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  • Karla Villar

Conversation, Collaboration, Co-Creation: The Need to Retreat

Updated: Apr 28, 2020

Rad Wed Retreat 2.0

Last November, Dani and I traveled to Austin for the Radical Wed Retreat, a 3-day getaway designed for wedding pros to practice intentional self care, engage in consciousness-raising dialogue, and build camaraderie as a powerful collective of self-proclaimed feminist entrepreneurs.

Photo by Judson Rappaport Photography

Justine from Together Events and Jamie of Jamie Carle Photography founded this amazing event for those in the industry who claim a feminist perspective and social justice agenda.

For the second year in a row, I got to co-create a space where, together, we explore past the limits of our current understandings, experiences, and/or comfort-levels with being professional creatives in the money-making game of love!

Photo by Jamie Carle

Working in the wedding industry while “wokish”

Working in the wedding industry can be fun and glamorous and beautiful and joyous, for sure; that’s why many of us are in it. But we all know that much of what is on display - what most people get to see - is filtered and curated and often biased by the very isms and phobias we say we want to transcend.

When we step back from the magic of love celebrations and look critically at the business and the institution of matrimony it’s founded on, it’s difficult not to have feelings about all the historical and present-day disparities and injustices. And these days, it’s all magnified!

I’ve always taken issue with the religious, heteronormative, homogenous narratives and messaging surrounding marriage and weddings. I mean, why wouldn’t I? I was left out. My story wasn't included.

And although I’m grateful to have the right to get legally wed as of 2015, with the passing of the Marriage Equality Act, I now struggle with the realities of rainbow capitalism and the socio-political backlash to our legislative wins.

Photo by Diana Ascarrunz Photography

The truth is that, overall, the wedding industry in the U.S. remains VERY limited in representation and authentic inclusion because we never really deal with root causes that keep some of us out. Our industry is permeated by the same consumerism, corporate greed, and ideological and political divisions that exist across all sectors. We’re just fortunate that we can and often choose to focus on the LOVE part of what we do.

Still, the contentious socio-political climate threatens that focus and dampens our outlook about most things, leaving many of us emotionally raw, mentally drained, and/or even physically ill. If we are not intentional about self-care, we lose our ability to consider and/or deploy viable solutions to any of the problems we see in the world. Self care is essential to create.

Right now, in particular, FOR ME, it’s all too overwhelming to face on my own. I need connection; I need spaces to gather and process and heal and co-create with others.

The Radical Wed Retreat offers me an opportunity to engage with and expand on love - love of self and community. It is what our industry needs right now - what many of us want - an experience that centers on our empowerment as individuals and as a collective.

Let’s talk!

I attended the Radical Wed Retreat this year as a keynote speaker to help create dialogue around identity and the ways we navigate and shift existing paradigms to reflect and celebrate more of the people and love stories that we want to see and hear about; the ones often missing from the mainstream.

I’m a self-proclaimed intersectional feminist and open about my experiences both as a qpoc provider and qpoc consumer of wedding services. I know we’re making progress, but there is plenty of room for innovation and expansion in this business and I want to talk about it.

Photo by Jamie Carle

For me, the retreat was helpful professional development, something I’ve participated in a lot as an educator, but nothing I’ve experienced before was quite like this. Here, my voice is welcome!

The Radical Wed Retreat purposefully seeks out people with various social justice lenses who are applying them to their business. It’s a chance to grow a network of industry leaders that are mindful and intentional about implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices in their business.

Before I arrived in Austin, I aimed to reconnect with the spirit and practice of sisterhood - a powerful togetherness of people of all genders who embrace the divine feminine that’s in all of us!

Fortunately for me, I got what I envisioned - a gathering of brilliant humans ready to retreat and recharge; wedding pros eager to connect and create change in our industry.

Finding one’s place within a larger collective though can sometimes be painful, especially when you want it to be an empowered group that is also diverse and representative of our broader society. There are aspects of who we are - parts of our identity - that other us just as there are aspects that tie us together. But it can be difficult to find common ground; to feel at ease when talking about weighty topics. It is challenging to put ourselves out there or initiate dialogue that can cause us or other folx to relive past trauma.

Although we find it easier to foster trust and unity the more alike we are, it’s our differences, not surprisingly, that we tend to notice first and most often whether we realize it or not. That’s part of our programming. Learning to talk about our differences and practicing engaging across lines of difference is what we need now more than ever.

Photo by Ziggy Metzler

The fact is that most of us are afraid of being wrong or sounding ignorant; afraid of becoming emotionally reactive or being perceived as naive; our egos are too fragile. If we choose to talk, we tend to stick to the usual benign topics and gravitate toward the usual people - people that may not challenge our perspective or who can’t offer enough contrast to our experience to push us to see past what we’re used to seeing.

Instead of addressing issues that matter to us and being open to different perspectives and courageous enough to counter opposing views, we choose to hide in the delusions of harmony and safety that silence and sameness affords us. Sometimes we get stuck in our lanes, sit on our piles of right, and stop looking for ways to come together.

This is the state of our country right now; we’re divided. It’s manifesting in our personal and professional relationships. Not knowing how to talk, not trying to relate, opting out entirely is part of the problem and we need to find ways to course-correct for the benefit of all.

The Radical Wed Retreat offers up a beautiful, nurturing, purposeful environment designed to inspire collaboration and dialogue. There is value in this experience that goes beyond professional development because it supports our very personal and human need to connect on a deeper human level.

As wedding pros, whose work is all about relationships, celebration, and love, we come together at the Radical Wed Retreat to co-create what we want to see in the future - an industry that truly values, represents and reflects all expressions of self and love.

Radical Wed Retreat Vendors and Contributors: Photographers | Jamie Carle, Zig Metzler, Diana Ascarrunz, and Judson Rappaport Photography

Workshop | Radical Wed Retreat

Planning & Design | Together Events

Florals | Bagels Florals

Rentals | Austin Chair and Table Rental

Officiants | Let’s Get Married by Marie and Once Upon a Vow

Signage & paper goods | Letters and Dust

Dresses | Second Summer Bride

Draping Installation | Shaniece Aurielle

Styling Surface | The Styling Mat

Glass Straws | Toma Glass Straws

Comida and Cake | Heart of Celebration

Suit | Zara

Models | Ayla Erdener, Hank Moore, Illyana Bocanegra, Anne-Lise


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