Why are Plantation Weddings Still a Thing?

A wedding is supposed to be a joyous celebration of love and family, what could possibly be controversial about that? Turns out quite a bit. When planning a wedding many couples struggle to pick out a venue. There are many factors that go into picking the perfect one such as location, capacity, and pricing. For decades couples have picked out plantations in the south for their nuptials for the beautiful scenery and large manors. The controversy is that behind the beautiful fields and estates there is a violent, unjust history. In the same location these couples say “I Do”, enslaved African Americans were stripped of humanity and suffered the worst kind of treatment for decades. In recent years, this wedding practice has come under scrutiny for people celebrating and toasting on the land where just a century earlier others were tortured for their existence. One would think people would not want to have weddings in a place with such a tragic history. Yet Charleston, South Carolina plantations were “hosting nearly 6000 weddings in 2019” . Famously Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds apologized for getting married on a South Carolina plantation. They were right to because having a wedding at a plantation is wrong. 

The problem is when you host a celebration at a location with such a violent history, that history is ignored, or worse celebrated. In the history of the world the United States is a new country and our history is a recent one. That history cannot be told without slavery. It is a scar on the United States that will always be present and should never be forgotten or disregarded. When people have their weddings in the places where these abuses took place it is ignoring the recent horrors that took place there. These plantations exist as preservation of that history. However, some plantations and people try and use these sites as celebrations of the “Old South” associated with movies like “Gone with the Wind”. That should not be what these sites are for, and the weddings there are part of that same problem. 

Savannah, GA Photo by Ashley Knedler on Unsplash

The issue does have some complexity, as the plantation sites have responded to the criticism with an argument of their own. The plantations make most of their money from hosting private events. The money is used to upkeep the plantation sites. These estates take a lot of money to keep running. It is important that the history that took place at these locations is preserved and used as educational. That has led to plantations arguing that weddings and events are the way they can preserve history. The issue with this is that that history is completely disregarded during the events. Is it ok to disregard the history for the events to upkeep the history? No. The issue with this argument is there are plantations that focus on the history from the African American point of view who are able to upkeep the plantations without the weddings. A prime example of this is the Whitney Plantation in Louisiana. This plantation is how plantations should be shown. Not as romantic, beautiful grounds of an estate, but a location where great injustice was done. 

It is time to stop romanticizing plantations and instead focus on the true history of them. The weddings that take place there are a part of the problem and we as a society need to move forward from them. We need to focus on ensuring the voices and stories of African slaves are seen and heard. That should be the story of these plantations.