by Alexandra McCray
When preparing for your Big Day, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is whether to hire a wedding planner, followed by deciding who that planner will be.
It’s a nerve-racking decision, considering you’re entrusting them with one of the most important days of your life. Plus, there’s so much to consider. Are your personalities a match? Can they meet your cultural needs? Do they have a similar communication style? Do you trust them enough to follow their lead?
Here, we introduce you to top Black wedding planners from around the world who specialize in luxury celebrations that keep people talking (in all the right ways). This list represents only a small selection of the countless esteemed Black wedding planning professionals out there, but these standouts made our cut.
Slomique Hawrylo isn’t just a top choice for couples in California; she’s also a go-to wedding/event expert and creative collaborator for shows like Netflix’s Love Is Blind and Home Made Simple on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), and David Tutera’s Celebrations on WE tv. An event planner for more than a decade, Hawrylo values truly getting to know her clients, their styles and desires. Her aim is always to provide her couples with the same level of exceptional customer service that guests will receive, and she offers everything from full wedding planning and design to à la carte services (think wedding night hotel room romancing) through her company, Carpe Diem Special Events & Designs.
Named a Harper’s Bazaar Top Planner in the World in 2020, Chicago-based Kia Marie Events is known for designing and producing creative and unforgettable events across the globe. With a classic, modern and stylish approach, Kia Marie offers an exclusive white-glove planning process to a limited number of clients per year. Events are tailored to each client’s personal style, focusing on clean, uninterrupted designs and extraordinary details. With the motto “Do everything with class, elegance and style,” the boutique company prides itself on creating long-lasting relationships beyond the event. The company produces events in Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Miami and Paris, as well as Italy, Greece and more. “Wherever brides are, we will go,” says Kia Marie.
Plenty of wedding planners want their couples to feel like royalty on their Big Day, but Jamésa Alexander takes that notion to new levels. As the founder and visionary behind Jayne Heir Weddings + Events, she ensures a healthy dose of regal elegance can be found in every luxury wedding she and her team of associate planners design and carry out. Loved by couples for her seemingly never-ending energy, first-rate vendor recommendations, and tools for straightforward budget and timeline management, the Washington, D.C.-based entrepreneur has found herself on multiple top lists, such as ours.
The founder and creative director of Erganic Design, Sojourner Auguste knows the wedding planning process can easily become overwhelming. As team lead in design, planning and production, she also spearheads overall timeline organization and keeps couples grounded by having them focus only on the decisions at hand. Like her event associates, Auguste brings a unique background to the field of event planning. Her 20-plus years of experience in event design, retail architecture and branding include working for companies such as Coach and Starbucks, allowing her to provide truly innovative aesthetics and overall ideas to couples hosting lavish, multicultural weddings in New York and elsewhere.
One of the many things couples who work with K. Barner Events can be sure of is that their weddings will be unique. “We have zero desire to have one client’s wedding look like another wedding taking place at X venue every week, or even like a KBE client’s wedding from the previous year, so we are always striving to come up with detailed designs to ensure we hit the mark and surpass it every time,” says the company’s founder, CEO and lead event designer/planner Kisha A. Barner. Since becoming an entrepreneur and wedding planner at age 24, Barner’s boutique approach to business and commitment to her clients’ happiness has earned her the opportunity to handle nuptials for sports stars like former Jets wide receiver Quincy Enunwa and events with celebrities like Rev. Run. Her full-service event design, planning and production company serves New Jersey, New York and the world.
Based in West London and serving couples near and far, Chenai Bukutu is a preferred planner for Carlton Terrace House and some of London’s other luxurious venues. She was also named a Harper’s Bazaar Top Planner in the World in 2020. Praised for her logistics and relationship management skills, Bukutu is able to expertly pair couples and vendors and often develops long-term friendships with her clients. As the founder of ByChenai Events, she ensures her weddings exude tasteful glamour and that her couples enjoy every moment of the planning process.
Jamaican-born and partially New York-raised Melisa Brown has designed and planned awe-inspiring, high-end events since the early 2000s. Based in South Florida and serving couples around the United States and in the Caribbean, she prides herself on being a true resource for her clients—think venue scouting and booking, contract and budget management, bridal shopping appointment booking, and more—as well as using her creative and design background, which includes time with Apple, to exceed expectations and problem-solve. Weddings produced by Lux Lifestyle Events are celebrated for their client personalization combined with the unmistakable opulence Brown is known for.
For clients of Yodit Gebreyes, their weddings are not only a reflection of themselves, their culture and their values but also their supreme standards and desire to get even the smallest details right. They want to hear, as one Favored By Yodit Events & Design bride did, that their wedding is the best a guest has ever been to. The holder of a master’s degree in corporate communications and public relations, and a bachelor’s degree in marketing and information technology, the outgoing planner with Ethiopian roots understands the effect every decision can have in creating the perception and overall experience her clients desire and that impeccable events are the result of rigorous forethought and strong communication. Since 2012, time-strapped professionals hosting ceremonies and receptions in Washington, D.C., and abroad have turned to Gebreyes and her team to take their ideas and run with them creatively.
Atlanta-based celebrity event planner Tori Williams began her career as a licensed hair and makeup artist. While working with brides, she discovered her true calling. She launched Tori Williams Events, a full-service luxury event planning and design company focused on social and corporate affairs. Williams’ signature opulent, trendsetting themes and elaborate décor have been seen on major television networks, including VH1, Lifetime, Bravo, The Food Network, TV One’s Sister Circle and NBC’s Atlanta & Company.
For nearly a decade, Shanae Hall, aka “Miss Party Life,” has created ultra-luxe, showstopping events that align with her clients’ budgets. And if there’s one thing she lives for, it’s the big reveal—the moment when her couples get to finally see their ceremony and reception spaces and the eye-watering gasps of excitement that follow. “When it’s all said and done, and their smile is ear-to-ear, I can’t imagine a more rewarding career for me,” says Hall, the owner, lead wedding/event planner and designer of Party Life Productions, which serves couples in Florida and beyond. From an 8-foot-tall custom gold acrylic monogram backdrop to surprises for guests like a live marching band with majorettes, you could say Hall, her sidekick Shirley Hall (aka “Momma Party Life”) and the rest of the team specialize in weddings with a wow factor.
Whether it’s a 500-person wedding celebrating Sierra Leonean and British cultures or a close-knit affair in the charming Essex countryside, London-based wedding planner Wura Manola is an expert at artfully blending the latest wedding trends and her clients’ backgrounds and wishes with classic beauty, resulting in one-of-a-kind events. A true lover of all things “wedding”—she fell in love with wedding planning after organizing her own Big day—Manola is quickly becoming a sought-after planner for outstanding African, Afro-Caribbean, multicultural and destination weddings. Her passion, professionalism, desire to educate and the exceptional team she has at Manola Luxe Weddings all contribute to her standing out from the crowd.
Dubbed the “Logistics Queen” and intensely familiar with the traditions and customs of South Asia, Denise Lillie O’Neal is just the person to turn to for a wedding with cultural intricacies and multiple moving pieces. She actually first got her start organizing political campaign events in the United States. In 2008, she transitioned from government and corporate work to wedding planning and hasn’t looked back. Today, through her California-based company, Denise Lillie Engagements, the Midwest native specializes in working with couples looking to have a destination, fusion or cultural wedding, and striking a balance between honoring tradition and incorporating their own spin and flavor.
A former public relations and corporate communications professional, Precious Thamaga-Mazibuko knows just what to do to make sure her couples shine like stars on their wedding days. As one of Africa’s premier luxury wedding planners, Thamaga-Mazibuko has worked her magic on more than 300 celebrations, including business events, private fetes and high-end nuptials throughout the southern part of the continent. She and her team at Precious Celebrations are known for their impeccable creative direction, rich floral displays and on-trend color palettes.
With so many fantastic Black wedding planning professionals to choose from, it can be hard to figure out which one is right for you. Take your time when making your decision. Set up consultations with the pros on your shortlist, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Now, it’s time to go choose your dream planner!