Naomi: I'm delighted to introduce you to Emily today, who has kindly shared her experience as a Mixed Race planning bride, but also as someone who had to postpone her wedding twice(!) because of COVID. Emily is co-owner of The Blithe Boothe Company, a superb photo booth hire company who are, of course, part of our recommended suppliers. Kelvin, her other half, and business partner will be sharing his experience as a Black planning groom with us next week. Look out for that. Between navigating two postponements, planning their wedding within 8 months and sharing their experiences with us as part of our Black Love Matters pledge, allow me to introduce you to an incredible power couple. Over to Emily...
Tell us a bit about your wedding planning journey so far.
I was never that kid who dreamt of my ‘big day’ or planned what my dress would look like. So understandably when Kelvin and I got engaged, I felt super overwhelmed with all the new attention and the sudden realisation that I had never, ever thought about what I do and don't like when it came to weddings! I am an introvert so my first hurdle was learning to deal with this new spotlight of love and attention from family, friends, and colleagues. Once I got my head around it and learned to embrace it, I then knuckled down to planning (100 Pinterest boards) as I figured out what I liked and disliked. I’m a graphic designer so absolutely loved planning the aesthetics of the day. Kelvin and I were set to get married June 25th 2020 and agreed to get ALL wedding planning completed by April 2020 (8 months after we got engaged). So you can imagine how devastated we were when Covid-19 came crashing down on our 90% complete wedding plans. We monitored the ever-evolving pandemic updates and made the super hard decision to postpone our wedding to August 17th 2020. As the weeks carried on, with heavy hearts, we came to terms with the fact our new date would also more than likely need postponing once more. Our new date is now set to June 2021, which has come with its pains, like finding a date all of our confirmed vendors can do as well as trying to claw back as much compensation from moving our honeymoon flights and accommodation. Nonetheless, we have now learned to celebrate the extra time given and remain hopeful June 2021 will be the best day of our lives!
How have you been gathering inspiration for your wedding that you've found relevant as a Mixed Race planning bride?
Pinterest was my immediate point of action when I started out planning, as well as various wedding blogs (including RMW). All of these resources were great for finding décor inspo, dry-hire venue ideas and wedding stationery. However, it soon became really tedious when looking for things like hair, makeup and dress styles. Being Mixed Race, the first challenge was finding the inspiration. Mixed Race brides with curly hair and brown skin on the places I had originally started my wedding research seemed few and far between. I was left to use my imagination when viewing blogs titled ‘Ultimate wedding hairstyles of 2019’. Questions I had were: “Would a halo braid hold for the whole day with my hair type” or “Would this style work with my curly hair?”. I was adamant about being anything but traditional when it came to my dress, hair, and makeup; I didn’t want anything massively extravagant so started using the search term ‘modern/minimal bride’. For every 50 white brides, there would be one black bride. I struggled to imagine how I would achieve this overall look with hair that couldn’t be just ‘loosely tied back into a relaxed beach wave ponytail’ or knowing whether a white tulle sleeve would be too big of a statement when contrasted against my brown skin. These issues didn’t put me off, I guess I just adapted to the resources available and made the most out of it.
How was your experience when finding your wedding dress?
I mentioned previously that I had no vision of a fairy tale wedding, so understandably the thought of dress shopping gave me anxiety. The first bridal shop I visited was an overall really stressful ordeal. I arrived with no steer on what I liked, so expressed to the assistant I was open to trying on anything. After over an hour of trying on dresses, nothing seemed to be working for me and my mood dropped a little bit more with each dress I tried on. The dresses that aimed to create an illusion of floating lace, looked harsh and obvious on me. I can remember seeing another bride-to-be stepping out in front of her family and friends with the exact same dress and receiving gasps and shrieks of adoration and wondering why it didn’t have the same effect on me. It was really disheartening, but I concluded it was because I was never really that fussed about my wedding dress and knew this experience would be intense for me. I went on to try on several other dresses at two other boutiques and eventually found ‘the one’, on reflection I know I played it safe but ultimately wanted to feel comfortable and most importantly, I wanted to feel like myself.
How was your experience when looking for a hair and makeup artist?
This experience has hands down been the most stressful so far. The first issue was finding inspiration for specific makeup looks or hairstyles on women who looked like me. The majority on the bridal blogs that I found, showed bridal hairstyles showcasing beautiful straight European hair. I generally don’t wear much makeup, so knew this part of the wedding planning would come with its challenges. I can remember asking a couple of our confirmed vendors whether they had any recommendations on MUA’s or hairstylists and was grateful for the lists of vendors I received but found all of them to specialise or only have experience on white skin and European hair. Friends and family have been great with recommending hair stylists and MUA’s that specialise in black hair and black/brown skin. Since then, I have successfully found an MUA. I am still yet to confirm a hairstyle or a hairstylist, but thankful for the extra year Covid-19 has given me to figure this part out!
Have you had any positive experiences with suppliers that you would like to shout about?
We have not confirmed out caterers just yet, but the two who we have short-listed have been INCREDIBLE! Kelvin and I are big on food and more so, our heritage. It was really important to us both that we had a fusion of West African and Caribbean dishes, as Kelvin is of Sierra Leonean descent and myself, Jamaican descent. We knew it would be a big ask but we were really lucky to be introduced to Adwoa from Pepper Corn catering and Troy from Juicy Jerk catering who both went above and beyond to accommodate our ‘hybrid menu’ request.
Are there any multicultural aspects of your wedding? If so, how has incorporating that been for you?
As previously mentioned, food is a big part of celebrating Kelvin and I’s multicultural background, so we have chosen a menu that celebrates some of our favourite Caribbean and West African dishes. We have also made a very conscious effort to book a DJ who specialises in both Reggae music (as this is a massive part of my upbringing) and also Afro-beats, which is a modern infusion of West African music. One part of our wedding day will involve a change in the attire of not only the bride and groom but also our friends and family who want to participate. Culturally this is known as the ‘traditional’ and consists of bespoke clothing being made out of traditional African Ankara print fabric, chosen by the bride and groom. We have decided to have this take place shortly after our first dance. We're really looking forward to seeing our cultures merge together as one and have our families embrace and celebrate Kelvins Sierra Leonean tradition.
How can Rock My Wedding be a better resource for you as a Mixed Race planning bride?
Celebrate how multi-cultural this country is and have this reflected in your daily content. For me personally this would be done by:
- Broadening supplier lists to have caterers, which cater to an array of multi-cultural cuisines.
- Showcasing how hairstyles/ make-up looks would appear on a mixture of complexions
- Point brides in the direction of bridal boutiques which can accommodate black and brown skin
- Normalise featuring black couples and black weddings
How can the wedding industry step up to meet your needs?
Black and brown brides are as common as white brides, yet this is not reflected in the majority of bridal content on social platforms. I wish the wedding industry celebrated that there is no ‘one-way’ to get married and allowed black couples to become the norm on blogs and not feel like a special feature. Written by Emily from The Blithe Booth Company You can visit The Blithe Booth Company website here or on Instagram @blithebootheco