“With all of the injustice going on in the world right now, we at WPIC Inc. wanted to show our support and take a stand. It is not okay, and will never be okay to judge someone because of the colour of one’s skin. We as a company pledge to learn more, do more and better ourselves to be more inclusive and supportive.” ~Tracey Manailescu, WPIC Vice President and Co-founder
I asked some of our WPIC alumni to voice their opinions and concerns with us in an article. It’s a long read, but it is so wonderfully informative and well worth reading until the end.
Please provide an example of a time when you were treated unfairly at a wedding venue or with a wedding vendor. How did it make you feel?
We have been raised as little black boys and girls to be strong. We, unfortunately, have grown accustomed to racial profiling as the norm and have learnt growing up that racism is a pre-existing condition weaved into the fabric of our society. So, when you get a weird stare when you find yourself a minority in a room full of white professionals you simply smile back and raise your head higher. Or, when you make an enquiry call on behalf of your client and the vendor on the other end of the line asks you where you are from because you have an ‘accent’.
When I attend summits and conferences and the speaker line ups are predominantly white, I remind myself that someday there will be more diversity and representation in our industry.
Throughout my career, from corporate to transitioning into the wedding and events industry here in Canada, I have built amazing relationships and experienced non-bias with a majority of colleagues and wedding pros. To say that everyone who is not of colour has shown a racial bias will be un-true. However, there have been a few experiences that remind me that our world is still far from being totally fair & free of racism.
I will share a few experiences:
– I recall a time I approached a venue for a potential partnership to refer my clients by hosting their weddings there and to be considered as one of their preferred vendors as a Planner /Coordinator. The Venue rep did not mince words in telling me that they would rather not encourage certain ‘clientele’ as their establishment has “a reputation to uphold”. They insinuated that my clients could be unruly & could not possibly afford their rates. This made me sick to my stomach.
– Personally, I find that the venue suppliers’ is where I have experienced the most racial discrimination within the wedding & event industry. From subtle comments as “We will require additional security in case your guests need to be removed from the premises” (insinuating that our guests will likely be violent due to the couple being black!).
A member of my team was not permitted into the kitchen until she wore a hat because of her puffy hair. This would have been fine if all the other staff also had the requirement to cover their hair.
And some Venues being unwilling to accommodate cultural or traditional meals for our couples who request their menu feature a taste of their culture. I have never understood why if a couple loves your space and insists on hosting their wedding at your establishment, and they are willing to pay a premium for it, a venue owner should be willing to sub-contract or collaborate with licensed caterers so as to cater to their diverse cultural meal requests. The Asian & Indian community have made progress in this regard. We African & Caribbean planners in Canada will like to see some progress regarding our clients’ meal preferences being offered or accommodate collaboration with our licensed Black Chefs when your venue is unable to offer the cultural meals.
– For Vendor partners, I have had a photographer unfollow myself and other black vendors involved in the wedding a few weeks after the wedding. This is a prime example of racial discrimination in our wedding industry right here in Canada. That act tells me “Project is done and I am not interested in a vendor relationship with anyone of you”. That is quite distasteful and made me feel sorry for the ignorance of this vendor, to be honest.
– One of the worst cases of racial discrimination I experienced was at yet another venue; they had hosted another wedding the night before and totally forgot to order fresh linens for my couples’ wedding. Despite having access to set up from 9 am, the ballroom was not cleaned or set up for my clients wedding upon our arrival nor did the clean up take place till after 3 pm (My décor team waited for over 5 hours to get the ballroom set up). This venue manager was unapologetic and treated my team and I in the most appalling way. I kept asking him if this is the same way he would treat a Caucasian client? He did not care. My team and I eventually saved the wedding and had the ballroom set up for over 400 guests with only 2 hours to spare. To make matters worse, this same venue ordered their staff to stop serving liquor despite producing the Liquor License and Receipts until we produced the receipt for every bottle that was being served. I had to threaten to call the authorities. It could have been a nightmare if the couple did not have a Planner to help them deal with all the unnecessary hurdles we had to overcome behind the scenes. Unfortunately, there is no board that regulates or can impose fines on Venues who act in an unprofessional manner that could sabotage an event. Similar to how the WPIC regulates the ethical compliance of wedding planners. It still hurts that these un-professional venues and suppliers could potentially hurt another couple in the future.
– This write up will be incomplete without addressing the unfair advantage we get from potential clients. It is understandable that people may want to buy from people who look like them. But this does not come to play when your Dentist, Doctor or Teacher is black; You still patronize them right? So why the unfair advantage of a White couple booking only white vendors?
Wedding Planners, you are not exempt; having most of your Vendor partners be devoid of black professional wedding vendors even when you have been approached multiple times by that black vendor who does amazing work. The change lies in each and every one of us. A person should be given a fair chance and not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the quality of their work.
I’ll never forget it was my first full coordination wedding. Normally, the week of the wedding we call each vendor to check their arrival time on the day of the wedding and ensure they are aware of the setup/takedown schedule. It was a blank space venue and the caterer needed to show up the day before to start his setup. Since the venue had given me the only key, (don’t ask, super rare) – when the caterer didn’t show up on time I was worried. Forty-five minutes later I called the caterer to check his arrival time as we needed to leave and lock up the venue – he sounded irritated and hung up on me, just like that. I was shocked and called him back. He proceeded to ask me “who do you think you are” and told me “I’m not working for you” and then showed up 2 .5 hours late. When he arrived he actually refused to speak to me and would only speak to my assistant, which was my husband at the time. Working with that vendor, for the next couple of days was probably one of the top three challenging moments in my wedding career.
I was treated unfairly by a high profile wedding videographer that I had recommended to my clients for their wedding. I had contacted the videographer several times as he was 3 months late to deliver the wedding video highlight. He didn’t answer my emails for almost a month which got me very worried, as the couple were anxious to see the highlight. When he eventually responded, he didn’t accept that he was wrong talkless of apologizing but instead he accused me of been incompetent, blocked my email address and contact number. He also threatened to write bad reviews about me online, and went behind my back to contact the couple and spoke very badly about me. However, he didn’t realize that they forwarded all the emails to me. This experience made me feel inferior and made me second guess myself.
I remember my first wedding during our venue visit, I was so nervous but held my composure. I walked into the venue and introduced myself with a business card, dressed professionally with my hair and makeup done. The venue coordinator looked at me smiling and said oh! You’re the planner?! Seriously?! No way…!!! I responded with an excited “YES!!” to deflect my feelings and instead, roll with it… ignoring the eyes moving up and down my person, shocked that I was the planner for the couple. The entire meeting I was overstepped and undermined, made to feel as though I didn’t deserve to be in the room. I held my own, spoke humbly but with strength, counting down the minutes until I could go back to my car and have the “why would you think they would accept you” cry. The entire experience during the first meeting left me feeling like it was true. That I didn’t belong where I was trying to be. That I had made a mistake believing that I too could become a living entity of the dream I had within me.
That day I had to make a decision.
That day I had to accept that either my dream was too big for my skin, or that my skin would not stop me from the big dream that I had.
Fast forward to the wedding (that went off without a hitch might I add) and I was met with multiple inappropriate comments made about my body and unwanted advances. The need to shake off the undeserved treatment was constant, from being treated like I was incompetent to only being good for one thing… I pushed through that event like the treatment was ok. The norm. To be expected… I guess?! Why though? Why is it the norm, the expected, the tolerated behaviour that is something that people of a minority have to face when we try to fit into a predominantly non-black industry’s space? Is it so that we stay away? Is it so that we feel beneath common decency and respect? We should not.
The struggle is always if we react, will we be seen as a ghetto angry black woman? Better to be silent than misunderstood? This is a constant battle I’ve yet to gather an answer for.
Tell us about your favorite wedding to date and why
Wedding planning is hard work, but it does bring so much joy and fulfillment; This is why I have chosen planning as a profession. I have several favorite weddings that give me butterflies to date but will highlight Two.
First will be Ehi & Kalu’s unconventional Downtown Toronto Intimate wedding for 70 guests, which I totally enjoyed how meaningful and intimate the experience was. The bride stayed true to herself by wearing a pink dress, wearing her hair with a subtle natural look and hopping on an Uber from the Ceremony to the reception, Sharing their post-marital bliss dancing with subway musicians on the streets of Toronto. The night was full of laughs & I truly felt like a part of the family.
The second will be Anu & Abel’s multi-day extravagant wedding for almost 500 guests. (We had planned for 400 to 450 guests. That is another story in itself). Theirs was a Nigerian Canadian wedding which was a blend of Culture & a fairytale romance. The beautiful colours and outfits, a showcase of their Yoruba and Edo cultural traditions and the Grand finale white wedding ceremony followed by a reception which was a true fairytale experience for the couple will forever remain etched in my memory.
One of my favourite weddings has to be the first wedding I ever coordinated. I had no idea what I was doing but the night turned out fantastic. Word to the wise: meet the family and bridal party before the actual wedding day. I had people coming up to me and asking for the MOB and MOG – I mixed them up several times. The ceremony was at an old church and I had to physically open the doors when the bride was to walk down the aisle, no one told me the doors were double swinging and I lost my grip and the door nearly hit the father of the groom when they first walked out. The couple and their friends loved me despite those snafus and kept telling me what I good job I was doing. At the end of the night when it was my time to go, the guests’ would not let me leave and I ended up dancing on the floor with all the guests until 1 AM. Good times.~Nicole-Natassha Goulding
My favourite wedding was one that I planned 2 years ago. It was a large wedding over 2 days and my main contact was the bride’s mother as the bride is a medical doctor and has a busy routine. The planning process was full-on (we viewed approximately 15 venues before the right one was chosen. I thoroughly enjoyed planning the wedding as the couple was a joy to work with and I was given the opportunity to use my creativity. We still have our group chat active and talk from time to time.
My favorite wedding would have to be the last wedding that we did before COVID hit! It was a beautiful, love-filled day with so much raw emotion and love that left me joining them in tears throughout the day! It truly reminded me of the importance of what we do and how impactful a small gesture of handling the logistics can be for so many. This will be a day I treasure for a lifetime!~Beth Olatunji
What are some things that we can implement to improve the wedding industry in regards to inclusion and representation right now?
Accountability – We as an industry should be ready to take responsibility for each other. “We need to be the change that we wish to see in the world – Mahatma Gandhi”. And if you see something inappropriate towards another vendor; Speak up! Say something!
Encourage Change – The truth is that White privilege exists. Black people have had to work twice as hard and run twice as fast to get to wherever they are and to reach whatever heights they have attained. Let us encourage hard work by giving more Black Professionals a chance to excel.
Ways you can encourage a change:
If hiring interns, ensure you encourage diversity.
Hire more black wedding pros. Support Black-owned businesses. Be fair to everyone irrespective of colour.
Accommodate more cultural meals, most black people like fancy & expensive places but we may not want your food. Do not shut us out. Let us try to find a balance.
Make your speaker line ups more diverse. Black people are some of the most educated people on our planet #truefact!
When hosting Industry Summits and Brunches open the invitation to the wedding pros of colour.
Bridal Magazines need to be more inclusive. You have declined to showcase so many black weddings and afro themed styled photo-shoots. Weddings are a universal language, people of colour with diverse cultures get married too. We are so tired of begging to be given a seat at the table that we have decided to create our own tables.
Create a Complaint Taskforce or Bureau against Racism & Inequality in our Industry.
Some steps we can take to improve the wedding industry in regards to inclusion and representation would be: – Highlighting certified Black wedding Professionals (this can be done by story takeovers, planner of the week features or “a day in the life” stories)
– Ensuring the panels at conferences are diverse
– Holding open calls for diverse wedding representation on blog
– Hosting volunteer days for WPIC alumni and include Black community organizations
I would say feature more weddings of people of colour (not just black wedding planners) who can submit professional pictures. The pictures may not be style shoot like as many of these planners (including myself) are planning events that a culturally infused and so you may not see flat lays, tablescapes etc. however, the pictures are colourful with amazing storytelling.I’ll also like to see people of colour not boxed into an ideal. This is not to say that we shouldn’t have high standards to adhere to, we should but stereotyping can limit one’s performance.
• Featuring different blogs from vendors in unseen minorities, showing that we too can be knowledgeable in our respective fields.
• Featuring weddings and styled shoots from minority groups from all inspirations of culture to showcase beauty outside of western culture
• Collaborations with different minority wedding professionals to assist in planning events
I asked the panel to think of their own question that they would like to answer. See below:
What are the emotions surrounding the Black lives matter movement?
A lot of people are questioning what is the big deal about the BLM movement. Some say there is no racism in Canada. Note that Amy Cooper, the lady who falsely called the police on a Black man in central park is a Canadian.
Truth is that there has been injustice in our world for many centuries. It is not just about the unjustifiable death of some unarmed black people. It is a symbol of the black race being TIRED of the injustice.
It is the outcry of a race that was once enslaved for many centuries, freed, yet has continually been oppressed in broad daylight. It is the collective breaking of our silence using the power of our voice.
It is the fear of mothers & fathers for their children, the fear that the child who was killed for being black could have been any one of us.
What we ask for at this time is not PITY, but that our friends and allies SUPPORT & JOIN VOICES for a true CHANGE. We ask the police & justice system to value our human lives irrespective of colour. We ask for Fairness and Equality a chance to have the same opportunities and justice as Human beings despite race or colour in every facet of our communities, industries and lives.
Name your fav’s at the moment:
Wedding Gown Designer: Monique L’Huillier
Wedding Heels: The Jimmy Choo’s with the oversized bows!
Wedding Food: Fancy Macaroni and Cheese (can someone please have this an entrée?)
Wedding Venue: Obsessed with La Hacienda right now (anyone wants to get married there, please?)
Wedding Tradition: none – they all can go!
Wedding Palette: Sorry, it’s still blush!
Why did I begin my journey in event planning? There’s no doubt that I love love, in all of its unique and quirky forms. I wanted to be a part of creating beautiful moments for people in one of their most life pivotal moments. Being from humble beginnings, I didn’t have the opportunities that so many have had, but through dedication and devotion to this cause, I’m able to fill a space in my heart that only sharing love can do! I also want to show my daughter that no matter what is stacked against you in this world, hustle baby! It’s within reach, if only you’re willing to stretch yourself enough to touch it!
Please see below for our wonderful panelists and their bios:
Adeola Damie is the owner and lead planner at Celebration Events Mgmt.
Based in Bradford, Ontario. WPIC certified and Passionate about the African- Caribbean bride. Focused on providing a memorable experience from the planning phase to your special day. With nearly a decade of experience in the industry, Adeola has held a lifelong passion for celebrations of love since she was a child watching her mother help coordinate weddings in Nigeria. She is certified with the Wedding Planners Institute of Canada and has received awards and recognition from various organizations such as the Canadian Black Women Event, Police & Community Award of Excellence, Belief International Wedding Planners, WPIC 2019 Award finalist, RBC 2020 Women Entrepreneur nominee. With a background in insurance and risk management, she has a keen eye for details.
Having had the pleasure of planning weddings all over Ontario & Alberta from Toronto to Calgary, from Simcoe County to Niagara Falls and other cities across Canada; including Destination Weddings in Puerto Rico, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.
Adeola is proud to be a dedicated African Canadian wedding planner and to provide her services to a diverse group of couples. She finds meaning in being able to help others plan their dream event with minimal stress and has been dubbed the ‘Wedding Sanity Saver’.
My name is Temi Apara, a black British-Canadian-Nigerian and I’m the Creative Director of Teantona Event Connosseiurs. I’m married with 2 children (a son aged 14 and a daughter who is 17 years). I used to live in the UK before relocating to Canada just under 9 years ago. I started off planning events for family and friends for almost 30 years and decided to turn my passion into a business.I’ve planned events/weddings of varying sizes ranging from 30 – 500 guests in 4 provinces in Canada, the U.K. and Nigeria. I’m a third-generation lace fabric merchant and so I combine fabric sourcing with most of the big Nigerian events I plan as a group of friends and family wearing colourful couture outfits is a big part of the celebration.
From intimate and large scale weddings to chic events, our team at Chic by Nicole is committed to working with clients to bring their visions to life and ensure events run flawlessly. Named “Top 30 event planners in Canada” as well as “Best 3 wedding planners” in Laval, QC, we offer bespoke services and decor planning that are both timeless, classic as well as approachable and chic. We provide wedding planning, coordination and styling services in Montreal and beyond.
Nicole-Natassha Goulding decided to unleash her creative talents and pursue a lifelong passion for event planning and styling in 2015. Nicole has taken courses to hone her skills and provide her clients with the utmost experience for every event. These include becoming certified by the Wedding Planners Institute of Canada as well as investing in her styling skills by taking a class run by the renowned Sinclair and Moore.
Beth Olatunji is the face behind the boutique firm, Beth Jacobs Weddings & Events and has quickly become a trusted consultant among her peers and clients. Beth has received her certification with The Wedding Planners Institute of Canada (WPIC) and remains a WPIC Alumni in good standing. She is also the recipient of a Wedding Planner with Honours Diploma and a proud member of The Association of Bridal Consultants (ABC).
With a background in procurement analytics, Beth knows that attention to the most minute details is essential for flawless execution and she has taken this experience with her into her event planning business. An empath by nature, she has made it her mission to make wedding dreams come true. She takes it personally, feels her clients’ story on a deep level, and hustles on their behalf.
So now you’re probably wondering where the “Jacobs” name comes from? Well, that is a special tribute to her mother, a way to carry on her legacy through her last name. It means so much to Beth to show the world that despite all the odds that have been stacked against her, she ran right over them to create the successful, thriving business she’s always known she could have. And she hopes one day her daughter recognizes all her hard work and it gives her something to be proud of.