Last week we started something of a campaign here at Bridal Musings.
A call for more diversity in the wedding industry and a commitment from us to be the change we want to see in the wider wedding community.
To continue in our quest to celebrate brides (and, just as importantly, grooms!) of every colour, faith, nationality, size, shape, gender, age, class, and sexual orientation. (Yay for marriage equality in Ireland BTW!).
In the first of a series of posts on the issue, Elizabeth wrote an impassioned post about what diversity (and the lack of it) in the wedding industry means to her, and we were so heartened and thankful to receive so many amazing comments, emails, (and already some submissions!) from readers and wedding professionals who feel the same way.
But sometimes it takes one person's bravery to inspire bravery in others.
While we were always working away at creating a space online for every couple to be inspired, for the longest time we weren't quite sure how to go about being vocal on the lack of diversity in the wedding industry. In fact, Elizabeth had created many draft posts on the issue, ever since she set up the blog four years ago.
While it's something we're massively passionate about, we still didn't really feel qualified to rally designers to change up their models, multi-cultural couples to share their weddings, and hair and beauty tastemakers to include options for all kinds of looks.
And then we met Nova.
Photo by Paul Cahill Photography
Nova is an inspirational and impassioned person, who is leading the way, for not just black brides, but anyone who feels their look isn't represented in the wedding industry.
She could have got up there and talked about flowers, dresses or make-up, but she didn't. She talked about a little girl felt like she didn't fit in. And later, a bride, who didn't feel like she fit in either.
When you're planning one of the biggest days of your life, you should be excited and inspired. You should never feel not pretty enough, not skinny enough, or like you don't have the right look, style, hair type or skin colour.
Nova inspired us to create this series of posts, and she continues to inspire us and many others, to speak up about, and work towards, changing this shocking lack of diversity in the mainstream wedding industry.
We sat down for a chat with Nova to get her words of wisdom on diversity in the wedding industry as well as her insider tips on where to look for hair, make-up and style inspiration for your day.
Finding Inspiration for Your Wedding With Nova of Nu Bride
Why Did you Create Nu Bride?
It was kind of an accident! lol!
I created Nu Bride on New Years Day 2012, two months after my own engagement. I adore the wedding industry – which was surprising at first, having been a bit of a skeptic to romance previously!
The day after our engagement I did a rather impressive sprint into our local newsagents and quickly absorbed myself into the wonderful world of weddings.
After flicking through pages of some pretty stunning wedding inspiration, surprisingly I started to feel left out. Which I couldn’t understand at first, because in general, weddings are universal regardless of gender, race, shape or size or even culture…it's the same principle isn’t it?
Early on into my planning I realised what it was. Planning for my ‘fairytale’, I felt invisible.
Photo by JK Photography
I discovered there was very little visual representation for women who looked like me in UK mainstream wedding media. Of course very few of us look as stunning as the gorgeous models used in magazines or on the catwalk, but for me, I just wanted to see inspiration that spoke to me as a modern British black bride.
I contacted a couple of magazines and decided to document my planning and to create own avenue instead. I honestly never thought anyone would read it other than my friends, family and my husband, (by force) and lo and behold it started resonating with others. (And hubby still reads it now. Tee hee – I am SURE he’s got the wedding bug more than me!)
Challenges for Black Brides
What were the main obstacles or challenges you faced as a black bride planning your wedding?
On a practical level, I struggled massively with finding visual inspiration for bridal hairstyles for my hair type.
But what it did do was encourage me to rely on the knowledge of my hairdresser and pushed me to search for inspiration from the USA on Pinterest! Oh how did we live without Pinterest!
Lack of Representation
Why do you think there is a lack of visual representation featuring different ethnicities in magazines and on blogs?
You have to consider the very definition of the mainstream and what that is and who publishers feel buy their magazines – as such, they target their market to a limited demographic, resulting in many different ethnicities (and body types!) being left out and indirectly and often unconsciously discriminating.
Yes it’s impossible to represent everyone in the mainstream, but it can be so much more inclusive.
Privacy is prevalent in some cultures and communities more than others and as a result, smaller numbers are submitted.
Designers are HUGELY influential regarding the images we see in magazines when they shoot their dress collections. If they start to embrace diversity too, we’ll automatically start to see more inclusive images in magazines. E.g. Imagine if they use curvy models, red heads, black models, Japanese, Asian, Persian, Italian, or how about using real brides instead of models too?
Photo via Jenny Packham
I think we are so behind in the wedding industry with the perception of beauty and what a bride ‘should’ look like. It is still aligned to the Cinderella prototype.
Gorgeous yes, but of course there are SO many more variations of beauty and simply style and it would be fantastic to see them too.
Ps. Same-sex marriage has been legal in the UK for over a year now – I wonder how included or excluded same-sex couples feel in our wedding industry by the language and images we use?
Finding Ideas for Your Wedding
Where do you recommend black couples go for inspiration and information (aside from Nu Bride, of course!)?
It depends what the couple are looking for regardless of their ethnicity.
We are all different and have eclectic personal taste e.g: from modern, DIY, fashionable, luxe, vintage etc – the choices are endless for universal, generic inspiration – e.g creating a wedding theme, wedding planning timelines etc. As such, they can go to any publication they choose.
But if couples are looking for publications specifically dedicated to the black couples, then the fab Munaluchi Bridal magazine and blog. There is also a brand new magazine being developed in the UK too, so keep an eye out!
The Perception of Beauty
One of the things, we’ve noticed is a severe lack of hair and beauty posts featuring advice for black women and inspirational photos of black women.
This is one area where specific advice is often needed (especially when it comes to afro hair, weaves and extensions) so where do you recommend black brides go to find inspiration for their bridal hair and make up?
Yes I agree, It’s something I am trying to improve on Nu Bride as it is desperately lacking and so important. Not just on a practical level, but on the perception of beauty. If you have a moment – watch this little clip of a 5 year old girl being asked to identify what she thinks is beautiful based on ethnicity. Her responses are heartbreaking.
But it is completely learned behaviour, children do not automatically know what beautiful is at that age, it is what we are teaching them as a society, in the media, in our homes, in the playground.
This clip is so powerful and is one of the reasons I started Nu Bride and one of the reasons I feel it’s so desperately important to show various versions of beauty to help build self-worth and confidence, and ultimately understanding of difference in our young people.
Nova's Helpful Hair & Beauty Resources
Black Hair and Beauty Magazine always churn out good issues and also offer a popular bridal issue in March/April, but I recognise that’s just ONE publication and I acknowledge images for bridal make-up and hair for black women is currently much harder to find in the UK.
Beauty blogger extraordinaire, Beauty Pulse London, is another helpful resource for general beauty.
As a bride-to-be I also found Essence Magazine online really helpful for beauty tips for black skin and bridal hair.
If you enjoy watching video’s then here are some fantastic Vloggers that offer brilliant make-up and hair tutorials.
Nu Bride works with Ambassador and award winning make-up and beauty therapist; Joyce Connor of Brides and Beauty to provide inclusive make-up and beauty tips for all skin tones, where relevant broken down into skin tone or skin type. As well as hair tips from Hayley at Brides and Beauty.
Errol Douglas Salon in Knightsbridge are another fantastic Ambassadors for Nu Bride and are the only salon in the UK to cater to ALL hair types at specialist level. The Errol Douglas Salon have created and contributed to a few posts on wedding hair tips for afro, european and international hair types and we have lots more in the pipeline.
A Need for a Niche?
Some people might be reading this and thinking, but surely a wedding is a wedding – featuring decor, details and fashion for any couple to be inspired by regardless of the colour of their skin. Why should there be different blogs about black weddings?
Isn't that just exacerbating the situation? Making brides feel like they can’t read a ‘mainstream’ wedding magazine or blog and that they need to go to a niche publication instead?
Indeed. I answered a similar question in a recent interview on a Save The Date Wedding Podcast which answers this (feel free to hop on and have a listen!)
If we purposefully ignore any cultural or religious difference and are simply talking about ‘standard western’ weddings then yes, of course they are universal and there is no real difference.
In an ideal world blogs specifically for ‘black weddings’ shouldn’t ‘have’ to exist. As a bride-to-be, personally I desperately wanted to feel part of the mainstream and not segregated.
We ‘should’ simply be more inclusive in mainstream wedding industries. However, there will always be room and appeal for niche blogs, there is something for everyone and we shouldn’t see that as a negative, but for the purpose of answering this question, let’s talk about the mainstream.
There is no hiding it, there is a fundamental difference between make-up choices and hair tips for thick afro hair and black skin and make-up tips for olive or pale skin tones and silky European hair.
The same colours that work on one person, will not work on someone else. We do not all look the same or have the same tastes, so it’s about providing diverse tips and variety that gives a snippet and speaks to a wider audience.
Not to mention dresses… Different colours flatter different skin tones, shapes and sizes. Why wouldn’t I want to be inspired and see an example of a dress to compliment my skin tone or body shape?
Photo via Jenny Packham
On a psychological level, as consumers we desire to be represented. As someone who struggled massively with self worth and identity as an adolescent, it is near impossible to feel validated when you are not seen.
Many surveys have proven that consumers are more likely to buy or engage with a product if they see some form of version of themselves in the marketing.
Share Your Day
Why is it important for black couples to encourage their photographers to submit their weddings to blogs and magazines? (Or vice versa)
In my experience, it’s not necessarily to encourage their photographers it is actually for the couples themselves to be encouraged to share their weddings.
There are many reasons why there are less images of black and ethnic diverse weddings than others. Some are straightforward and others more complex which we would need several posts to get to the bottom of!
Another is accepting that black communities make up part of an ethnic minority in the UK. So if you do the maths, there will automatically be less weddings to choose from.
Another biggie is privacy. This is HUGELY apparent in some black communities and cultures and is the biggest barrier and reason why photographers have to withdraw submissions from Nu Bride or have to remove their own blog posts of couples weddings, because they wish to remain private.
Of course privacy is important and we should respect that personal choice. But it is also a shame not to be able to share some gorgeous inspiration. It is important to remember on the other hand, we cannot continue to be frustrated with how little we are represented in wedding blogs and magazines if we are partially creating the barrier ourselves by choosing not to share our weddings.
And The Award Goes To…
Photo by Paul Cahill Photography
What did it mean for you to win the Best Big Day Inspiration award at the Wedding Blog Awards?
After the initial shock and overwhelm (I was over an hour late and in a hot flustered state. lol) it was very, very humbling and touching.
Identity, confidence, self-worth in association with beauty, are all topics close to my heart. So it wasn’t winning the award itself, it was the recognition and even acceptance it has brought.
It is the acknowledgement and the endorsement from a leading national wedding magazine, expert panel and readers, who recognise the importance of doing more to inspire and encourage an industry that showcases and celebrates diversity in beauty.
Photo by Rabbit & Pork Photography
There’s still more work to do. But one step at a time.
Just getting people to think about how they market their brands to acknowledge and appeal to the gorgeous diverse and interesting couples or who get married is a step in the right direction.
Hopes for the Future
What is your hope for the future of the wedding industry and wedding blogs, in particular?
To pick up a magazine, attend a wedding show and not even notice race or shape, size or difference.
Just to see different variations of beauty acknowledged in the mainstream wedding industry, giving a gracious curtsy to the gorgeous eclectic UK we live in.
Think Jenny Packham 2015 catwalk show. A beautiful homage to some of the gorgeous diverse (from shape, to style, to ethnicity) brides who wear her dresses.
Isn't Nova just an inspiration. It's so great to meet someone who's not just sweet and gorgeous (and as obsessed with weddings as we are!) but also smart, articulate, and passionate about her mission too.
As always, we're calling on couples, regardless of their colour, sexual orientation, shape or style, to encourage your photographers to share your cool, stylish, creative weddings on Bridal Musings. You'll find our submission guidelines here.
Thanks so much to Nova for taking the time out to share her wedding wisdom, don't forget to follow her musings on Nu Bride (it's such a great blog!)
And stay tuned for another post very soon, with our favourite places to find wedding inspiration, for every kind of couple.
Read more about our thoughts on Diversity in the Wedding Industry.