International Women's Day

Celebrating International Women’s Day

March 8, 2023
Words by Lauren Ertl
Photos courtesy of various

From event planners and caterers, to hoteliers and restaurateurs, women have taken on leadership roles and excelled in their fields, breaking down barriers and inspiring others to follow in their footsteps. In this article, we shine a spotlight on a handful of inspirational women entrepreneurs in the weddings/events, bridal fashion and hospitality industries, highlighting their achievements, challenges, and insights.

Photo by Ifebusola Shotunde

Fashion: Dami Olukoya, Founder/Creative Director at Imad Eduso

Imad Eduso creates designs that inspire women to embrace all aspects of womanhood and femininity. Recognized by their contemporary silhouettes and unique play with vibrant colors, each piece is created as an ode to women by enhancing the beauty of all different shapes, sizes and skin tones.

Photo courtesy of Imad Eduso

“Before size inclusivity became a buzzword, it has always been important to me as a designer, knowing that I am a Nigerian and a full-figured woman I design for myself, my sisters, and other women who are not considered the conventional size. I always want all women to derive pleasure from getting a piece from us and knowing that they have been considered,” says Olukoya.

Photo courtesy of Asher Gardner Photography

Stationery: Vidhi Dattani, Founder and Creative Director of Vidhi Dattani

Vidhi Dattani combines watercolor painting with the traditional rules of invitation design to create a new modern classic. Creative Director, Vidhi Dattani, paints extremely detailed and intensely vibrant watercolors. “I craft unexpected compositions with my paintings, using interesting typography, hand calligraphy and high-end printing techniques like letterpress and foil to add depth and dimension.”

Photos courtesy of Vidhi Dattani Designs

“I always knew I wanted to be an artist. I was born and raised in Rajkot, India. My father is very artistic and taught me how to paint before I even started school. At age 15, I won the very prestigious National Bal Shree Award in the Creative Arts from the President of India. It reinforced my interest and encouraged me to dream big,” Dattani says. “I feel so lucky that my passion is a viable career, and I never take that for granted. But for me, this is more than a career. Its a calling. Thats why I pour myself into every project. There are moments in every project where I bring to life something new thats never been done before.”

Weddings & Events Planning:

Photo by Dennis Kwan

Aimee Monihan – Tropical Occasions & Mountain Occasions

With a career that began at the age of 12 in the industry of hospitality, Aimee was destined for her role to start not one, but two companies to help couples navigate the destination wedding planning process.

Her two companies, Tropical Occasions and Mountain Occasions are renowned global event planning companies that cater to various special occasions including weddings, corporate events, and social celebrations. In 1999, Tropical Occasions was established in Costa Rica, and Aimee became the country’s first destination wedding planner. At present, the company is recognized for planning, executing, and creating exceptional events worldwide, spanning from Central America and the Caribbean to Europe and the South Pacific.

Photos by (left to right): Laura Murray & Joel Serrato

Photos by (left to right): Allan Zepeda & Raw Shoots

“The year of Tropical Occasions inception in Costa Rica, the area had a predominant ‘machista’ culture. Women were just starting to become more career-oriented,” Aimee says.  “I’ve clocked hundreds of hours of being “mainsplained” to, being told that my way was the wrong way and told how to do things. It was incredibly disheartening and I found it hard to be taken seriously. I quickly learned how to navigate the culture using my charm, intelligence, fluent Spanish and hard work. From the start, I was very hands-on with setting up events. Carrying, moving furniture and doing the hard labor that goes into events. I wanted to prove myself to Costa Ricans that I was not there to point fingers and boss people around but to be part of a hard-working team of professionals. I gained trust and respect, and above all, the mansplaining almost stopped! I have taken this attitude with me all around the world.”

Annie Lee – Owner, Daughter of Design + Plannie

Annie Lee is the principal planner of Daughter of Design – a designer event planning boutique, known for its contemporary interpretation of classic traditions and the creation of modern and stylish designs. With accolades from several publications, Daughter of Design is ranked among the top planners and has organized events in New York City, Los Angeles, South Florida, and beyond. For those who require partial planning services, Daughter of Design offers a convenient and cost-effective hourly planning option via, “an on-demand marketplace of event planners and day-of coordinators and producers in cities around the world.”

“I got really lucky. I found a career that was a mix of all my best skills: organizing, designing, and being an emotional support animal,” Annie says. “Also, weddings and events are the intersections between food, fashion, travel, design, music, culture, romance…all the things in life I love. Because I have a strong interest in fashion, architecture, and interior design (my family business and why I’m the Daughter of Design), our aesthetic goal is much more ‘Architectural Digest ‘than ‘wedding magazine.’ And on the office culture side, I bring in my bicoastal upbringing of a relaxed LA girl with a ‘Type A’ NYC businesswoman to create a laidback but driven experience for clients.”

Photo by Paul Morse

Ali Phillips – Owner & Founder of Engaging Events by Ali

Engaging Events by Ali is a Chicago-based destination wedding planning business owned by Ali Phillips. With over 20 years of experience, Ali is recognized as a leader in the industry, having planned show-stopping events and weddings all over the world. Her proactive approach and attention to detail make the planning process seamless and enjoyable for her clients. Ali brings a positive attitude and a passion for logistically detailed events to each celebration.

Photo by Paul Morse

“I truly believe life is meant to be celebrated! There is no problem, only solutions and we make the planning process as much about the journey as we do the destination,” says Ali. “When the entire industry shut down during COVID, this was the most challenging time of my career. While I rescheduled and canceled weddings for over a year and a half, myself and two friends of mine in the wedding industry, Michelle Durpetti and Collin Pierson, rallied together and created the Illinois Events Coalition to advocate, educate and support the wedding and event professionals around our state and nation. What it taught me is that together as a community we become stronger and have more of a voice in our communities and in our state!” Ali also hosts retreats for women who are looking to further personal and professional goals. “I continue every day to mentor other wedding planners and encourage women to celebrate not only their lives and careers but the amazing light inside of them that can shine so bright!”

Photo courtesy of Partytrick

Virginia Frischkorn – CEO of Partytrick

Partytrick is a platform that helps make planning and executing highly curated events accessible and convenient for everyone.

Photo courtesy of Partytrick

“The feeling that one gets after a great event is unparalleled,” I love creating memories for others and setting the stage for a fabulous occasion. While curating, planning, and producing live events at Bluebird Productions dominated the last 10+ years of my career, I knew I wanted to take this skill and bring it to the masses for everyday occasions.  So, we “boxed up” what we know about creating a fabulous experience and event, found a great solution to make it interactive and digestible for the consumer, and off we went to build Partytrick!

Photo courtesy of Dennis Kwan

Wedding Media: Shafonne Myers – Owner of Pretty Pear Bride and Aisle Society

Shafonne got her start as a planner, but quickly realized there was a major oversight when it came to the needs of brides in the industry. “I wanted it to be more about how the bride actually felt about herself and walking down the aisle as opposed to the planning side of things.” So she created Pretty Pear Bride – a wedding blog bringing bridal inspiration to plus-size brides. To keep that inclusive vs. exclusive mentality going, she created Aisle Society “a space where couples can see imagery of all colors, shapes, sizes, sexual orientations everything because everyBODY deserves to feel beautiful on their wedding day,” says Shafonne.

Photo courtesy of Phillip Van Nostrand

“I decided to do more on the blogging side of things so I could really focus on helping plus-size brides feel and look amazing on their big day,” Myers says. “And that sentiment has carried through to everything I do in the industry now. Thats what Pretty Pear Bride does for plus-size brides, and what I strive for in Aisle Society, creating a space where couples can see imagery of all colors, shapes, sizes, sexual orientations everything because everyBODY deserves to feel beautiful on their wedding day. Me having seen people who looked like me was the only reason that I was able to see it possible for me to be where I am right now.”


Hospitality: Irina Barrett – Owner of Los Establos Boutique Resort

Los Establos is an ideal vacation destination that caters to both relaxation-seekers and thrill-seekers. This 16-acre boutique resort in Boquete offers stunning mountain views of the exclusive Volcán Barú, as well as luxurious accommodations. As a former coffee plantation, Los Establos has a rich history of farming and cultivation practices, with a processing mill built more than a century ago by the founder of Kotowa Coffee. Guests can learn and appreciate the history of coffee while enjoying the picturesque surroundings.

Photo courtesy of Los Establos

“Showcasing my home country’s diverse landscape and tradition is the most rewarding part of my work at Los Establos,” Barrett says. “This side of Panama is enchanting: for me, and for the traveler. When I see guests interacting together, discussing their adventures and their favorite activities and discoveries, this is what truly brings it all ‘home’ for me. This is what makes me proud.”

Photo courtesy of Giada Catering

Catering: Giada De Laurentiis – Award-winning Chef, Food Network Personality & Owner of Giada Catering

Giada Catering is a newly-launched Italian-inspired catering service by culinary superstar Giada De Laurentiis in Southern California. Giada Catering reimagines traditional catering with an emphasis on entertaining, offering four curated themes – Amalfi, Milan, Rome, and California Italian – each with menus, cocktails, and tablescapes inspired by their namesake.

Photo courtesy of Giada Catering

“Giada Catering combines two of my greatest passions: entertaining and bringing people together through food,” says Giada. “Staying true to my early catering roots curating, preparing and delivering delicious menus out of my home kitchen, Giada Catering delivers that same authentic spirit to Southern California events with immersive inspirations centered around connection.”

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