As everyone knows, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry were married earlier today in what ended up being a history-making wedding ceremony. With all the sad, heavy news lately – from Myanmar to Syria to the school shootings in the U.S. – it felt good to have the world collectively focused on something joyful, to have an unofficial international day of optimism. Bernice King, daughter of Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King Jr, explained sharing in Meghan and Harry's joy this way:
Someone asked me “How can you be joyful about two people you don’t know?” I ask, how can you be bitter about two people you don’t know? Bitterness will kill you, in various ways. Trust me. I know. It took me decades to overcome bitterness.— Be A King (@BerniceKing) May 19, 2018
One of the ways the royal wedding made history was with Meghan's personal invitation to Bishop Michael Curry to give the ceremony's sermon. Bishop Michael Curry is not only the first African-American leader of the Episcopal church and its most senior official, he is also the descendant of slaves. As such, his sermon on the power of love (which was a very American-style sermon) didn't shy away from the various realities that love can overcome.
Bishop Curry's style of delivery is being largely discussed today, both positively and not. Some people claim the sermon was too long (he actually spoke for less than 14 minutes). Some in attendance responded with raised eyebrows (Zara Phillips and Kate Middleton), some with a "take us to church" sway (Oprah), and some with open smiles and enjoyment (David Beckham).
What's most striking to me though, is how many people working in the bridal industry found his sermon off-putting. It is one thing to have nothing to do with weddings on a daily basis and be unfamiliar with the cultural nuances of a large group of people. It is quite another if you make your living helping people celebrate the blending of families and all that comes with it.
The topic of diversity and publications and wedding pros not making as intentional an effort as they could (or should) has once again been a very public conversation in the wedding industry over the past few months. I believe the royal wedding ceremony, and this sermon in particular, can serve as a good litmus test for those of us who think we're doing okay in this area.
If you're a wedding professional and found Bishop Curry's sermon to be uncomfortable or strange, use that reaction to illuminate blind spots and examine where your own company may not be as inclusive as you maybe think it has been. Be honest with yourself about where you may have been unintentionally overlooking something that is deeply important to your clients or customers.
Inclusivity goes far beyond skin color. To be truly inclusive, one has to embrace and celebrate differing cultural practices as well. This is the perfect opportunity to take stock of where your company is at in that regard and how it could be better.