The idea that a celebrity as prominent as Blake Lively or Justin Bieber would get married at a former concentration camp is practically inconceivable. And yet, both Lively and Bieber have in fact chosen to get married at the sites of former forced labor camps in recent years—and emerged from the backlash unscathed. (Lively and her husband, Ryan Reynolds, who wed at “America’s most photographed plantation” in 2012, have weathered only occasional waves of criticism—and apparently not enough to dissuade Bieber from hosting his own “plantation wedding” at a resort that was once home to no less than 21 plantations, including at least one owned by a Confederate commander.)
The concentration camp comparison is just one of many points the civil rights advocacy group Color of Change has been attempting to bring to the attention of the internet’s most popular wedding-planning platforms, in a bid for them to cease promoting venues that romanticize slavery and horrific abuses of human rights. At last, they’ve found success: On Wednesday, Buzzfeed News reported that Pinterest and The Knot Worldwide (which owns WeddingWire and The Knot) are changing their policies in an effort to moderate content that portrays the history of Southern plantations in a positive light.
“Weddings should be a symbol of love and unity. Plantations represent none of those things,” a Pinterest spokesperson told Buzzfeed News. “We are working to limit the distribution of this content and accounts across our platform, and continue to not accept advertisements for them.”
The Knot Worldwide’s websites will still allow plantations on their venue lists, as long as they don’t use language such as “charming” or “elegant” to describe their pasts. (That includes “manors,” “farms,” and other venues that have attempted to quietly rebrand by dropping the word “plantation” from their names.) “We want to make sure we’re serving all our couples and that they don’t feel in any way discriminated against,” the company’s chief marketing officer told Buzzfeed News.
The Knot Worldwide is currently working on additional guidelines with Color of Change, which sent a letter that originally prompted the company to reevaluate its content moderation. (“Plantations are physical reminders of one of the most horrific human rights abuses the world has ever seen,” it read in part. “The wedding industry routinely denies the violent conditions Black people faced under chattel slavery by promoting plantations as romantic places to marry.”)
Color of Change sent a similar letter to leading wedding-planning platforms like Brides, Martha Stewart Weddings, Zola, and Pinterest, though as of Wednesday only the latter had replied. Meanwhile, “plantation wedding” content is alive and well on plenty of non-bridal platforms; at the moment, there are more than 14,500 posts tagged with “#plantationwedding” on Instagram.
Update, 12/5/19, 2:15 p.m.: In a statement shared with W on Thursday afternoon, Zola announced that it is now also updating its policies and partnering with Color of Change. The company has also already gone a step further than Pinterest and The Knot Worldwide: Zola has removed all plantation venues listed on its website, and, according to a spokesperson, is actively evaluating weddings on Zola that were photographed at those venues in the past. Read the full statement below:
“We re-evaluated all our venues listed on Zola and determined we will not allow vendors to list who are plantations. 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.”
Meanwhile, the owner of Boone Hall Plantation, Willie McRae, has also weighed in. In an interview with the New York Times, McRae expressed confusion at the backlash following Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds’s wedding at Boone Hall. “We’ve been a farm for 300 years; I don’t want to make anything racial out of it,” he said. “There were bad acts that happened on some plantations, but not all plantations. This was one of the first ones that taught slaves to read and write.”
The Biggest Celebrity Weddings of 2019 (So Far)
Devon Windsor married Johnny Dex Barbara in St. Barths on November 16, surrounded by her Victoria’s Secret Angels model squad.
Lena Waithe revealed on The Ellen DeGeneres show that she and her longtime girlfriend have already joined the handful of celebrities who got married in secret. Waithe and Mayo apparently wed at some point earlier this year. “We snuck and did it, you know,” she told DeGeneres, before also revealing that their nuptials took place at a San Francisco courthouse, right in front of the bust of the late Harvey Milk, at Mayo’s suggestion.
Jennifer Lawrence married the Gladstone 64 gallery director Cooke Maroney in October 2019, with none other than Kris Jenner in attendance for the ceremony.
Rafael Nadal married his longtime girlfriend Maria Francisca Perelló in the presence of Spanish royalty in October 2019.
Actor Miles Teller and model Keleigh Sperry first began dating in 2013, and got engaged while on safari in Africa in 2017. According to Vogue, the couple recently married at a ceremony in Hawaii with the bride in a custom Monique Lhuillier gown and the groom in a Celine by Hedi Slimane tux. Superstar DJ Kygo spun at the reception at the Ritz Carlton Kapalua Hotel.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Lauren Hashian began dating in 2007, and hinted at marriage long before their wedding in Hawaii this August. “We were going to get married in the spring and we got pregnant,” The Rock told ET last April, when he and Hashian learned that she was pregnant with their second daughter. “Lauren felt like, well, you know, Mama [doesn’t want] to take pictures being pregnant in a wedding dress, so we’re just going to wait.”
Joachim Rønning, Norwegian film director, and Amanda Hearst, great-granddaughter of publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst, married in August 2019. Naturally, the two married at Hearst Castle, and the bride wore five different dresses to the ceremony.
Leona Lewis married her longtime boyfriend Dennis Jauch on July 27 in Tuscany. The couple first met nine years ago when Jauch was Lewis’s backup dancer.
YouTube star Gigi Gorgeous married model and heiress Nats Getty (great-granddaughter of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty) in July 2019. The wedding was attended by both Caitlyn Jenner and Trisha Paytas.
Amy Landecker married her Transparent co-star Bradley Whitford in July 2019.
In early July, Heidi Klum and Tom Kaulitz revealed that they secretly married all the way back in February 2019.
David Foster and Katharine McPhee finally tied the knot in July 2019 after nearly two years of dating. The two actually met for the first time in 2006, when Foster appeared as a mentor on McPhee’s season of American Idol.
Lady Gabriella Windsor—Queen Elizabeth II’s second cousin once removed—married Thomas Kingston on May 18th at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, nearly one full year after that other royal wedding everybody is still talking about.
Katherine Schwarzenegger and Chris Pratt met in church in 2018 and tied the knot roughly a year later, in June 2019.
A royal wedding between Princess Charlotte Casiraghi (granddaughter of Grace Kelly) and film producer Dimitri Rassam took place in Monaco on June 1, 2019.
Zoë Kravitz coyly confirmed her engagement to Karl Glusman in October 2018 during an interview with Rolling Stone. The following year, on May 23, it was reported that the two had secretly married. The official ceremony—which included Big Little Lies co-stars Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern as guests—took place in Paris at the end of the month.
Gina Rodriguez married Joe LoCicero in a private ceremony in May 2019.
Idris Elba and Sabrina Dhowre tied the knot in Morocco in April 2019.
Michelle Branch married Patrick Carney of The Black Keys in Louisiana on April 20, 2019.
Marc Jacobs married Char DeFrancesco in April 2019, nearly a year after proposing to his partner with a flash mob in Chipotle.
Chance the Rapper and Kirsten Corley married in March 2019, two months after a secret civil service ceremony. Of course, the official wedding was attended by Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.
Darren Criss married his longtime girlfriend Mia Swier in February 2019. The two tied the knot in New Orleans, in the presence of Lea Michele and John Stamos.
Lea Michele married Zandy Reich, her boyfriend of two years, in March 2019. The officiant of the wedding was none other than Glee creator, Ryan Murphy.