Business + Marketing

How Vendors Partnered Up to Throw a Wedding at a Pride Parade

January 11, 2019

By Carrie Swails

As I moved forward in the wedding industry, specializing in documenting offbeat events in the Colorado area, I found myself with a desire to do increasingly offbeat marketing. I had a vision in 2017 of doing a rainbow-themed styled shoot, with the help of an array of different vendors.

I figured this is how vendor networking works: You get some businesses and people together that you enjoy working with, you all put in time and money to throw a mock wedding, and then you all get pretty photos from it. In the end, hopefully, someone publishes the wedding on some big fancy blog and you get a couple of bookings from it.

At least, that’s how I thought this should work. But it became something entirely new, different—and much better.

I began by talking to a local planner, Mariah from Details Details, about all of my rainbow wedding styled shoot dreams. She agreed that it was a concept worth pursuing, and after doing some brainstorming, we thought it might be fun to do a pop-up wedding at Denver’s PrideFest. Holding it at the festival devoted to LGBTQ+ pride would give the shoot a rainbow backdrop that we wouldn’t have to pay for.

But as our ideas progressed, we realized that the time and money we were spending on putting together a mock wedding could also just be put toward a real marriage. Putting the real thing together could give us the luxury of even more publication opportunities, create buzz around the local LGBTQ+ community and, most importantly, it would help out a couple who may not have the means to put on a wedding themselves.

To find the right couple, we put out a simple call on our social media accounts and waited for entries to come in. After interviewing a few different couples, we found Trent and Dillon. These two weren’t originally planning their wedding, but they saw an opportunity and took it—they were just as thrilled about the wedding ideas as we were.

We gathered a team of wonderful wedding vendors who all put in the time, money, supplies and heart to support not only a wonderful cause, but also further our businesses in the process. (Some of the extra fees like the parade float and decor were taken care of by me and the planner to ensure our ideas for our vision were met.)

Many of our team members had already met earlier in the year at a wedding expo called Wedding Wars, where vendors are randomly teamed up to present a theme and their goods in a different experience than most other wedding expos. We had found that our team during the expo worked so well together that that’s who we went to for this wedding.

I experienced vendor networking in a whole new way that I hadn’t before. Aside from contributing to throwing a real wedding on a live float in a pride parade, the entire team of vendors participated in the parade itself too, holding signs and marching for LGBTQ+ rights. It bonded our team with an experience most wedding vendors don’t have while networking. It also gave Trent and Dillon a simply fantastic wedding experience.

While we were eventually featured on several local news stations, I had arranged a priority blog post with Offbeat Bride for immediate, next-day publication. This helped us get the word out, and it gave the founder and publisher, Ariel Meadow Stallings, the chance to receive any viral social media and blog visits in exchange for creating buzz around the event.

I have received and continued to receive bookings as a direct result of this wedding. Many of my inquiries mention the pride event in detail, and I’m thrilled to say my LGBTQ+ outreach has increased because of it. I also used this event as an added opportunity to develop a new promo video for my business. The videographers were onsite taking a lot of footage already, so I asked to pay them more if they’d take some of their extra footage for me. Then I arranged a time to do some interview-style recordings with them and our couple. In the end, I have a promo video on my website that helps connect me even more with marginalized communities and my ideal clients.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with many of the vendors since, especially the planner and officiant, Maree from Married by Maree. She and I met long before this event and I brought her into it because she specializes in non-traditional wedding ceremonies. We usually end up working together several times a year because our clients find us a great pair for their celebrations when they aren’t as mainstream.

I haven’t done a styled shoot since, though I’ve had offers. While my LGBTQ+ client percentage went up, this event also connected me to a community I didn’t expect: polyamorous weddings. This is an area not many wedding vendors are willing to serve, but I’ve enjoyed these clients and these new cultural experiences.

This experience entirely changed wedding vendor relationships for me. Instead of just trading business cards at events and offering photos for free, I was looking to connect with the types of vendors that align with my values and what I want my business to represent. I was looking for people who believed in their clients the way that I did. Now, I can recommend vendors to my clients that would not only do a great job, but who I know also carry more meaning behind why they do what they do. When you work closely with a team of vendors and you share an experience that is more than just networking and exposure, you get the opportunity to connect on a much deeper level.

Melissa Trout—who shoots luxury boudoir photography for Under the Garter, and provides experiential pampering services with Bliss Bridal Boutiques—did the video work documenting this PrideFest wedding. Something she has mentioned numerous times in our continuing relationship is that she looks for inclusivity in other vendors. “We’re focused on welcoming all clients and not discriminating, so it means a lot to us when we see other vendors not using heteronormative language or gender-specific words,” she says. “It’s so important for someone to look at a website and be able to visualize themselves.”

With the help of a team of vendors working toward a common cause, you can accomplish more than just your average vendor networking experience. You can push those relationships deeper, gain a better understanding of how everyone works together and walk away with experiences that completely change how you do business.


Don’t Forget The Details

“Most photographers are great at this, but some seem to skip the detail shots, which are so important to the couple and other vendors involved. Floral photos should happen before the ceremony so they look their best. And I love when all vendors involved tag, mention and share the images online. That helps keep the visibility even.”
— Lindsay Emmerich, Fairytale Floral


Communicate Your Style

“If you’re more of a casual person who doesn’t stick to a specific schedule with specific shots, that’s fine! Just make sure that your client is aware of that so they don’t panic. We helped out a vendor at a wedding where the bride couldn’t relax because none of the photos they had discussed were getting shot. It made it much more difficult for other vendors to engage with her because she couldn’t stop thinking about the photographer.”
—Melissa Trout, Under the Garter and Bliss Bridal Boutiques


Pitch In and Be Generous

“Vendors impress me when they are friendly and willing to jump in if another vendor is behind. The bottom line is to have a successful event and to keep the clients happy. We are a team. Also, it is rare that caterers receive pictures of the wedding food. Send us pictures! We will show off those images and give you credit.”
— Lisa Elder, Culinary Wave

The Dream Team


Married by Maree


Under the Garter and Bliss Bridal Boutiques


Details Details


Culinary Wave


Fairytale Floral


Samm Sherman


Dancin’ Shoes DJ & Lighting

Reception Details

The Wright Details


Carrie Swails Photography

Carrie Swails is a feminist and a Lord of the Rings-loving wedding photographer serving Colorado and the world. Her dream is to be taken to New Zealand for a wedding at the Hobbiton Movie Set so she can fulfill all her nerdy offbeat wedding dreams.

Related: 10 Ways To Improve How Potential Clients See Your Business

How to Get Weddings and Portraits Published in a Major Publication

How To Get Your Foot in the Door With Dream Wedding Vendors