Update: The curators of the blog where this was originally posted have issued an apology.
Weddings are political. Historically, the role that weddings have played in the consolidation of a national identity has been foundational to how we think about a country, who belongs in that country, who gets to have rights in that country and what their race, class and gender should be. And while some of the more obvious historical exclusions are being pushed against by many eschewing traditional values and having offbeat weddings or gay marriage becoming legal in some (great and awesome) states, the fundamental role that weddings and being married plays into how we think about society has barely shifted, at all.
But this old, but now new, borrowed and quite blue, tradition of having your wedding in the theme of the old South isn’t that far of a departure from what weddings originally represented: a tradition that consolidated the race, gender, religious affinity and assumed ethnic identity of the nation within the family unit. Weddings were a symbolic tradition, a right, upheld by early white settlers and colonizers, but denied to slaves and/or the colonized–and that was a strategic move to deny citizenship rights and basic personhood to the enslaved.
So, how, does one take a tradition that was so clearly created to uphold one type of citizenship at the cost of excluding others become a “new, hot, trend,” in weddings? Apparently, really easily. Inspired by a photography website that showcased a wedding in South Africa called a, “Colonial-Africa Wedding,” (blog post was taken down, but I took a few screen grabs, like the one above) Amanda Hess takes on this rather ill-thought out, offensive and blatantly racist new trend: plantation weddings.
Say what you will about the legacy of slavery, at least it produced some fabulous venues. Like this one, an immaculate Louisiana estate that once enslaved 500 humans. The venue’s website is littered with details you can’t make up: The plantation is still equipped with the quaint antique bells the children of the house rang to summon their slave servants. It still equates enslaved human beings with “the family’s most prized furniture and china.” It still calls itself the “White Castle.” And it still attributes its impressive grounds to its original slaveholding owner and the ”business savvy that fostered his tremendous wealth,” as opposed to, say, human bondage.
That’s so racist it’s almost funny, except that it is completely not funny. Not even a little bit.