After Tara Baker and Arlia Hassell got engaged, they struggled to find a single wedding planning magazine that reflected their relationship. Even the LGBTQ-focused publications didn’t feel right. “A lot of what existed out there celebrated sexuality over the love story,” Baker explains. “They were quite stereotypical…A wedding with rainbow flags wasn’t something we envisioned for ourselves.”
Certain there were couples who felt the same way, Baker and Hassell set out to fix this problem. In November 2017, they launched Dancing With Her, the first magazine in the world dedicated exclusively to celebrating women in love.
“We didn’t have any money to spend,” says Baker. “But we also didn’t have anything to lose by doing what we did.”
The Australia-based magazine and blog offers a mix of love stories and wedding planning advice. When their first issue launched, they shipped to readers in forty different countries, from Japan to Abu Dhabi. It seemed Dancing With Her was something queer women had been waiting for.
Four volumes and 95,000 Instagram followers later, the couple is proud not only of the stories they’ve put out into the world, but also of the community they have built as a result. “Our community speaks to us regularly,” Baker says. “Mostly through social media…They share with us why Dancing With Her is so important to them and why it inspires them.”
Some of the most rewarding stories Hassell and Baker have heard are from parents who have read the magazine and been able to envision a brighter future for their children.
While Hassell had some business experience before they launched the magazine, the couple has more or less learned everything as they go--and they have relied heavily on the kindness of others to teach them. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” says Hassell, reflecting on what she has learned. “Whether or not you think they’re silly, reach out to people that have been doing similar things and are established and doing well.”
Baker and Hassell also faced a lot of discouragement. Many people told them that without more cash in the bank, they’d never make the magazine work.
“I couldn’t even count how many times people have tried to knock us down,” Baker says, “or said to us, ‘you don’t need to exist’ or ‘you can’t exist because you don’t have XYZ,’ or ‘your team is too small, you can’t do everything.’ But I guess every time that has happened for us we just come back with the attitude, well let’s just do it. We’re going to do it and then we’re going to do a little bit more than that.”
The next step for the couple is to launch a more inclusive sibling publication, Dancing With Them, which will focus on gender diverse couples. In a similar way to Dancing With Her, this publication will concentrate not so much on celebrating identities, but rather, on celebrating love.
Baker and Hassell believe the wedding industry is slowly becoming more inclusive overall. Still, they say, there is a long way to go before publications like theirs won’t need to exist. They hope someday, Dancing With Her and Dancing With Them will become obsolete, and that every single wedding publication and brand will celebrate diversity of gender, sexuality, religion, race, culture, body, and more. For now, though, they are happy and proud to keep telling these stories.