It’s Black History Month, and as we celebrate blackness and our African-American culture, something has come up again and again that I want to address. I’ve been officiating weddings since 2010 and over the years, couples have told me that they had difficulty finding black wedding vendors, and especially a black wedding officiant.
While there are some great black wedding vendor sites like Munaluchi Bride and Black Bride, when you search for officiants, the results are few. The vendors on Munaluchi Bride and Black Bride are located primarily on the East Coast and in the South. These companies have a much greater presence there than on the West Coast (though I am told that is changing), so I wonder if the average L.A. bride is aware of them.
Some people reading this might wonder why a couple would want or need a black officiant as opposed to a white one, but the need for inclusivity in the wedding industry is well documented. You would do well to read this interview with Black Bride editor Mary Chatman if you’re unfamiliar, but the desire to see yourself in your wedding vendors and especially in the person performing your ceremony is easily understandable to me. Plus, as you share your story and plan your ceremony, it helps to have someone that is familiar with your culture.
That said, there is no shortage of black couples getting married in Riverside, Orange, and San Diego County, so who is performing the service? Traditionally, the black community has had strong ties to the church, so when it came time to get married, it was natural to ask one’s pastor to handle the ceremony. If you were not a regular church attendee, you’d ask your Mom or your Auntie’s pastor and that item was quickly checked off the list. Just like there are plenty of black couples, there is no shortage of black churches and black pastors in and around Los Angeles, however, if you and your family are not connected to a church, who do you call?
When it comes to finding a black wedding officiant, I believe that advertising and visibility play a key role. A lot of my black couples find me on WeddingWire just by scrolling through the officiants and stumbling across my page. Still, the way that most couples find vendors is by referral. Author Sofaking_Classy wrote in her article, How I was Able to Use Primarily Black Owned Vendors at my Wedding that she “found my photographer through a conversation that I had with my nail technician.
I am grateful for the black couples that did find me and who didn’t give up in their search, and likewise, I am grateful for all the wedding planners (African-American and otherwise) that continue to send couples my way. But as a black wedding officiant in Los Angeles, it seems to me that the key is to advertise in the popular locations and to encourage couples to share and refer their friends. So, I will continue doing what I am doing and hope that I will (continue to) be found by black couples. I do get a lot of referrals from couples I married and that’s always a blessing, but it may be time to start advertising with Munaluchi and Black Bride.
Happy Black History Month!