In the world of bridal magazines, brides not only wear white, they mostly are white.
The situation is improving, but there’s still room for more diversity, said Mary Chatman, editor-in-chief of Black Bride magazine, based in Atlanta.
Chatman will be in town Thursday for a first-ever discussion about racial inclusiveness in the bridal event industry. The event, sponsored by two local groups, the Independent Wedding Association and This Love Weddings, seeks to bring together brides, vendors, wedding planners and others to discuss an often difficult topic.
“The demographics are moving toward women of color,” Chatman said. “We want to share these brides with everyone, and they want to see themselves.”
We asked her where the challenges lie and how change can happen.
Q: Why is this event happening now?
A: Faith Folayan and Becca Dilley [of the above groups] reached out to me. I wouldn’t say this is a segregated business. But within the wedding industry, we weren’t much feeling the love. I try not to look at stuff so much in black and white, but it’s hard not to when the major players are not giving us the support we see them give each other. We don’t see the likes, the shares. I think there’s this fear about the word “black,” and I want to get to where black is not associated with fear.
Q: It sounds like we use race as one means of sorting out choices.
A: Black wedding planners want to work with everyone, but they’re not getting calls from white brides. That’s where the lack of inclusion is being felt. I think most brides care more about the quality of the work than anything else and wouldn’t mind working with people of other ethnicities. But it’s just starting that discussion. Inspiration is inspiration, right? It knows no color.
Q: How did you get involved in Black Bride?
A: The magazine was started in 1998 by a Caucasian woman, Renee Harrington. It was the only wedding resource for women of color, and she built an awesome brand. I started writing for it after retiring from a career in global marketing with AT&T, and it was a good fit. I felt honestly like this was my Sojourner [Truth] moment, a chance to give back to the community of women.
Q: How do you measure progress?
A: In some ways, we were working so hard, we were not really paying attention to inclusion within the industry. But we just landed a partnership with The Knot [a popular online wedding resource], and I have to applaud them. They’ve reached out to other areas, to gay weddings, plus-size brides, black brides, Indian weddings — just more diversity and inclusion.
Q: What’s distinctive about Black Bride and its mission?
A: At Black Bride, we do write about cultural differences like jumping the broom, or that women of color like particular cuts of dresses because they’re more curvy. But we’re also not different from any other magazine in writing about the way women marry, because love is love.
Q: How has the mainline wedding industry responded to calls for more inclusiveness?
A: I always ask them: “When was the last time you were at a newsstand looking at wedding magazines and saw a black woman on the cover?” And they get quiet and say, “You’re right; I get it.” Actually, the reaction also can be, “We don’t care what color the bride is, we just care about green,” because it’s a business. Like I said earlier, I don’t think anyone means to have a segregated industry.
Q: Are current political concerns around racism having an effect?
A: I think people are becoming more open with their discussions. People who are standing up for more diversity always knew the issue was there, but I don’t think they felt discussion was needed because we were making progress. People are being bolder in their statements now, so maybe there’s some good to come of it.
Weddings and inclusivity
Who: Black Bride magazine editor Mary Chatman.
What: Conversation on increasing diversity in the bridal industry.
When: 6-9 p.m. March 2.
Where: Machine Shop, 300 SE. 2nd St., Mpls.
Tickets: $20-$25 at eventbrite.com; info at independentwedding.com.