Is offering diversity in the wedding industry a problem?
My sister married in 2013. She didn't have a wedding planner so my mother and I very happily took on the task of helping her plan this special day. She is the only sister I have, my mother and father never married and neither am I married, so this was our first real hands on experience of planning a wedding. I distinctly remember us visiting reception venues in the Essex area in search of the ‘one.’ We came across many that were contenders. A country barn - tick! The right capacity - tick! Stunning grounds for perfect pictures - tick! On site accommodation - tick! An option for Caribbean and African food in the evening or the provision for some to be bought in? - no chance!
To say we were frustrated by one venue hosts offering of 'Caribbean style’ chicken skewers is an understatement but it's only now looking back on this potentially fruitless task, do I fully realise the shocking lack of diversity that was on offer from sectors of this industry. If my sister had wanted to hire a church hall in a built up area that offered none of the ambience or mod cons she envisioned, then getting an African/Caribbean caterer to suit wouldn’t have been a problem. But for an affluent, modern couple with western influences being as important as those of their heritage, providing for this demographic was a problem indeed. Looking back on this search, I honestly believe that had she not found her dream venue, she would have downgraded her aesthetic expectations in order to make the actual experience for her and her guests as authentic as possible.
But should minority couples have to make allowances because of the lack of diverse and inclusivity on offer from wedding suppliers? In my opinion, no. Now, I understand supply and demand and that the majority rules. I also understand that target audience is a major factor for any business but this becomes an issue when personal bias has a damaging and long lasting effect on public opinion. Nova Reid, leading diversity influencer speaks of this in a recent interview with the online publication What We Seee. ‘I think it’s important to give people permission to be open - but then I hear what they have to say - that black is a risk, that readers don’t want to see a black women on their covers. Hearing that as a black woman is hurtful. And it’s not based on evidence. Even in 2019 many top bridal magazines have yet to feature a black woman on their cover and being privy to the prejudiced reasoning behind those decisions isn’t easy.’
There is most definitely a gaping hole in the market when it comes to diverse and multiple choice for all and the wedding industry needs to keep up or risk getting left behind.
This is why the new wave of diversity lead and progressive brands coming out of the shadows over the past few years is encouraging and in my opinion as a British born black Caribbean women entirely necessary. People are at last challenging the status quo. Rock'n'Roll Bride, Whimsical Wonderland Weddings and Mr & Mrs Unique are just a few wedding industry brands that are pushing back against the generic visual representation of the young, white and size 8 'tradition bride' and even more excitingly for me, the brand Nu Bride, founded by Nova Reid, showcases and champions the modern and ethnically diverse bride. How refreshing it is to see real stories on these blog pages. To see a black bride with afro hair celebrated on these pages. To see mixed culture relationships. Older brides. LGBTQ, disabled and abled body relationships . To see - INCLUSION. At last there are more options on offer that more wholly represent the country that we live in and we have just begun to scratch the surface but I feel more confident that should I ever walk down the aisle, that I would more easily find inspiration for my day that would entirely match my tastes, fit my size and my skin colour and that fact is to be celebrated and built on, not shied away from.
The argument that there isn’t the demand for minority choice is on its way to being a mute point with the Brookings institute 2018 report findings that “Millennials are already making an indelible impact on the nation, as the most diverse – and now largest – adult generation. As the bridge between a whiter, older America and the multi-hued country we are becoming, millennials will pave the way for the generations behind them as workers, consumers, and leaders in business and government in their acceptance by and participation in tomorrow’s more racially diverse nation.”
So what else could be the reason for this obvious lack of representation? My thoughts are that for some suppliers the mentality of trying to fix what in their eyes isn’t broken is alive and kicking. Their formulae works, their formulae makes them money and money talks. But just because something works now doesn't mean it's necessarily the best way to continue on in the future. How do we grow if we don't continue to learn? How do we progress if we do not open ourselves up to new ways of seeing things? We should all challenge our own opinions and bias if we are to keep up with an ever changing world. We all know the power of word of mouth, so I suppose I struggle to understand why offering choice is a problem for mainstream brands? In my opinion, it comes down to caring enough, thinking outside of the box, seeking new and diverse suppliers and going that extra mile and in a world where recent divisions are having devastating effects on communities, it seems to me that an industry that is all about LOVE has no excuses not to be spreading it more evenly.
Gemma Knight Jones
Come and meet us as we celebrate diversity at Nu Bride ,The Wedding Show this weekend - 5th and 6th April at Camden House, London.