Would you get married at a plantation? Or a castle? Or a prison? Or a cemetery?

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Photo of Eastern State Penitentiary wedding by Mike Allebach
Photo of Eastern State Penitentiary wedding by Mike Allebach

We featured a Filipino/Persian wedding that was held a lovely garden estate — that used to be a plantation. A commenter chimed in:

…not really sure if a Southern Plantation with slavery history is the ideal place for a wedding. I couldn't focus on the beauty of it knowing that it held such memories of immense suffering.

This comment brings up so many interesting questions — is a plantation's history simply too devastating to be a viable wedding venue? Does it make a difference if the couple getting married there is white or not? We kind of love that a place with horrible history is being redeemed. A nonwhite wedding at a southern plantation makes a statement.

That said, we've made the decision not to feature weddings held at plantations on the site again.

This decision got us to thinking… Does this mean that castle weddings are also less than ideal for a wedding? Their histories aren't the cleanest either, with their dungeons and battles and torturers.

Then there are the prison weddings — does that feel okay? Which prisons feel okay, and which don't? What about zoo weddings? Some animal rights folks can't even set foot in a zoo.

What about cemeteries? Some people see it as disrespectful, while others see cemetery weddings as a way to honor their ancestors and recognize 'til death do us part. How much does the identity of the couple getting married there factor in? Does it matter if you have family interred at that cemetery?

We don't have answers here, and we're not into policing other people's choices… but we're curious about how each of you draw the lines for yourselves.

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Comments on Would you get married at a plantation? Or a castle? Or a prison? Or a cemetery?

  1. If you went on the past you could not get married anywhere in America as it was stolen from the Native Americans who were certainly abused, I think there is a point where you have to just have to acknowledge that the past is the past and move on from there on locations, If a place makes you uncomfortable do not get married there, More than likely this plantation is not even owned by the original owners, Unless they are promoting pro confederate weddings and flying the stars and bars at this point it is just a house with some lovely grounds,

    • Yeah, I feel the same way whenever the debate about doing *anything positive* at a plantation comes up. People seem to forget that every inch of land in Canada and the US was stolen from First Nations/American Indian people, that we suffered genocide, rape, murder, dehumanization, centuries of abuse, and that that abuse is still on-going…. So if people are going to say you *can’t* cleanse the past from a piece of land and do something positive with it instead (a claim I’ve seen many times regarding plantations), then you can’t from this entire continent. Every inch of land in Canada and the US is tainted. Period.

      I’m getting married in a town considered the “birthplace” of my province (from a settler perspective). I can’t cleanse the past from that land — the colonization, the fact that my wedding is taking place on Un-ceded First Nations territory. If I wanted to have my wedding on a piece of land that had never been tainted by human misery, I’d be limited to Antarctica or the moon.

      Instead I’m more concerned about the feelings I get from the land, whether *it* accepts me, aside the lens of human history. So far I’ve got nothing but good feelings from the spot, so that’s enough for me.

      Also, this, so much:

      Unless they are promoting pro confederate weddings and flying the stars and bars at this point it is just a house with some lovely grounds.

    • I think it’s a little more directly related. Rather than a vague “this country was owned by aboriginals”, it’s a specific “this building was literally built by slaves. Every nail hammered, every brick laid, by slaves”. And I wouldn’t want to financially support the owners if they were descendants of slave owners. They’re literally still benefiting from their ancestors owning slaves. The only feasible way I’d be comfortable paying to have my wedding there, is if the owners made significant donations to some sort of reparation fund.

      • Agreed. I’d be okay if they donated to The Slave Dwelling Project, which does a lot to tell a more whole narrative, but to be honest, it’d be kinda tough to have a joyful occasion in a place of immense pain.

  2. I personally would feel uncomfortable getting married at a plantation or similar location, but I don’t necessarily judge others for doing so. To me, it comes down to whether the wedding is a wedding that happens to be at a place that used to be a plantation (for example), or if it’s a wedding that is at a plantation and is antebellum South themed with women in hoop skirts and stuff. To me, the latter really is glorifying the pretty parts of an ugly time in our history, and I would definitely feel hurt about that. But if a wedding is using the venue because it’s pretty and they are willing to overlook the history, I would support that decision, even if it’s one I wouldn’t make for myself.

  3. I think it really comes down to what a lot of things with weddings come down to – what are you comfortable with? If cemeteries give you the wig-whams, don’t get hitched at a cemetery, etc etc. So many places in this country (and others countries too!) have questionable histories. If it was a more horrible modern history, well, that’s something an individual would doubly have to weigh what they and their loved ones will be comfortable with. I also ‘kind of love that a place with horrible history is being redeemed’, but again, I think it’s going to come down to individuals/couples comfort levels and thought processes.

  4. For me, I think getting married in a prison or in a plantation building is not something I’d want to do. I think buildings in particular hold memories and negative vibes, just like some castles do. This is a personal preference and I would not judge a couple who chose such a location.
    However, cemeteries and the plantation grounds feel different to me because of the nature aspect. Nature neutralizes and grows over the bad memories and replaces them with new life. Personally I love cemetery weddings! Probably a lovely energy to bring to the dead. 😉

  5. At the end of Rachel’s comment, she began walking down the path on which I want to continue. Perhaps a nice way to create some better memories on a horrible location is to celebrate love there. One of my friends, for instance, insisted on getting married on September 11, because she wanted to make that day something wonderful, not just something tragic. I say we turn all the plantations into wedding halls, universities, art museums, gardens–places where beauty and love and wisdom happen.

    In any case, it wasn’t always a plantation. Before that, it might have been a sacred ceremonial place for Native Americans, a hunting ground for a pack of wolves, any number of things. Don’t let its significance be determined by a couple hundred years of history.

  6. Finding a wedding venue is hard, finding one that you like and that fits your needs, your date, your guest list and your budget is extra hard. So if they found something that works for them, holds any meaning, and doesn’t highlight something negative from the past, then I don’t see anything wrong with it. We can nitpick and complain to no end, but why, when we all know how hard it is to find a venue.

  7. I couldn’t handle a plantation or a prison. The former because people were literally worked to death there, the latter because of the deeper sociological issues surrounding America’s legal system.

  8. I think that it’s important to differentiate the “non-white” experience and the Black/African-American experience in the U.S. So while I understand where the post is coming from in saying that a wedding of two people of color is perhaps not as objectionable as white people getting married there, the history of plantations is really specific to the Black American experience.

    Also, I cannot imagine asking my Black guests to celebrate my wedding at a plantation! The day isn’t all about me and the physical beauty/convenience/price/availability of the venue wouldn’t be enough to put my guests through such a potentially painful experience. Not to mention that it would alienate me from my Black and anti-racist ally friends. Even if I fell in love with the space it would never be worth it to me. (Honestly though I can’t even imagine checking out a plantation venue.)

    • I do think sometimes people look at things too much from the outside, without a ‘local’ perspective. Maybe a particular former plantation is where everyone gets married at, without a whiff of irony, but outsiders are shocked at the thought.

  9. I feel like there’s very broad atrocities (like conquering an entire continent) that could be extended to include all the broad suffering that people in various conquered Europe/Asia/Africa from before time and the very specific atrocities that happened in certain patches of land. I think it distasteful to get married at a plantation much like I would feel it distasteful to get married in an internment camp, or at Dachau or Auschwitz, or a specific battle site where Native Americans were slaughtered, or an Indian boarding school where children were stripped of their language and culture. Maybe it’s my superstitious side, but bits of land that have bloodshed and horror might look pretty for pictures, but should not be used.

    I can acknowledge, though, that some people have a beauty from ashes mentality that feels like they’re honoring rather than forgetting the past.

    Cemetaries feel different for me, though, because there seems to be a sense of peacefulness there, the deaths happened for a variety of reasons. Though that might be different if it was a battlefield cemetery or something from above.

    Prisons feel like on the borderline for me.

    • I actually think there could be great power in two Jews marrying each other at Auschwitz. It wouldn’t have a “concentration camp” theme, or anything tasteless like that. But a simple Chuppah ceremony on the grounds would be very powerful.

      • Having been to Auschwitz this year – I cannot see why you would want your marriage contaminated by that place. One wedding isn’t going to solve a family’s near century of pain and brokenness stemming from the imprisonment and loss of family members there, and it is a place where no happiness can exist.

      • I know many people who have visited auschwitz to pay their respects. They found it hard being there for more than 5 minutes knowing the suffering that took place there. A celebration taking place there is deeply inappropriate.

    • I completely agree.

      In broad terms, every spot of land on the planet, if we’re honest, has some connection with tragedy or pain or cruelty. Because humans have been on it for long enough that *something* will have happened there.

      But to me, there is a huge difference between doing something in a place that *might* have been a source of specific pain, and doing something in a place that has a very specific, real, and relatively recent history of atrocity connected with it. I could get married in Germany, for example. But I wouldn’t even consider getting married at Auschwitz or any other building with history related to the horrors that took place during Nazi rule. I could get married at a castle, even somewhere like the Tower of London, because enough time has passed that the bad things that happened there – as well as the good things – are ancient history. And perhaps it’s because I live in Europe, where pretty much every bit of development work gets paused to review archaeological finds, but ancient history feels very different to recent history.

      And slavery IS recent. Not just slavery itself – although it really wasn’t that long ago – but the aftermath of it. I recently read a timeline showing when people of colour obtained various rights – end of segregation, right to marry, mixed-race marriage, right to vote, the history of forced sterilisation, apartheid… not only is it all shockingly recent, it’s still happening today. For that reason, I feel like getting married in a building that has specific history with that is iffy to say the least. Doing an actual “plantation wedding” on such a site with the whole Southern Belle thing going on is just… unfathomable.

  10. Every place has a history and I think as long as people are respectful of where they are at and know the history of the place then it’s okay to get married there. What won’t hurt either would be acknowledging what the place is/was as a sign of respect.

    Like with me I love places and things with a long history, even the not so great ones so getting married at a southern plantation or a castle would be ideal for me but I also know that respect would be key and I would have to acknowledge the people and the place. And I say this with many different ethnicity in my family including African American.

    It’s all about prospective and the fact that it is 2015. Just be respectful. The place I’m getting married is a state park but was once home to Native Americans so does that make it wrong for me to get married there even though I recognize it’s history and am a small fraction Native American?

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