While completing his Master of Arts in Leadership Development, Frank Shaver-Burgess (MA ’21) had no idea that his final project would lead to him being named 2022 Orange County Queer Activist/Philanthropist of the Year.
“The final project for that class was fluid enough that we were able to do anything we wanted […] that needed some addressing from a leadership standpoint in diversity and equity,” shared Shaver-Burgess.
In thinking about what he wanted to do, Shaver-Burgess recalled when he and his partner were newly engaged and starting to plan their wedding. He noticed a lack of LGBTQ+ representation in wedding vendors’ marketing.
“I had another realization — I was actually seeing what I wanted to see, which was gay couples on vendors’ [marketing, but] from Los Angeles. I [also] saw plenty in Palm Springs. I saw it in San Diego, but I wasn’t seeing it in Orange County.”
Shaver-Burgess started to explore options for addressing that need from a leadership standpoint. For his final assignment, he created an Instagram account, LGBTQ+ Weddings OC, that serves as a directory for LGBTQ+ couples looking for inclusive vendors throughout Orange County.
“If I feature a vendor on there [it] means that you don’t have to come out of the closet to them. You can pick up the phone and just say ‘are you available on this date for my wedding’ and you can skip all the ‘by the way it’s a gay wedding’ or ‘it’s two brides, its two grooms,’” he says.
The success of this project led to an invitation to serve on the board of the National Gay Wedding Association and eventually to the start of his own career in wedding planning as the founder of Events by Frank.
In 2022, Shaver-Burgess was honored with the OC Queer Activist/Philanthropist of the Year award from Strut Orange County. Nominated by his peers, Frank’s recognition highlighted the significance of his work in creating a safe and inclusive space for LGBTQ+ couples.
The main goal of his work is to bring LGBTQ+ couples to the forefront of the wedding planning industry. He aims to ensure that queer couples feel represented and comfortable when planning their weddings. While his marketing heavily targets LGBTQ+ couples, Frank also welcomes straight couples who share his inclusive values.
Frank believes in starting small and making a local impact to create a ripple effect of change. He shared, as an example, that wedding vendors can show inclusivity by using inclusive language and imagery on their social media profiles. Something as small as including a pride emoji in their bio can make a difference in signaling to LGBTQ+ couples that they are safe and affirming spaces.
As a relatively new business owner, he has been enjoying his work’s leadership and educational aspects. “I really enjoy just getting to have conversations with other vendors and wedding creatives, whoever they may be, and figure out how to be more inclusive and LGBTQ+ friendly and LGBTQ+ affirming.”
“So neat to see that this work that I started from a homework assignment here at Chapman University had such an impact that I never in my wildest dreams would have thought or imagined.”