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PETRONELLA LUGEMWA BUSINESS UNVEILED

Do’s and Don’ts of Multicultural Weddings

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Do’s and Don’ts of Multicultural Weddings

Having planned many multicultural weddings myself I have learned how to navigate and customize each experience on an individual basis. The most important part of multicultural wedding success (from a planner perspective) is making sure not to assume that all cases are the same for one culture.

MAIN TOPICS
  • What is a multicultural wedding
  • Common mistakes people make when approaching a multicultural wedding
  • How to best prepare to work well with a client who is incorporating multicultural elements
KEY TAKEAWAYS

Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions from a place of how can I better serve this client and genuine curiosity

During a wedding, use the M.A.S.K. system to better identify how to navigate a multicultural wedding

How to best prepare to work well with a client who is incorporating multicultural elements

MORE ABOUT THIS GUEST

As the creative director and founder of Petronella Photography, an international photography studio that specializes in helping multicultural couples celebrate their love in a modern way, Petronella provides the strategic vision for each unique couple’s wedding, marriage proposal or engagement celebration. With an educational background in chemical engineering, a business degree from Northwestern and over 7+ years in marketing, Petronella Lugemwa brings a discerning and thoughtful approach to how she photographs and runs Petronella Photography, a New York – New Jersey based international wedding and marriage proposal photography studio that specializes in helping multicultural couples celebrate their love in a modern way. Born in Uganda, raised in Zimbabwe and Birmingham, Alabama, Petronella is a passionate traveler and is always seeking out new cultural experiences. Together with the Petronella Photography team, she and the team speak over 9 languages and have traveled and photographed weddings as far as Thailand, South Africa, Uganda and Mexico. Petronella has a love and passion for fully immersing herself into new cultures and sharing multicultural love and life stories.

EPISODE TRANSCRIBED

Hi y'all it's Angela and I'm back for another episode of Business Unveiled. I am so excited to talk to a phenomenal, phenomenal photographer today. She is a speaker, a writer, the founder and creative director of Petronella Photography. We're going to be discussing some things that I don't think I've ever talked about before on the podcast. Continue Reading

As many events and weddings that I've done and I've collaborated with, with just some amazing, amazing planners, designers, photographers, I have never really dove into multicultural weddings. So this is what Petronella does. She is the expert when it comes to how to do everything from a multicultural wedding. In being in this industry for almost two decades, I know I have offended the you know what out of people because I just don't know their culture. So I've kind of gotten away with it because people just laugh at me and they're like, “Oh she's a dumb blonde.” But I never want to offend anybody.

Angela Proffitt:
So even if you're not in the wedding creative space, I'm sure that you work with diversity, and I'm sure that you will want to know the dos and donts of how you can better relate to someone who's not from the same place as you. So get ready to talk to Petronella. She's going to give us all the goods. Lugemwa, is that how you say your last name?

Petronella Lugemwa:
Yes [crosstalk 00:01:45]. Yep mm-hmm (affirmative).

Angela Proffitt:
I love it. So thank you so much for being here today.

Petronella Lugemwa:
Thank you for having me. I'm so excited to talk to you.

Angela Proffitt:
Yay. First I want to know is your name a family name because it's beautiful and it's just unique. So how did your mom decide to name you, that's what I want to know first. Welcome to Business Unveiled, the podcast designed to help you thrive in the creative community. Here's your host, events and productivity consultant Angela Proffitt. What's up GSD leaders? Thank you so much for tuning into another episode of Business Unveiled where we share expert tips and secrets from top creative industry professionals. You know we're going to take you behind the scenes of our experiences, share with you what we've learned from them, and how its made us stronger, because no one said it's easy owning a business right, but it's a lot more fun when you've got a strong support team around you, and that's exactly what we do at GSD Creative.

Angela Proffitt:
We're right there by your side, and I'm so excited that you've chosen this podcast to take the first step in growing a productive, profitable and successful, wildly successful business within the hospitality and creative industry. Today's podcast is brought to you by BombBomb. You can quickly and easily send video emails to stand out in your audience's inbox. There's no faster way to record yourself and or your screen. You can set up email campaigns and track for timely, relevant follow up. BombBomb makes it super easy to build relationships through email, text and social media with one goal, humanize the planet. Give it a try bit.ly/apbombbomb.

Petronella Lugemwa:
I love it. So my name is actually the feminine of Peter so [inaudible 00:03:54] is the feminine version of it. My great grandfather was named Peter. I think there was a huge discussion about what's she going to be, what's her name, and it just was like, “Let's honor our great grandfather, Petronella.”

Angela Proffitt:
I love it.

Petronella Lugemwa:
I looked it up. I think in Latin it means stone and so I always said my name means “She has come, she will stay, and she will conquer.” I'm like, “Oh love it, I'll own it.”

Angela Proffitt:
Oh my gosh. Then Lugemwa where are you from? Where does that name come from?

Petronella Lugemwa:
I know right? So Lugemwa is Ugandan, so I was born in Uganda, grew up in Zimbabwe, and then my family moved to Birmingham, Alabama when I was 10 years old.

Angela Proffitt:
What? How the hell did you get to Birmingham?

Petronella Lugemwa:
I know. The one place my dad got a job, and so we were like, “Okay, sounds good to us.” We didn't know.

Angela Proffitt:
Oh my so did you go to the space camp around there ever?

Petronella Lugemwa:
Oh my gosh, I love that you know that. Yes that was like the jam. That was like yes down Tuscaloosa? Huntsville, Huntsville.

Angela Proffitt:
Huntsville. Yes. My family is from Ocean Springs, and we would always drive through there. It was like a big deal because there was Sonic ice at the rest stop area, and then me and my brother and sister all loved space. We would go to the space camp. We were a little bit nerdy.

Petronella Lugemwa:
I love you know that. That brought back some good memories.

Angela Proffitt:
Yeah so for a girl that's in Birmingham and you're 10, how did you start to break into photography first, that's my first question. Then once you started your photography business, how did you fill the void of these wedding people don't know what the hell they're doing when it comes to other cultures? You've really coined yourself as the expert in that. So I would just like to hear more on the background of where'd you get your first camera, and how did you start to realize that there's this hole in the industry?

Petronella Lugemwa:
Yeah, yeah I love sharing this story so thank you. So I am naturally a more introverted, introspective, shy person.

Angela Proffitt:
Really?

Petronella Lugemwa:
I'm the one in a room. I know right? I know how to put it on for periods of time. Yeah so I used to borrow my dad's camera. He had a film camera, just take it, pop some film in it, and I would just go out and shoot anything and everything. I'd just be like, “I don't know what I'm doing.” I remember particularly in high school I had classmates in the gym. I was like, “Oh I want to learn how to do people and motion” and I would just be snapping my classmates sweating and all of that. I'm sure they were like, “What is she doing?” That's where it started. Photography was really an avenue for me to express what I was feeling and seeing because as a kid, I didn't speak as much. So I just sort of used photography that way. So let's see, so my parents are in math and science, and as an immigrant child, they were always like, “Education and you can become” for most immigrant children, you can become a lawyer, a doctor, an accountant or you can go in the sciences.

Petronella Lugemwa:
Those are “acceptable professions.” Yeah so I went into chemical engineering. I got my chemical engineering degree. Parents were like, “Yes let's go.”

Angela Proffitt:
Wow.

Petronella Lugemwa:
I know right?

Angela Proffitt:
That's amazing.

Petronella Lugemwa:
I got to work on I always knew I wanted to work with consumer products so I got to work on Pepsi, and Advil, and CoverGirl. These were all brands that I was like, “Oh my gosh, I really, really love this.” I wanted to continue to do that, so I got my business degree and continued to do that, worked on Advil, Avon, Pepsi, all these amazing brands [inaudible 00:08:12] sort of.

Angela Proffitt:
So when you worked with all these major brands, were you doing photography work or engineer or?

Petronella Lugemwa:
Oh it was 100% business and engineering. So brand management, I was actually on the brand's team and the way a brand is done is you have a brand and it has so many arms. It has the online version, it has the TV version. It has the print, all the … Different people on the brand own that segment, so I did online for Advil where everything you saw online I had seen or touched or knew about, or that was sort of the thing that I owned. So if you were ever back forget exactly the time yeah, I probably touched it and created something on it yeah.

Angela Proffitt:
So you really got to work with some major amazing brands. So how did you transition from, “Okay I have this stable job where I'm working with all these brands” into, “I'm going to create my own brand.”

Petronella Lugemwa:
Yes so it was luck. I was working on Advil and one of my coworkers had seen some of my photography work, and she was getting married in Mexico. I had done a couple of again, always having the camera and shooting and she was like, “Oh you did this great thing for” I think her mom's 60th birthday. She was like, “We loved that. It was great. Can you come to Mexico and shoot our wedding?” I was like, “No.”

Angela Proffitt:
Really?

Petronella Lugemwa:
I was like, “What? Are you kidding me? I haven't done this. I don't do this. This is your wedding day. You need somebody” and she was like, “I know you as a person and as a worker. I've seen your work, and I know you can do this.” They believed in me so much that they allowed me to have a month. I literally didn't respond to them for a month because I was like, “This is crazy.”

Petronella Lugemwa:
Then I was like, “You know what? Let's take a chance and do it.” Having the analytical engineering brain and business, I literally sat and mapped out what is it going to take to do a good job on this wedding, so everything from, “Okay when is this taking place?” When I got to the venue in Mexico, I timed, I knew I wanted a shot of the ocean and the water, and then the couple was in this it was at the Barcelo Maya and they have this beautiful structure. So I wanted the ocean looking out. So I looked up and I found a spot at the top of the stairs, but I was only one person shooting the wedding, so I timed how long it would take for me to run up the stairs, get that shot, come back down. I had everything broken down. I was like, “All right, I need to get the ring shot. Okay I need this macro lens.”

Petronella Lugemwa:
“It's going to take me five minutes.” It was very technical, but something sparked in me. I was just more alive. I was like, “I love this.” I just feel something came alive in me, and I was like, “Oh there is something here, a little different than business. How can I make this something?” Because I was too scared to jump and take that leap, so it was kind of a side hustle for a little bit. I got laid off, and that was the best thing ever because I was like, “All right, this is the gift to start my own” and jump into that, so yeah.

Angela Proffitt:
Isn't it funny how it's like we're not quitters. In the culture we live in at least how I grew up with my parents it's like, “You work for the same company for 30 years and then you retire.”

Petronella Lugemwa:
Yes, yes.

Angela Proffitt:
It's like-

Petronella Lugemwa:
That was hard. The shame that comes with, “Oh she gave up easily” or yeah.

Angela Proffitt:
Yeah, yeah so now you're based in the New York area, but I know that you've basically kind of grown up all around the world. So going from where you were born and then landing in Birmingham, how did you decide out of all the places you've been to base yourself out of New York? Was it because of the airport and the direct flights I'm just wondering?

Petronella Lugemwa:
You know what? I think it was coincidence. So after [inaudible 00:12:31] school, my first job was yeah it was on Advil. So in where was it, it was in Morristown New Jersey, so it was just pure coincidence. I knew I wanted to be Birmingham Alabama had been great, but in terms of diversity and exposure to all the amazing things that New York has to offer, like all the major stars come to New York. Everything major happens in New York and I was like, “You know what? I'm going to pick a job where everything” because I want to be close to that. I want as close as [inaudible 00:13:07] live in ne Jersey because I still have that southernness and I'm like, “Oh my gosh I need to see trees, and I need to be able to drive a car.” So I still have access to New York. It's a quick 20 minute ride into New York, but yeah but then now I live in the New Jersey area.

Angela Proffitt:
But then you also go to Philly and D.C. Is that just where clients, so it sounds like you really started off doing kind of destination and shooting destination weddings, and then do you guys just focus on that, or it sounds like you still do corporate business stuff for photography as well.

Petronella Lugemwa:
No, that's a great question. So the focus is mostly weddings and marriage proposals, that's what we're really good at, and specifically so as you said, I specialize in helping multicultural couples celebrate their love in a modern way. How I got there, it's sort of grounded in a little bit of my story is in Birmingham, Alabama, I never saw my culture celebrated, and I never saw different cultures celebrated and experienced. So for a long time, I really hid a part of who I was because I was trying to fit in with everyone else, and I was like, “Okay, I'm not seeing this out in the world and in the media. This must not be okay.” Honestly, there were some experiences and comments that made me realize it's not okay to celebrate my culture. So I hid it for a long time, yes and for years and years even corporate America, I mean you can hear it in how I talk. I talk “very white.”

Petronella Lugemwa:
[inaudible 00:14:53] looked very white. I really wanted to fit in and make people feel comfortable. It wasn't until I was starting out into wedding photography, and I had invested in this brand workshop sort of branding yourself, and sort of figuring out what your positioning is, and I had learned to hide my last name, because I knew if you knew my last name, you would know something was odd. One of the people was like, “Wait a minute. We just figured out your last name. What the heck? What's going on there?” I was like, “Oh yeah, yeah it's just a thing.” They were like, “No, let's dig into that” and they dug into it. We realized that they believed that the [inaudible 00:15:33] in Atlanta, they believe that your gift lies in the secret that you're hiding from the world.

Petronella Lugemwa:
They were like, “You need to share this loud and proud and make this something.” They told me that and I was like, “This resonates so beautifully. It just makes sense because I get it.” I get what it's like to be multicultural, to have different worlds, to go home and eat a certain kind of food, and talk a certain way, maybe talk a different language, be a certain way, but then go out into the real world and then you're just a completely different person to fit in. So you're constantly on a daily basis navigating different worlds, which is how I define multicultural as sort of somebody on a consistent basis is straddling different worlds whether it's faith, language or daily habits, cultural habits, yeah. So that-

Angela Proffitt:
Do you speak multiple languages?

Petronella Lugemwa:
I do. I'm like I speak Luganda, English, French and I'm working on Spanish so yeah.

Angela Proffitt:
I'm just I was looking at your Instagram this morning and your photos first are just beautiful, but the diversity not only the stories that you capture of the clients, but the places that you've been, it's just it's gorgeous. So whatever workshop you just said you were at, good job for them to encourage you to get out there and do what you do. I'm so thankful we live in this time where transparency is the cool thing.

Petronella Lugemwa:
Totally.

Angela Proffitt:
We're so long over a decade it's just like, I just sold perfection, and nothing's perfect. But I would never tell anyone, I would just fix it, and shove it under the rug, and learn from it. Now it's like, “Oh those uh-oh moments are actually acceptable.” So I've very thankful for that. I guess in all the different multicultural weddings that you capture, do you have a favorite culture that you just … is it your own culture that you gravitate to? Do you have a favorite, or you just embrace them as they come? People ask me that, and I definitely have a favorite, but I'm just wondering.

Petronella Lugemwa:
Yeah no, no, no, no. I mean it's a hard thing to say. Definitely my own because I don't get to do as many as I would love to do. So I'm Ugandan, and when a Ugandan couple gets married, they do a couple different ceremonies, but the two major ones, one is the [foreign language 00:18:31] which in the parents' eyes is very official, this is happening, they are together, this is moving forward. It's an eight to 10 hour ceremony where you have two sides of the family sort of sitting across from each other and pretty much discussing the groom, “Is he worthy? Where does he come from?” Then you have the groom enter in, and he's like, “Hey I would like to marry your daughter. Is it okay? I come bearing gifts” and all these gifts have been predetermined by the family. They put a list together of, “This is what I want, and this is what she's worth. You have to go get it.” Over several months he gets all this, and then he has an entourage, and they come in and they present the gifts.

Petronella Lugemwa:
There's playful banter back and forth between two emcees, which I love hearing because they're just fun. The couple always picks some fun emcees to sort of talk about who they are, and then you have the bride come out and playfully is covered with a bunch of her girlfriends, and he has to sort of pick her out and identify, “This is the one I really want to marry” and there's chickens, all kinds of things going on, and yeah it's lots of fun. But I love it even more so because as I've shot other types of weddings, I recently was in Cambodia, even Nigeria, there are a lot of cultures which have a similar setup in terms of the negotiation or the presentation of the groom, the introduction of the groom. Yeah, so yeah that's why I like mine. I take that knowledge and sort of translate it into others that I see.

Angela Proffitt:
So tell us because I know again you specialize in the weddings, so do you have a crazy slash favorite proposal where a guy or a girl is like, “Hey this is what I'm thinking” or do you guys completely come up with the idea, and then you make the person look like a hero, because that's what you do. But what's one of the most outlandish things that you've been asked to do?

Petronella Lugemwa:
Yeah so I focus mostly on the photography. There's an amazing proposal planner Michele of The Heart Bandits amazing ideas. But the one which sticks out the most, it was a New York penthouse rooftop. I want to say it was cold, it was in either January or December, some point where it was cold, but the thing why it's still amazing is he wanted to transform the rooftop which is this huge space into a garden, so there were tulips, there was a silk rug leading up to the spot where he was going to propose to her, which was green.

Petronella Lugemwa:
So he pretty much made winter look like spring hundreds and hundreds of tulips. I believe there were orchids. It was just so, so, so over the top. But it was also meaningful because he was proposing his girlfriend at the time was Italian. So this tied together all the different elements of who they are, and what she loved. Her expression was so amazing as she came down the stairs. He actually had told her, “We're going for a helicopter ride” so she came down and kind of was like, “Where's the helicopter?” I was like, “Really girl? Look at all this.” Yeah right, but yeah so I love the expression. I love the joy. I love yeah they're just so fantastic because you just never know what's going to happen. The guy's nervous, but yeah. So I sent tips to him to sort of say, “Hey” again like you said, he wants to be the hero. This is what, “You should look her in the eyes, take your time on your knee,” yeah those kinds of tips.

Angela Proffitt:
Because I've seen some of your photography in Times Square where I guess people rent those jumbotron looking things and [crosstalk 00:22:42]. Yeah like do girls like that? I mean I don't know I guess to each their own, but it's like having that up there, and having millions of strangers look around, it's just like, do girls like that? Do they-

Petronella Lugemwa:
You know what? My number one tip for anyone proposing, and I do all types of proposals guys to guys, girls to girls, yeah so my biggest tip is know your person, know who they are, know if they are the kind who are like, “I want a public with thousands and thousands of people,” and really make sure it's personalized. Make sure it's not about you, and you wanting to put on a show, but that it's really catering to your person and making sure that they are like, “Oh this is what I would love.” I would say all of them have been yeah everyone has loved them if that makes sense. No one has been like, “This is too much. I don't know if I …”

Angela Proffitt:
WTF, what are you thinking?

Petronella Lugemwa:
Somebody whose really hiring a team to put together a proposal is very thoughtful, and is not sort of rolling out the bed and being like, “Let me just do this.” So they usually consider, usually. There have been a couple, usually consider their significant other.

Angela Proffitt:
That's awesome. So to jump into the guts of today, it's like give us some dos and donts, because I know a ton of research I mean even myself getting into Indian weddings and Yemen weddings and Nigerian weddings, and I mean just embracing the culture, and I'm just like in awe of the colors and the beautiful clothes and all these traditions. The first Indian wedding I did, people looked at me and they're like, “You're not Indian.” I'm like, “No, but I have a lot of saris.” But you learn these things. So doing the research on it, but then actually being part of it I feel like is like two different things. It's like, “Oh did that just happen? Shit I shouldn't have done that,” or so it's like what are some dos and donts from your experience that if someone is going to do a multicultural event, or a wedding, or even I mean there's so much diversity where I'm based in Nashville, and you being in New York, there's a ton of diversity.

Angela Proffitt:
What are some top things that you can share with our audience?

Petronella Lugemwa:
Yeah sure, so I would say the first thing is, and I'll give an example of myself I was shooting an Indian wedding. In photography, there's this prominent image that you think about when you think about the bride holding up her hands with henna, of the image that you want to get. I remember being in the wedding, I'd done a lot of research, talked to the couple, really understood them, but for whatever reason, that image popped in my head and I was like, “Oh my God, I have to have it so I can really show people I've done this and I can do this.” I asked the bride to do that. I was like, “Oh hold your hands out, let's see your henna.” I remember her being like she very beautifully touched me and was like, “Hey we're not really into that. It's not really us. I don't want to do this.” I loved it because in that moment, it brought me back to a place of, “Whoa, let's think about our notes.

Petronella Lugemwa:
Let's think about what we talked about” and the biggest thing which leads to what I'm going to share is whatever idea you have of a certain cultural wedding, I would say throw it out.

Angela Proffitt:
[inaudible 00:26:25].

Petronella Lugemwa:
Yeah. You'll come in and try to make that wedding into what you see in the media. I think a lot of times, the media portrays different cultures in a certain way. Sometimes it's completely off base as in [inaudible 00:26:42] “Oh hold your hands up like this.” This is what works. So throw whatever idea you have. All of us whenever you think of I'm pretty sure any sort of culture, you think, “Oh I know what to expect. This is what it's going to look like and feel like.” I would say throw that away and really talk to the couple. Talk about who they are, what's important to them, how they self identify with their culture because right now as the world is becoming much more multicultural, there are different spectrums of couples right? So my couple the Indian couple's actually much more Americanized than true, true traditional. So for them, they were like, “Let's much, much more modernize” so that image was taking them back to a place that they didn't quite self identify themselves with.

Petronella Lugemwa:
So that's a question that I have no problem. Initially when somebody inquires, I'm literally like, “Tell me about your heritage. Tell me about your background. How do you identify with it? What does it mean to you? What elements of who you are do you want to bring out, and how is that going to show up in your wedding?” So asking lots of questions I think that leads to point number two, ask a lot of questions from a place of curiosity and understanding, and I genuinely want to love you and understand who you are. You'd be surprised. People are not afraid. You can make mistakes [inaudible 00:28:11] “I think this is what happens at this sort of ceremony, but can you help me understand if that's true or not?” No one's going to be offended by that if that makes sense.

Petronella Lugemwa:
So I would say ask lots of questions, do a lot of research up front. If you find yourself in a place where this has happened to me where I didn't know that there was another cultural element to a couple, and I'm in the situation, and I'm photographing. I have a system called the MASK system.

Angela Proffitt:
Oh tell me more.

Petronella Lugemwa:
Yeah so M stands for movement. So if I'm in a situation where I'm not quite sure and I'm like, “Oh my gosh, I didn't realize there were this culture or this culture going on” I'll look for movement. Where's the movement happening? What's going on? What does it mean because that's usually a sign of something important's about to happen. A is attire, really pay attention attire. What are the parents wearing? What is the bride wearing? What is the groom wearing? Why are they wearing that, from the shoes to the jewelry to the everything. Why is she wearing a white dress? Now she's wearing this dress? What does this mean? What's going on? Pay attention to that, and that's going to give you clues as to what's important and how to better understand and respectfully honor that culture. The third one S is symbols, and this one's a little bit harder because you kind of have to do a little bit of research, but look for symbols that might be important.

Petronella Lugemwa:
In my culture, if you see the chicken come out, that's a sign. The groom hands the chicken over to the brother as a sign, “I'm going to take” it's a sign of masculinity. It's sort of like, “I'm going to take care of your sister very, very well and I respect her” and all of that. So that-

Angela Proffitt:
Like a real chicken? Like a live chicken?

Petronella Lugemwa:
Chicken yes my brother-in-law did that yeah. Yeah so it's those small things where you're like, “I've never seen that before. Why is” … I think with modern [inaudible 00:30:19] the ring, you know the ring is special right? You know that's like okay that's an important symbol of coming together. But with cultural weddings, there are other symbols that are meaningful to each specific culture. So just looking out for those are going to give you clues as to, “Hey I need to pay attention. There's something happening here, and this is important to this person regardless of what field you are whether planning or photography. I need to capture this or I need to know what's going on with this.” Then the last thing is key people. Pay attention to the key people, where they position, what are they doing and how are they interacting. That's going to give a clue as to what's going on.

Petronella Lugemwa:
Sometimes if you're in a situation here you're like, “I didn't realize this was going to happen. Okay.” My sister's wedding before she walked down the aisle, my mom brought together a bunch of women that had supported her and supported my sister throughout the process. They came in as an entourage. Now this is something she hadn't told the planner was going to happen, but [inaudible 00:31:24] movement as I planner I would have been like, “Oh my gosh there's movement.” The mom is in the front with all these women. Something important is happening. Let me pay attention. Let me figure out what's going on.” Does that make sense? So that's the MASK system in terms of.

Angela Proffitt:
I love it. I love it. It's just so I mean it's just so interesting to me. So yeah I couldn't agree more. Ask a lot of questions and don't assume. So it's like going from my first Indian wedding to my second, I just assumed they all wanted red and gold. I'm like, and then the mom looks at me and she's like, “We're from the other side of India and we like purple.” Then the next one is like, “Don't assume purple or red or gold.” It's very modernized, and they want it all white. I'm like, “Oh I thought that meant something bad in your” but I never assume anymore. So have you had to handle as the photographer, because I know a lot of planners have to deal with this, but as the photographer in everyday life, it's like we deal with parents that are divorced or remarried or girlfriend, boyfriend, whatever. But as a photographer when you're capturing stories with all these different cultures, have you ever had some uncomfortable situations where you've had to step in and fix the situation just because of miscommunication?

Angela Proffitt:
That's something that I've learned is huge is in different cultures is the miscommunication of our culture versus their culture. So do you have any examples of that, and how did you handle it?

Petronella Lugemwa:
Yeah, yeah so I have two different examples of communication in different ways. One of them is it was a multicultural wedding, and we had the venue and the venue coordinator, and how they had a specific timeline of how things run. “At this time, we're going to do this, and then food is going to be served, and the first course and the second course.” I remember having a conversation, this was right before the wedding, I remember having a conversation with them because it was a Nigerian wedding, there was a Nigerian aspect to it, and I was like, “Hey I just wanted to give you a heads up, your timeline is about to be shot because this is what's going to happen. There's going to be a money dance. There's going to be an entourage coming in.” I remember her being very adamant about, “Hey no, but this is going to throw things off, and this is how things” and I just was like, “Hey we need to figure out how to make this work because if you try to cut that short, you're going to offend the family. It's not going to be a good thing.”

Petronella Lugemwa:
“So let's figure out how to build in something which accommodates I know food has to come out at a certain time, this needs to flow in a certain way, but how can we also accommodate the family” because it's really, really important. The way you manage, and the way we work together on a situation is going to impact how the family and the bride and groom view you. “Let's make this a good situation where we all come out really well.” So I think she really appreciated the enlightenment. I'm like, “Girl it's not going to happen that way. It's going to be about 30 minutes of dancing give or take, 15 to 30 minutes of money dancing. It's not going to be a clear.” With a normal wedding, you just have the parents walk out, clap, form the arch, but this one, there's going to be something which goes on for a very long time. So I loved that she was able to pivot, and really open up her eyes, and be like, “Oh my gosh, okay we can't do that. We're going to do this and this is how we're going to make this happen.”

Petronella Lugemwa:
So that's-

Angela Proffitt:
Flexibility.

Petronella Lugemwa:
Yes flexibility, a lot of flexibility and openness. There's a western way of doing things, and then there's also other ways of doing things and how things flow. Another example that's a little bit trickier is with a lot of multicultural weddings, family is a huge, huge, huge part of the celebration. I would say for most photographers, there's certain shots where you're like, “Oh the family formals. I don't really want to do this. It's not as fun and exciting.” It's maybe this reception, or the bride looking beautiful, or other elements. So I would say I definitely have seen, and people sort of shove the parents and sort of be like, “Okay they might have this request” and you're just kind of like, “No I want to focus on this. This is what I've been told to. This is sort of how things flow.”

Petronella Lugemwa:
But I would say in a situation, so sometimes you know you're tasked with the couple will say, “Hey we need you to take these specific shots” and then the family members would sort of come in, sort of “This is our day too” [inaudible 00:36:37] with me and my auntie, me and my auntie and my grand sister, [inaudible 00:36:41] a whole new photo shoot. So for me, I'm lucky that I usually have a big team, and depending on the culture, we've done a lot of homework, and I sort of understand, “Hey I might need to staff and add more people because these type of requests are going to come,” and so to really look at that person and be like, “Hey what you're asking is really valid and important.” I think that'll very quickly quell a lot of the tension that you sort of feel between, “I'm supposed to do this but you have this request. How do I handle it” and either saying, “Hey.” In some instances I've been like, “Hey it's really important, and we've been told that we need to focus on this right now.”

Petronella Lugemwa:
“But how about this? During the reception, grab either me or whoever else is on the team and we can do that for you” or if you plan it in advance being like, “Hey we're going to give you this time slot where we can do all these different combinations of photos if that's important to you.” I think the key thing is just acknowledging that that person has made that request, and really acknowledging the family especially the mom. Usually the moms are really important in multicultural weddings, to really not trying to brush them aside but really saying, “Hey I hear you, I see you. How can we make this happen?”

Angela Proffitt:
So the other big thing that I've noticed in multicultural weddings is who pays for what and how that can drive decision making. So do you ever get caught up in that, and specifically what I've seen with photography is that the bride's family will hire a whole photo video, and then the groom the whole and it's like, “Damn we got paparazzi up in here.” Literally 20 different flashes and cameras, and then they're fighting each other. So it's like that happened to me one time, and then from then on, I knew to ask the photographer and the video team, “Hey, do you have it in your contract that you are the exclusive photographer?” Each family is going to hire their own team, we all need to have a meeting, and we need to talk, and we need to work together. I mean it was really as the planner, I was so uncomfortable.

Angela Proffitt:
I felt like I had to completely deviate to where my head needed to be. Thank God like you I've learned the hard way. In some of these larger weddings, I need 12 people with really good radios and backup batteries. So have you ever been a part of that before? How do you handle that part?

Petronella Lugemwa:
Yes that's yeah that's expected. So I would say first of all, it depends on where the wedding is taking place. If it's happening for example like in Uganda where it's so commonplace for every single member of the family to hire their own person, you can't exclusivity is in my contract, and that doesn't mean anything. People are still going to be like, “Yeah whatever we're here and how things roll so roll with it.” What I do do is a lot of times, just knowing what may be coming up. I have a conversation with a couple in advance of their wedding, and I talk about, “Hey this is what could happen. If there are four other photographers, and I'm trying to shoot this, and this is really important to you, this is what could happen. We may have mom's photographer over your head with a big lens in all your photos. Is that okay with you? How would you like me to navigate that?”

Petronella Lugemwa:
We start having, and then once, so I sort of kind of put it on them, and we sort of have a discussion. “Okay this is what could happen.” For most people when they think about that, they're like, “Oh but all these people are going to be there.” I just did one recently maybe a few months ago, and we had that conversation, and she went to the other photographer who the mom had hired and said, “Hey, when Petronella's doing this, this and this, you need to be X feet away or this” you know what I mean? It was on her to sort of manage that. I definitely on the day of is if I see other people, I immediately go and have a conversation with them. “Hi. [inaudible 00:41:02] what are you doing? I'm doing this. What lens are you going to be on? Okay let's dance together. Let's figure out how this is going to work.”

Petronella Lugemwa:
In most if it's an American wedding, they will usually just have me exclusively just as the contract says, but there are instances where it's just culturally what it is, and you kind of try to have that conversation in advance, and then on the day of do your best, yeah.

Angela Proffitt:
Got it. So what are the big mistakes that you see planners and coordinators making with some of these multicultural weddings that you're trying to capture?

Petronella Lugemwa:
Biggest mistakes, timing and flexibility I would say is one of the biggest mistakes that I see. For me, in particular you had mentioned attire one time. I would say for me personally, I think there was one time I had a Chinese wedding, a very, very traditional Chinese wedding that I was helping a friend out with, and I showed up in a beautiful black dress like, “Yes I am bringing it.” Then I walked into the room, and I instantly knew I had completely messed it up, and later found out black is a sign of mourning, and death, and bad luck. Yeah so that was mistake that I was like, “Okay, understanding that.” So the next time I shot a Thai wedding, I asked the family, I was like, “Oh tell me a little about, I was considering wearing black because is very in our industry as a vendor I usually wear black to blend in. It sort of makes sense.” They were very quickly like, “Her colors are gold and sage and black is bad. Do not wear black.”

Petronella Lugemwa:
So I went out, bought a gold dress. I just understood that that's what really was important to them.

Angela Proffitt:
So again just ask, ask.

Petronella Lugemwa:
Don't make assumptions. Ask lots and lots of questions. Don't make assumptions. Be flexible with the timing and flow of things. Make sure that the family has some say over something. You can designate specific buckets where you're like, “Okay, I'm going to get a lot of input from the family on this specific part.” Just engage and involve them, and do not dismiss them because that can make your job [inaudible 00:43:32].

Angela Proffitt:
Yeah cannot be good.

Petronella Lugemwa:
No it's not easy. Yeah you can be like, “You're not really yeah.” It's easy to do so.

Angela Proffitt:
Oh my god so really what makes you and your job it's different because you're not just showing up with a camera. You really again you specialize and focus in all these multicultural weddings. Do you feel like it's more difficult or that's just what you do now because you really owned it? So what are some different aspects that … Are you still learning as you go, as we … I feel like I'm in this whole different generation these days. How have things changed?

Petronella Lugemwa:
Yeah that's a great question. First of all I want to put it out there I do love multicultural weddings, but I do not say that I know every single wedding and I know what to expect on every single one. I do a credible amount of research I and the rest of the team before every single wedding to sort of understand, “Okay who is this couple, what is the culture, and what spectrum are they on.”

Angela Proffitt:
To me, some people would view it as like, “Oh my gosh, it's so difficult.” I mean I have friends in the industry they were like, “I'll never do another Indian wedding because they have this thing called IPT.” I'm like, “What?” They're like, “Indian people time. They don't show up for rehearsal. I mean they're just very stuck in their ways, and very much stuck in their culture.” I'm like, “Then stay in your lane. If you're only comfortable doing Christian church Catholic weddings, then do that because that makes you comfortable.” So just wondering how does it make your job different because you're not just a photographer showing up with a camera. It's like you've got to think of all these other things of how you're going to capture the multicultural aspect of it. So just how is that different from a normal wedding photographer I guess?

Petronella Lugemwa:
Yeah, yeah so it's different in they're usually a lot of different elements. I love it by the way. I thrive, I love that it's always different, and it always keeps my eye. I'm never bored. I'm always on my toes, always looking, thinking, looking for movement, attire, symbols, key people, what's going on. So I love that.

Angela Proffitt:
It's all about your personality and what you're comfortable doing because again some people are not up for the challenge, and they're not up for traveling all over the place, and they're not up for capturing, because it brings on this whole sense of stress, but it's like, you embrace it, and you get drive off of that. I think it's just a personality thing. Then also you going from all the different places you've lived and then so did you grow up in Birmingham in the south the whole time before you ventured out to become a photographer?

Petronella Lugemwa:
You know I didn't.

Angela Proffitt:
Of course. I mean you're a southern girl at heart.

Petronella Lugemwa:
Yes there's southern, so from Uganda to Kenya where my sister's born because of political turmoil and then Zimbabwe is usually really where I grew up. There's Birmingham Alabama and then I went to school in Virginia, and then Baltimore is in there, and then I studied abroad in Cape Town South Africa then.

Angela Proffitt:
Oh my god I'm going there next month I can't wait for a conference.

Petronella Lugemwa:
Oh yeah?

Angela Proffitt:
Yes to Cape Town. I'm so excited. It's just let me yeah.

Petronella Lugemwa:
I'll give you some tips afterwards.

Angela Proffitt:
Oh my gosh yeah you'll have to. But I mean in all these places that you've been, do you think that how you embrace all these different opportunities, do you feel like you're so comfortable in your skin doing it because you have been to all these places, you've exposed yourself to all these different cultures? To me, that's what make you different because if you ask a line up of 100 photographers, “Have you been outside of the US,” half of them or probably 80% of them will tell you not no but hell no because they don't want to travel with their equipment, or I think fear gets in the way, and people are just comfortable. So it sounds like you're comfortable being uncomfortable. I know I am because I get bored. So it sounds like you're a lot like that too.

Petronella Lugemwa:
Yeah just embrace the unknown [inaudible 00:48:11] I think everyone just wants to feel understood and seen. So I go in with a mind of, “How can I see you? How can I understand that?” So as things come my way whether “Oh my God this is completely different and I didn't expect that” I'm like, “But it's telling me something about who you are and what's important to you, so I'm going to figure out a way.” So that's sort of my approach and attitude. Travel completely helps because when you go other places, you see different ways of doing and being, but you also see the commonalities. We all love family, togetherness, community is all the same. It might look different, it might be executed differently, but at the end of the day, that's still the same.

Petronella Lugemwa:
When you feel that, especially when you travel, it just opens you up more to be like, “Okay, I can be more flexible, and I can open up my eyes to different ways, and yeah different people and cultures and different ways of being.”

Angela Proffitt:
It's so awesome. So is there anything that you wish that you had known when you first started out in this industry? Anything?

Petronella Lugemwa:
Yeah I think when you start out, I played small. I was like, “This thing that I'm doing, I don't know if everyone will love it.” There was definitely some feedback like, “I don't know if you're doing.” I just wish I had gone big. I wish I had dreamed bigger. I wish I had dove in 1000% because now I'm opening doors and I'm like, “Oh my gosh I could have opened that door five years ago.” So I wish I had just embraced my dreams and dreamed bigger, and really people are so amazing, and people are so open, and maybe some aren't, but you just keep knocking on the door, and something's going to open up. So I just wish I had dreamed bigger, and yeah traveled more, and just did a lot more yeah more fun, exciting things to push myself and grow myself.

Angela Proffitt:
Yeah and again, it's like we are our worst enemy of being fearful of “I'll make a mistake, I'll fail.” I'm like, “I don't think about that, ever.” If something happens I'm like, “Oh shit, well I shouldn't do that again.” It's just like, move on, don't dwell on it. It's like the past was the past, you learn from it, so.

Petronella Lugemwa:
Yeah that's what I love about what you're doing. You seem like you're always constantly, “Let me try this. Let me do this.” Something that you do so well that I'm like, “Oh my God, I got to get on that.” Your Instagram you're constantly just like, “I'm in the car. I'm now going here. This is what happened. Oh well, let's see what happens.” I think that's beautiful, that's so [inaudible 00:51:09] that you completely embrace who you are, and you're just it makes people feel like, “Okay she's cool with that. I've seen her in all sorts of phases going through all sorts of things so it's okay to be myself so yeah.”

Angela Proffitt:
Yeah it's don't take yourself so seriously. It's like no one is dying. It's going to be okay. I just I remember in my 20s I was so hard on myself. I just was psycho about being perfect, perfect, perfect and you get the question.

Petronella Lugemwa:
I get that.

Angela Proffitt:
Yeah it's just like-

Petronella Lugemwa:
Totally me.

Angela Proffitt:
Don't do that. It's like don't hold yourself back just because you think you're not going to do it perfectly. It's like we'll give it a try. Now I don't like to [inaudible 00:52:00] do anything, but-

Petronella Lugemwa:
There's so much grace, and failure is such a beautiful teacher oh my goodness. You just so much more yeah.

Angela Proffitt:
Yeah okay one last question because I know a lot of people who work on their feet for 20 hour days, lately the big talk is shoes. So do you shoot in heels all day, or do you wear comfortable shoes? Do you have any secrets about how to keep your feet from not wanting to fall off at the end of some of these four day multicultural weddings?

Petronella Lugemwa:
Oh my God I love this question yes. So yes in the beginning, I wanted to look cute, and I wanted stylish, and I was I can't believe I shot a wedding in heels one time, that's yeah, yeah. Then you feel it, and you realize you can't do certain things like the cute dress, the cute tight dress you maybe can't angle yourself to get that shot because you're going to offend everyone when you're lying on the ground and everyone. So now I have I wear all black nice sneakers HOKU.

Angela Proffitt:
HOKA.

Petronella Lugemwa:
HOKA ONE makes some great, really amazing sneakers which are all black so they can seamlessly blend in with your attire if that's what you're going to be wearing. Cole Haan has some good stuff. Oh and Adidas has a really, really amazing line that's really stylish and can work with different types of outfits yeah. So for multi day weddings, yeah cute high heels not a thing.

Angela Proffitt:
I used to care, and then-

Petronella Lugemwa:
Yeah then you're like ow, oh my gosh. You can't give your best when you're focused on being cute and presenting like … At the end of the day, they want to know what you can do for them, so.

Angela Proffitt:
Right, right I'm like I'm not here to look cute. I'm here to work for you. I'm not a guest.

Petronella Lugemwa:
Yeah and is that going to be yeah does that mean I have to wear the four inch padded sneaker ish nice sneaker to your wedding?

Angela Proffitt:
Yeah it's just funny. That's been the big talk. I was recently speaking somewhere, and someone that was one of the questions that I got. I'm like, “That's really funny. Z-Coil and SKETCHERS have definitely been the runners.” They're not that cute, but again you don't care anymore sometimes. I'm like I'm here to work not look cute. So where can everyone connect with you? Do you have a preference on social? I know that you have your beautiful photos all over Instagram. Is that where you feel like people should follow you?

Petronella Lugemwa:
Mm-hmm (affirmative) Instagram is where I live, where I love, where I connect. I'm ramping up on LinkedIn as well if that's your jam. I also am there too, it's pretty new but Instagram is where I love seeing things, and talking to people, and all the good stuff so.

Angela Proffitt:
That's awesome. So is Petron, is that P-E-T-R-O-N, is that the tequila? I'm just wondering?

Petronella Lugemwa:
Oh no, no, no that's P-A.

Angela Proffitt:
Gotcha, I'm not a good speller so I just had to laugh at myself.

Petronella Lugemwa:
I've heard it all. Since I've been young, I've heard all kinds of things.

Angela Proffitt:
Oh my gosh. I want to make sure.

Petronella Lugemwa:
Petroleum jelly, all kinds yeah so I've heard it all. It's Petronella Photography is my Instagram. P-E-T-R-O-N-E-L-L-A Photography, so.

Angela Proffitt:
Perfect, and we'll put it in the show notes too so people can just click. So I see on your Instagram did you shoot a wedding in Bangkok?

Petronella Lugemwa:
I did in the past, but not in recent time. I'm working on that. There's actually working with a couple wedding planners on some [inaudible 00:56:19] thing so coming soon. I love Thailand. I'm always there, and I was like, “This is time to really build some connections and make some [inaudible 00:56:28] happen so.”

Angela Proffitt:
Yes. We did a conference in Bangkok, and we would get six dollar massages on our feet for an hour, and that included the tip too. It's just like you could get amazing clothes and amazing massages for hardly any. I don't know I felt like I was ripping them off when they're like six US dollars four US dollars plus tip. I was like, “Oh my gosh, I think I'm going to do this every day.” We had a stop in Dubai was halfway for a few days and then I'm like, “Oh our first dinner in Dubai was our entire seven days in Bangkok. I'm like, “We're eating peanut butter and crackers the rest of the trip here.” It was-

Petronella Lugemwa:
Dubai is very grand and let us throw money around, yeah.

Angela Proffitt:
Mm-hmm (affirmative) yeah but I just happened to see that I'm like, “Ah.” I don't know if I'll going back there anytime soon, but it's a really neat, really neat culture out there. That's so cool, co cool. Congratulations on I see named one of 30 rising in the wedding industry in the world. That's amazing. Congratulations on that.

Petronella Lugemwa:
The first black woman. It's really yeah very exciting.

Angela Proffitt:
That is awesome. Well thank you so much for being here today, and everyone who's listening, be sure you go and check out Petronella's Instagram. I mean that's where I'm just like oohing and aahing over your photos. You speak as well and travel. Do you primarily focus on speaking on multicultural weddings?

Petronella Lugemwa:
Yes multicultural weddings, I do clients probably talk about proposals as well so yeah that's pretty much the focus.

Angela Proffitt:
That's awesome. Well thank you so much for being here today.

Petronella Lugemwa:
Thank you. This has been so fun. Thank you so much for giving this platform to sort of share my story, and give some tips and advice. I hope it was helpful to your listeners.

Angela Proffitt:
Awesome. Everyone thanks for listening. Be sure you tune in next week to another episode of Business Unveiled. Have a great day. Bye. Now that you have all the tools you need to conquer the world in GSD just share this with your friends and your fellow GSD leaders, and be sure you're a subscriber so you never miss the juicy details of Business Unveiled, and you can ask Siri to listen to the latest episode. But you got to be a subscriber. Before I go, I have a huge favor to ask, and it would mean the world to me while you're listening, snap a quick screenshot, post it to your Instagram story, tag me @gsdleader_ and share with me your top takeaway from this episode and how it relates to you. Until next time, remember stay productive and profitable. You've been listening to Business Unveiled with Angela Proffitt. Join us next time as we share our experiences to help you be more productive and profitable in your creative business.

Angela Proffitt:
For more great resources, visit angelaproffitt.com.

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