Her Big Day is a wedding show company built around multiculturalism. For fashion-networking friends and co-owners Beri Gebrehiwot and Karen Okonkwo, it was a way to ensure that cultural brides—who emphasize the rich customs of their heritage in a typically two-day (if not more) wedding—have the proper resource bank to fulfill the demands of their traditionally grand weddings. Just last summer both Beri, a full-time nurse, and Karen, a medical saleswoman, responded to the seemingly homogenous wedding industry by launching their company as a conduit for pan-ethnic brides to access suitable wedding vendors.
On Sunday Jan 31 at the DoubleTree Hilton Hotel, Her Big Day’s cultural wedding affair show introduces brides-to-be to a diverse variety of vendors including henna artists, caterers, stylists, traditional gown makers and more.
How did you two meet and develop the idea behind HBD?
Beri Gebrehiwot: We actually met at a fashion industry networking event. I already had a platform for African brides under the name Bella Bride Africa but wanted to expand to all cultural brides. We realized there was a lot of synergy across cultural weddings, so we embarked on creating a new cohesive vision for a wedding show that serviced all cultural brides.
What was the moment/ experience that solidified this idea for you two?
BG: In 2012 I planned my own 1,500-guest Eritrean-American wedding and came to realize all of the work that goes into planning a two-day wedding. Although it wasn’t too hard to find vendors for my western wedding, it was the cultural wedding that I struggled in finding vendors who can supply my cultural wedding needs. After my wedding, I searched for platforms that serviced cultural brides and there weren’t any. From that moment on, I have been working towards bringing this vision of a cultural wedding show to reality.
Karen Okonkwo: Beri really helped me realize the idea. After talking about the event with her and bouncing ideas off of each other, she later asked me to join the business because we seemed to have the same direction with the vision.
What are some resources HBD provides a cultural bride with?
KO: Most cultural brides have multiple day weddings: one white dress wedding and one cultural wedding at a minimum. We secure vendors for both styles of weddings. That includes wedding dresses, makeup artists, henna artists, traditional garments, jewelry, catering, lighting, decor, and the list goes on.
BG: One of the hardest parts about planning my wedding was finding a venue large enough to accommodate a guest list of 1,500 people. Most cultural weddings are typically celebrated with the entire community, anywhere from 850–1,500 guests, so finding a venue that not only holds that amount, but can also service the bride’s cultural needs. I was lucky enough to book the Seattle Design Center where our guests fit snuggly in the mezzanine and balcony of the venue; it was perfect.
What types of weddings have you worked on?
BG: We have been working on including cultural vendors to represent the various ethnicities that encompass the Pacific Northwest. We are beyond excited to see Eritrean/Ethiopian, Indian, Nigerian, Ghanaian, Western [and more] bridal gowns on the fashion runway.
What is most rewarding in your work?
KO: We just love revolutionizing the wedding shopping experience for the cultural bride. It is the first of its kind here in the Pacific Northwest so we are really proud to bring this to Seattle and hopefully more cities to come. Being able to show the world how special and unique cultural weddings are is something we look forward to.
What can we expect from the show on January 31?
KO: You can expect a cultural party! A celebration of love and culture where vendors, brides, grooms and their families can come under one roof and secure all the needs for their wedding while enjoying a multi-cultural bridal fashion show, food and beverage tastings, live music, prize giveaways and much more!