Race And Perception In The Wedding Industry

31/08/2016 15:18 | Updated 31 August 2016


After five years of dating and several missed opportunities to make an honest woman of me, when the Mr was on his knee on a starry night on the London embankment holding a diamond, I had drop my "I'm an independent woman, I don't need a man" stance right there and then.

Fast-forward the euphoria of the Mr's unexpected proposal & clearing the newsagents of every wedding magazine known to womankind. It wasn't long before that euphoric bubble spectacularly burst. I started to feel invisible.

As a modern western girl, who happens to be black, I felt completely ignored by the mainstream wedding industry and I wondered why, in such a multicultural UK?

An unexpected familiarity began to remind me of some of the challenges with race and identity I encountered as a child and into my young adulthood.

Memories of enjoying old Disney cartoons came back, reminding me how at a young age I knew I was different. My skin colour made it apparent. The Princesses and the protagonists always had long flowing hair that certainly didn't need a hot comb to get through it! They had porcelain skin; those rules did not apply to me. I felt I could never be a princess, as I could not identify with the images constantly proffered at me via the media and popular culture.

The perception of bridal beauty is aligned with the classic Cinderella story I obsessed over as a child, why hadn't the wedding industry moved on? Even Disney has recognised the powerful influence it has on educating children, around desirability and beauty.

The wedding world has a clear image of what a bride 'should' look like: from body shape, down to race. Gorgeous? Yes. But that look is pitched to us time and time again, meaning that if our genetics deviate from that standard ideal of bridal beauty, we are ignored.

And it irked me.

So I decided to document my own wedding planning whilst doing what I could to bridge the gap and founded wedding blog, Nu Bride; dedicated to encourage, where possible, inclusive diversity into the UK wedding industry.

To my surprise my journey started to resonate with many others, especially brides also feeling under-represented. It has since grown to be a multi-award winning wedding blog, recognised for the work it has been doing to encourage a more visually inclusive industry.

When I started to raise awareness about the gap of ethnic diverse representation in the industry, common responses included;

1. 'I hadn't realised until now, what can I do to help?'

2. I've noticed but never knew what to do about it. This is great!

3. 'Why are you making an issue out of it? Aren't there wedding magazines you can buy specifically for black brides?'

There is no right or wrong response, but, whether we choose to ignore it or simply aren't exposed to it, the issue is present and it contributes to 'unnecessary' segregation. When we feed into stereotypes, when we continually ignore groups of people, we devalue and continue to feed the message (subconsciously or otherwise) to our younger generations. THIS is what the media sees as beautiful / successful / desirable (insert applicable). And if you're not that, well, sorry - just use your imagination.

"Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because it's not a problem to you personally"

From a practical point of view, I would love to see dresses, or great make up looks, tips and product recommendations that might suit my skin tone, just as any other woman searching for wedding inspiration.

Why does it matter?

It's simple. To be seen is to be humanised. It's these every day inequalities that feed into discrimination, resulting in one set of people feeling more inferior or superior to another.

I wonder if some of this might explain why post Brexit, we have seen a 57% rise in race related hate crime in the UK. Where people who are non-white are still perceived by some as 'other' or, simply put, not British. Society and the media's perception of mainstream, success and desirability all play their part in fuelling this perception (Did I really just bring politics into a wedding article!)

It might go someway to explain why an interesting conversation was raised on Buzzfeed. A writer published this article and received a backlash after readers felt the article was misleading because it didn't state the beauty tips were demonstrated on black women. The author responded;

"Next time you see a list of entirely black faces that didn't come with a warning label, don't ask why. Ask why not". Bim Adewunmi

There is still much work to be done and I hope Nu Bride continues to go someway to encouraging conversation about the importance of creating a more visually inclusive industry.

I truly look forward to seeing a black bride on the front of the UK's leading bridal publication; Brides Magazine, which to my knowledge, during their 60+ years in the industry hasn't happened. I look forward to seeing a truer reflection of our gorgeous eclectic society and the gorgeous mix of couples who are lucky enough to marry.

I hope that one day Nu Bride doesn't have to exist and that you simply pick up a magazine, view portfolios, wedding dress collections, catwalks shows and see various different versions of beauty and it just "is"

"To be represented is to be humanised. As long as anyone, anywhere is being made to feel less human, then our very definition of humanity is at stake and we are all vulnerable. In the real world, being an 'other' is the norm...The only norm is uniqueness and our media must reflect that" K Washington

Photography credit: John Nassari


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