You’ll never forget the vendors who brought your wedding vision to life — especially the local, small-business owners. These are the people who wear so many hats, working tirelessly to offer unique products that you can’t order on Amazon. “I think there’s a resurgence of interest in where and how things are made,” says Elaine Butcher, owner of Elaine B. Jewelry in Ferndale. “Most of us are so disconnected with where our food is grown, or who makes our clothing. We’re now craving to work with our hands and be part of the process.” For several months, you might even spend more time with your vendors than your closest friends — forging intimate bonds with them in the process. So we’ve highlighted four small-business owners who are making wedding magic behind the scenes.
If you want to get excited about paper, just talk to Laura Joseph, owner of Paper & Honey, for about 30 seconds. Her passion for it — and specifically for letterpress paper — is infectious.
“Letterpress is basically the oldest form of printing,” she says. “It’s magical because every part of the process is done by hand: You cut the paper by hand, mix all of the inks by hand, prep the press to print, feed every piece of paper into the press one by one. Instead of standard printing, where the ink is sitting on top of the paper, letterpress sits down into the paper and has a really beautiful depth to it. It’s kind of poetic.”
It was a weekend calligraphy course that made Joseph realize she wanted to specialize in wedding invitations. She has a degree in fine arts from Eastern Michigan University and was freelancing for a stationery company on the side, but took a leap of faith and left her day job to start her business in 2014. She acquired her first letterpress machine in 2017, and the second, a foil press, last year. They’re huge behemoths made of cast iron, each about 100 years old. Her husband, Max, helps out as the pressman. The letterpress machine allows them to create everything in house, and it harkens back to the way things used to be made — slowly, purposefully.
Joseph considers invitations to be a family heirloom, something you’ll have as a keepsake for the rest of your life.
“I try to get very detailed about a couples’ wedding invitations, so when the guests receive them, they know who it is, even before they open it up,” she says. “Maybe you met your fiancé studying abroad in London at an old library. Let’s take inspiration from old literature or book covers, or find aged paper, and use classic typography. That’s my favorite part, being able to tell stories visually.”
Although Joseph and her husband dream about owning a brick-and-mortar store, she’s satisfied working in her garage-turned-studio in Brighton. “The college me would be so pumped to know what I’m doing, because it really does feel like a dream,” she says. “In the summer, we’ll have the garage door open at dusk, listening to music, drinking a beer, just making things. At those times, it feels like I found what I’m supposed to be doing.”
“Brides don’t have to choose between something that’s beautiful or eco-friendly — they can have both,” Meghan Navoy says. Sustainability is one of the driving forces behind her company, Rosemarine Textiles, which she started in April 2018. Navoy uses natural dyes to create table runners and linens, ribbons for bouquets and boutonnieres, and photography backdrops.
It all started when she moved from the suburbs of Illinois to New York City to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology. “In New York, you see garbage everywhere,” Navoy says. “At the same time, I was learning about the environmental impact of the textile and manufacturing industry. The waste is so unnecessary. There are so many ways to take responsibility in our own lives, and once you get going, it’s not hard to make swaps.”
When she attended a presentation about natural dyes, she was hooked. “It was fascinating to me that you could use foraged local materials to make beautiful colors that are more complex than conventional dyes,” she says. For example: avocado skins and pits create a beautiful shade of blush, red onion skins turn into a deep chartreuse, logwood turns into purple, and black walnuts, which are local to Michigan, create a light tan. While conventional dyes distribute uniform color and can be beneficial for mass production, natural dyes create more multidimensional, visual interest.
Navoy decided to move to Detroit with her husband to start her business. “We heard there was a creative movement going on in the city, and a lower cost of living than New York,” she says. “I love that it’s more laid back here; I love Belle Isle, I love that I have space — a home and a studio.”
All of the production is done in her southwest Detroit studio, which is open by appointment. That’s something Navoy enjoys most about her business — being able to share the process with others. “There’s such a lack of transparency in product manufacturing,” she says. “It’s fun to say, ‘This is where I cut out the fabric, this is where I dye it.’ I love connecting with people, showing them what I make, and being able to offer something to brides who are a bit more design forward.”
The intimate aspect of jewelry is what draws Elaine Butcher to the craft. “It’s given at very special times in peoples’ lives,” she says. “I love the personal connections and the stories behind it.”
Butcher has always been crafty but didn’t consider working in jewelry until she took a design class alongside several older women. “It made me think, why wait to pursue what you love until after you have a career?” She attended Virginia Commonwealth University for glass and metal material studies, apprenticed with a goldsmith, and soon after, started her own line, Elaine B. Jewelry, selling her work from her studio and at art fairs. In 2017, her husband’s job in the auto industry brought them to Detroit, and she quickly found a support system of friends in the entrepreneurial industry. In November 2018, she opened her first storefront in Ferndale.
“I wanted to create a space where people could have a relationship with their designers, get inspired by materials, see how things are made,” she says. Her shop has a warm, inviting ambiance and is filled with décor and furniture that was handmade in Detroit. It reflects her jewelry aesthetic: clean and geometric, with a twist. “I’m definitely inspired by architecture and earthly elements, like raw stones,” she says. “I want my pieces to be modern but also have a spark of life.”
Butcher sells a ready-made line, but also creates many custom pieces, from engagement rings and wedding earrings to jewelry for bridesmaids and mothers of the bride. People often bring in heirloom items to be reworked, too. “It’s always a true collaboration with clients, and that’s just insanely fun to me,” she says. “A custom piece doesn’t have to be an insane splurge, you can find ways to tailor it to different needs. I’m just as happy using sterling silver as I am using 14-karat gold.”
The subtleness of Butcher’s designs pairs perfectly with weddings. “Maybe we’re doing pearl earrings, but they have a tiny hoop, or a little offset diamond on them,” she says. “For brides, I like to mix modern with classic. It’s really about you shining, so your jewelry should be the cherry on top. A nice, simple detail can go a long way.”
If Ariel Taub’s sister hadn’t asked her to design her wedding veil, she might have never gone into bridal design. Taub, who went to Parsons School of Design in New York City for a post-bachelor’s program, was always headed toward a career in fashion. But after designing a lace, crystal-embellished veil for her sister, her fate was sealed. She quickly realized bridal was the culmination of a few interests: fashion, theater, and costume design.
She gave herself six months to launch a bridal veil collection from her hometown of West Bloomfield. If it didn’t work out, she’d move back to New York and work for a designer. She didn’t have to wait long: Kleinfeld Bridal — home of TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress — was the second store to buy her namesake brand.
“I didn’t want to do the stereotypical veil, I wanted to play with colors and crystals,” she says. “And stores ended up loving it. When Kleinfeld picked it up, I thought, ‘I must have something here.’”
Taub soon branched out to include clutches, jewelry, sashes, hairpieces, and garters. She’s passionate about creating accessories that are a bit more interesting than the traditional bridal aesthetic. “I’ll look at what has been done and do the reverse. I want to create accessories that are glamorous and elegant, yet different,” she says. “A lot of the inspiration comes from the material itself. During the design process, I’ll play with tulle and Swarovski crystals, and just see where the material guides me. It’s nice to know that many brides want to step outside of the box.”
Ariel Taub is sold in stores nationwide and internationally, and she loves traveling to trunk shows to interact with brides. “When I’m working with brides, sometimes they’ll say they don’t want to wear a veil,” she says. “Then they’ll try one on for fun, and that’s the moment they cry. It sounds cheesy, but it’s so nice to be a part of someone’s wedding, even if in a small way.”