Picture it: a laid-back musician wants to marry a fashion editor. Neither of them wants a traditional wedding. Both are set on the day being an intimate affair with just family and closest friends in attendance. No fuss, no sit-down dinner, just fun. Unfortunately, every wedding fair they attended was the total opposite of the individuality they wanted to promote on their wedding day. In fact, the bride-to-be had never been a fan of wedding shows, had always felt they were too girly, oozed too much tulle, were an explosion of white and sparkles – they weren't really her.
Fast-forward to today, the recently married fashion editor (which would be me) is the newly appointed maid of honour for her best friend Christy’s June 2020 wedding. As privileged as I feel to be asked to do the honours, I am also kind of dreading the nonstop traditional bridal shows. My invite to the Nu Bride wedding fair arrived in timely fashion but was anxiously received, to say the least.
For those of you who haven't come across Nu Bride, it's a wedding blog run by Nova Reid. And it's the biggest in the UK to be dedicated to diversity in weddings which, in case you haven't noticed, is an industry that's a little behind the times in terms of representation of women of colour.
Writing for Refinery29 last year, Nova said: "The wedding industry is steeped in patriarchy and tradition, so it is no surprise that it is lagging behind. The people who occupy positions of power generally all look the same. It is not hugely representative of people of colour, of people with different abilities, from different classes, or from the LGBTQ+ community. Which is ironic, since love is the one thing in our world that is rich in diversity and wildly universal."
So it's safe to say that I was hoping the Nu Bride wedding fair might provide something different for Christy and me, especially compared to the traditional fairs I had attended as a bride-to-be. And true to form, Nu Bride was the total opposite of any other wedding fair I have experienced. Entering the building to the sound of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough" sung by the Songbird Sessions, the top class all-female vocal group, was a nice touch. As was the building: with floor-to-wall windows and packed with stylish Tom Dixon interiors, Camden House, in the heart of Camden Lock, made a nice change from your local homogenous conference centre.
The dress designers on show included House of Bilimoria, which uses south Asian influences, embroidery and saris which they upcycle with high quality vintage and end-of-line fabrics. Also there was Rita Colson, a Ghanaian London-based fashion designer who specialises in bridal couture. Not only are her dresses divine, they've also got a secret weapon. "I have a thing about movement," she tells me. "My dresses have inbuilt bras so you can feel free to dance and enjoy yourself without constantly adjusting." Yes. Please. UK designer Charlie Brear shows off a range of left-of-centre gowns – think sequinned overdresses, tiered skirts and beaded belts. The best part? Across the fashion and accessories selection were traditional wedding elements with a tapestry of ethnicity throughout, further reiterating the event's ethos of diversity.
Nu Bride had workshops on wellbeing to manage stress during wedding planning, a vow-writing workshop for creativity, a talk on making your marriage work which featured Brides Do Good – a charity that funds programmes to empower vulnerable young girls and educate communities in order to eradicate child marriage.
Nu Bride is about "being the change," Nova told me. With a background in musical theatre, singing and acting, Nova has experienced the feeling of being "other" throughout her career. "I was always one of very few black people so I lost my confidence. I had an injury and I retrained in holistic therapy mainly for disability and mental health. I did that for about 10 years and during that time I got engaged and then I just felt invisible as a black woman and thought, Wow we get married too!"
She continues: "I started to question where the black people were in the [bridal] magazines and I asked if there was an all-black magazine I could buy and I thought, Why do I have to buy a black magazine? I’ll just create my own! And so Nu Bride was born."
The entrepreneur has not been alone in her quest for diversity in the wedding industry. "Other couples and brides said they’ve been waiting for something like this," she says. "And now, seven years later – this is the show. I am tired of being invisible. For anyone getting married [who feels like I did], there is something for you too." The cellist Jay Emme begins to play, contemporary dance company SolDans starts to perform.
Nova is right, the wedding industry is very traditional in terms of representation. However, there’s a demand for change and just like fashion it is finally taking steps to show more diversity. My husband and I, like so many couples, wanted a wedding we could put our stamp on and it was refreshing to see an infusion of cultures at Nu Bride, in comparison to other wedding shows I have attended, which catered only to a European-themed day.
If there is anything Nu Bride could have done differently, it would have been to showcase more ethnic customs and decorations. I would have loved to have seen more bridal fashion like in the Nu Bride poster, which featured a black woman in what appears to be traditional African dress. The event is incredibly ambitious and the foundation is there to really be the change they would like to see but, next time, it definitely needs a larger selection of diverse brands to truly cater to its target audience. I left feeling inspired but confident that I wouldn’t have changed anything about my big day.
As for Christy? We laughed, ate, drank and danced at an event that created an opportunity for us to celebrate her upcoming nuptials and it’s safe to say we’ve bagged a few contacts to get the look and feel that she wants for her wedding. Nova, we salute you!