Why Representation Matters in Minnesota’s Events Industry
Whitney James Event + Design

Why Representation Matters in Minnesota’s Events Industry

Whitney Gladden of Whitney James Events says the industry must confront racism and boost inclusion.
Whitney James Event + Design

The day has arrived: You are engaged and ready to break out your secret wedding Pinterest board. You post on Instagram, tell everyone the exciting news, and start the wedding planning process. Social media, bridal magazines, and Google are all consuming. You take in image after image, and the thought emerges in your mind: I don’t see myself.

But, it’s now time for the first step: Venue hunting. Maybe you already had a list of places you have bookmarked for this moment. You inquire and set up your tours. You arrive excited to envision your day in the space and meet a venue manager. You again think, I don’t see myself.

But still, now you have the venue and date picked, so you’re ready for the next magical step: dress shopping. You make appointments and assemble your crew. You arrive and look around at other excited brides, meet your consultant, and browse the beautiful gowns with bubbly in hand. But the thought again returns: Where am I? I don’t see myself.

Truth time: If you are Black, Indigenous or a Person of Color (BIPOC) getting married or having an event in Minnesota, there is a clear lack of representation. I want all the event professionals to put themselves in the shoes of a newly engaged BIPOC couple. Walk through those moments I listed above. If you were BIPOC, how would you feel trying on a dress in a store that has an all-white staff and everyone shopping in the store is also white?

This is not meant to shame; it is meant to educate. To open your eyes and see where we need to not only be better, but also do better. BIPOC individuals need to be represented, period. Our industry needs to serve people of all skin colors, hair textures, and different body types. We are an industry of making dreams happen, yet we’re not creating dreams equally.

So, what’s next?

My fellow event colleagues, the only way to make change is to actually do it. That means hiring BIPOC team members, managers, and executives. There are additional viewpoints you’re missing at the decision-making table.

When you are putting together photoshoots, collaborate with BIPOC vendors. Venues, publications, and those in the industry with a large platform should showcase BIPOC professionals. Publications, please show real BIPOC couples. It is so disheartening flipping through a magazine or scrolling through images and continuously thinking, where am I? Do it all the time, not just when it’s trending on Instagram!

A few years ago, I was a bride getting married in Minnesota. I loved my wedding planning process and vendors, but I still lived all of those moments I mentioned above. I attend networking and social events where I am typically one of the only people of color in the room. These are my lived experiences as both a bride and a member of the event industry. It is clear there is a need for growth and a movement that is long overdue. Now is the time to create an industry that is diverse and inclusive.

I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up the monumental shift that has happened. The tragic deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, and countless other have created conversations, movements, and accountability for racism and how it is systemic in our nation. We are at a unique time where we get to decide which side of history we want to be a part of. We have to commit to creating this change. Donations, social media posts, and conversations are great starting points, but these all fade and won’t be enough. We must do and be better, there are no more excuses for not prioritizing this. I hope in the near future myself and others can look around and proudly say, “Here I am. I see myself.”

About the Author
An eight-year veteran in the events industry, Whitney Gladden got her start in Major League Baseball. Now, she specializes in weddings, but she has a background in corporate and non-profit events. She launched Whitney James Events in 2018 and has worked on events ranging from intimate social gatherings to multi-day destination weddings. Whitney James Events offers full-service event design, planning, rentals, and production. Gladden splits her time between Minnesota and Arizona with her husband and her three dogs.

About ILEA
The International Live Events Association (ILEA) represents and supports more than 5,000 members globallyevent professionals who do business together, share knowledge, nurture talent and progress the live events industry. For more information on how an ILEA professional can help you with your event, please contact communications@ilea-msp.org.