Let's talk about offbeat couples of color

Updated Oct 12 2015
arielmstallings
As one commenter pointed out, we don't have a tag for white people... so why do we have one for people of color? Original photo by Tim Simpson Photography, remixed by Creative Commons license
As one commenter pointed out, we don't have a tag for white people.Original photo by Tim Simpson Photography, remixed 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!

  1. I'm a black, natural, queer soon to be bride of color. The people of color tag works just fine with me, it is easier for me and even though I love OBB and the ideas I see nothing resonates more to me than seeing weddings that I can relate to. It is important because I feel as a POC (especially a queer, POC) we aren't recognized in the media at all or we are marginally. So, sometimes I like to cut to the chase and see what people out there who are like me are getting themselves into.

  2. There actually are tags for hair length or style, glasses, particular dress colours that are popular, and a whole lot more. Trust me. I've combed through to find specific tag/category links for the Show Us threads on the OBT. Like Ang said, it's about being able to see yourself in the pictures or experiences. I like being able to find rockabilly brides in red dresses so I can look and say, "Yes, that totally works for me!" The comment about seeing how certain colours or styles work on body types or skin tones is right on. Sometimes you just want pictures and other blogs or wedding dress sites aren't helping.

  3. I think this is classic over-political correctness…I'm a pretty PC, liberal, open minded gal, but I don't freak out when someone says "black" instead of "African American" (nor the black people I know) and I used to work with some people who thought doing so was the equivalent of waving the Confederate flag, and it's just not the case. Let them whine.

  4. I know a lot of offbeat brides want to shed white American traditions, but for me, incorporating my ethnic traditions into my wedding IS offbeat. There aren't many places with resources for holding an atheist wedding with Latin American traditions! Without tags, I'd never be able to find anything even remotely close.

  5. I am worried about making this a "majority rules." I would guess that the people this matters most to (couples of color) are in the minority. Now I would guess that most voters are allied with couples of color, but I dunno, it still troubles me.

    I also wanted to say that I'm not only fine with it (as the survey says), I really really like it. I often sift through looking at couples of color in hopes of finding interesting stories from other Southern, fat black girls trying to figure out how to have an offbeat wedding their family will enjoy. As much as I understand the other side, I have to say that I resent that someone else's discomfort might mean that I won't be able to do that search. Really, there's nowhere else for me to go.

    • okay – got worked up and wrote more:

      These tags don't make me feel Less Than or unfairly divided out. I feel precisely the opposite way. To me, being Black (and recognizably so) means I'm going to have experiences that lots of other privileged internet denizens (from a range of backgrounds) probably won't have and I'm going to (not definitely, but possibly) have a culture that people primarily steeped in white, mainstream culture would find somewhat foreign.
      I'm not only not offended, I'm positively grateful for the tag since it acknowledges the fact that it's likely that my being of color means that I might have experiences and concerns not reflected in the posts of white brides. I don't like for those experiences to be erased.

      As for lumping people of color, I certainly recognize and agree with the arguments against it. But – I don't know that there are enough brides of color represented here that it would make sense to have a bunch of subcategories. As much as the white/color divide is problematic, it's also – in many ways – the reality that people live. To me the tag says: "When this bride started putting her wedding together, she did not see couples with a similar phenotype to hers in wedding mags" or "When this couple tried to merge traditions rooted in their families' background with the largely white subculture they were part of, things got a little weird and she might have some good perspective on that." Whether or not they look like me specifically, there is a good chance we have that shared experience.

  6. Firstly, I'm not a WoC so I can't speak from personal experience.

    However, I was wondering whether it could work better to split the tags into more specific elements based on what readers are actually looking for. From reading through the comments above, it seems that the reasons for which brides of colour wanted to see other brides of colour was for things like inspiration on how they styled their hair, what dress colours they chose to work with their complexion, or how they incorporated their home culture.

    Based on that, would it work better to have tags like "afro hair", "latino culture", and tags for different complexions such as "very pale", "pale", "olive", "dark", "very dark"?

    I recognise that the complexion tags could be offensive to some, in which case it's a no-go, and I think it would have to be done on a totally self-identifying basis, but it could possibly work, for PoCs and white people alike. Speaking as a very pale white woman I would be interested to see how other beyond-the-pale ladies may have dealt with wearing head-to-toe white!

    • I might have worder my comment badly — I want to emphasise the use of the word 'complexion' rather than 'colour'. To me, 'complexion' is a word linked with the beauty industry and styling, and it takes the issue away from race and towards what readers are actually looking for, i.e. make-up and fashion.

  7. I was talking to one of my other inter-racial soon to be bride friends about this.

    Neither of us are plus sized. My friend is pretty small and I'm…I dunno average. Anyway, neither of us care about the plus sized tag because it doesn't apply to us IF we're looking for weddings like ours.**
    But who are we to take the tag away from this group? The tag helps people weed out weddings that do not apply to them. "offbeat couples of color" helps me and my friend and many others weed out the Ken and Barbies as we search this wonderful blog.

    **I, for one, love looking at weddings regardless of tags so please know that I gawk at ALL weddings

  8. The only thing that I would say could completely erase the "otherness" of the tag "offbeat couples of color" would be to tag any NON offbeat couples of color as "white offbeat couples". However, I think that that would be a giant waste of time, and more than a little over-board.

    I know that this site strives to be better, but it's just a part of life that white, hetero, non-tatooed, barbie and ken couples are "normal" and all of us who are not that are "other". I don't find it any more offensive, at all, to have a tag for couples of color than having tags for LGBT couples, brides with tatoos, grooms with long hair, nerd couples, etc. Just as having all those other tags allows people to better access weddings that they feel are pertinent to them, so does having a tag for "offbeat couples of color".

  9. i'm not entirely sure how many different tags you have, so this may be too unwieldy, but: could you add checkboxes to the profile submission form for people to self-tag? with an explanation that this is for *tagging your post*, not necessarily self-labeling (i say that because i would gladly tag my wedding "lesbian" so people could find it, even though we don't strictly identify that way).

    anyhow, that would only help with the profiles, but that's a big part of things here.

  10. So I'm very late to this conversation but I wanted to applaud the attempt to highlight people of color on the site. I do, however, have a problem with the use of 'couples of color' when it refers to a person of color marrying a white person; it's just incorrect. A couple of color is two people of color, two people who share the experience of being people of color and has a distinct difference from couples where one person is white and one is not. It's like calling a couple a 'Chinese couple' or a 'French couple' when only one person is Chinese or French; you don't take on your mate's race or ethnicity just because you are wedding. I think 'brides of color' or 'grooms of color' would be more accurate.

  11. I love the tag! As a mixed race girl planning a wedding with a "Hawasain" girl, finding couples like us outside of our friend circle is almost impossible. My hair causes big problems so I love being able to find ideas this way….and integrating our different cultural backgrounds gets complicated. Being able to search for ideas and examples of people more like us actually makes me feel more included and thought of 🙂

  12. Way late to this party but will comment anyway. As a bi-racial OBB who was honored to have her wedding featured and who just happens to look white. I don't really have any issue with the tags of color. I think it does help people who maybe find it easier to identify with someone like themselves, or find new ways of celebrating their culture,or not. I know for our wedding feature it created some controversy due to people not understanding my racial identity due to skin color and general misunderstanding. But if you put yourself out there then expect people to comment and for me I hope it opened some minds. I love OBB and wish I had known about this tag when we submitted our wedding. Because you know not all people of color look like they are people of color ie like me 😉 So yayyy for brilliant tagging Ariel and team!

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