While at Barnes and Noble, I tucked into a big couch with my Bible and a few books. I noticed a stack of bridal magazines and, oddly enough, zombie novels near my feet. Not one for zombies, I spent a happy hour flipping through the magazines. I began to notice a pattern.
Everybody was white. SUPER skinny. And most likely very well off. (A wedding with 500 guests and a baby tiger?) One of the magazines featured an older, white same-sex couple, and Emily Post’s great-great granddaughter (or something like that) wrote about etiquette for same sex weddings.
Before I could get too mad about about the lack of racial diversity, however, I noticed one Vietnamese and Chinese couple; another Vietnamese and white couple; and an Indian couple. I breathed a sigh of relief for a second. Then I saw it: a black woman and a white man getting married. However, the picture was blurry and taken at a distance, and unlike the other couples, there was no prominent shot of the two of them alone.
Is there something shameful about a black bride? Is there something terrible about seeing a black couple get married?
Almost every morning, I get an email from Essence** about black people getting married. If I’m feeling especially shrewish, I skip past it. More often than not, however, I look through the elaborate photo shoots and celebration of marriage. It is necessary to have photographic evidence. In the last few years, black women have undergone an especially vicious social attack that suggests we will never get married, and that it is our fault. Even NPR jumped on the bandwagon.*** Suddenly everybody is getting rich off of telling black women how to get married. Nobody in the magazine industry besides black magazines such as Essence, Ebony and Jet, is willing to visually represent black weddings. In fact, the only black women who got space in the magazines I saw were ones who were working within the bridal industry, not brides themselves.
Have you ever been to a West Indian wedding? It is joyful. Imagine calypso and soca music, and dance-offs, off-color jokes by an MC, too-long toasts, and cut-throat comments between the bride and groom’s side, each one vying to be the “better family.”
I never expected the nuances of a West Indian wedding to make the pages of a bridal magazine. (I myself barely remember what a Guyanese Kwekwe is.) However, I did expect to see African American brides and traditions honored in a respectful way. Black women get married too. Even if somebody composed a badly written essay about…I don’t know…kente cloth and jumping the broom, I’d be happy that they tried to represent a black wedding in some way.
I spent the better part of the 1990s going to or being in someone’s wedding. They were all unapologetically black, West Indian weddings, and I loved them. I got to see beautiful black brides and other brides of color on a regular basis. Because of those weddings, I know that, as a black woman, I too am worthy of experiencing a great love.
After all, marriage isn’t only for white people.