New Wedding Magazine Celebrates Diversity

Noël Duan
·Assistant Editor

An excerpt from the first issue of ‘Catalyst,’ a new wedding magazine that celebrates diversity. (Photo: Catalyst)

Who dares mess with the $40 billion wedding industrial complex? It tells you that you need to drop a few dress sizes before your Big Day. It tells you that you need a bridal shower and bachelorette party and that your dress(es) should complement the flowers. It tells women that it’s the most important day of their life, and it leaves men out of the conversation. Bridal magazines and wedding coverage in mainstream media is overpopulated with photos of white, thin, heterosexual brides in expensive white dresses, which is exclusive and alienating.

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An excerpt from the first issue of ‘Catalyst,’ a new wedding magazine that celebrates diversity. (Photo: Catalyst)

Having worked in the industry, 27-year-old wedding coordinator Liz Susong and 29-year-old wedding photographer Carly Romeo—both armed with women’s and gender studies degrees—want to change the commercialized, heteronormative idea of weddings. They seek to bring the purpose of weddings back to being celebrations of love and community with the launch of a new feminist wedding—not bridal—magazine called Catalyst. According to their Kickstarter, the first issue will debut in April and include “achievable DIY tutorials,” “love stories of couples who care more about having a fabulous partnership than having a fabulous wedding,” “unique women-owned businesses that can enhance a couple’s wedding experience without overtaking it,” all while “exploring the constant redefinition of traditions.”

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An excerpt from the first issue of ‘Catalyst,’ a new wedding magazine that celebrates diversity. (Photo: Catalyst)

The inclusive, progressive publication will feature couples of all sizes, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and sexual orientations. In the first issue, there are at least two interracial couples, one black couple, and two same-sex couples. In future issues, the editors want to feature couples with disabilities, of varying ages, and of transgender backgrounds. “What happens to brides when they’re over 35?” asked Romeo. “All the magazines ignore them.” The photographs have not been altered or airbrushed by the editors—a principle held by Romeo, who doesn’t retouch her own wedding photography work beyond color correction.

One of the stories in the premiere issue is an essay called “Let’s Ditch the Diet: a Response to Every Bridal Magazine Ever.” Written by Brooklyn-based writer Becky Scott, it calls upon brides to denounce the media-laden pressure to lose weight before their wedding day. They are marrying someone who loves them for who they are, after all. “Women are supposed to feel like they’ve failed if they haven’t reached their goal weight,” Susong tells Yahoo Beauty. “And everyone is supposed to look like they’re different on the wedding day. Dieting sounds like a measure of their self worth and commitment.”

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An excerpt from the first issue of ‘Catalyst,’ a new wedding magazine that celebrates diversity. (Photo: Catalyst)

In a sociology study of five bridal magazines at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, researchers found that all of the couples portrayed were heterosexual, that all the cover models were thin, white women, and that the average cost of an American wedding was $28,427—more than half of the national median household income of $50,233. These magazines were also solely focused on the bride—the “bridezilla”—instead of the couple. In her book One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding, a nuanced critique of the wedding industry, The New Yorker staff writer Rebecca Mead defines the “bridezilla” of modern day media: “She was a young woman who, upon becoming engaged, had been transformed from a person of reason and moderation into a self-absorbed monster, obsessed with her plans to stage the perfect wedding—an event of spectacular production values and flawless execution, with herself as the star of the show. In her quest to pull off this goal, she was blithely willing to wreck friendships, offend parents, harass caterers, and burn through money more rapidly than a fire consumes forest in a dry August.”

Consequently, Catalyst also aims to be more inclusive of men in the process of planning a wedding—a sector heavily ignored by the wedding industry. “Nobody talks to grooms,” Romeo tells Yahoo Beauty. “Nobody thinks that they’re invested and they just have to put on a nice suit. In same sex couples, there tends to be more image pressure. But in general, men are left out of the conversation. We want to ask them: What does it feel like to be there? What does it feel like to be around friends when you tell people that you’re engaged and people make commitment jokes? Like, ‘she locked you down’ or ‘you’re no longer a free man.’”

Romeo and Susong are still hustling to raise funds and keep their publication afloat, especially in competition with bigger wedding media, but the reception has been 100% positive thus far. “I used to work in Gloria Steinem’s office,” Romeo tells Yahoo Beauty. “And every time Steinem made a statement, I’d brace myself—because there’d always be backlash. We haven’t received any yet.” Catalyst doesn’t want the wedding day to be the most important day of the bride’s life—it wants the wedding day to be one of the most important days in the couple’s life.

Related:

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Monique Lhuillier’s Countdown to the Big Day

8 Ways Gloria Steinem Improved Our Lives