I Work In The Wedding Industry – & It Has A Problem With Diversity

Artwork by Rose Lander.
I have always been a feminist.
I regularly protested that I "didn’t need a man" but when I saw my boyfriend down on one knee, I couldn't ignore the excitement I felt.
That utopia dissipated about 12 hours after I took my first dive into wedding research. I came away feeling invisible.
Magazine after magazine, website after website, catwalk show after catwalk show... it didn’t take me long to discover the wedding industry did not much care for black women. I soon found out, for instance, that at the time, there had never been a black bride on the front cover of a UK mainstream wedding magazine. The common rhetoric in publishing houses, I heard, was that "black doesn’t sell and is seen as a risk."
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PHOTO COURTESY OF NOVA REID/JK Photography.
I wondered why, at every wedding show, I was given goodie bags with tanning products. Why I had to continuously imagine what dresses might look like with my skin tone. I wondered why, even though the average spend of Afro-Caribbean weddings was double that of what was considered 'quintessentially British', the exclusion was so palpable.

It is not representative of people of colour, of people with different abilities, from different classes, or from the LGBTQ+ community. Which is ironic, since love is the one thing in our world that is rich in diversity and wildly universal.

It took me back to the old Disney cartoons that I loved growing up, just like any other little girl. We start forming racial preference as young as 3 years old and here was popular culture subconsciously telling me that princesses and women who get married are white with long, blonde flowing hair. This belief was reinforced in my everyday experience; only seeing brown faces on TV in relation to poverty, not being able to source makeup for my skin tone as an adolescent. It is these small, everyday inequalities that feed the perception that one race is superior to another. It was these everyday inequalities that, growing up, became my 'normal' and communicated that my value as a human being was somehow less.
Fast-forward nearly three decades and I found the exact same messaging being reinforced in the wedding industry. "Sorry darling – this isn’t for you either," it seemed to be saying. But I wasn't a young girl anymore, confused about my racial identity and place in the world. I could not accept this exclusion as normal.

A post shared by Nu Bride (Nova) (@nu_bride) on

Six weeks after my engagement, I was inspired to start my own platform, to be the change I desperately wanted to see in the wedding industry and beyond. I founded Nu Bride in 2012 to document my own wedding planning and begin to redress the balance.
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Being a minority, working in an industry that does not have a great track record of representing BAME women is tough. I feel welcomed, but I also feel excluded.
The wedding industry is steeped in patriarchy and tradition, so it is no surprise that it is lagging behind. The people who occupy positions of power generally all look the same. It is not hugely representative of people of colour, of people with different abilities, from different classes, or from the LGBTQ+ community. Which is ironic, since love is the one thing in our world that is rich in diversity and wildly universal.
We don’t all look the same. We definitely don’t all want the same things, yet the industry has a homogeneous view of what a bride should look like, which is often a (very slight) variation on Cinderella marrying her Prince Charming. This restricted view doesn’t stop at race either; from body shape to sexual orientation and ability, the industry plays with us, right down to how much weddings should cost and the assumption that we’re all hopeless romantics.

I want my future daughter to see versions of herself in the mainstream industry, not out of tokenism, not to check a box because diversity happens to be on trend right now.

One of the biggest obstacles to change is fear. But it makes no economic or business sense to overlook diversity. Our sociopolitical landscape is changing, and anyone who thinks the wedding industry is immune to this change is stuck in the past. Couples are savvier about how and where they spend their money. Millennial couples are the most integrated generation we have seen in the UK and we are witnessing a rise in interracial and multicultural relationships. This weekend, the royal family will welcome Meghan Markle, the first woman of colour to be acknowledged into the British monarchy, where, historically, interracial relationships were strictly forbidden.
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It is an exciting shift. Couples are commanding it. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a slow burner but, little by little, and with some encouragement, diversity is becoming more apparent in the wedding industry, on- and offline. There are nods to diversity in catwalk shows and suppliers are diversifying their portfolios. The industry has a responsibility to dismantle stereotypes and outdated beliefs, and better represent the eclectic mix of couples who choose to marry.
I don’t want to have a daughter exposed to distorted views about her desirability and worth. I want her to see versions of herself in the mainstream industry, not out of tokenism, not to check a box because diversity happens to be on trend right now, but because she is a beautiful woman, getting married, who also happens to be black and deserves to be represented too.
Nova Reid runs Nu Bride, a wedding blog dedicated to adding diversity to the UK wedding industry.
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