Unconvention London: Wedding Equality and Diversity

My my, what a month April has been!

If you regularly tune into my social media you may have spotted that I had the pleasure of co-hosting {un}convention London, a travelling conference with a feminist twist, founded by my friends in the US who are absolutely flying the flag for inclusive wedding diversity in the US and pushing boundaries; Catalyst Wed Co.

As co-host I was responsible for pulling everything together in the UK. I chose JJ Media’s impeccable VIEW studio as the home for {un}convention in trendy Shoreditch. The bay windows overlooking Shoreditch park had me at hello. But as a delicious blank canvas and one of the most eclectic and creative hot spots in London, I knew it would be the perfect place for us and kitted it out with simple white modern furniture from Rosetone Hire and a splash of neon blooms from Shilpa Reddy Flowers,  it went down a treat.

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Wonderful Sanshine Photography came along capture the event along with some shots from Carly from Catalyst Wed Co.  I had a very special angel on the day, Gemma, from the Ian Stuart Bride team helping me keep my cool and offering an extra pair of hands to ensure the day ran smoothly.

{un}convention London was the first of its kind in the UK, a conference dedicated solely to wedding equality, those who crave more from the wedding industry; encouraging UK wedding media and businesses to better market and appeal to the eclectic mix of couples who marry in the UK and not just the one-dimensional view that is so often proffered at all of us.

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I was asked to not only to co-host, but to also speak about race and perception in the industry.  Excited on one hand, but quite the undertaking, which I didn’t fully realise until I started writing my presentation and could not get through the first draft without welling up in tears, but you know me, I like a challenge!

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It was at that moment I had an epiphany. I didn’t quite realise just how much complexity is weaved into my identity due to my pigmentation. I didn’t quite realise the volume of inequalities I (and others) face almost everyday and have come to accept as ‘the norm’, because I am still, no matter how hard I tried through my adolescence to be the same as my peers, am seen as different. As an other. A minority. I am not an other. I am simply me.

And with a splash of humour that’s the direction I took my talk on and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

I set the tone of the event and opened the day. I spoke about my journey of being a young girl growing up in Hertfordshire and the key moment I realised I was “different” to my peers. I spoke about Disney and its influence, my journey through acting school and then my own proposal widening my eyes to outdated standards I thought we had moved on from in the 90’s. I talked about perception of desirability, beauty, success placed upon us through societal norms, about the power of representation and how our subconscious bias massively impacts our behaviour around all of the above, whether we like it or not and how to be aware of our biases.

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LONDON - 21042017 - 05532800-edit smallPhotography: Carly Romeo & Co

I shared some of my heartfelt reader comments thanking me for creating a platform that acknowledges, inspires and represents them and why it is important.

I read some comments that highlight some of the barriers readers frequently face in choosing wedding suppliers, who often have with little or no diversity in their portfolios  and what this “exclusion” can represent to them and how it stops them booking a service.

I spoke about diversity as a business case. About the importance of diversity, the importance of being inclusive, consistently, not just once, and avoiding tokenism and positive discrimination.

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I spoke candidly about race and perception in the wedding industry, stereotypes, discrimination and what we can ALL (self-included) be doing to up our game with diversity and inclusion. There were a lot of tears in the room and a lot of discussions about fear around language, misconceptions around race and fear of taking risks and doing things differently and causing offence or not having the desired outcome.

Congratulations again on an INCREDIBLE event last week, I was honestly blown away by the calibre of the content and the amazing community that is growing around such a worthy cause

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Throughout the day we were joined by lots of wonderful expert voices in the wedding industry to share their stories and their expertise and advice around wedding equality. We all spoke about equal marriage, ability and disability.

{un}convention London firmly highlighted that there is an assumption in the mainstream that everyone who enters marriage is coming from ‘2.4 families’ with mum and dad merrily in tow, female, heterosexual, caucasian, twenty-something, without disability and middle-class. The beauty of marriage is that we aren’t all the same, we are all coming from beautiful eclectic backgrounds with varying life stories that shape who we are today and the union we are about to make. I encouraged everyone present to remember that weddings are about life, and that should be celebrated much much more.

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We had the pleasure of the company of an array of talented suppliers, designers, boutique owners, planners, photographers (to name a few) and press join us for the day, including You and Your Wedding Magazine and Bridebook. Some attendees travelled from as far as Manchester!

As a treat, artist Amy Pennington a prominent advocate in the LGBTQ community even joined us for the day to draw some fantastic sketches of all of the speakers.

IMG_4234Image via Portrait Machine

We also had the pleasure of the company Bev, our very lovely and brilliant BSL interpreter for the day for one of our photographers in attendance Becky Bailey who shared some of the challenges and differences her clients in the deaf community face. I personally learned a lot about how we can be doing much more to be more accessible with clients who have different needs and the obstacles they face from an industry that consistently assumes everyone has the same ability.

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After my talk on race and perception in the industry we had a lively panel discussion with the wonderful Irish beauty Claire from leading wedding blog Bridal Musings, Charming Chris, creative and high-end baker (even with his own sweet treats available in Selfridges) of Tuck Box Cakes, award-winning make up artist and beauty expert, Joyce from Joyce Connor Make Up and Karen from the incredible Jewish wedding blog; Smashing The Glass. We spoke about tokenism diversity, Brexit, Trump, running a business and more!

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After all that gossiping, we were treated to a delicious organic lunch from Shoreditch based Humdingers Catering which went down an absolute treat! So much so, we didn’t even get a moment to take a picture of any of it. lol!

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Afterwards the wonderful Jen from Catalyst took centre stage to talk more about of intersectionality, and feminism and what that all means!
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Followed by two vibrant and popular workshops, one led by the incredible Laura Babb who was also in the midst of producing her week-long photography conference in Wales and SNAP Photography Festival, (which Catalyst and I were also speaking at just 2 days later. It was a busy week!). Laura has a great background in equality and diversity so naturally has this at the core of her work and her teachings and led the groups on marketing to a diverse audience and helping them wean out and be aware of their own prejudices.

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The other, hosted by the hilarious comedian Aleisha McCormack of Bridechilla Podcast, with our handsome groom Gubs answering questions and helping suppliers better market to couples and reminding them that grooms plan weddings and are a key part too. He also spoke candidly about his own personal challenges with family, including loss and acceptance. Along with the lack of inclusive resources and points of reference there are available for him as a modern gay groom. Guests really loved his openness and honesty and so did I! (You’ll be hearing more from Gubs on Nu Bride soon)

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After some vibrant group discussions we finished off with our keynote speaker Kat, founder of Rock n Roll Bride blog and magazine dedicated to couples who crave alternative meaningful weddings, who rounded the day off about the importance of collaboration over competition to elevate your brand.

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Our delegates had a LOT to take in. There were many wonderful moments throughout the day, but for me, it was an impromptu moment at the end of the event, that was my favourite part of the day. It was when photographer  John Nassari grabbed the mic to say a few words about his observations from the day, how my personal story about race inequality had impacted him and how everyone in the room has the power, influence and more importantly, the desire, to be leaders in starting to raise awareness, and be consistent leaders in wedding equality.

IMG_4064My iphone pap 

He pretty much got a standing ovation and got the wheels in motion for what we can all do next to keep the momentum going and contribute to making lasting change.

I think I welled up at that point.

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The overwhelming feeling from the entire day was joy and community. Honest conversations, sharing in our differences and being open and understanding of our ignorances and supporting each other on how to move forward and lead as progressive businesses and media, to better represent and serve you, our couples

Conversations continued to flow and connections were made long after the event at the Hoxton over drinks and then Pizza at Radio Alice! Buzzing.

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I truly believe, in order for us to evolve in society and then in turn business, we have to do something differently. We have to be more open and understanding of difference. It requires effort and commitment to be consistently inclusive and to take intentional action.

It was such a joy meeting and working with Catalyst Wed Co. Their tenacity, their understanding of difference and their honest and authentic desire to educate and make change is truly inspiring and infectious.  It was like Jen, Carly, Brandon and I had known each other for YEARS, we just hit it off and frequently finished each others sentences. lol!

It was a real pleasure working with them to bring {un}convention to London, don’t get me wrong, it was no easy feat putting on such an event, but definitely worth all the late nights. This ‘stuff’ makes my heart sing!

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With thanks to everyone who came to {un}convention and to everyone who supported in person, in spirit and to our event sponsors. But more importantly to those businesses and press who came and got fire in their belly and are inspired to take action to bring more wedding equality into the UK wedding industry. I look forward to throwing rocks in the river with you!

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The Talent

Main Photography: (Unless otherwise stated) Sanshine Photography

Venue: JJ Media View Stuido

Hosts: Catalyst Wed Co and Nu Bride

Food: Humdingers Catering

 Flowers: Shilpa Reddy Flowers

Furniture: Rosetone

Artist: Amy Pennington

 

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3 Responses to “Unconvention London: Wedding Equality and Diversity”

  1. Joyce Connor
    May 5, 2017 at 12:12 pm #

    What an absolutely brilliant day Nova. Well organised and I learnt a lot from attending and being on the panel. Diversity and inclusion are so important. Well done for organising it all. Loved meeting the team from Catalyst too. Xx

  2. Lynda
    May 12, 2017 at 12:33 pm #

    Wow this sounds like it was an amazing and much needed event!

    • Nu Bride
      May 12, 2017 at 8:00 pm #

      Thank you Lynda – I hope you can join us at future events

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