December 13, 2006

All White Weddings: Bridal Magazines Lack Diversity

I can’t say I find much in bridal magazines I can relate to, but in one telling way the women almost always look like me: the vast majority of the gussied-up brides-to-be are white.

Cynthia Frisby, associate professor of advertising at University of Missouri-Columbia, and Erika Engstrom, associate professor of communications at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, looked at magazine covers and advertisements featured in mainstream bridal magazines published between 2000 and 2004 — in all, 57 randomly selected issues of Bride’s Magazine, Modern Bride and Elegant Bride were analyzed.

The researchers concluded that fewer than 2 percent of the advertisements featured black women as brides. And the number of black women chosen for the cover? Zero.

“The dominant image of today’s bride is that she is white, blond, blue-eyed and thin,” said Frisby. “We would expect advertisements and images to reflect a multicultural value, but mainstream bridal magazines show predominantly white brides and a few black bridesmaids.”

“Our data seem to support the idea that the phrase ‘always a bridesmaid, never a bride’ was actually meant for how women of color are represented in bridal magazines,” Frisby added. “Such portrayals of African-American women as bridesmaids may communicate a negative assumption that it’s better for African Americans to stay in background roles as opposed to positions of equal status or power. Various forms of bias in bridal advertisements not only harm African-American women’s sense of identity, but also derail attempts to show that our society is multicultural and accepting of people of color. Interracial settings and frequent portrayal of African Americans as main characters may help break down cultural and racial barriers and increase communication among people of all colors and ethnicities.”

The results are published in fall 2006 issue of Media Report to Women.

This study was a follow-up to Chrys Ingraham’s earlier work on representations of women in bridal magazines published between 1959 and 1999. Despite the embrace of multiculturalism in recent years, the wedding industry still wants us to have “White Weddings” (note: a new edition will be out in 2007!).


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