Xóchitil González and Mayra Castillo, who started Always a Bride nine years ago, are one of the hottest wedding planners in the country.
Nine years ago, two Latina friends from Brown University started a wedding planning company called Always A Bridesmaid (recently re-named A.a.B Creates). They broke into New York’s exclusive Upper East Side event planning market by taking on clients that had less to spend and were open to the way Latinos throw a party—the guest always comes first and it’s OK to make every event a milestone.
Owners of A.a.B Creates Xóchitil and González and Mayra Castillo have set their company apart by targeting couples who are desperate to do things differently—their own way.
“I’m Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Italian from Brooklyn, and Mayra is Mexican and grew up in the Central Valley of California…” says González . “We started by working together for the Clio awards. In 2003, we dove in and took the bold move of opening a wedding business together.”
For the first eight years, the business did weddings exclusively and was immediately pretty successful. In 2008, when the economy dipped, couples went from spending 100K to 50K, and A.a.B was doing almost 45 weddings a year. At that point, the company changed their marketing direction and began to focus on re-branding.
They added a sister company called Just About Married—which specializes in “day-of” coordination.
“This way, we could continue to help couples who had less to spend, in a down-scaled way, but with the same inventiveness we were known for,” said Castillo. “We wanted to focus on our luxury clients and do fewer weddings at a higher budget.”
Our average client is comfortable spending $1,000-$2,500 per guest. Our clients are the artsy-fartsy types. We’re known as hipster-lavish planners—but cooler costs more.
- Xochitl Gonzalez, co-owner of Always a Bridesmaid
She said the average New York luxury wedding costs between $200K-$500K, not including the dress, honeymoon, or the ring.
“Our average client is comfortable spending $1,000-$2,500 per guest,” González says. “Our clients are the artsy-fartsy types. We’re known as hipster-lavish planners—but cooler costs more.”
It’s details like napkins made out of butcher paper, rolled and tied with fancy twine, menus professionally calligraphed on chalk boards, tablecloths made out of imported Italian men’s suit fabric, or using venues like Ellis Island and the Grand Arcade on the Jersey Shore, that fit the current NY wedding trend “different is better.”
A.a.B attracts a more modern and non-traditional couple—usually one where there is diversity in the families of the bride and groom. They say their number one goal is to figure out who that couple is, and help them to throw a party that represents them.
“This is the first time they are able to communicate to their friends and families the kind of hosts they will be as a couple,” González says.
Choosing a unique venue is the strength of their business. The women say it’s important to give guests a feeling of being “taken away or caught off guard. It’s a seven to eight hour-long day, and people are very jaded. An unexpected venue forces people to focus on the momentousness of the day.
Their company has grown so much the A.a.B ladies were recently asked to style a tabletop collection for the Newly Wish online retailer that sells Waterford and Wedgewood available for gift registry.
Since 2007, the editorial team at New York Magazine has named A.a.B Creates their list of top event designers in their bi-annual Weddings issue and the editors at The Knot and Bride’s named them to their New York Editor’s Circle.
In the future, the ladies say they’d like to develop a line of home entertaining products designed for the 20 to 30 year old who wants to learn how to cook and entertain at home in an affordable, fun, and hip way.
This month, they are focusing on something else – González is helping Castillo plan her wedding. She says the guest list is small, only 35 people.
“We’re using a venue space that also operates as a tasting room. It’s more a nice dinner than an all-out party. Our families aren’t from the city, so we wanted to do something really nice, with a focus on food,” Castillo said. “I can’t deal with a big group of people, intimate is more social for me.”
She said she also didn’t want her husband-to-be to feel like her culture is too overwhelming.
“But I’m soooo Mexican—we’re having a mariachi band, fish tacos, tequila shots, and my favorite family drink called a Paloma (Grapefruit, soda, and tequila),” she said. “I want to give my family something they’re used to, but also something unique.”
The wedding is taking place at St. Paul’s Chapel at Columbia University, where her fiancé went to law school.
“Like every wedding we plan,” Castillo said. “I want everyone to feel comfortable.”
Rebekah Sager is a freelance writer based in San Diego, Calif.
Rebekah Sager is a writer and editor for FoxNews.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @rebekah_sager.