Please Don’t Get Married On A Plantation

After Charlottesville, can you hear me?

One of the most fascinating aspects of wedding celebrations is just how different they can be based on the region of the United States. After you’ve seen enough magazines and pins, you can tell who’s in Los Angeles and who’s in Connecticut, without even reading the captions. And when it comes to the South, they like their weddings serene and lush, with Gone with the Wind sophistication and charm. And one of the quintessential wedding locations for a Southern couple is a plantation, right?

Actually, no. It’s absolutely not. Or at least it shouldn’t be, given the depth of the horror seeped into every fiber of those places. Choosing to celebrate your love, your hope for the future, and the beginning of your new life on the grounds of a plantation is bizarre at best, but the word I’d really use for it is horrifying. This is certainly not a new classification for the plantation wedding, but maybe given the garbage fire of 2017, and the wokeness that has emerged, it’ll finally start to stick.

Unmarked Graves At The Cocktail Hour

If you grew up in the United States, or just have a loose understanding of the basics of American history, you know how a good number of African-Americans ended up here: slavery. Many ended up in the southern states, where a warm climate and lots of space made it a great place to claim hundreds (or thousands) of acres, and amass wealth from sugar, tobacco, cotton, and more. Seriously, there was a lot of space—thousands of plantations existed in the American south in the Antebellum era. But the thing is, all of those moneymaking crops were also brutally labor intensive. So if you were a Southern white man in 1860 with over five hundred acres of land and a lot of work to do, you most likely bought slaves. This was the aspirational lifestyle of the era: ownership of both massive amounts of land and people. Typically, historians classify sites that had over 20 slaves as plantations, but many plantation owners owned over two hundred. Yep, over two hundred people that they purchased, often breaking families apart, and forced to work on their property while brutally abusing them, systematically raping them, and just barely keeping them alive. And when they died, guess where their bones ended up? Under that garden where you’re thinking of having cocktail hour.

Slavery Is As Recent As Your Dinner Table

So, yes, you knew that slaves worked in fields and slept in tiny sheds. But it’s also important to know that many slaves died while completing this unpaid labor, or as a result of being whipped for looking at white people “wrong,” or during childbirth following brutal sexual assault and rape committed by white men on the property. Of course, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who has firsthand slavery experiences to describe, but at the same time it’s important to note that slavery was really not very long ago. Remember 12 Years a Slave? The story of Solomon Northrup, who was born free in the North, abducted, then sold into slavery in the South? He regained his freedom in 1853 and died in 1863. If you’re around thirty, your grandparents were likely born in the mid 1900s. And if they’re still living, you can probably get them to tell you a story about their grandparents at your holiday dinner. And there it is: you’ve reached an Antebellum-era memory.

The History of Slavery Is Now

Historically, we aren’t very far removed from the era of active plantations, and the effects of slavery persist. No, having a black president for eight years does not mean that we are done with racism or living with full racial equality in America. Based on a recent study, it would take the average black household over two hundred years to amass the same amount of wealth as the average white household. Two hundred years! And there are so many questions you can ask yourself, with answers that’ll send you right back to institutional racism. Why, in so many metropolitan areas, are there majority-white neighborhoods that are known as “good” and majority-black neighborhoods that are somehow “bad?” How, in 2017, are schools more segregated than ever? Why are so many black men in prison, often serving years-long sentences for nonviolent crimes that earn white offenders a slap on the wrist? How are there so few black men and women serving as C-level executives for major corporations, when there are so many of us in the corporate world and the country overall? Black Americans are still trying to recover from the effects of slavery, followed by the Jim Crow era, followed by redlining, and the list goes on. Again, if you’re in your thirties, one of your parents is probably around the same age as Ruby Bridges—who bravely marched into a previously all-white Louisiana school as a six-year-old in 1960. And if you catch them in the right moment, they can probably tell you about what living through the Civil Rights era was like.

No, Not All Historic Sites Are Alike

Okay, I know what you’re going to say: it’s hard to find a spot that’s completely devoid of negative history! Of course it is. You can really reach and say that there’s bad history anywhere that anyone was ever abused, or died. But here is the question that you need to pose to yourself: as a non-Nazi, would you get married at Auschwitz, and take portraits by the crematorium because the flowers in the field there are so beautiful? This question reads as completely alarming, as an obvious, “No!” but the closest comparison to a plantation is a concentration camp. Pretty columns and gauzy Southern “heritage” aside, a plantation was not a site of accidental death or benevolent caretakers. It was a site of systematic torture, rape, and murder. That “wedding venue” you’re considering? It was physically built by slaves. Slaves who were whipped to death during the construction process. It was inhabited by slaves. Slaves that were consistently raped by their owners, and forced to give birth to children of their rapists, while tending to the needs of their rapists’ families. And many of those slaves died, of natural and non-natural deaths. Infants and children along with adults. And their bodies are buried all over the property, in thousands of unmarked graves.

Why? So that a white family could build wealth from agriculture. The quick and easy explanation of the Southern Plantation Complex: black people died so that white people could profit. And now, generational wealth allows so many white couples to add plantations with expensive rental fees to their “must visit” wedding venue lists.

PLANTATIONS ARE NOT THE MOVE

There are certainly areas where literally the only farm-like options are plantations. I’m not totally sold on the once-plantation, now-farm venues myself, but it’s worth mentioning them. There are properties out there that loudly reject the original purpose of their land and structures, and make some effort to support organizations that center African-Americans. But in my mind, no amount of peonies, lace, tin mint julep cups, blush bridesmaid gowns, and laughter, can erase the brutal, painful history of the plantation itself.

If you’re still on the fence, I suggest looking into the Whitney Plantation for the authentic plantation experience. It’s brutal, but it’s real. Yes, you want a beautiful, luxurious Southern wedding. I get it! In fact, I plan weddings for a living. But trust me, it is absolutely, one hundred percent worth searching for an opulent mansion with a beautiful garden that won’t call your respect for history and your friends’ ancestors into question. Go for the good vibes.

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  • quiet000001

    Even in non-plantation areas, you should check the background of historical venues and make sure it’s something you’re comfortable with. Some of the industrial tycoons we’ve got up north were pretty awful to a lot of people. I know there are definitely places near me that are lovely buildings but I’d still think twice about what I wanted to celebrate there based on what I know of the original owners. (Like maybe a worker’s rights fundraiser would be okay. Make the original owner spin in his grave.)

    • I mean, it’s interesting. In CA those of us in adulthood were not taught this growing up, but Missions were awful, and treated indigenous people as slaves. They’ve very recently changed the curriculum in schools here, so our kids are going to get a different education. But working on this piece I realized that we don’t think twice about weddings at Missions… it’s just not even in people’s consciousness. We just think of them as huge beautiful old Catholic Churches. No shame to folks who got married at Missions… we don’t know what we don’t know. But that is probably something that it’s time to re-think and re-visit.

      • Amy March

        I’m so interested in the Missions. I knew next to nothing about them and took a tour of the “museum” run by the Church in one and it was so confusing. We walked out and were like so . . . those were slaves yes?

        • And we spend a year learning about it in CA, and I literally had no idea until recently, because… that was not at all how it was taught, and I never revisited Missions as an adult.

          • Kelsey Stout

            I think I only learned about it through independent research for my mission project, but I do remember at least learning that:

            1. The priests would baptize the children first and use that to coerce the parents into converting

            2. A LOT of Native Americans died at the missions

            I even included a graveyard in my model to illustrate that second fact.

      • Angela’s Back

        Re: Native American slavery in CA, earlier this week, the NYT ran this really interesting article about Native American slavery in NM and how people are finding family ties back to those people: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/28/us/indian-slaves-genizaros.html

        • I know, that article is WILD.

          • Angela’s Back

            It kind of reminded me of Conversos in Spain/Latin America, actually.

        • AmandaBee

          This is crazy. I always knew about this second-hand from my family, who are hispanic and have lived in NM for hundreds of years. But it’s interesting to see it written about and to realize that it goes way beyond the communities my grandma grew up in.

          ETA: Just sent this to a bunch of relatives who recently got interested in ancestry tests. Nuts.

      • Zoya

        Ooh, yeah, this. We spent MONTHS in third grade learning this romanticized/sanitized version of the history of the Missions, so I’m really glad the curriculum has changed. And yet it never occurred to me until right now that they might be California’s equivalent of plantations as a wedding venue. Re-think and re-evaluate, indeed…

        • I know for a fact it’s fourth grade, because of that FUCKING MISSION PROJECT. Very recently defunct, thank god.

          • Andrea C.

            Bahahah it’s totally 4th grade – I distinctly remember building a mission out of sugar cubes the night before it was due. Some things never change. Except they do, because now kids can buy kits at Michael’s. Face palm.

          • Zoya

            WHAT. Mission-building kits. Ten-year-old me and adult me are miffed about that for totally different reasons. (I sucked at building models and resented being forced to do it.)

      • As someone who grew up in California, and learned about the missions in my Catholic schools (and am currently Catholic), I have a lot of thoughts about the missions. I remember learning about them in the context both of California and the history of the Catholic church. A lot of history deals with the sins of the Catholic church and there certainly are many (especially throughout history, but also recently/currently) and I tend to think of the missions in a similar way. It does feel more personal to me though, since large amounts of these
        acts happened in Europe, and the missions are right at home.

    • This is a really good point. I will say, I think there is a difference between a building that has a horrific, but mostly unknown past and something like plantations that usually feel like such an active attempt to romantically “re-brand” the legacy of slavery.

      But yeah, I think we are really quick to erase recent history in general, and paying more attention to local & material history is deeply worthwhile.

      • quiet000001

        Thing is, some of what’s known is hugely regional. Like I’m an East Coaster – I knew nothing about missions (just kind of vaguely figured they were just a different church thing) until reading some comments just on this post. And given we’re often planning weddings and celebrations in what may not be where we grew up and are familiar with such things, it’s probably best just to exercise the internet a bit for any venue to avoid nasty surprises. (Like the other comment where it turned out a barn had been recently used – like current owner recent – for a KKK meeting.)

        Realistically, many places are going to be problematic in some way (treating employees badly, that sort of thing) so you might have to choose which issues you can personally live with. But as you said, we should try to avoid places that are romanticizing a highly problematic period of history or type of behavior.

    • Mrrpaderp

      Yeah definitely do your research on your venue. When I was engaged, I looked at a venue that was a beautiful old renovated barn. I googled it thinking I’d find pictures of other weddings there. Well I did. Along with an article indicating that it had been a KKK meeting place within the last ~5 years, i.e., while the current owners still owned it. And without outing my location, no, I don’t live in an area where that is a common thing.

      • Holy shit.

      • Katharine Parker

        My jaw just dropped.

      • Zoya

        Yeeeeikes.

      • Lisa

        Woooooooooow.

      • Ohhhhhh wow.

      • Cellistec

        Wow.

      • Kara Davies

        Ixnay on the arnbay! :O

  • Fiona

    THANK YOU. A quick google search for “plantation wedding” reveals a whole list of articles discussing how plantation weddings might be, probably, are racist. However, I hopped on to a couple popular wedding blogs and did a search, and viola. There they were. How is this a thing!?

    • Fiona

      Is it worth mentioning that there is something so very INTENTIONAL about white folks in the south knowing the history of plantations, and not just ignoring it, but choosing to romanticize and memorialize it?

      • savannnah

        Yes- this is the whole deal with the south post reconstruction to…today.

      • Zeea

        Yes. In planning our wedding, I saw a centerpiece featuring cotton. It was beautiful, and I thought about it for a half second, and then was like.. um.. there are problematic feelings I’d have about using that, even though it’s regional. Not a good idea, given past history. You’re right, it’s definitely an intentional kind of thing if you go ahead and say “F it! I’m doing it anyways!”

      • AP

        YES. I live a mile from the home of the president of the confederacy, where there were of course slaves, and they have a Christmas light display there every year as if it’s just a city park. The confederate flag hangs outside. School kids and scout troops go for field trips to learn a sanitized history of the confederacy and the area. It’s…horrific and shameful, but if you say that out loud around here *you’re* the weird one.

        • Lisa

          I was deeply disturbed moving from the North/Midwest to the South just how venerated Confederate figures are down here. Like…we name a restaurant or street for a traitor. Yeah, it’s part of the history, but not all of our history should or needs to be celebrated.

          • AP

            We’re currently fighting to get the confederate emblem off our state flag, so…yeah. FFS.

          • It’s not even in the south! One of the most popular lakes in Minneapolis is Lake Calhoun – named for John Calhoun, noted slave owner.

            The lake was just renamed “Bde Maka Ska” which is it’s Dakota name, and it was a THING…old white men are not happy that the a slaveholder’s name was removed and the Dakota name was restored.

          • Jessica
          • Katharine Parker

            One small victory is moving the J Marion Sims statue out of Central Park, but honestly it’s shocking that Sims still gets defended by anyone: https://patch.com/new-york/central-park/j-marion-sims-statue-be-moved-central-park

          • Herekitty

            What I don’t understand is why they’re MOVING this statue and not DESTROYING it, y’know?

          • I’m sure it’s moreso in the South, but it’s everywhere… I’m in Colorado, and one of Denver’s major neighborhoods (Stapleton) is named after someone who was a high-ranking KKK member. It’s nauseating.

          • e.e.hersh

            Gasp! I did not know that! (Another Denverite here)

          • Jessica

            I moved from Kansas to Northern VA and was pretty shocked that one of the major highways is named Jefferson Davis Highway. Might as well have a Adolf Hilter Highway running through Tel Aviv – wth!!!

        • Angela’s Back

          If this is the site I’m thinking of on the Gulf Coast, I really really really wish the state archives could pry out it of the cold dead fingers of the Sons of Confederate Veterans so it could be reinterpreted, because they *would* reinterpret it and it would be so many millions of times better…

          • AP

            Absolutely! And side note, I am thrilled about the opening of the new Civil Rights Museum in Jackson. Haven’t been yet, but I think it will go a long way toward setting the record straight on some of the propaganda folks are taught around here in history class…

          • Angela’s Back

            A girl I worked with at MDAH who grew up in Waveland and went to Yale actually wrote her undergrad honors thesis on that site and she said it was reeeeaaaallllyyy trippy interviewing the people there and basically that they’re all nuts. Like that’s a surprise, but still.

          • AP

            LOL, I believe it.

      • sofar

        It’s white folks from EVERYWHERE. Like, they’ll come from the East Coast, West Coast, northern Midwest to get married somewhere that reminds them of Gone with the freakin’ Wind. Like, people have destination weddings at southern plantations!

        It floors me. Especially because there are so many lovely venues in the south that don’t have the ugly history that still give you the Spanish-Moss-and-live-oak-and-mason-jar vibe that seems to be super in-demand right now.

        • Angela’s Back

          I said this at greater length above, but I think a lot of white people not from the south give themselves a racism pass because the national narrative makes it seem like institutionalized racism exists exclusively in the south, but also, if you’re not from the south, you probably don’t really think about plantations in a critical way. In the same way that if I just saw a photograph of a mission wedding, for example, I’m not from NM or CA or AR where I have a context to say to myself, that’s awful and I know that Native Americans were enslaved there–if you’re not from the south, intellectually you might be aware that those houses were built by slaves and existed to exploit slave labor, but it’s hard to make that connection emotionally when you’re just seeing a beautiful old house and other people’s weddings happening there. It doesn’t excuse it but I totally get why it happens.

      • Guadalquiviria

        I suggest this documentary about a white fraternity building a house in a historically black neighborhood, and the relationship between the frat and neighbors.
        http://petuniaproductions.net/old-south/

    • anon

      The weird thing is that I was sure APW had shown featured plantation weddings before and DISCOURAGED discourse in the comments on people commenting whether or not that was appropriate. But I just googled it and can’t find anything… Was it all a dream?

      • Jenny

        APW did feature at least 1 plantation wedding. They discouraged discussion on the post its self because no one likes to have their wedding shit all over by strangers on the internet. They didn’t discourage the overall discussion either in happy hour, or as you can see here in other posts. They may have made an editorial decision to remove that post, I don’t know. I think the site’s policy is still not to criticize the decisions of the people who choose to feature their weddings on the website, but there have been posts about how they deal with submissions in regards to cultural appropriation during the editorial process.

  • Ayla K

    Bless you for having zero chill about this. I haven’t see a perspective like this that isn’t kinda waffle-y (“yeah it’s problematic, but we can see the appeal because Southern Charm soooo maybeee just keep this in mind? Maybe? Up to you though.”) so this post was super refreshing.

  • Jane

    Strongly agree. I am all for not questioning most of a couple’s wedding decisions, but some things are bigger than weddings.

    Except that I feel this really just applies to non-black couples. Which feels like a duh, but may be worth mentioning because otherwise it reads a little like all southern couples are white, and, also a duh, they’re not.

  • theteenygirl

    We went to Charleston for our honeymoon, and while we were there we made a point to learn about the history of Charleston and the south in general. Sure, learning about slavery and racism may not be everyone’s cup of tea for their honeymoon but we both really appreciated it. While we were touring Magnolia Plantation the tour guide we had mentioned that every day they had proposals and weddings at the Plantation and looking around you’re like, sure – that makes sense, it’s BEAUTIFUL here. And then you keep going on your tour and they’re pointing out the itty bitty shacks that were the slave quarters and it’s like.. wait.. woah.. no..

    • Lisa

      Ugh, yes. This reminds me of the tours of Monticello and Mt. Vernon I went on as a kid. Yes, the houses are beautiful, and the owners did a lot of amazing things for the country, but it’s important to confront the fact that they weren’t perfect and used human labor while espousing the ideas of a free country (for white men).

      Also, I feel you on the honeymoon-history-tour. We went to Dachau on the first day we were in Munich because it felt important to us to learn about and see it personally. As said in the article, I’m feeling sick thinking of people proposing or getting married there just because there’s a pretty forested area around. I have a difficult time imagining the people proposing at plantations are POC. I could support the idea of them reclaiming those spaces where they and their ancestors were victimized, but it isn’t our place as white people to do that.

      • theteenygirl

        Your point about Dachau is interesting to me, because a few years ago I went to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and a few years later to the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh and both times the thing that made me feel MOST uncomfortable was the fact that the grounds were so beautiful. And I feel the same way about the plantations. It’s almost not fair that these places are so pretty?

        • Lisa

          Right? It would be easier to dislike them if they were objectively ugly. It’s almost like a living metaphor for people–the external self or the one that is presented can be so attractive but camouflage some really hideous attributes.

          We went to the Nazi Documentation Center in Nuremberg this past Christmas, and one of the things that struck me is that people were just going about their business at all of these places that the Nazis had built to glorify their party and ideology. The giant park and lake was full of runners and dogwalkers, the rally grounds are used for soccer fields, the street they built for parades and showcases is just another street now. I kept asking my husband: how do we coexist in and with these spaces where terrible things happened? When can they be reclaimed and who gets to make that decision?

          • angela

            I don’t have any answers, but I think the question is really interesting. This is one of my all-time favorite relevant articles: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/07/07/stones-and-bones

          • Jess

            Wow, thank you for linking that article. I just inhaled every word and now have a lot to think through.

        • quiet000001

          I actually kind of like that such places aren’t are horrible looking because it reminds me that horrible isn’t always obvious. We tend to want to think that bad wears black hats or looks monstrous or violent, and that isn’t the case at all. :(

          If we only hung on to the ones that looked bad it’d be easier to forget about the rest.

        • Often, the worst places become the prettiest because there’s a do-not-touch thing going in. The cutest surviving medieval streets are the butchers and slaughterhouses, the most historic mansions are the slave owners, and the untouched forests are the unmarked graves. By avoiding these places during living memory, we create memorials that have a lot in common with popular nostalgia for the same era.

      • Zoya

        When I was a teenager, the children’s choir I was in went to Austria, and we did a day trip to the Eagle’s Nest (Hitler’s retreat in the mountains). It was this adorable tourist town, presented as “Isn’t this a pretty place to visit with such a gorgeous view, and oh by the way there’s some nasty history but we won’t focus on it.” Not sure if that was just because we were all children, but as a Jewish person it made me WILDLY uncomfortable. Nobody said anything about it, though, and I still feel weird today wondering how the non-Jewish folks on the tour felt about it.

        • Abby

          For what it’s worth, my teenage orchestra central Europe tour included a day at Auschwitz. It was clearly presented as what it was (which, with Auschwitz, there’s of course no way to gloss over), but just saying, the fact that you were teens doesn’t give the organizers of your tour a pass on the history, and I’m sorry that that side trip was presented the way it was for you.

      • lurpy

        Even worse than Monticello and Mt. Vernon, I think–with those, at least you can say “Okay, these were deeply flawed men whose personal conduct completely belied all their high ideals, but those ideals are still meaningful and worth celebrating,” but with most plantations, the owner’s contribution to the nation was…what? Capital investment and secession?

        And re: other places that are beautiful, I suggest going in winter. I’ve seen Dachau in winter and in summer, and in winter it looks as bleak as it feels.

        • Lisa

          We went to Dachau in the winter actually. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and I remember thinking how pretty all the tree-lined streets we drove through on the public bus were. The lane leading from the visitor’s center to the camp was lovely.

          But I also love winter so maybe that’s just me.

  • Katharine Parker

    Yes, yes, a thousand times yes to rejecting all attempts to romanticize the antebellum South and view plantations as charming old sites where a wedding is appropriate.

    I recommend the AfAmHistFail twitter account (https://twitter.com/afamhistfail?lang=en&lang=en ) for one former tour guide at a historic plantation’s perspective from leading tours that centered on the experiences and horrors of slavery.

    • Jessica

      yes! Also, Ask A Slave (a couple years old, still amazing) has a former tour actress answering the BS questions she got while in character. http://www.askaslave.com/

      • Ashlah

        This American Life also had a recent segment from a former tour actress that was really good. https://www.thisamericanlife.org/623/we-are-in-the-future/act-two-0

        • Jessica

          You know there is far too much to go through when this just slips past my attention. What a fucking creep, and thank goodness she wrote about it.

          Something that makes me give a romance novel an immediate 1 star on Goodreads is if there is any scene where a male love interest ignore a woman saying “no.’ I don’t care if it’s “no, I’m not sure what I’m doing,” or “No, I don’t want this,” framing “no” as a barrier that can be overcome with great kissing is a no-go for me. Milan has never wrote something like that in her books, and that is one reason (of many) that I’m a fan of hers.

          • penguin

            Yep and it’s really gross how common that is. Kills a romance book for me every time if I’m cringing and shaking my head while reading it. Same with “he couldn’t help himself”

          • Jessica

            If “he couldn’t help himself” isn’t followed by a scene where he just uses his own hand, or eats something in place of doing anything else at all, it’s a one star review.

        • Katharine Parker

          This segment is by the actress in Ask A Slave!

          • Ashlah

            Ha, I tried to check whether it was, but I was looking at the character’s name instead! Thanks for catching that!

      • Jessica

        OMG THIS IS AMAZING

    • Zeea

      I’m know the AfAmHistFail person, in real life! She’ll cool. She also wrote a piece for Vox: https://www.vox.com/2015/6/29/8847385/what-i-learned-from-leading-tours-about-slavery-at-a-plantation

  • Another Meg

    I’ve been in less civilized parts of the internet too much this week (Twitter, I’m looking at you). I was all prepped to do battle in the comments with “I’m not racist but” WW and of course that’s not necessary. KNOCK ON WOOD

    Whew.

  • Another Meg

    Side tangent:
    A romance author I used to read occasionally released a book set on a plantation, with zero characters of color and no reference to the fact that it was a plantation. My mom gave it to me to read when I stayed with her.

    Threw the book in the trash, never reading her work again. The author is Jude Devereaux, by the way, and I have vastly improved taste in romance now.

    Courtney Milan
    Tessa Dare
    Alyssa Cole
    ….just better authors all around.

    • Jessica

      I LOVE Courtney Milan. Definitely follow her on Twitter. She retweets a lot of romance authors of color, which has me looking at Beverly Jenkins and Rebekah Weatherspoon.

      • Amy March

        She also kicked off the reckoning for Judge Kozinski:

        http://www.courtneymilan.com/metoo/kozinski.html

        • Angela’s Back

          I read about that!! And then I was like wow, no wonder her romances are head and shoulders above all the other junk I usually read…

        • Jess

          I did not know this! How very cool!!

      • Another Meg

        omg I love her on Twitter. Thatxs how i found Alyssa Cole! Haven’t tried Rebeckah Weatherspoon but she’s on my list.

    • Noelle

      Side side tangent – Ashey Ford just wrote a piece on Cup of Jo today about romance novels with some great recommendations:

      https://cupofjo.com/2018/01/best-smart-romance-novels/

      • Jess

        Reason number 500,000 to love Ashley Ford.

        • Noelle

          She’s amazing!

  • orange julia

    My (white) mother is Southern and grew up on land that used to be part of a plantation that was turned into housing in the mid-20th century. The plantation house still stands on a smaller plot, and my mother thought it might make a nice venue, because it was pretty and so close to her parents’ house. My (white, but very social-justice-minded) Northern father was horrified at the suggestion that they get married on a plantation. When he explained why, my mother got the picture, and they went somewhere else instead (and were very careful, as we grew up, to teach us as much as they could about the whole history of such places). Plenty of other, nicer places to get married.

  • wafflesfriendswork

    I grew up in Kentucky very close to the Tennessee border, and as a kid visited the Hermitage (Andrew Jackson’s home) more than once. It’s a gorgeous wedding venue, but ooooooof nope, nope, nope.

  • Transnonymous

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Bless APW for this article.

  • savannnah

    For anyone for who has not seen Mudbound directed by Dee Rees yet, you really should. I knew the history of the Civil war and I knew the post WWII Jim Crow era history of the US but that movie really helped me connect slavery directly to the South and to the US today in very tangible ways. When people bring up excuses around “Southern Charm” its effective to tie the US slave industry, plantations etc. to present day experiences and conditions of Americans.

  • e.e.hersh

    I’d be interested to read some responses from southern women here. As a Yankee, this plantation-as-event-space issue wasn’t at all on my radar until I started dating my now-husband from Arkansas. The first “come meet my family and friends” trip we ever took together was to his friend’s plantation wedding. I’m sorry to say that I just didn’t realize at the time it was a bad thing. I’d just been told it was a popular wedding spot because it was such a lovely house. When I look back now, I’m ashamed that I didn’t put two and two together or ever think “this is a problematic choice for a venue” – it’s not like I haven’t studied history. I’m thankful that a better dialogue has helped me become more aware of this particular issue. But still, I’d like to know what the people who grew up around the south think. Those guests at my husband’s friend’s wedding (some of whom I’ve come to think are wonderful people)… did they see a problem? How do they continue to justify such a venue?

    • Zeea

      For me it’s one of those things that as a white, Southern, person I didn’t see at first, but now I can’t un-see.

    • orange julia

      When I asked my mother about it she said: it felt like that history was everywhere all over the place where she grew up; there was no escaping it, so why would one place be worse than any other? It had to be explained to her before she got it. To do her credit, once she got it, she really got it.

    • ManderGimlet

      It’s considered super normal there, and many of these places offer historical tours and gift shops and are treated as museums/historic sites, so people don’t think of it as any different than getting married at the library or aquarium. If you make the concentration camp comparison, it dawns on more people, but in general modern Southerners who identify as such do not like to make associations with what, exactly, the South stood for, why it is the “South” to begin with, and the continuing violence this whitewashing of history does to the black people who make up a large part of Southern residents.

    • AP

      Deep Southerner here, born and raised. White supremacy, like pretty much everywhere in the country, is the water we swim in and as the saying goes, a fish doesn’t know that it’s wet. White people can swim in it their whole lives and never question it, hence Southern plantation weddings. What makes us different in the South from other parts of the country, as best I can tell, is that by design, reverence for the confederacy in the form of statues, named streets and cities, historical venues, and white-washed history and religion gives white people a sort of ‘cover’ to continue their lives in willful ignorance, if not outright racism. I don’t believe that white Southerners are more racist than white people in the rest of the country, but the legacy of the confederacy casts a long shadow. That was intentional, during both reconstruction and Jim Crow. Wonderful people can believe some incredibly terrible things, as well as ignore and distance themselves from some pretty terrible things. People here justify a plantation wedding by ignoring what happened there, telling themselves it was a long time ago, and now it’s just a pretty building.

      • e.e.hersh

        I see that within my husband’s family. Some things are (finally) getting more traction as “overtly racist, we need to recognize this” and some things are either swept under the rug or genuinely not seen as problematic because years of white and class privilege has made people… uninterested in disrupting the status quo.

    • Angela’s Back

      I lived in the south for almost 20 years and I would say that I think for a lot of white people who don’t live in the south, you sort of give yourself and your history a pass because the way the narrative gets told, it’s that slavery and the Civil War and Jim Crow all happened in the south, not here in this other state north of the Mason-Dixon line or west of the Mississippi. Ergo I as a hypothetical non-southern white person don’t have to think about slavery or racism because that’s a thing that happened in the south and I don’t live there so I’m cool and there’s no institutionalized racism here. Obviously this is complete bullshit but when you don’t have that big Civil War/Civil Rights narrative to hang it on as well as a whole region of the country to effectively scapegoat, in the sense of laying all these national sins at one particular door, it’s an easy way to think. And to piggyback on AP’s point, if you’re born and raised in the south then it can be hard to pull back and see it critically, like anything else you’re immersed in. Not to mention that a plantation wedding is a pretty status-y thing and I bet there are a lot of brides over the years who have had that niggling thought in the back of their mind and then shoved it away because status and the assumptions built around the kind of wedding you should have if you’re from a certain class and pretty venue and my ancestors were poor farmers who didn’t own slaves.

      • e.e.hersh

        Great points, all. That class association that you made was especially interesting… in my own anecdotal wedding experience above, I was definitely made aware that this particular plantation venue was very much in-demand – it was a status thing to have your event there. Which… gives me even more layers to unpack and consider.

        • AP

          The class thing is SO REAL. Plantation weddings are a status symbol here, for sure. Which reminds me, I’m not sure if this is a thing in every state, but in mine there is an annual magazine that comes out featuring real weddings from all over the state. You have to submit your wedding, have a certain quality of photography and a certain ‘look’ and I’m sure you pay some money to be featured. It’s the first thing grannies and mothers buy for their newly-engaged daughters. And no surprise, it’s stuffed with plantation weddings.

          • e.e.hersh

            BLEAH. That magazine sounds awful. And it reminds me of the horrendous “sorority look book” that was published at the bordering-on-southern university I went to my freshman year. Here’s how you should look, girls!

          • I feel like every state has one of those. Here it’s Minnesota Bride and it’s always full of barn weddings or super fancy weddings in Mpls or St Paul. Same for our local version of The Knot.

            My wedding was not cool enough to get in but it was featured on APW so I think I won, LOL.

          • AP

            Haha you DEFINITELY won!

      • Lorri Lewis

        I agree with this. There are books and articles that show how the North benefited tremendously financially from slavery, even though it wasn’t on their own lands.

        Another thing few people are aware of is that there were two distinct forms of slavery in the South. Slavery in Virginia and slavery in South Carolina and the deep south, for instance, were worlds apart.

        South Carolina slavery had roots in the slavery of the Caribbean, which were death camps. They had to keep importing slaves because they worked them to death. Many younger sons of Caribbean plantation owners moved to the deep south when they ran out of land on their islands, and brought that super brutal form of slavery with them.

        Virginia, on the other hand, treated slaves more humanely (aside from the inhumanity of enslaving humans obviously), and after a while never imported more slaves because the slaves were healthy enough to increase naturally. There were also more barriers to abuse of slaves there because there had already been a history of some Black freemen there.

        I know there is at least one book that details the experiences of former slaves in their own words. I can’t remember the title, but if you search for it you can find it. I read parts of it once and it was very interesting.

        The wedding venue thing is more complicated than just former plantations. What about historic houses in towns that were owned by plantation owners? In the actual town of Charleston, the stunning houses and townhouses obviously were not plantations, but were owned by people who had plantations out in the countryside. This goes for other towns also. You could even argue that it’s problematic to celebrate anything at the White House, taking into consideration that it was partially built by slaves.

        I personally would not book a plantation, but I think the key word in the minds of those who do, is the word “former”. They think of them as “former” plantations. These houses are part of the familiar landscape in the South. The houses are seen as part of local history and everyday life – they are “old news”. They evoke a different emotional reaction than a tourist might feel.

        And yes to the class thing. A person of a high class in the South has a good chance of living in a historical mansion themselves. I think they see plantations as just another grand house with a complicated history. It will be interesting to see if this changes, but right now it’s not seen as problematic as far as I can tell.

        • Jess

          Additionally, there were states that *did not seceede* that had legally enslaved persons. Maryland, for example, and Delaware.

          Technically “the North” but still, slaves.

          Plus, the North maintained extremely racist policies and actions before and after the war.

          (Why yes, I did just finish The Fall of the House of Dixie. It was a really good assembly of first person accounts and opinions before and during the war)

          All this to say, I think in the North, we have been taught that this was wrong and we were blameless and… it’s just not the case.

      • Doubleblue

        I live in North Carolina, and North Carolinians like the fiction that slavery was less brutal here, too. But sadly, the data really just don’t support that. North Carolina was too poor to have many “planters” (i.e., those who enslaved more than 20 people). However, even the yeoman farmers who may not have owned their own slaves may have rented enslaved people from slave holders. You just have to look at the number of escapes, the punishments for those escapes, the life spans, the living quarters, the writings of the plantation owners to know that it’s a fiction that slavery was more brutal elsewhere. I recommend reading up about Stagville, the largest plantation in N. Carolina. The idea that it was better here is just another thing people in our states tell ourselves so we can shove the horror on to some other place.

    • L.H. Brumfield

      As a Virginian and Charlottesville resident, here’s my answer: we do have to reject the plantation as venue, and soundly fight against the institutional AND subtle societal realism deep in the bones of the South, but it’s hard. We are beginning our venue search and were really excited about touring the only Virginia vineyard owned by an African-American family, only to discover they had sold it last year to a white couple. They still make great wine, but we were hoping to use this large cash outlay as an opportunity to support the only moniority-run venue I’ve found.

      I’ll note, though, that the author’s suggestion to search for “an opulent mansion with a beautiful garden” that isn’t connected to a history of slavery makes me question whether she has ever planned a wedding south of the Mason-Dixon. Because those don’t exist, or at least I haven’t found any. The history of the South, with a long economic depression through the early 20th century, means that when Northern cities were building their mansions in the Industrial boom, the South was stagnant, and it didn’t really pick up until the post-war era, when people had stopped building those types of houses. If you reject everything that plantations stand for, the reality is, you have to give up the idea that you can have a lovely mansion with garden wedding like your friend in Philly had. Full stop. I think it’s a fine trade-off, particularly given the vineyard venues we have in Charlottesville, but you have to do a lot of homework. Some former plantations are just called “Farms” now. And forget any “historic” sites. The lovely museum home of President James Monroe, a very popular wedding venue? Completely dependent on slaves. I don’t think there’s a single piece of land in Charlottesville that doesn’t have either slavery or Jim Crow attached to it in some fashion. This is hard to deal with when you’re picking a wedding venue, but you have to figure out how much of that history you’re comfortable with, because you have to get married somewhere, and even the courthouse overlooks a former slave block.

      • Guadalquiviria

        What I’m wondering is, where do black southerners get married? Surely alternatives exist?

        • Jessica

          Not being a black southerner, I can’t really say this with any authority, but a quick Google search would seem to indicate that many black southerners have their wedding receptions on plantations or in buildings that were built by white owners (i.e. most buildings) prior to desegregation. The only alternatives would be venues built (like a hotel) or created (like a winery) sometime after the 1960’s.

      • Jessica

        I’m living in the NoVA area, myself, and have just started the venue search. I totally agree with you that the author of the article sounds as if she has rarely planned a wedding in the South (or even in MD or parts of DE). Although, I’ll likely end up not choosing a plantation venue partly for the reasons stated in the article (and the availability of less controversial options in the area), I do find it a bit odd that plantation venues should be outright rejected as venues for celebratory events. With this logic, almost every single building in the US built prior to 1865 in the South, and in MD and DE, could not be used for celebrations. Almost every single building in the South prior to the 1960’s was also segregated and using similar logic presented in the article, could not be used for celebrations. (What if you live in one of these historical buildings? Should you go about your life somber at all times because of the injustice suffered by its former residents?). What about former mill houses?
        Many of the mill workers suffered terrible fates and were frequently mistreated –
        should we condemn those developers who renovate these spaces into apartment buildings and berate those who choose to rent there? The same goes for a lot of public buildings (almost all public libraries in the US prior to the 1960’s were either segregated by law or de facto segregated). Given that a lot of these historical sites use their revenue as venues to support the maintenance of the sites, if one were to completely remove that as a funding source, I would expect a good portion of them would eventually fall into disrepair and end up getting bulldozed – which I personally think would be a great loss despite their troubled histories. I’d also note that in most parts of Europe, you could never get married or have a celebration in a castle (feudalism/slavery), a historical church (think of all the people executed and/or oppressed due to religious intolerance), or a centuries-old manor (feudalism/slavery at some point). In Old Town Alexandria, where George Washington’s brother owned a house and Robert E Lee’s boyhood home still stands, the City Hall stands in front of square that was used as slave market for decades (a plaque saying as much is embedded there). Should I feel guilty for attending street festivals and farmers markets that are now held there? Many town squares around the world would also be off limits given the numbers of hangings, witches burning at the stake, and slave markets that existed in those places at one point in time. Perhaps I’m belaboring the point, but I believe that horrific human suffering at any given site does not necessarily condemn that location in perpetuity. A middle ground can be reached. It’s absolutely true that many, if not most, plantation houses actively shroud their histories of slave-holding and the suffering that enslaved peoples endured. This is unacceptable, and as Americans, we must work to change this attitude and educate our contemporaries and our children of the historical realities. That said, as someone planning a wedding, I think it’s most important to be a mindful consumer and aware of our country’s complicated past. We can be the customer who brings up the history of slave-holding to the plantation staff and blatantly ask why it is not addressed in museum tours (never doubt the effectiveness of making someone uncomfortable for a good reason – especially, if it happens multiple times). We can ask guests to donate to preservation societies focusing on African American histories instead of asking for gifts (or indicate that a portion of your gift money will be donated). There are things as consumers that we can do that can change the way that places do business for the better without cutting out an entire swath of industry. Anyways, these are my two cents. Good luck with your wedding planning!

    • Guadalquiviria

      My reply isn’t so much to your specific comment as to the general distinction of “southern women.” I spent a good chunk of my life in the South so although I’m not Southern, I know many people who are and who either think plantation weddings are great OR think they’re beautiful and romantic but struggle with the whole slavery aspect. Those women are all white though. “Southern women” also includes black women, and come to think of it I’ve never seen photos of a black wedding held at a plantation. I’ve never even seen pictures from a plantation wedding that included black guests. If plantation weddings are so fundamental to modern Southern culture and it’s impossible to find any other large enough venue, what the hell are black couples doing in the South?

  • agoldenblackbird

    Is this romanticizing of plantations a ‘Gone With The Wind’ thing? Because I never got that hoopla either. Never saw the movie, and rage-quit the book after about three chapters in disgust at how vain and selfish Scarlett was.

    • Angela’s Back

      Culturally, GWTW has to be the lowest common denominator for an accessible depiction of slavery in the south, and that’s certainly the image of plantations that a particular scion of white southerners wants to maintain and actively promotes. Plus you’ve got your double whammy of hugely popular book AND hugely popular and classic movie.

    • Ellen

      I don’t it’s a romanticizing of plantations a la GWTW, I think it’s a willingness and ability (thanks to white privilege) to ignore the history or view it as something that happened a long time ago, and focus on the physical beauty of such locations. Or to think that because the plantation now serves as an educational organization that teachers visitors about slavery, it’s okay to take advantage of the beautiful grounds for your wedding. Because many of them are, as they were designed to be, stunningly beautiful on the surface.

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  • Question

    I have a question – I just did a cursory google and it looks like there are hundreds of plantation wedding venues available. who are these typically owned by and what would be the ramifications on the local populations if they all were to shut down. Like, are lots of people (particularly women of color) employed by these venues and rely on income from white people having their weddings there?

    I feel like sometimes the ramifications of actions are more complicated than they appear.

    • Ellen

      I believe many of them are owned by historical associations or are now established as educational, non-profit organizations. I think their educational value, or at least potential, is huge, although it’s rare for visitors to be given a real view of what life was like for the slaves that lived and died on those plantations. As I said above, I think it’s very possible that many such places would have to shut down if they didn’t have event/wedding income. So while the wrongness of a plantation wedding might be straightforward, the implications of an end to that industry are not.

      • quiet000001

        It seems like this is a ‘do your research’ thing maybe? Romanticizing the plantation is bad, so supporting a venue that actually educates properly might be something some people would consider an acceptable trade off given the current situation we’re in where the venues do exist and probably are dependent on event funds. (Might be a good venue to choose if you have racist family insisting on a plantation venue, for example. “Okay, fine, but we’re having it at one that debunks the myths about slavery you guys like to cling to.” Y’know?)

        It’s not a great situation to be in, but it’s also a lot easier for me to say ‘just have it somewhere else’ when I’d have to travel a fair bit to have one at a plantation myself, and I live where there are oodles of other venue options.

        • Ellen

          Eh, I don’t know. I told myself a version of this when I found out someone wasn’t coming to our wedding because of the rehearsal dinner venue. Like “Well, they DO offer education and tours about the history, including slavery! It’s not like they try to pretend it didn’t happen!” And we did arrange for guests to have a guided tour. But I have no doubt that it wasn’t the truth-telling, eye-opening tour that it should have been. So were I making the decision now, I wouldn’t consider it an acceptable tradeoff.

          There are plenty of other places to get married in the South, I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. But in the genre of “opulent mansions with beautiful gardens”, I don’t know of any place that doesn’t have antebellum history.

          In the South (and other places, too, but maybe not as prevalently), you also have the Country Club wedding. Country clubs and their history are pretty entwined with white supremacy, segregation, Jim Crow, etc. They may not be explicitly discriminatory organizations today, but they are certainly bastions of (still primarily white) privilege and wealth. You’re talking an enormous paradigm shift in certain parts of the South to reject both the history AND the current iterations of these institutions and traditions.

          • quiet000001

            True. I was mostly thinking in terms of places where there may really not be many venue options – I don’t know how stuff is laid out in the south, but I know in the Midwest there are places where there are very few choices without considerable travel, which is not an option for some people.

            I do think I’d possibly consider a plantation with good education for some events, but not a wedding or wedding-adjacent event. Some events lend themselves to enforcing education, you know? Weddings not so much.

          • Ellen

            Agreed.

        • Abigail Jacob

          And I think that’s a good point. It’s a real delimma – is the only thing that we can do with all of these plantation houses just bulldoze them and redevelop? (And I live in an area where if you want an outdoor wedding, it’s going to be extremely difficult to escape land that had slaves on it, even if all that survives now is the rustic tobacco barn and not the grand plantation house.) Even if we took down the houses, there were still slaves farming that land. I feel like in some areas of the South, you’re pretty much then limited to an indoor wedding in a building you know was built post-Civil War. Even our public parks have poor history-it’s everywhere here.

          • quiet000001

            I’d be totally against bulldozing all of them – the history is important, including the fancy pretty stuff, because the fancy pretty stuff helps understand why people were willing to leave things as they were or look the other way – don’t want to lose the life you have (rich white folks), have been convinced that is the life you COULD have if only you work hard (poor white folks) etc. However we can try not to romanticize them by having certain types of events there.

            As far as other venues – I think there is a difference between a place where bad stuff happened and a place that is in some way celebrating that stuff. Granted, it’s probably hard to find a public park that isn’t named after a Confederate soldier of some type, but if you could I don’t think that park would be hugely problematic as a venue unless you included other trappings that go back to romanticizing the things that happened. (Like a Plantation-style wedding which everyone local will recognize as being that style, but at a public park? Still basically a Plantation wedding. But there’s plenty of weddings that have been featured here where I don’t think they’re really celebrating anything other than the couple and the general idea of a wedding.)

            Must be kind of hard to be a Southern couple and on one hand told weddings should celebrate something of you as a couple, like your history and culture, while on the other you know your history and culture are problematic. How do you not throw the baby out with the bath water, you know?

          • lmba

            I know nobody is going to think this is a practical solution, but those properties should really be redistributed to descendants of slaves as reparations. That is just about the only solution that can address the history in an ethical way.

          • quiet000001

            There’s a thought. Maybe a more plausible option would be if those properties were run as nonprofits, where any funds raised beyond some set amount to maintain the property and educational programs would be distributed as reparations in some way? Or at least some of them properties kept like that. (To redistribute the property itself I think you’d basically have to divide it all up and possibly demolish some or all of the buildings? and I do think some need to be preserved for educational purposes.)

          • Abigail Jacob

            That’s an actual real idea there.

      • forgot my login

        exactly. as someone who has done graduate research on landscape on trauma (from the perspective of architecture/conservation/urban planning) the issues are so much more complex. i agree it’s problematic to romanticize plantations. and i think we all agree that it’s equally problematic to bulldoze sites of trauma and erase history. going with the concentration camp comparison there were immediate efforts made by the jewish community after ww2 to preserve auschwitz, but to preserve history there needs to be funding in place, so the question is what kinds of other revenue streams are available to allow important historical sites to persist? boycotting the site may seem like a straightforward answer on the level of expressing personal values, but the implications are so much more complex. optimistically, if the non-profit who runs the plantation translates that revenue into ways that benefit the african american community (and is perhaps transparent about how that happens), then maybe these spaces can be reclaimed? i know this is very optimistic/utopian, but it’s worth thinking about ways forward beyond preservation and memorialization. could plantations be reclaimed by the african american community or by a more inclusive society by becoming community centres or schools for underprivileged populations? and ultimately would the african american community rather leave these sites behind?

        • Jessica

          OMG I LOVE YOUR RESPONSE SO MUCH – there is so much more complexity to this issue than “let’s just boycott them all”!!!

    • The only Black owned plantation that I know of is the Whitney Plantation, which is noted in the piece. It’s also the only plantation doing a “true” representation of slavery, not simply pointing out “the cute little shacks” and commenting on “how well the workers were treated”.

      I think your hearts in the right place, but people aren’t patronizing plantations to give work to women of color, and shutting them down won’t hurt women of color in the slightest.

      • Question

        Yeah, I get what you’re saying and it was genuinely just a question / devils advocate. I’m from the Northeast and the idea of a plantation wedding makes my skin crawl and I didn’t really realize it was a thing until I started reading wedding blogs and things. I also know that people aren’t patronizing these establishments with that goal in mind, but I also know that my mom worked as a hotel maid for many years in an area with a bunch of hopping hotels, and then all of the sudden they all shut down due to an economic recession and her and tons of other people (mostly women) lost their jobs and were unable to get new ones. Something can be both gross and critical to the local economy at the same time, and my understanding is there are hundreds of plantations occupying thousands of acres each. I also wonder like, what else happens with this land? Do we bulldoze over it and just develop it and move past it or do we keep it like a monument to the past?

        • Angela’s Back

          To me, the problem is less that these houses exist and more that they continue to be interpreted in a way that glosses over what their existence means–so if you tour a historic home in Natchez, MS, for example, it’s going to be the story of the white family that built it and this credenza was imported from Paris and this wall paper is original to the house and dates to 1832, but zero to bare minimum acknowledgment of the fact that all the money to build and wallpaper and credenza this house came from slave labor, either directly or indirectly. If you put that back in and talk about what it meant for a white family to build this house in 1832 then I think it’s both acceptable and better because you actually start to understand the human cost of all these houses that are interpreted solely as beautiful and historic. If you bulldoze it then it’s just gone and there’s nothing to talk about at all because most of the slave sites didn’t survive.

  • Ellen

    Thank you for posting this. It’s a topic that needs to be discussed more openly. I am a white woman in my mid-thirties, raised in the south in a family with deep southern roots but now living on the west coast. I got married in my hometown 9 years ago, and my rehearsal dinner took place in the barn of a historic plantation. The partner of a family member chose not to attend the wedding at all because of the rehearsal dinner location. Because of other family issues and problems with this person, that choice was chalked up by all of us to be his problem, not ours.

    Looking back now, I feel very differently. I would not make the same choice, and am embarrassed about the choice my family and I made then.

    Unfortunately, the location of our rehearsal dinner is still a very popular wedding venue, as are many other plantation homes in the area, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. In spite of the OP’s advice to search for “an opulent mansion with a beautiful garden that won’t call your respect for history and your friends’ ancestors into question” I think that’s frankly not possible in much of the south. There is no such place I can think of where I grew up that doesn’t have antebellum roots and isn’t thereby indirectly, if not directly, associated with the history of slavery. Weddings are also enormous money makers for such places – in fact, I would bet that wedding income is an essential part of their ability to be preserved and open to the public.

    I do not say that to give plantation weddings an excuse or a pass, but rather to point out their intractable nature. Sadly, I don’t think they are going anywhere any time soon.

    • Bee

      I just want to say, I know how hard it can be to reckon with your own problematic choices and the shame that can come with realizing in hindsight that you were in the wrong. As embarrassed as you may feel about that decision, it’s admirable that you’ve reexamined that choice so unflinchingly and aren’t trying to excuse or rationalize it. It’s certainly not something you see on the internet very often!

  • Mjh

    I grew up on the south side of Chicago and I only knew of the word plantation as having awful implications, similar to concentration camp. Early in college, I was in California and was shocked to see the soup and salad buffet called Souplantation. I snapped a pic and sent it to my friends who were equally perturbed. That was the first time I learned that the word plantation doesn’t simply carry that implication across the board in the minds of many Americans.

    I recognize that whatever given individual isn’t automatically a horrible bigot for brunching or having their wedding on a plantation, but I think the fact that non bigots can unthinkingly brunch at the landmarks of horrible atrocities shows us how deeply entrenched white supremacy is in the structure of society. It’s like misogyny, it’s deeply rooted and people are accustomed to overlooking it. But we should all try, and for God’s sake, we need to LISTEN when issues and problematic concepts that we haven’t thought of are brought to us.

  • Em

    The equivalent to this in Australia would maybe be somewhere where a massacre is known to have been committed, or a mission. But *everywhere* in this country is seeped in racist and violent history. :'( I think the best I can do is ask the Elders for permission, and acknowledge Country before the ceremony. Does the US have an equivalent protocol?

    • Angela’s Back

      Aussie expat here. The equivalent in the US would be going to the Native American tribe that lived on the land to speak with them, which I think would be most relevant if you were getting married in a state or national park, at least off the top of my head. That’s a whole other kettle of fish that doesn’t really seem to be a much of a thing here, at least not in the popular consciousness. For example, I was shocked in a good way when my dad and I toured the Opera House in Sydney at the beginning of January and the tour guide started off by acknowledging the Aboriginal tribe that originally inhabited the land. For better or for worse, the national conversation in the states right now is really focused on questions of representation and historical whitewashing regarding the African American community rather than the Latinx community or the Native American community. There would be regional variation depending on where you live, but I think the larger white imagination can only handle talking about how it screwed over one minority at a time.

      • Em

        That’s not surprising. A lot of Australians can’t even handle talking about it at all. Gov’t/Arts/Community org’s are pretty good at acknowledging Country, but it rarely means they’ve really considered what that means, or any of the other issues Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have/continue to face.

    • Amy March

      No. Arguably it should, but that concept really doesn’t exist here in a similar way at all.

      • Em

        Hm, interesting considering the US is ahead of us in terms of recognising Indigenous people in the constitution, and the existence of treaties (though it sounds like they’re not worth much?)

    • BettyGemma

      I was thinking about this too! Apart from sites of frontier violence etc, what about convict built places? Most of the older, prettier places around were built by convicts. In my area all the grand houses and homesteads are, but it did not occur to me when I was wedding planning.

      • Em

        Oh that’s a really good point too. Didn’t occur to me at all.

  • katie

    What a timely article…we were just looking at a venue that was owned by two slave trading families and we both looked at each other like “ugh…this doesn’t seem right”. This was in Rhode Island.

  • bananafanafofana

    As somebody currently living in the South, a thousand times this. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Thanks for saying it.

  • amandamarieg

    When I moved to South Georgia, my MOH asked if I would want to do a bachelorette weekend in Savannah, which I am totally into. And then someone asked if I wanted to do a historical tour, and I was like, “nope.” Because if there’s one thing I’ve started to really notice it’s that the South really romanticizes and whitewashes its history, and once you see it, you can’t UNSEE it. And it’s really uncomfortable and awful.

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  • DrW

    I realize I’m late to the discussion, but I found this article and the ensuing discussion fascinating because I am a Southern African American woman who wants to get married at a plantation back home in Georgia. This particular plantation was, in its heyday, one of the largest in the region. However, a few hundred acres of the original acreage has been purchased by a collective of African American farmers — many of whom are longtime community activists whose original family farms were stolen by white people during the 40s & 50s just as black people were beginning to accrue land of our own. The African American & Native American communities come together to bless the land every year and honor the enslaved people who died there. If I return home to marry, that’s the only place I would want to do it. There’s NOTHING “romantic” about a plantation in the white-(sometimes but not always)Southerners’-fantasy sense. But I love the idea of being in a space that African Americans have reclaimed and being surrounded by and honoring the spirits of people who could be my literal ancestors. I’ve heard of other African Americans marrying and/or having family reunions on plantations, and the rationale is never that plantations are “pretty” or “romantic”, but to honor the enslaved ancestors who died there. I’m not suggesting that this perspective is a common one, but it exists. The notion that holding joyus events at plantations is always “bad” or “racist” only makes sense if you think (1) only white people visit/hold events at plantations, and (2) the only reason people visit plantations is to participate in whitewashing history. That’s probably the case 90% of the time, but there is complexity — especially for AfAm southerners. Having written all that, if white people still owned that plantation and/or pushed the “Southern romance” narrative, there’s no way I’d ever consider giving them a dime. And I’d never go to a white couple’s wedding on a plantation.

    • Thank you for sharing this; I’m glad to learn about this collective’s reclaiming of the plantation.

    • Jessica

      Thank you for sharing! It’s a very interesting perspective.