Romanticizing Slavery: Are Plantation Weddings Insensitive?

At some point, is it possible to move on from America’s brutal past?

Image sourced from Boone Hall Plantation

he hanging branches of oak trees with Spanish moss shade the pathway. Lush greenery and rich browns encase any viewer in an ethereal taste of the antebellum South. Towards the end, as if witnessing the fading tunnel light of a lived life, weathered red brick and glistening white columns beckon. A regal history that is rich in American hospitality and the shadowed ghost of slavery encompasses the Colonial Revival architecture of Boone Hall Plantation.

At least 85 African Americans were enslaved on this land that once boasted the annual production of four million bricks and pecans in the United States. The 19th century was some time ago. Similar to the abolishment of slavery, the eradication of its memory continues as young couples eagerly await sharing their vows on what is considered the #1 plantation in South Carolina. Even celebrities like Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds were amongst the couples that elected to celebrate the beginning of their next step, a naive hope in the promise of eternal love, in a location that’s grown illustrious foliage over the heartache of enslavement.

Times can change. We remove monuments of the confederacy while commemorating plantation weddings, an erroneous rite of passage. It’s “the perfect moment…the perfect place” to celebrate your nuptials, especially when you opt for The Cotton Dock as your event venue on the property. The lush romanticization of a South appealing to Scarlett O’Hara is the epitome of how bizarre a plantation wedding is.

Or, maybe it’s because we can equally agree that the insensitivity to consider such a blemish to human history is not qualified to serve as a wedding venue.

Sometimes, I’ve expressed my personal distaste towards this action and to be met with confusion contributes to my frustration. To say “I do” at Auschwitz is collectively unheard of. Maybe it’s because it would be horrendous for photos? Or, maybe it’s because we can equally agree that the insensitivity to consider such a blemish to human history is not qualified to serve as a wedding venue. Shockingly, I understand the appeal of many Southerners to preserve their heritage. With the removal of Confederate memorabilia from historical landmarks, it’s only a matter of time before activists turn their agenda towards plantation weddings.

There’s a clear indication of cognition in the elected choice to not be photographed with slave cabins in the background of those sweeping oak trees. The whispered unrest of dehumanized African Americans must have a glimmer of potential in haunting the purity of a photographed smile on one’s wedding day. Some say that it’s a semblance of honor and reckoning with America’s past to be married in such a locale. Not to mention since slavery was so long ago, we absolutely cannot allow the boundless reach of Spanish moss and glorious columns to be wasted. To simply serve as a museum with educational merits would be ruinous to the memory of the slaves.

Image sourced from Boone Hall Plantation

…is it improper for me to request the burial spots of your ancestors?

But let me rhetorically ask of those considering plantation weddings, is it improper for me to request the burial spots of your ancestors? I’m scouting for locations of my dream wedding proposal. Issues that proclaim something such as slavery as a thing of the past seem to look upon enslavement as a minor inconvenience. To pillage and plunder multiple populations of Africans, erase their familial connections, instill fear for their melanated existence is inconsiderate to the optimal wedding location in the 21st century.

I think I get it now. It was only a few years ago that Kanye West believed that slaves actively chose to remain enslaved. If my social media recollection serves correct, Ja Rule just discovered last year that the n-word was not synonymous with ignorant and was actually a racial epithet. These two celebrities are not top shelf when it comes to African American history, obviously, but there’s a sad heaviness in their revelations. Maybe I’m being too emotional about the existence of plantation weddings.

Image sourced from Boone Hall Plantation

The truth of the matter is, you know, the actual facts, the nitty-gritty, the whole shebang or whatever you would rather I state, is that the actual number of Africans transported in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade is still unknown. Historians estimate that over the course of 400 years, over 12 million Africans were forcibly moved? Shipped? I don’t know what the “appropriate” term would be in this case, but hopefully, you’re getting where I’m coming from. Of this estimated number, about 1–2 million died on board, but because these weren’t people, I mean, who genuinely believes in brutally enslaving another human, accurate records were not treated as relevant. So some bodies were tossed overboard, a fascinating shark trail would follow slaver ships because free “food” couldn’t stop them from enjoying the buffet.

When you choose to spend your money on a plantation for a wedding venue, you are actively engaging in the promotion of injustice, cruelty, and brutality.

Plantations were populated by these abductions and perpetual rape of its’ slaves. But to you, the land is beautiful. It took 390 years for America to issue an apologetic statement that decries “fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery.” When you choose to spend your money on a plantation for a wedding venue, you are actively engaging in the promotion of injustice, cruelty, and brutality. The soil of a plantation is rich from the amount of blood that has flown through it. I hope you enjoy the trees.

I explore the intersectionality of race and culture from a humanistic lens. Host of The Renegade Professor Podcast.

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