This year, I was asked two very important questions. In January, my best friend got engaged and she asked – or, rather, she told me via WhatsApp – if I would be her maid of honour. Then, in March, after a romantic meal and walk through London, my boyfriend of six years got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. So, I resigned myself to the idea that a lot of my spare time would be spent looking at endless wedding imagery, flicking through digital and print versions of bridal magazines, and visiting wedding suppliers to make both big days as close to perfection as possible. And, the more I looked at bridal magazines and websites, the more I started to see that the brides featured in these publications all had one thing in common: they were all white. Looking through those bridal magazines, I felt overwhelmed because I never knew there were so many shades of “white” when it came to dresses. I also was confused at the lack of models and real-life brides with a trace of melanin in their complexions.
At first, I second-guessed myself and thought maybe I wasn’t looking at the right websites, or maybe I picked up a rare issue of a bridal magazine that had missed the memo that women of all races get married. But I spoke to my best friend, who is also black, and she shared the same feelings of irritation upon not seeing images of women of colour across wedding titles and in the brochures of wedding vendors. And, while feeling frustrated that I never saw anyone that bared my resemblance looking beautiful in a picture-perfect wedding dress, it was a familiar feeling.
It ties into the dangerous narrative that black women are undesirable. That marriage, which is unfortunately still seen by some as the highest achievement for women, is only reserved for white women
It was that familiar feeling of looking at a range of pictures that feature beautiful women and not seeing myself represented. It was how I felt as a child when I would watch princess movies and read princess stories. It was how I felt as a teenager when I would read magazines only to see teenage girls who looked nothing like me. It is how I feel as an adult when I look at most fashion and beauty shoots; it is that feeling of being invisible. And I feel invisible every single time I look at anything wedding-related.
This erasure of black women when it comes to positioning womanhood in a celebratory or beautiful manner is all too common in society. But there’s something particularly pernicious about the erasure of women of colour in the wedding industry, as it ties into the dangerous narrative that black women are undesirable. That marriage, which is unfortunately still seen by some as the highest achievement for women, is only reserved for white women.
After feeling deflated, reading numerous beauty features advising brides-to-be on the “essential steps to getting a perfect tan for your wedding day” and not seeing a single article on how to style my afro on my big day, I turned to social media.
I started with Instagram and was overcome with joy when I stumbled across the American multicultural wedding account Munaluchi Bride – seeing black couples basking in the love of their wedding day. I found my make-up artist for my wedding on London-based multi-ethnic wedding account Crème De La Bride. I spend hours scrolling through an Nigerian Instagram account called Bella Naija, in awe of the lavish and glamorous weddings my fellow Nigerians create to mark their union. (There are countless more, including Afro Bride, the source of the picture on this piece.) And I spend even longer swiping through Pinterest and pinning hundreds of photos of natural hairstyles to my “wedding hair inspiration” board.
Through social media, I haven’t just been able to decide which table centrepieces and colour schemes we will have for our big day. Instagram and Pinterest accounts that feature black brides have allowed me to have the full bridal experience; these social media accounts have allowed me to get lost in the sea of wedding inspiration without having to think twice, because my skintone doesn’t match the bride on my screen. Until the wedding industry catches up, that’s where we black brides will be – celebrating our love and spending our money.