FARAI CHIDEYA reporting:
Diversity in America is on the rise, and it's affecting everything we do, even the way we walk down the aisle. Today, interracial couples represent a small but rapidly increasing percentage of US marriages. More gay couples are holding commitment ceremonies these days, too, and the wedding industry has taken notice. Rena Puebla is co-founder of Renellie International. Renellie is a wedding planning company and designed a new line of wedding cake toppers popular with interracial and gay couples. Rena joins us to tell us about the personal story behind the company.
Thank you for joining us.
Ms. RENA PUEBLA (Wedding Planner, Renellie International): Thank you for having me, Farai.
CHIDEYA: Well, we're glad you could come in studio, and we see you've brought a little bit of your wares with us. First of all, before we talk about these wedding cake toppers, what inspired you to start this line of products?
Ms. PUEBLA: Well, it was amazing. Five years ago, I married an Asian gentleman, American-Asian gentleman--Japanese. And when we got married, we were looking for a cake topper and there wasn't anything out there for us to--well, basically, to represent us as a couple. So...
CHIDEYA: And you're African-American?
Ms. PUEBLA: I'm African-American and my husband's Japanese. And so on our honeymoon, I though, my goodness, gracious, there's got to be something out there for people that are marrying other nationalities. So when I got back to the States, I realized there wasn't really anything out there, and so we decided--my partner and I, Ellie, we decided to come up with a line that would represent the base of the American people that we are familiar with, and that's Latino, African-American, Asian and Caucasian. So it took us about two years to put the whole line and the marketing and research together. And then when we did that, we launched a project this year in January, the end of January, and it's been very well received. People are just so excited about it.
CHIDEYA: So you were in the wedding planning business before your own wedding.
Ms. PUEBLA: I have a wedding company. It's called Coast Concierge Service. We do corporate events and weddings, and I've been in business now for about 20 years. And we're based out of Costa Mesa, California.
CHIDEYA: Now I'm sure there are a lot of clients of yours who have similar stories of coming from different ethnic backgrounds and trying to bring them together as they get married. What kinds of things do people tell you who are clients of yours?
Ms. PUEBLA: You know, I think what it is--I think we've been so programmed here that we just think that it's just the all-American type of wedding, so people are afraid to really say that much. But when I meet with my client, I always ask them, you know, `Do you want to incorporate your heritage in any way in a wedding?' And then they go, `I never thought about something like that.' So more and more people, I would say, in the last two years are really acknowledging their heritage, their family. They're trying to incorporate everything for a wedding to make it more interesting now.
CHIDEYA: And you brought into the studio--we're sitting here in the studio--some of your wedding toppers. Can you describe these figurines?
Ms. PUEBLA: These figurines are absolutely beautiful. I have here at the studio an African-American bride with a beautiful long--a gown with a pearl-like--touches all over the lace. And then we have a bouquet of white tulips that are just absolutely beautiful. And then she has a string of white pearls around her neck and then a beautiful vail. And then for the Asian groom that represents my guy, he's in a beautiful black tuxedo and--you know, with a little black bow tie.
And then also, the new line that has been really exploding for us is same sex. So I have a beautiful lady that's here in a tailored suit that has, like, a tuxedo jacket with a pearl-like lapel. People have just been calling us and thanking us over and over for having so many different options now than, you know--because like I said, a couple years ago, it wasn't out there. And now they're here. We're here.
CHIDEYA: So if you take these and you mix and match. You're like, `I want two white women' or `I want a...
Ms. PUEBLA: ...Asian...
CHIDEYA: ...Asian guy and a black woman or whatever...
Ms. PUEBLA: Yeah, you--exactly. You can do two African-Americans. You can change it where, like I said, for my husband and I you have an African-American bride, an Asian groom. You can have an Asian woman, a Caucasian man. You can mix it.
CHIDEYA: Now I noticed that the African-American man has different features. It's not just a painted version of the white man.
Ms. PUEBLA: Oh, no, no, no. We put in--I would say the two--out of our figurines that we really spent a lot of time on was the Asian groom and the African-American man. We wanted to make sure that the texture of the hair was very nice, that it wasn't slicked back. We made sure that the eyes were great, the nose, the lips, you know, the fullness of the lips. You know, again, we have people that order a case from us of the African-American groom in Maryland, and they said this was the first time they've actually seen a groom that was black that did not represent--that was painted black that was actually white. So they were really impressed with that with us.
CHIDEYA: All right. Well, Rena Puebla is a wedding planner and co-founder of Renellie International. Thanks for joining us.
Ms. PUEBLA: Thank you for having me.
CHIDEYA: Farai Chideya, NPR News.
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