President at Inclusive Wedding Allianceview more
Educational Breakout Speaker
Born out of personal experience while planning his own wedding, Ric Simmons, the President and Founder of the Inclusive Wedding Alliance (IWA) began his journey in 2015 speaking out about the need for more inclusive education in the wedding industry and the need for inclusive resources for LGBTQIA+ couples navigating the wedding planning process. After the landmark victory of Obergfell v. Hodges in 2015, same-sex couples were guaranteed the constitutional right to marry in the United States. This decision was followed by a series of challenges from local governments and private business owners, making wedding planning difficult for queer couples who were denied services around the country. This continues today. Living in Texas at the time, Ric started “My Texas Gay Wedding” and eventually expanded to a national platform with “My Gay Wedding.” Soon realizing that despite the excitement from wedding vendors who wanted to implement inclusive business practices, there were very few resources available to make that possible within the wedding & event industry. The National Gay Wedding Association (NGWA), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, answered the call to become the go-to source for wedding vendors and event professionals in search of LGBTQ+-specific resources and education on implementing inclusive business practices. The NGWA broke ground on the word "inclusive" in the wedding and event industry. The NGWA put inclusive awareness front and center with its Inclusive Awareness Conference in January 2022 which featured the first-ever all-LGBTQIA+ lineup of inclusive speakers, leaders, and influencers covering one main topic: inclusiveness. The NGWA's Online LGBTQIA+ Wedding Expo created a safe place for couples to meet and gather wedding information. NGWA members were able to engage virtually with couples while delivering meaningful and informative presentations featuring "My Five Tips for LGBTQIA+ Couples.” The National Gay Wedding Association 2019-2022 withdrew its nonprofit status effective 10-31-2022 to better serve its constituents. Seven years in the making, The Inclusive Wedding Alliance is here! Educating allies worldwide through its Ten Steps To Inclusive Practices - A Vendors Guide To Setting Standards, which takes wedding and event professionals on an educational journey about understanding inclusiveness. Once completed, vendors are asked to submit their "Alliance & Pledge" for a free listing in the 2023 IWA Inclusive Digital Directory. An invaluable resource for LGBTQIA+ couples. Like-minded, educated, and loving wedding professionals that are creating a safe resource for LGBTQIA+ couples.