APW's Commitment To Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism
In the past few weeks, we’ve all been inundated by brands statements on diversity and Black Lives Matter. Because this is such an important issue, I wanted to make sure we took the time to really detail our approach and assess our weaknesses, and present a thoughtful assessment of where we’ve been and where we’re are continuing to do the work before putting forward a robust statement.
Diversity and inclusion have long been driving forces of the APW brand. So much so that if you’ve spent any significant time on the site or its social channels, you likely already know where we stand, even though we have not publicly detailed most of our behind-the-scenes efforts before. We have never done that because efforts were not put into place for public kudos or a marketing tactic, rather they stemmed from a founding principal of APW, which is doing your best to be change you wish to see in the industry you are in.
The History of A Practical Wedding
At the time of APW’s founding in 2008, the U.S. (and a large part of the world) was entering a frightening recession that affected most people at a deeply personal level. But yet the mainstream wedding industry was somehow oblivious, continuing to insist that everyone empty out their savings (or even go into debt) for one “Special Day.”
Happening simultaneously was the thick of the fight for marriage equality, and not only was gay marriage still illegal in every state but Massachusetts, but almost no wedding publications or blogs would feature LGBTQ+ couples.
In the midst of this, I set out to create a corner of the internet that would be welcoming to both folx who didn’t want to deplete their savings or go into debt over their wedding, and for folx who didn’t feel represented by the predominantly White, cisgendered, heteronormative, Christian, upper-middle-class weddings were the only ones being highlighted by the vast majority of wedding media, and that was not the kind of brand I was interested in building.
As such, values like intersectional feminism, diversity, inclusivity, and representation have been at the core of our mission since the beginning, and along the way, we’ve increased efforts around incorporating racial, gender, body, and ability diversity and inclusivity.
In the decade plus since APW’s founding, we have seen that when companies like APW take a stand for the values like these that are important to them, they can help create critical social change. As a team, we are wildly proud of the work we’ve made over the years and the diversity we’ve shown to the wedding industry through that work.
But while it is no longer taboo to publish LGBTQ+ couples, and other websites now have similarly inclusive missions and policies, the wedding industry certainly has a long way to go. We all have more to learn, unlearn, and change both personally and about our industry and world. The work is never “done” and we continue to broaden and deepen our company commitments to it in a number of ways, both internally and externally.
Our Mission and Commitment to Inclusion
A Practical Wedding is a womxn’s media company that focuses on weddings and relationships. It is made by, and for, smart intersectional feminist womxn. We strive to make our readers feel less alone as they navigate intense transitions in their lives, while constantly pushing for inclusive, authentic, accessible stories of love and relationships.
A Practical Wedding is committed to presenting a world that looks like the United States. And not just any U.S., but specifically the U.S. of the readers we serve, which is primarily people in their 20’s and 30’s. We’re committed to providing a platform for a diversity of viewpoints, making intentional room for marginalized stories and voices, which means including Black, brown, queer, fat, disabled, Jewish, Muslim, and other non-Christian voices, among others.
Our Inclusivity Pledge
All wedding vendors who advertise with APW must sign our Inclusivity Pledge, which has been in place since 2010. The pledge is about committing to the egalitarian, fair, kind treatment of all couples—whether LGBTQ, straight, transgender, cisgender, BIPOC, White, or any other identity. The pledge is also about vendors promising to treat clients like people and not walking dollar signs, and it’s about vendors respecting your wedding for exactly what it is, not what anyone else thinks it should be.
All vendors are also vetted by an APW staff member to confirm that they represent LGBTQ+, POC, and other marginalized identities on their websites and refrain from making gendered assumptions in communications and marketing materials. (If their website or intake forms say “Bride and Groom,” we won’t take their advertising dollars till they change it… and that’s been unchanged for the past decade.)
Every wedding vendor who has advertised with APW since—in our vendor directory, a sponsored post, on social media, or a banner ad—has agreed to it before we agree to work with them. We learned from our time in the trenches with vendors doing this work, that being inclusive and a true ally for engaged couples is about far more than just checking a box on an application on a directory. It means real inclusion. Real action. Not just words with no ally-ship. This has resulted in both encouraging conversations with well-meaning but uneducated vendors, and parting ways with talented people whose values didn’t align with ours.
Posts We've Published On These Issues
A core component of the APW mission is to not shy away from “the hard stuff,” and this has always included conversations on feminism, race, sexuality, mental health, ability, body size, etc. The non-comprehensive lists centers some of the most significant pieces that have focused on race and racism specifically:
- Wedding Planning As a Bride of Color | January 2019
- Please Don’t Get Married On A Plantation | January 2018
- Do Black Bodies Matter At Bridal Fashion Week? | October 2018
- This is What Casual Racism in the Wedding Industry Looks Like | October 2017
- What It Looks Like When “Diversity” Is More Than Just a Word | March 2017
- What You Need to Know: Black Women Are the Original Feminists | October 2016
- Do Black Brides Really Matter to the Wedding Industry? | November 2016
- How to Plan a Wedding Without Appropriating Other Cultures | May 2016, Updated 2019
- March 2016 |
- November 2015 |
It’s a Nice Day for a (Half) White Wedding | June 2013
- Plus numerous advice columns on similar topics.
Metrics and Statistics
In the United States, Millennials have the following demographics, and we use this as a benchmark to guide our work:
8% Non Christian Religions
APW’s Current STATISTICS
We’ve never put out an annual report, since we don’t have investors or donors. But this has given us a moment to cull through our numbers, and put out something close to that kind of document. We’ve culled through hundreds of images and documents to give you (and us) a sense of where APW is right now, what benchmarks we’re meeting, and which ones we need to do further work to hit.
For the last four years, our Real Weddings have been edited by two different and equally incredible, women of color. This role was first filled by Najva Sol, and now is run by Chelsea Hanepen assisted by another woman of color, Shoshana Lampel. Our real weddings editorial team, both currently and historically, has been by a majority of womxn from non-Christian Religious backgrounds. I have lead the editorial team, APW’s EIC, to fulfill our mission of diversity of representation.
Being a Real Weddings Editor is a tireless and often thankless job, which involves a huge amount of research and a considerable amount of reaching out to couples and photographers. I was delighted to see that when we ran the numbers, the diversity represented in our real weddings portfolio last year was almost a perfect mirror of the millennial demographics. The work on inclusive representation was incredibly intentional, and takes an enormous time commitment. That said, the way that the numbers were almost exactly on target feels slightly magical.
Beyond the numbers, there are weak points that we are well aware of, and are working hard to correct. We want to represent more: plus sized bodies, people with visible disabilities, and Muslim weddings (particularly in Hijab), Orthodox Jewish weddings, among other diverse points of view.
Real Weddings In 2019
11% Non Christian Religions
Diversity is deeply important to our team and is a non-negotiable priority when we hire. That said, our team is so small that our statistics are never going to look as evenly spread as they do in Real Weddings. We published 54 weddings last year, and we currently have 6 people on our core staff, and 9 people on our extended staff. That leaves room for diversity, but doesn’t allow us to mirror the demographics of our audience with quite the same exactitude.
33% Non Christian Religions
Staff + Contributing Writers:
22% Non Christian Religions
Photo Shoots (2018-2020):
Note: because we do fewer photoshoots, we included two years of data to give us a more robust picture.
*Non Christian Religions: This number doesn’t apply in this context, since being non-Christian is not a visual attribute outside of the context of a wedding or religious event.
Featured Front Page Images
We are rigorous as a team to make sure the images you see on the front page are broadly diverse. It is a metric that we constantly monitor, train on, and enforce. We have never done a statistical overview of those numbers however, and this was an overdue opportunity to do so. I will note that visible queerness and visible non-Christian religions mostly apply to wedding settings, so can’t be universally applied in the context of featured images. Our images also skew higher in the White category because my face appears on the site for most Happy Hour posts. Regardless, we’re satisfied that we’re doing solid work on representation in featured images.
We know that our weakest point here is presenting a diverse array of bodies, particularly plus sized bodies and people with visible disabilities.
Front Page Images For The First Half of 2020
5%Non Christian Religions
Small Business Advertisers
As we dove into the numbers, we found that the small businesses who pay us for advertising are currently far less diverse than we would like. This is an area where we haven’t put in much work when it comes to diversity (getting people to pay for advertising is an uphill climb at the best of times in 2020). But we’re not comfortable with where these numbers stand, and we’re developing a plan as a team to diversify our vendor directory, including gifting listings to Black and POC owned businesses who’s work we love and want to promote.
*Non Christian Religions: Unknown
Going Forward We Plan To
- Prioritize adding Black Womxn to our core staff when we are able to hire again. (We’ll continue to focus our hiring efforts in the communities of color where we live and work.)
- Provide more representation of plus sized bodies, people with visible disabilities, Muslim weddings, and Orthodox Jewish Weddings in our Real Weddings.
- To bring on a broader array of diverse voices to write for APW.
- To diversify our small business advertising base in our vendor directory.
- To work to build a more diverse readership through advertising, and recruitment of a more diverse group of writers.
- To organize an Advisory Panel with trusted industry professionals who represent a diverse array of underrepresented voices, to create/foster a platform with more inclusive experiences and accurate representation. (We have long functioned with a un-official advisory board, and we are moving to formalize this, and give these womxn public credit.)