Ahh, we love Black love...and white weddings, come to think of it. We’ve also come to stan a thorough safety plan for gathering in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, which is why we’ve heartily applauded the protocol-friendly pivots some betrothed celebs have taken in recent months, whether they be outdoor ceremonies with enforced distancing (a la Elaine Welteroth), masks as guest gifts (as per Niecy Nash), or both.
That’s why, when we heard Real Housewives of Atlanta star and model-entrepreneur Cynthia Bailey was moving forward with her October 10 wedding plans to Fox Sports sportscaster Mike Hill, we were heartened to hear they’d be putting “‘strict’ precautions in place to ensure the safety of their guests”—or so the couple told People ahead of the ceremony, also granting the magazine exclusive photos.
Ahead of the wedding, Bailey and Hill hired a team to come and deep clean to the venue. And before entering the ceremony, guests were required to undergo temperature checks and asked to wash their hands. Once inside, they will be spaced out according to social-distancing guidelines.
“Everyone has to wash their hands before coming inside and we will have hand sanitizing stations throughout the venue,” said the reality star. “And everyone must be wearing a mask at all times, it’s not optional.”
“We want to make people feel comfortable and not look irresponsible,” added Hill. “We’re doing everything we possibly can.”
The couple gave more details on their plans to Page Six, where they shared plans to provide both indoor and outdoor socially-distanced seating options and their guests “with face masks and shields”—and having security enforce wearing them. Bailey noted: “Instead of focusing on the accessories in my hair or what kind of food we’re going to have, Mike and I have been putting most of our wedding energy into COVID-19 protocols...And we ain’t playin’ around.”
“If anyone doesn’t adhere to the rules, then they’re just going to be asked to leave,” Bailey added. “We’re taking this seriously, we want to protect ourselves and our guests.”
“We have so many rules and regulations in play, I’m surprised anyone is coming,” she continued. “We set up the food stations taking all of this into consideration, and you don’t have to sit at a table with people you don’t know, you can kind of move around. It’s a huge space, so you can be as far away from people as you want while still feeling connected to the ceremony.”
However, more candid photos and video from the undeniably joyous nuptials and reception tell a slightly different story, as masks at the lavish event at the Governors Towne Club in Acworth, Ga. seemed optional, at best.
While the couple reportedly self-isolated together “for several months due to COVID-19,” obviously, they could not guarantee the same for their guests. Nevertheless, in reference to their own quarantine, Hill told People “If we could survive that, we can survive anything together...We’re happy, we’re ready to go.”
“This is not our first rodeo,” Bailey said of marrying her “best friend,” to whom she became engaged in July 2019, after a 14-month courtship. “Both Mike and I have been married before—but we are ready to ride!”
The couple may be rightfully ready, but with all due respect to their chosen date, after only a few short weeks since Trump’s garden party for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett proved to be a super-spreader event, were they really ready to host 250 guests at an indoor venue? Understandably, many followers of the RHOA franchise—in which Bailey may have made history as the first cast member to have two weddings over the course of her tenure (Season 13 is currently filming)—were dubious about the safety of the event.
“Wait😳 aren’t we in a pandemic😬😶,” read a comment on one Instagram post following the event, while others on the same post commented:
“A lot of people not wearing masks”
“I thought they was gonna be responsible lol . I hardly see masks and everyone next to [each] other”
“Nobody wearing [a] mask ! We are [our] worst enemy!”
While we can’t say nobody was wearing a mask (we see several), there were definitely enough lacking to make us cringe at the possible contagion—particularly as Bailey and Hill’s guests appeared to be a predominantly Black crowd, and we have also been the demographic predominantly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak (one in 1,000 Black Americans, in fact). However, while we may not approve of the seemingly lax protocols, it was ultimately up to the couple and the guests’ comfort level—though as we know, that’s not the extent to which transmission works, so for the sake of public safety, we hope they all quarantine post-event, too.
But as for what was worn at the event, People provides a few details, including on Bailey’s Black-designed bridal gown:
The bride wore a gown by Nneka C. Alexander of Brides by Nona along with Badgley Mischka shoes and a headpiece by Bridal Styles Boutique. The couple exchanged rings from Rockford Collection and Beverly Diamonds during the celebratory event, put together by wedding planner Courtney Ajinça.
Bailey’s Real Housewives of Atlanta costars Kandi Burruss, Kenya Moore, and former castmate Eva Marcille were also on hand, dressed in white gowns to support Bailey as her bridesmaids, while Porsha Williams, Marlo Hampton and Real Housewives of Potomac’s Gizelle Bryant and Karen Huger all stunned in black, occasionally sporting bedazzled masks and face shields as accessories to their evening wear.
Speaking of Marcille, she and Bailey also recently teamed up with Seagram’s Escapes on an initiative to encourage us all to buy Black this upcoming holiday season. Intended to help Black-owned businesses not only survive but thrive this holiday season—a uniquely challenging one, due to the pandemic—the models are helping launch Seagram’s first Holiday Marketplace.
“As business owners, we noticed the disproportionate numbers in which African-Americans are losing their businesses, and not just having a hard time, but completely losing businesses that they’ve been working on for years,” Marcille told Page Six. “I mean, there are millions of us on unemployment.”
It’s a disparity The Root has recently reported on, and one Bailey has experienced personally, as noted in a press release provided to The Glow Up. “A lot of us took a major hit during the coronavirus shut down and are struggling to stay afloat,” she said, further telling Page Six that she faced a tenuous moment during with keeping her own businesses running during the prolonged outbreak. “By supporting Black-owned businesses you enable communities to become stronger by investing in small businesses that help to sustain them. Seagram’s Escapes Holiday Marketplace: Featuring Black-Owned Businesses is a great opportunity to support Black-owned businesses and I’m thrilled to launch this program with Seagram’s Escapes.”
Black business owners are encouraged to sign up for Seagram’s Escapes’ Holiday Marketplace by Oct. 15—and three participating companies will receive a $10,000 grant to help increase their reach, including being promoted by Bailey and Marcille.
“It’s really dope because it brings awareness to black-owned businesses that you might not have known about,” Marcille told Page Six. “It creates a space for them to thrive and to be highlighted during the holiday season.”
We’re hoping everyone thrives—which is why, in addition to expressing our concern for everyone’s health and safety, we are expressing congratulations to Bailey and Hill and hopes for the enduring health of their new marriage.
“We are not perfect, but, are perfect for each other,” Bailey and Hill told People. “We are living in a very different time, and now more than ever we realize that life is too short, and to never take anything for granted. We are so grateful to have found each other. Love with the help of God conquers all.”
All the best to the happy couple—and their guests!