At the end of 2020 I had had enough of men at weddings.
So, I started a list on notes app and jotted down every time something happened to me at a wedding. Guests, Vicars, DJs, Photographers, Venue Owners, Suppliers…all the times I was verbally or physically harassed, patronised, mansplained to etc.
This is the caption on the original Instagram post, from Sunday 23rd Jan 2022:
“I know my clients will be mortified to know any of these happened at their weddings, which is why I’ve never spoken about this in a public space before. I take great care in making sure you would never know it’s happened. But I feel it‘s a conversation that needs to be started.
Working a job that requires you to be around large groups of cis-het men and alcohol means that this kinda stuff happens at about 80% of the weddings I shoot. I am friendly, smiley, approachable, chatty, and I get stuck into a dance floor. This is not an invitation for any of the above.
Last year I had Tom or Victor with me for around 25 weddings (my video shooters). The men who were patronising to me, touched me, mansplained etc never did the same to them. Tom in particular witnessed a lot of the behaviour I have to experience and had his mind blown somewhat as to how aggressive it can get.
He asked me after one wedding in particular; I was grabbed around the neck on the dance floor after two guys had been increasingly harassing me all day, I ran outside, breathed through a panic attack, returning to shoot the rest of the night five mins later with a smile on my face and no one any the wiser…’what can I do?’
I went away and spoke to my girlfriends, my non-binary pals, and decided 𝒾𝓉’𝓈 𝓃𝑜𝓉 𝑜𝓊𝓇 𝓅𝓇𝑜𝒷𝓁𝑒𝓂 𝓉𝑜 𝒻𝒾𝓍.
Men: go away and talk to each other. Share this post with them. Call it out when you see it. Ask the women and non-binary people in your life what their experiences of this are. Listen. Engage actively. It’s not enough for you to be ‘one of the nice guys.’ If you aren’t actively helping to solve the problem then you are a part of it.
The same goes for white people tackling racism. The same goes for cis people tackling transphobia.
I am very anxious to post this, and want to reiterate that I freakin’ ADORE my job. I love every wedding I work and the one I talk about in the previous paragraph was one of the most fun weddings of the year, the most gorgeous clients, a dream of a day for us to shoot! I just wanna do my job in piece. 🙏🏼”
I’m writing this twelve hours after posting it on instagram, totally overwhelmed by the reach it has had. Quite literally thousands of people have read that post and hundreds have shared their similar experiences with me, solely within the wedding Industry. I am not surprised that other women, trans, femme and non-binary people have experienced the same things as me (I knew that already), I’m surprised that they are reaching out and speaking up. Because it’s terrifying to break the facade that we all actively participate in when it comes to weddings. Everything must appear to be perfect.
In my day to day life, if a man touches me, patronises me, is rude to me (and I feel safe to) I will tell him to fuck off. On a wedding day, I will smile, tolerate, let it happen again, politely ask him to stop, do anything to not cause a scene. Why? Why is that the case for me and so many others?
Here are some comments from that post that sat with me today:
We all know it happens. We all experience it. And have started the conversation. What do we do next?
For the couple:
- Designate someone on your wedding day to be a 'safe space' that suppliers and guests can go to if in need
- Let your guests know ahead of the day you have a 'zero tolerance for harassment' policy at your wedding.
- Make it clear on your wedding website and/or order of service that inappropriate behaviour will not be tolerated and introduce your designated person (e.g. Best Man, Nick) letting it be known that anyone who feels unsafe at any point can go to him/them with their concerns.
For the supplier:
- Include a clause in your contract that states you will not tolerate harassment of any kind and will leave the wedding if you feel unsafe (template available here)
- If you are a male supplier working with woman/trans/femme/non-binary people on the day, introduce yourself to them as someone who will look out for them and have their back
- Introduce yourself as an ally and safe space for the women, trans, femmes, non-binary people you are working alongside
- If you know someone who is likely to behave inappropriately, engage in conversation with them and let them know they will be removed from the wedding if necessary
- Read and share the Guide To Allyship
CALL IT OUT
For the couple:
- Let your supplier know that you, or your designated person, want to be made aware if anyone behaves inappropriately at your wedding
For the supplier:
- Assess your own safety. If it feels safe to call it out there and then, do. If not, remove yourself and let your couple know the next day
For men (from The Survivors Trust):
- Distract: Pretend to be a friend, ask for the time, cause a distraction – be creative
- Delegate: Find someone in a position of authority and ask them to intervene
- Document: Watch and witness, write down or film the harassment
- Direct: Speak up and call the harasser out, then turn your attention to the person being harassed. If they respond, ignore them; not escalate. Only use direct as a last resort to prevent violence. Your safety and that of the person being harassed come first.
- Delay: Comfort the harassed person after the incident and acknowledge that the behaviour was wrong. Be a friend.
FEED IT BACK
For the couple:
- If you have been made aware that someone behaved inappropriately on your day, attempt to engage in conversation with them that is meaningful (when you have space to). Let them know it is not ok in any situation and you will not support them if they continue.
For the supplier:
- If your couple were not aware of it on the day, email them shortly after to let them know of your experience.
- If you have a friend or family member that you know consistently behaves inappropriately, you have engaged in discussions with them and they still aren't changing their behaviour, let them know that you will not continue your friendship until they stop.
- Think about the times you have witnessed your friend/colleague/family member intimidate, patronise, verbally or physically assault a woman/trans/femme/non-binary person and discuss with other men in your life how you can collectively make sure these marginalised groups feel safer around you
I urge you to share your stories and keep the conversation going by using the hashtag #handsoffwedding
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