The last few weeks have seen the lid well and truly lifted on racism and racial prejudice, a problem that we all knew was there but didn’t really appreciate the magnitude and far reaching consequences of. And now it’s impossible to ignore.
Stories and experiences of racism have been shared far and wide by celebrities, sports people and every regular person of colour in between, myself included. Sharing these stories helps people to understand the many faces of racism. You can catch me here sharing some of my experiences with six other celebrants of colour and their stories, on this profound podcast episode by Michelle Taylor – The Funky Celebrant.
And now as we begin to look beyond the stories many white people are starting to ask, what can we do? How can we be better allies? Especially for those of you in the celebrant industry, many of you are probably wondering how this relates to your celebrant business, too. How can you run a celebrant business that reflects your anti-racist, inclusive beliefs?
So following up from this post last week where I shared a range of anti-racism resources, here are some things that you can do in your celebrant business to be a better ally and to make people of colour feel welcomed by you and the services that you offer.
I cannot stress this enough. Even if you think you’re not racist and you’re very inclusive, I can guarantee you that there is still more to learn. As you know, I am not a race educator or anti-racism expert, which is why I highly recommend you follow my friend and an anti-racist activist and educator Nova Reid. Follow her, learn from her, take her courses. Help yourself to get a better understanding of what racism is, of how complex and multi-layered it is and how you can have a part in dismantling it.
You can also look at my last post for other resources that you can tune into. Getting educated is the first and most important step to take. You need to know what you’re dealing with in order to know how to deal with it.
The next step is to be more inclusive in your marketing. I know it’s a really tricky situation to be in when you know you are a diversity-believing, inclusivity-loving celebrant but you perhaps have not worked with any or many couples or families who themselves are ethnically diverse. But this shouldn’t stop you from representing diversity on your platforms and channels.
Say hello to stock photography and images! There are so many great suppliers of free, diverse imagery out there, which you can get photos from to use on your platforms. Canva is just one!
It’s really okay to use images that aren’t of your own couples, in order to show that you live and breathe exactly what you think and feel. When you start to build up your own ethnically diverse images then of course you can start to use those, too. However, just make sure that you’re not using the images as though they are your own couples, that’s another matter entirely!
Now I also hear those of you who worry about being tokenistic – ie appearing to post an image of a black couple for the sake of it, because it will look better to have something rather than nothing. I believe that if you build diversity into your long-term marketing strategies and it’s something that you do with the best intentions, for the right reasons on a consistent basis, then this is not tokenistic.
Tokenism is sticking one diverse photo onto your feeds and leaving it at that! Or publishing one black tile on your Instagram feed and then never publishing anything else diverse again. You should be celebrating and sharing diverse imagery on your platforms so that potential couples/families feel genuinely welcomed by you, not to tick any diversity boxes.
I have a personal rule of thumb that on my wedding Instagram account, I try to make sure that out of every 9 squares, at least 3 are diverse images. Basically a third of my images (minimum) are diverse and inclusive, and not just ethnically diverse, but images which show a range of different couples, too.
And what about hashtags? I also know that hashtags can be very problematic, with celebrants finding themselves unsure of what hashtags to use when it comes to diversity. If you feature a black wedding couple on your feed, should you feature a hashtag #blackweddings #blacklove etc? I’m going to be totally honest here. I don’t know! As I said, I’m not an anti-racism educator, so I don’t know what the correct answer is here, if there is one. So I can only comment on what I do.
Personally, I don’t use hashtags like this when posting diverse couples on Instagram. I use my celebrant Instagram primarily for couples who have already found me or who find me by hashtags that are relevant to who I am as a celebrant and where I work. This is after all what hashtags are primarily supposed to be for, to help people find you. So for me, a black couple looking for a celebrant in Spain are probably more likely to use the hashtag #celebrantinspain, than anything related to colour. This to me is more relevant for my feed than a hashtag to describe the people in the image. Nor would I use #blacklivesmatter or anything to this effect on my wedding photos that feature black couples. It doesn’t feel right for me to use this imagery with these hashtags.
For me, the imagery used is more important than the hashtags and sometimes when used wrongly, hashtags can completely cancel out what you were trying to achieve with your image. Check out the Instagram account for the Catalyst wedding blog, which is one of the most woke wedding blog accounts out there when it comes to diversity and see how they use their hashtags.
INCLUSIVE BUSINESS PRACTICES
And lastly, I would say to make sure that you’re inclusive in your business and ceremony practices. Getting educated will help you to not make cultural or racial assumptions about people, or inadvertently make you alienate people. Or to be culturally inappropriate or racially ignorant. It will help you to help treat people on an individual basis and help them according to their needs and requirements, which I’m pretty confident most celebrants do anyway.
Okay, well I hope these ideas help, or at least reaffirm what you’ve been doing already. Championing diversity is a long-term commitment. A partnership with social justice and equality that needs developing, nurturing and sustaining. A commitment to reflecting and showcasing the good that we as celebrants want and love to see in the world.