Slave plantations will no longer be glorified as 'romantic places to marry' on The Knot, Pinterest

Two popular websites are cracking down on plantation weddings, with encouragement from a civil rights advocacy group. (Photo: Getty Images)
Two popular websites are cracking down on plantation weddings, with encouragement from a civil rights advocacy group. (Photo: Getty Images)

Pinterest and The Knot will no longer promote wedding venues that operated as slave plantations, thanks to the civil rights advocacy group, Color of Change.

Both companies broke the exclusive news to BuzzFeed Wednesday, detailing individual plans to stop glamorizing the locations after requests from the social justice organization. “The decision to glorify plantations as nostalgic sites of celebration is not an empowering one for the Black women and justice-minded people who use your site,” one letter addressed to The Knot Worldwide (owner of The Knot and WeddingWire) read, according to BuzzFeed.

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The letter continued, “Plantations are physical reminders of one of the most horrific human rights abuses the world has ever seen. The wedding industry routinely denies the violent conditions Black people faced under chattel slavery by promoting plantations as romantic places to marry."

In 2014, Salon described plantation weddings as a “disturbing” trend, noting that certain venues inaccurately described former slaves as “workers” or glossed over the abuse, rape, and death inflicted upon enslaved people in the southern United States. One plantation owner interviewed by Salon said that her mostly-white clients “don’t express any sort of discomfort” with the land’s history.

And last year, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds were slammed for their 2012 wedding at Boone Hall Plantation in South Carolina, with a Twitter user reminding him, “U got married on a plantation,” after Reynolds promoted the Marvel film “Black Panther” on social media.

Jade Magnus Ogunnaike, senior campaign director at Color of Change, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that some brides are drawn to plantation wedding themes to feel like Scarlett O’Hara, the Georgia heroine of the 1939 film, “Gone with the Wind.”

“Our ancestors were raped in these spaces, so it calls for a larger conversation about how slavery is viewed,” Ogunnaike tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “These were forced labor camps.”

And as Color of Change vice president Arisha Hatch told BuzzFeed, “If we were talking about concentration camps, it would be weird and disrespectful and egregious for folks to be seeking to have their weddings at these locations.” 

According to BuzzFeed, The Knot Worldwide will not use language that romanticizes the history of plantations, such as “charming,” even on properties that dropped the word “plantation.” However, plantation owners will still qualify as vendors.

A representative of The Knot tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “Color of Change brought an issue to light about the way venues with a history of slavery describe their properties to couples. Our goal is to ensure that the content of all of our vendors on our sites is respectful and considerate to everyone. We are in the process of reviewing all of our plantation venues and finalizing our guidelines. At The Knot Worldwide, we pride ourselves as a company by being inclusive to all — all sexes, genders, races, sexual orientations, religions, etc. By working with Color of Change, we can further this value by providing a respectful experience for all couples, pros, and employees.”

A Pinterest spokesperson tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “Weddings should be a symbol of love and unity. Plantations represent none of those things. We are grateful to Color of Change for bringing attention to this disrespectful practice. We are working to limit the distribution of this content and accounts across our platform, and continue to not accept advertisements for them.”

The Pinterest spokesperson added, “We've already started making changes, which include limiting the distribution of this content and accounts across Pinterest, including autocomplete, search recommendations, email notifications and SEO. People can still search for this content, but we now show an advisory that some results may violate our policies. We do not accept ads for these kinds of places and will continue not to. We also have taken steps to make sure that ads won't appear in results for ‘plantation weddings’ and other related searches.”

Color of Change sent letters to Brides, Martha Stewart Weddings, and the wedding company Zola, reported BuzzFeed. The campaign tells Yahoo Lifestyle that Brides has responded to its letter and requested a meeting this week.

Zola, Brides, and Martha Stewart Weddings released statements to Yahoo Lifestyle on Thursday.

Per Zola, the site "will not allow vendors to list who are plantations." The statement also read, “We recognize that this is a painful issue and have been evaluating on an ongoing basis. We appreciate Color of Change for bringing this issue forward, and will work with them and additional organizations to ensure our policies and guidelines are inclusive and make everyone feel welcome.”

A Dotdash spokesperson (from the parent company of Brides) tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “Brides is an inclusive place where everyone can feel celebrated. Content glorifying plantations is not in line with our core values. We have removed these references and are actively working with Color of Change to evolve our guidelines to help ensure all our couples are supported, respected and inspired.”

And a Martha Stewart Weddings representative tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “We thank Color of Change for bringing this valid concern to us. We feature how couples have chosen to wed and celebrate their special day. We will give this careful thought and attention.”

This story was originally published on Dec. 4, 2019 at 8:08 p.m. ET and has been updated to include statements from Zola, Brides, and Martha Stewart Weddings.

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