Working While Black: A Wedding Vendor Said Ethnic Caterers Were Messy

November 17, 2016  |  


As told to Veronica Wells 

I’m a wedding planner. And as you might imagine, managing the biggest day of people’s lives, monitoring their budgets and dealing with their family members can create all types of drama. But as quiet as it’s kept, there are some vendors, the people who supply the location, the food, the flowers, the decor, who can make an already stressful occasion, a nightmare.

A couple months ago, I was working with a couple like myself Bermudian people. So naturally, they wanted to eat Caribbean food at their wedding reception. Like most people want to eat food they know at love on their special days. This particular couple were avid readers and so they wanted to celebrate their love and commit themselves to one another at one of New York City’s beautiful libraries. My boss and I thought it was a great idea. And after looking at several locations, we decided to make a visit to one of them.

While it seems like the idea of having a wedding at a library wouldn’t be that big of a deal as long as you have the money to pay for the space, that was not what we encountered when we spoke to the public events coordinator. From the moment we walked in, it seemed that instead of trying to sell us on renting the space, she was doing everything in her power to persuade us against it.

From the moment we walked in the space, the event coordinator, an older, gray-haired woman with a nose that seemed to be permanently crinkled in disgust said, “I’ll show you the space you’re interested in but I can’t make any guarantees. There’s a significant chance that it might not be available for your event.”

My boss stepped in to field that one.

“Well, there are several spaces we’re considering. So if this one is not available, we have other options. We’re just trying to get a feel for each space and see which one will be the best fit.”

She flashed her an insincere smile and the older, White woman nodded and continued on with her tour.

When we got to the prospective reception space, she suddenly became inquisitive.

“So what are you plans regarding food? We have a list of preferred caterers you can choose from.”

The bride, who was organizing the catering through a friend who owned a restaurant chimed in on this one.

“Oh, well we’ve organized our own catering. I have a friend who owns a restaurant and she’ll be supplying the food for us.”

I watched as the silver haired woman started twitching uncomfortably, her eyes shifting as she searched for the right words.

“You know…I don’t mean to sound…insensitive but are you sure you want to go with your friend?..Ethnic caterers—and don’t take this the wrong way— tend to be messy. And, unfortunately, you would be responsible for any damages.”

She grimaced.

I stood stone still, waiting for someone to address the blatant discrimination. Our couple was too shocked to speak. I’m sure my boss was busy trying not to burn a bridge and I was seething. Not wanting to go too crazy, I said what I could in the moment.

“I’m sure that won’t be an issue, should we decide on this venue.”

She nodded. She kept speaking but I’d tapped out. I might as well have left.

When we left, our couple was persuaded that that particular library wasn’t the one for them. Obviously. I just kept wondering how many people she’d turned away with her bigotry.

Image via Shutterstock

Veronica Wells is the culture editor at She is also the author of “Bettah Days.” You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter @VDubShrug.

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