel the world without budget in mind, I would try a different country every month.
One time I…planned my best friend’s wedding and also stood as her bridesmaid…Talk about pulling double duty!
Is there a particular moment or story about why you decided that being in the wedding industry was what you wanted to do? When designing a bridal gown for a local retail store was my moment of clarity. I was asked to make the gown for the location and once finished I reached out and they never got back to me. At that moment I thought to myself what am I going to do with this gown that is completed so, I came up with having my own bridal shop and catering to minority designers like myself to be showcased.
I stand for…diversity and inclusivity and cater to all brides regardless of race, religion, and/or sexual orientation. I believe that every bride deserves to feel beautiful and confident on her special day.
My clients are…looking for a gown that is going to wow their audience. Something that you do not typically see in your traditional bridal store. They want custom from head to toe and to feel beautiful.
If I could… be or continue to be an inspiration to others it would make me happy.
One time I… hosted my very first wedding expo and it was a success because I was able to make it personalized for the brides. They were able to meet actual bridal designers and vendors. Because it was such a success it is going to be an annual event.
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