Wedding sites downplay venues that were slave plantations

Four major websites used for wedding planning are revising their policies on content referencing former slave plantations, responding to an advocacy group’s campaign urging the companies to stop promoting venues where black people were once brutalized.

Pinterest says it will now limit distribution of content promoting plantation venues. The Knot and Brides will no longer allow content glorifying the history of plantations. And Zola will stop listing plantation venues on its site altogether.

All four sites announced the changes this month after receiving letters from Color of Change, which describes itself as the country’s largest online racial justice organization with 1.5 million members. The organization also sent a letter to Martha Stewart Weddings, which has started talking to Color of Change about the issue.

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“Plantations are not just beautiful or charming places,” said Jade Magnus Ogunnaike, senior campaign director of Color of Change, which objected to such descriptions of plantations in its letters to the companies. “They are places that were intentionally created to force black people to work, torture them and sexually abuse them.”

Pinterest, which couples use to share and find inspiration for their weddings, said people will still be able to search for plantation venues but the site now shows an advisory warning that some results might violate its policies. The company also will limit autocomplete and search recommendations for plantations searches. 

Pinterest said it already did not allow plantation wedding venues to advertise on its site and now will take steps to ensure that such ads do not show up on searches.

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“Weddings should be a symbol of love and unity,” Pinterest said in a statement. “Plantations represent none of those things. We are grateful to Color of Change for bringing attention to this disrespectful practice.” 

The Knot, a wedding planning platform, said it will prohibit vendors “from using language that romanticizes or glorifies a history that includes slavery.” 

Similarly, Brides has removed references on its site glorifying plantations, according to a statement from parent company Dotdash.

Zola, another wedding planning site, said it would no longer allow former plantations to list on its site altogether. 

CEO Shan-Lyn Ma said the company never promoted plantation wedding venues but now will de-list them. “This is really sensitive and painful issue and we want to be doing the right thing by our couples, our employees and anyone who has any interaction with Zola in any way,” Ma said.

Ogunnaike said her organization is “happy about how receptive the companies have been” to the issue.

“We look forward to larger changes in the wedding industry and the way plantations are viewed across the country,” she added.  

Some former southern plantations have become popular wedding venues but a backlash has been growing. The actors Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds came under fire for tying the knot in 2012 at Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens in Charleston, South Carolina, which was a setting for the 2004 movie “The Notebook.”

The site, which remains a working farm, includes nine of the original slave cabins that were built during the antebellum period. While some old plantations that are open for tours or events don’t include any mention of slavery or enslaved people in promotional materials, Boone Hall’s website includes a section on black history.

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