When Kesri and Leesha approached us back in May to feature their gorgeous Black Brides Matter inspiration shoot we were absolutely over the moon and couldn’t wait to support them. We strive to share as many diverse weddings as we possibly can on Rock My Wedding and so the shoot at The Barn At Drovers was another way for us to do that and spread the message the ladies so eloquently make about the industry needing to better represent minorities. In their words “We cannot dream of a gorgeous wedding no matter the theme, boho/contemporary/elegant/wild/outdoor/romantic wedding if we cannot see ourselves reflected in them.”
We know that their vision is going to have a huge impact on so many people’s wedding planning journeys. Not only are they delivering this powerful message they have done a sterling job at showing us some super sexy inspiration too. WOW ladies, just wow.
THIS IS A BIT OF BACKGROUND AS TO WHY WE DID THE SHOOT.
“We are black, living in the UK, strangers coming together feeding a common need. We wanted to showcase a shoot we could all feel proud of. One that could inspire us and future black brides and make society look also at black brides for inspiration. We hope you like what we have created. And can help us celebrate #blackbrides in our quest to #unstereotype and inspire. We believe in diversity of everything, not just black, disabled, gay, fat, thin, ethnic, religious, cultural etc” – Kesri & Leesha
HOW BLACK BRIDES MATTER STARTED
“Instead of complaining about the lack of black bride inspiration in the UK we (Kesri Smolas, new venue owner The Barn At Drovers launching in 2020, and Leesha Williams came together recruiting Shara Janelle to help us. We decided to pull together a black bride shoot with other fab suppliers who wanted to help to create a movement for change. We wanted to feel proud of our shoot and of our Instagram feeds where we lacked the content to inspire and be inspired and felt we were morally obligated to stand up to make the change.
We all need to do our bit in #unstereotyping As it has far-reaching impact and consequences that is hidden to most people who are not black and experiencing it first hand, every day. We want to open everyone to this impact, to think deeper and really understand what it means. The media and what we see shapes how black women and black children see themselves and how society sees them too.
We all have stories we have experienced first-hand, a sister who was asked to be a flower girl who doesn’t feel pretty as she cannot see photos that reflect her on Pinterest and thinks her hair should be straight and blonde. A makeup artist looking for inspiration for her black bride and all she can find is traditional Nigerian bridal images online, Hair Style inspiration for black hair is so limited that you revert to braids for your big day or doing it yourself. We cannot dream of a gorgeous wedding no matter the theme, /boho/contemporary/elegant/wild/outdoor/romantic wedding if we cannot see ourselves reflected in them. There is a bigger move in the world towards un-stereotyping #unstereotypealliance with unwomen. Lets partner to make a change in the wedding industry. And this is just the first step. Let’s collaborate on more shoots etc to ensure we are changing the way the wedding world sees black brides.
We have a burning passion in this area. Despite it being really difficult for a few unknown people (us!) who really care to pull this off. But we have done it despite the odds.” – Kesri & Leesha
“We cannot dream of a gorgeous wedding no matter the theme if we cannot see ourselves reflected in them.” #blackbridesmatter
WORDS FROM VENUE OWNER
“I grew up in South Africa during Apartheid where blacks were segregated to certain areas and did not have opportunities to study what they wanted (eg. I wanted to be a VET, which I was not allowed to study)
I married Paul who was an English man living in South Africa, this was taboo at the time in South Africa, as he was white. It was not easy to live there as a mixed-race couple so we came to London where people loved and thrived on diversity. This is so amazing as everyone can live freely, being valued for who they are rather than what their skin colour is. In 2010 we decided to leave the corporate world to live the so-called good life in the country, we wanted to live the dream on a farm and wanted our kids to grow up in the countryside (the VET in me was thrilled to be able to live and work with animals). I was naive I guess to think everyone in the UK was as open-minded as my fellow Londoners. I was hit with more discrimination than I have ever experienced anywhere. It was even worse than being in South Africa, as at least there you knew where you stood.
So, I am on a mission to open peoples minds up and to ensure they realise we are all the same tribe, the people tribe and we all have the same aspirations, dreams and issues, and we all need to respect each other and find opportunities to inspire and be inspired by others.” – Kesri Smolas
WHY THE WEDDING INDUSTRY
“We converted the farm into an organic farm and developed accommodation from the gorgeous 16th century stone buildings and put in posh glamping safari tents (a nod to an outdoor African experience where we are from). We have won awards, featured in magazines, had Alistair Sawdays from Sawdays travel as our mentor and are no 1 on TripAdvisor with 5 stars in our area, Hay on wye (border of wales and Herefordshire). As a natural progression to our venue we have extended beyond farm stays to weddings. We called our business Drovers Rest as our farm was an important resting place for drovers driving their stock down from the Welsh hills to the London markets. Drovers Rest and our wedding side of the business is The Barn at Drovers
Our wedding venue is 16th century Barn near hay on wye with gorgeous indoor and outdoor spaces. Suits a Barn/Farm/Outdoor wedding. We are passionate about diversity in all things, from race, religion, sexual orientation, to food, culture, ways of thinking etc. The fact that we are all different is what makes us and the world so wonderful. We are very much like the black sheep that dot our farm and the cheeky sheep in our logo. We do love to buck the status quo, to do things differently, to ask why not. To dream of what could be. The Barn at Drovers mirrors this passion.” – Kesri Smolas
A BIT ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER
“I’m a fine art/alternative wedding photographer based near Cardiff in South Wales. I moved to a small Welsh town in South Wales from a big city in the Midlands back in 2012 to study at University. During the last seven years, I’ve run multiple art shows, workshops, performances and written a thesis on the effect that black stereotypes can/has had as on our 21st-century society.
As not only a wedding photographer in the industry but now also as a bride-to-be, it’s becoming more and more apparent that there is a real lack of diversity in the wedding industry, and most of the time the things they are offering or showcasing for black brides don’t appeal or apply to me.
I’m personally of Caribbean origin and while we do have a lot of traditions/superstitions we don’t necessarily have wedding traditions in terms of clothing or style like other cultures do but it seems that we all get pigeonholed together and that the media only shows certain things from certain cultures and seems to ignore the rest.
While I am glad they are showcasing some of the different cultures and ethnicities, I still feel like there is still a massive lack of diversity, and just because we’re people of colour doesn’t mean that we should all just be bundled together into one group. We all have our own amazing cultures, traditions and styles which deserve to be showcased.
This really hit home for me when my six-year-old sister told me that she didn’t feel like she could be a flower girl at our own wedding because she didn’t look like any of the flower girls that she was seeing on social media or Pinterest. I knew at that point that I wanted to make a conscious effort to showcase more couples and suppliers that are people of colour and that support people of colour.
I want to show that we’re not all the same and we don’t all fit in with some kind of cookie-cutter mould of an ‘ethnic bride.’ I want to show young children like my little sister who thinks that they’re not white or light-skinned enough to be considered beautiful in our society. I want them to grow up knowing that this isn’t the case and that they are valued, respected, loved and most importantly that they’re represented because I remember being that six-year-old girl and the fact that nothing has changed in the last 20-something years makes me so upset and frustrated with society but most of all it makes me want to make a change.” – Leesha Williams