Let's talk about offbeat couples of color

By on Dec 13th

As one commenter pointed out, we don't tag white couples. Original photo by Tim Simpson Photography, used by Creative Commons license.

Back in 2008, I started a discussion about what I saw as a distinct lack of racial/cultural diversity among Offbeat Brides. As I said then: "I see a bazillion tattooed white women, but very very few black hippie brides, goth asian brides, steampunk latina brides, rockabilly native american brides, etc."

Based on reader feedback that it was "hard to find any weddings of people of color," we started tagging posts that featured couples of color to make them easier to find. Tagging is how we make all sorts of things on the site easier to find: Kansas weddings, brides in glasses, grooms with long hair. We've got hundreds of tags. We wanted to make it easier for readers who were frustrated by the experience of feeling like they only saw white couples across wedding planning websites.

What we heard from our readers was that when it came to wedding blogs, they felt under-represented and invisible. The goal with the tag is to counterbalance some of this invisibility. The issue was discussed extensively back in 2008, both on the blog and the Offbeat Bride Tribe, right down to readers weighing in on the wording choice for the tag.

Recently, however, we gotten feedback from current readers that they find the tag misguided tokenism at best; racism at worst. Obviously, we take this feedback seriously. Offbeat Bride has a history of being sensitive to issues of labels and identity, and although the tag was original established to address a reader request, we're totally open to the fact that it may no longer be serving its intended purpose. If the majority of our current readers don't like it, we've got no attachment it. Tagging or not tagging won't change anything on our end: we'll keep featuring the same diverse range of weddings, which includes our ongoing editorial priority to seek out a wide range of ethnically and culturally diverse weddings.

So, we're doing a poll:
(poll now closed)

UPDATE: POLL RESULTS

So, the poll results make it clear that people want the "offbeat couples of color" tag to stick around. Even if you eliminate the people who didn't care, the results are still overwhelmingly in favor of the tag. None of the alternative tag titles resonated for us — some of the most common suggestions included multicultural and ethnic, which don't quite ring true. Others suggested breaking things down by specific ethnicities, which feels like over-engineering things (we're a wedding blog, not the census!) and opening a nightmarish can of worms in terms of cataloging/taxonomy.

Based on comments, it feels clear that the issue is not the tag itself, but whether or not we as editors are applying it to people without their knowledge or consent. Everyone seems to agree: people can call themselves whatever they want, but it's inappropriate for Offbeat Bride editors to visually identify people as "of color." This in mind, we're committing to only applying the tag to wedding profiles where the submitter has either A) checked the "couples of color tag" when they submitted their wedding or B) mentions their race/ethnic background in their wedding story. In this way, we ensure that the tag is only applied to folks who identify.

That said, we will not be going back retroactively and de-tagging existing posts, unless we are contacted by the couple in question… which has happened! I got a very sweet email from a bride who'd been tagged "couples of color," asking me to remove the tag from her wedding.

"I'm very proud of my heritage," she explained. "But I'm not comfortable with the tag. I'm all for letting other folks self-identify that way, though."

I respect that completely, and removed the tag from her wedding. All was well.

Mostly, thanks so much to each of you for taking the time to weigh in on the subject and sharing so many thoughtful, well-stated perspectives. While there's no way to make every single one of our hundreds of thousands of readers happy (especially not with a complex issue like this), the discussion was hugely enlightening for me.

Race is a sticky, difficult issue to discuss (especially online) and as always, I love that Offbeat Bride readers can talk about tough issues respectfully and intelligently.

Thanks again, everyone!