Then & Now Documentary

Then & Now Documentary

Then & Now: Weddings and culture

In honor of Black History Month, Elite Vendors Network collaborated with A Touch of Nevaeh to create a documentary promoting the culture of traditional African-Caribbean weddings in this important time. The Borough of Kensington & Chelsea provided some funds to help make this small film happen. You will either feel a sense of nostalgia, or learn about these unique and beautiful wedding traditions, after hearing from women in the events industry share their personal experiences and insights of their home culture!

It is times like this where we are reminded of the fact that we all come from somewhere. That somewhere looks different for all of us, however, it is important to acknowledge and share the traditions that have shaped who we are today. This month we celebrate the diversity of black culture and heritage, and the individuals who are a part of it as they are an essential part of British culture. We recognize their achievements, hardships, success, and opportunities moving into the future. Elite Vendors Network went into the making of Then & Now with the goal of sharing insights of African-Caribbean culture specifically in the wedding industry. Four business owners tell their stories, as well as talk about the differences, of weddings from their home cultures in this perceptive documentary.

A diverse (and expensive) wedding industry

So, what makes a wedding so special? Other than a beautiful ceremony of two people verbally agreeing to spend the rest of their lives together, it is the coming together of the unique individual styles of two people, into one (and of course the food). The best part of that uniqueness is the heritage and traditional aspects of a culture that it entails.

Why is it important to acknowledge culture in weddings? Well, to start off, the weddings industry is…expensive. According to a National Wedding Survey done by in 2018, the wedding industry is worth over a whopping £10 billion to the British economy.

But is it just one specific type of wedding that bring this much flow to the economy? Nope.

Especially since, as you will learn, weddings definitely come in all shapes as sizes. A traditional wedding looks differently to those of different cultures. To not recognize these brides and grooms, is to not recognize a part of the UK’s wedding industry contributors.

On a more important point, every person deserves to feel special and seen on their wedding day. Brides of African and Caribbean cultures have their own wedding traditions to uphold in today’s world.

The ladies of Then & Now 

Four lovely ladies, who are all business owners in the wedding industry in London, share their own unique culture’s wedding traditions and how they help brides of culture today in the Then & Now documentary.

We won’t spoil it for you. We’re just going to give you fabulous reasons to watch it and to give you a taste on traditional cultural weddings in the past and present.

Tessa Williams owns A Touch of Neveah, a luxury wedding planning and event company here in London. Even though she lives in London, her family is originally from Dominica.

Being of Caribbean heritage, she believes the most important aspect of culture is the language, as it shows their identity.A traditional Dominica wedding consists of a lot of food, which is actually similar to a traditional wedding today, including several cakes which were not shown to the couple until the day of. A big part of tradition is also the clothing. There are two outfits for women that are made from Madres material: a jip, a beautifully patterned skirt accompanied with a white blouse and black shoes and a Wob Dwiyet dress. Tessa explains this dress as a beautiful ball gown, which is very expensive to make. Followed after the ceremony, the newly wedded couples are promised a week off from work which is of course what we call a honeymoon today. One of the reasons why Tessa loves the planning of weddings is she enjoys meeting different people and their cultures. Bringing old traditions into weddings today.

Kashi Isaac-Salawu is of Nigerian heritage, and she can remember her first memory of a wedding as a little girl reading a letter at her aunt’s wedding. Today she runs Eden Event Design, but her love for the ceremonies came long before that. One of the most important aspects of her culture, she explains, is the food and the very colorful style.  A traditional wedding is full of music, soul, presentation and everyone in the family is involved in the ceremony. What makes the wedding is the personal letter writing. Such as, the groom’s family writes a letter of proposal to the bride’s family and reads it in front of everyone. “The whole tradition is to make you feel so important and it’s beautiful” she explains. That is why it is important to bring that same tradition to ladies of culture today, “because there is no one in that room that feels as important as you do on that day”.

Being a cultural bride herself, Bilen Zeremariam loves the diversity and culture that weddings bring to the table today. She owns Queen of Hearts Floral Design in London however her family is from Eritrea. A traditional wedding of her home culture is typically a seven-day process with a guest list of 400-500 people. What makes these huge events memorable? The food of course. “If the food is tasty, then that’s the memory that people take”, Bilen tells us.  A delicious traditional dish is called injera, a sour pancake with a stew or many different vegan options. Sorry Westerners, but Eritreans claim vegan dishes! It’s popular in western culture today, yet it’s been done for thousands of years in African culture. Two important processes in an Eritrean wedding is the engagement process, and the representation of what tribe you are a part of. Today, Bilen describes the wedding industry as a melting pot, a mixing of traditions such as these. She encourages other brides to, “embrace your culture, as much as you can”.

Last but not least, Designer Wedding Planner owner, Shola Adedayo and her family are from Nigeria. She remembers the biggest part of a traditional wedding was the food. “It was important to make sure there was enough for all of the guests”, Shola explains, especially since everyone who knew the bride or the groom and friends of the family were invited. Otherwise the entire wedding would be considered a “failure”.

Her mother was the one who planned her wedding, as weddings back then had more to do with the family than with the couple. Now, Shola explains, weddings have more to do with the couple since they are the ones paying and planning. These traditional weddings were not only a celebration, but they were a party! Live music was essential, and the bands could be paid to play all night. Imagine being able to celebrate all night whereas weddings today end early, usually by 11. Why did we choose be so lame? I vote we adapt to that tradition. Today, Shola loves being able to help other brides of culture bring traditions of their culture into modern ideas. She is successful in mixing the old with the new. Her favorite part about weddings is finding the parts of traditions that, “rhyme with what’s happening nowadays”.

Despite 2020, the future is still bright

Because of the current circumstances and events of this year, many brides have been affected by the new restrictions and have chosen to push their weddings back to next year. However, this has been especially difficult for brides with African or Caribbean weddings. Bilen explains that many of her clients, “cannot imagine having only 15-30 people come to their wedding”, as having a large guest list is essential to cultural tradition.

Rest easy brides, these ladies will be here for you for your dream wedding when the time is right. Now is not the time to forget where you came from and settle for less. Do not compromise! As we are reminded on this month, time moves us forward. Things around us may change, but where you came from will not. So hang in there, dream weddings will happen again!

Check out the documentary here: