We Just Want to Get Married

Ani DiFranco’s recent cancellation of a workshop/performance at Nottoway Plantation in Louisiana has raised the question of whether it is appropriate to hold certain types of events at these sites. [Click here for a thoughtful response from Nicholas Redding.]

In Salon, Koa Beck goes after plantation homes that open their doors to weddings:

Just as problematic as the use of plantations in the burgeoning “dreamy” and “romantic” Pinterest wedding sphere is the growing archive of these images: white and affluent affairs on historic landmarks that are entirely divorced from the atrocities of slavery. The developing virtual trough for young and eager brides looking to pin their way to the perfect day reduces plantations to mere backdrops, stages for white and privileged love and commitment. And they are absolutely eager…

Furthermore, the sentimentalizing of plantations engenders a dangerous and selective nostalgia, which omits the monstrosities of rape, abuse and dehumanization of African Americans and replaces them with the commercial gloss of a big white wedding. The severely edited narration also underscores the continued devaluation of an entire people, the continued erasure of a part of history that needs to be recognized.

This comes after surveying a number of plantation homes that, in fact, do acknowledge the history of slavery. I think we can all agree that it is important for these sites to properly document their history for the general public. Apart from the question of confronting the past I don’t see what is necessarily wrong with holding weddings, concerts, and other events on plantation grounds. Why must slavery be front and center of every activity? No doubt, some of these sites rely on the income just to stay open.

Just as Koa suggests that there is a danger of “selective nostalgia” there is also the risk of engaging in selective outrage.

Movies like Gone With the Wind, Django Unchained and especially 12 Years a Slave reinforce the iconic image of the plantation as central to our collective memory of the horrors of slavery. Anyone who has studied the broad history of slavery, however, understands that these sites represent a small minority of sites (North and South) where the horrors of slavery thrived for much too long. I can only guess at the number of sites where weddings and other ceremonies that bring families and friends together to celebrate life take place that do not correspond to our images of the “Big House”.

Guess what, many plantation homes do provide a beautiful setting for a wedding.

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40 comments… add one
  • Bryan Cheeseboro Jan 11, 2014 @ 4:53

    I’m not saying you have to be worried about them. or get involved in comparisons. I’m talking about the fact that our public sites are there for anyone to use and interpret and sometimes, the users may be those who are polar opposites of our viewpoints.

    Remember a few years back when Glenn Beck wanted to use the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for some sort of rally he had? I recall that it made news that Beck, a man who has said he doesn’t have any Black friends because he’s afraid he’ll say something that they will call him a racist for, wanted to use a site in memory of The Great Emancipator and consecrated by both Marian Anderson, who was denied the opportunity to perform somewhere else because of her skin color; and Martin Luther King, Jr., in a speech that may well have been a sequel to Lincoln’s second inaugural address. I think Beck held his rally on the anniversary of King’s speech and I seem to recall he claimed he didn’t know the significance of the date when he applied for it (that wouldn’t surprise me). Anyway, Beck’s rally went on and there wasn’t anything anyone could do about it. Regardless of the history associated with it, Glenn Beck had the right to use the site as his platform to forward his purpose. I guess the same could be said of a historic plantation. However, I dare any political candidate for president to use a plantation site to announce his or her run for office. We haven’t come that far yet.

  • Bryan Cheeseboro Jan 10, 2014 @ 20:40

    “Why must slavery be front and center of every activity?” -Kevin Levin

    “Moreover, do folks (especially those who just want to get married or have a function there) always have to be reminded of its past? At some point, eyes will roll and the lessons you try to impart to people about the nation’s past will just get ignored. Is that where we really want to end up?” -Brad

    I have to admit it’s a little funny to read these comments on this board considering who’s making them. If I didn’t know any better, I would think they were comments made by the “heritage not hate” pro-Confederate crowd in response to the subject in question. Of course, I certainly don’t mean to imply that you guys have anything in common with Confederate apologists.

    I certainly support the right of someone who wants to have their wedding, wedding reception, garden party or whatever function at a plantation site where slavery took place. These sites are attractive places with stately homes and beautifully landscaped gardens. And though I don’t think I could have my event at a plantation, I can certainly understand why other people of any color or ethnic background would want to have one of these places as the backdrop to their special day.

    But I can’t help but wonder here… how would you guys (Kevin, Brad and everyone else) if a pro-Confederate group wanted to have a function at one of these sites? Would you still be asking, “Does everything really have to be about slavery?” which is the same question many of those people ask when we broach the subject to them? Believe me… I understand pro-Confederates don’t want to get the role slavery played anywhere and want to minimize it as much as possible from the historical narrative. And I also understand plantation sites are attractive to many people today and can be a great way for a county or a state to make some money.

    Looking at this history to me is like looking at one of those ink blot tests and seeing different things. Or maybe the same thing for different reasons.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 11, 2014 @ 3:01

      But I can’t help but wonder here… how would you guys (Kevin, Brad and everyone else) if a pro-Confederate group wanted to have a function at one of these sites?

      Good points, but I don’t see why I need to worry about a comparison between a wedding and a “pro-Confederate group.” I am certainly not suggesting that any and all gatherings are appropriate.

  • Brad Jan 10, 2014 @ 13:58

    I side with Kevin on this. Yes, plantations had slaves but slavery is now gone and these houses are now museums and so forth. Is the import of the article and comments from Ms. Carrington that we should have nothing to do with one of these buildings because of what once happened there? If so, the the logical extension of these arguments is get rid of these buildings, burn ’em down, bury the history, etc.

    In addition, does the fact that a building was once used for one thing mean that over time, it can’t be something else and because it was once tainted, it was tainted for all eternity?

    Moreover, do folks (especially those who just want to get married or have a function there) always have to be reminded of its past? At some point, eyes will roll and the lessons you try to impart to people about the nation’s past will just get ignored. Is that where we really want to end up?

  • Evan Kutzler Jan 9, 2014 @ 10:59

    Kevin – Good points about the associations of slavery in the North. I do have less reservation about your scenario in the Hudson Valley primarily because of its place (or lack of) in the national imagination and memory of slavery. Perhaps that is the bias you point out. I don’t buy the prohibition on plantation weddings, but I respect those who (tactfully) point out the oddity of it all. It may be, as was pointed out, more about emotion than reason, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think it’s a very human thing. In the end, it’s not my call, but I respect that there are multiple, valid understandings of the same spaces.

    Without appealing to George Fitzhugh or comparing enslaved people to common free laborers as another commenter did, I do think it would be an odd choice to get married in an early factory or cotton mill in the Northeast. This isn’t to say I think it is an atrocious choice, but it is an odd and perhaps historically ironic one. As a preservationist, I encourage rehabilitation and adaptive reuse, but I think we need to be careful not to romanticize places that were designed primarily to channel the labor of the lowest in society for the profit of the elite. Public historians do this already, which is why the writer for the Salon sounded misinformed about what it is historians actually do.

    Anyway, I hope that makes some sense and addresses your question.


  • Bryan Cheeseboro Jan 9, 2014 @ 10:32

    Prince George’s County, MD (PG County), which is part of the Washington, DC Metro Area, has a number of surviving plantation homes, such as Montpelier, Riversdale, Belair Mansion and Poplar Hill at His Lordship’s Kindness. These places are often rented for special events, including weddings. As some here may already know, PG County has a majority African-American population (there was more slavery in PG than there was anywhere else in Maryland). Many of these weddings are the weddings of Black people.

    I’ve wondered before reading this article about this, that it’s almost like getting married at a concentration camp. But I suppose some may also see it as vindicating these sites, i.e., “Once, they used these places to tear our families apart. Now, we use them to put them back together.”

    • Forester Jan 9, 2014 @ 11:46

      Bryan mentions plantation house sites in PG County MD, which I’ve never even heard of, and I grew up in nearby Anne Arundel! Heck, I worked at the Wal-Mart in PG and spent half my life there. Never heard about plantations or slaves. (My interest in the Civil War didn’t really start until I had already moved to Norfolk). I was oblivious.

      Now had some controversial event, or a plantation wedding or whatever occurred while I was up there, then I might know about it. But see, for white guys, the “Civil War” usually just means battles. It’s easy to overlook or forget slavery (sorry, I know that sounds terrible, but it’s true). If nothing else, these events keep the discussion of history alive. Had I been invited to a wedding in PG County, I would know about the history which I never bothered to Google or seek out while I was there.

      On a different note, I don’t think that romanticizing Plantation culture is romanticizing slavery, but rather wealth. Wealthy people in general tend to exploit labor, and almost any sort of “rich” culture has a dark underbelly. Most people just think the big dresses, white suits and fancy houses look cool. Image. It’s as shallow as that.

      But they might learn something new while they’re there, you know?

      • Bryan Cheesebopro Jan 9, 2014 @ 13:45

        I know that Wal-Mart in PG County. Is it the one on 223 (Piscattaway Road, I think)? If so, His Lordship’s Kindness is right around the corner from the store. But you’re right about people and history, not just the Civil War, though. Many people don’t think twice about a connection to a War Bond Drive or Rosie the Riveter and the D-Day invasion, either.

        • Forester Jan 9, 2014 @ 14:07

          Nope, I was at the understaffed Walmart in Bowie (3300 Crain Hwy). Which is near Belair Mansion, according to Google. I’ll have to check that out the next time I’m up there.

  • Rob Wick Jan 9, 2014 @ 8:20


    This is a difficult question for me as I can see valid points on both sides. To be honest, the one thing that bothered me most with Koa Beck’s argument was its shrillness and the “if you’re not against this you’re for it” mentality that permeated her article. However, shrillness doesn’t negate a point anymore than lucidity can overcome an otherwise intellectually-flawed argument. That said, your point of the homes in the north is also valid. What of a church that at one point was segregated? Can one overcome its past history and still maintain his or her moral being by choosing to marry there?

    I keep coming back, however, to this as a form of the question “who owns history?” The ground a plantation home sits on had a history long before that home ever appeared, as well as a history long after slavery ended. But is it possible to overlook the short time that slavery existed in making one’s moral choices about the site? Let me issue another hypothetical which I keep returning to in my thoughts. What if, 150 years from now, someone wanted to get married in Shanksville, Penn., or at the site of the World Trade Center? Should they be allowed to do so? Given that by that point no one who has a first-generation connection to either site would be living, does that make it a mere historic site devoid of what happened there on one September morning? What if our hypothetical couple wanted to get married there because one of their direct descendants either was killed there or survived? Does that make a difference? Who owns the moral rights to that past?

    This whole thing seems to me to come down to this. Just because one could be well within their moral rights to get married there, that doesn’t mean they should. You cannot divorce (ironic word choice in a thought on marriage, I know) the past from the present, even if that past was just for a finite time.


  • Kevin Levin Jan 9, 2014 @ 3:42

    I want to return to a point made in the post re: a possible bias against plantation homes in the South. We know that the Hudson Valley region of New York state included a relatively large number of slaves early on in its history. I assume that many of the homes on these large patroonships were built by slaves and still survive to this day.

    Would those of you who have expressed reservations be just as upset if weddings take place there as well? I don’t mean to suggest that such a bias would negate your initial response. Just curious.

  • London John Jan 9, 2014 @ 2:08

    IMO excellent info and discussion of issues of a plantation house resort is the novel “The Cutting Season” by Attica Locke

  • Evan Kutzler Jan 8, 2014 @ 13:10

    I admit watching a wedding take place between a cannon and a slave cabin and (marital jokes aside) feeling conflicted about what it meant. It does strike me as historically insensitive. For many people, plantations are remembered as sites of suffering as much as anything else. This isn’t just about weddings though. The same criticisms are raised about heritage tourism and historic site interpretation in general. Docents often introduce a house with the line: “If you were a guest of X…”–which suggests that the listener and fantasy time-traveler is white. The same thing might be said for plantation weddings. A plantation wedding can be read as acting out a power fantasy.

    Yet, I think the author of the recent Salon pieces don’t give historic site enough credit. Historic sites are damned both ways. They’re often criticized for using the term “slaves” because it is said to essentialize identity. In this piecethey are attacked for the term, “enslaved” (presumably) because it is doesn’t acknowledge the perpetuity of enslavement. Although I actually agree with the latter argument, it ignores the likelihood that the site’s word choice is probably highly sensitive to current terminology trends. The topic of slavery is an unavoidable trap for historic sites. If historic sites collectively chose only to talk about the physical and sexual violence of slavery, I am convinced attacks would fly for normalizing white-on-black violence.

    I don’t think there is a good solution. I don’t particularly like the “necessary evil” argument that special events are essential to maintaining a historic site, though there is truth in it. At the same time, I think people should be able to marry where they please for reasons that are theirs alone. Maybe they just wanted a rustic, outdoor setting?

    Also, it would be interesting to think about this trend in conjunction with the rise (and fall?) in popularity of modern “broomstick weddings.”


    • Kevin Levin Jan 8, 2014 @ 15:01

      I don’t mind admitting that I find nothing wrong with holding a wedding at a plantation.

  • Chris Coleman Jan 8, 2014 @ 13:08

    While we’re at this fit of PC, name me one great house or mansion here or in the UK that was not somehow built on the exploitation of the poor, the working class or some ethnic group or colony? The Yankee textile mill owners profited off of Southern slavery just as much as the plantation owners–maybe more so. And what about the transportation magnates who moved slaves, cotton and finished products to and from factories and to and from markets? And the merchants who sold the finished products? As an old book once proclaimed: Cannibals ALL.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 8, 2014 @ 15:02

      One of the points that I was trying to make in the post is that we seem to have a collective bias against plantation homes, which I suspect is because much of the attention in popular culture is directed that way.

  • Rob in CT Jan 8, 2014 @ 13:01

    Hmm. Myself, I’d think getting married at a former plantation house would be a little icky. But then I’m a Yankee, go figure.

    That’s just me, though, and I wouldn’t necessarily condemn someone else for doing it (unless it included all-black servants for the reception dressed in Gone With the Wing style Mammy outfits or somesuch thing).

  • Betty Giragosian Jan 8, 2014 @ 11:55

    Nottoway was built by John Randoph of Nottoway County, in Virginia. He was not the famous Randolph of Roanoke, but of the same family. The house took 11 years to build, and the cypress logs used to form the curved ballroom were soaked in the Mississippi for years to allow them to bent for form the shape. The story is told that during the War Between the States a Union vessel stopped at the pier, and Mrs. Randolph walked down to the river to confer with the officer in charge. It so happened that he had been at university with a Randolph son and spared the home. Re your question above, Kevin about such a structure and setting always be linked to slavery?
    I don’t know the answer, unless ths folks who do link such to slavery, is that they do not like the south and what it represents, or so they think, and it is an opportunity to point out its mistakes of the past.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 8, 2014 @ 12:05

      I don’t know the answer, unless ths folks who do link such to slavery, is that they do not like the south and what it represents, or so they think, and it is an opportunity to point out its mistakes of the past.

      This seems to imply that the only people who might have a problem with a plantation hosting a wedding are not southerners. I don’t see why this has to be another example of south bashing.

  • Nora Carrington Jan 8, 2014 @ 10:41

    I think ya’ll are missing the point of the article, or at least the point I took away from it. Weddings are supposed to be happy, right? I think the author is questioning the psychology of the bride and groom that would enable them to *celebrate* their happiness in such a setting. That’s quite apart from whatever the politics of the particular plantation and their tours and documentation, quite apart from the revenue such bookings represent. As for the Frick and Carnegie Hall and so forth…there are layers and levels of history on top of their founding that doesn’t erase where the money came from, but which complicate and enrich them as institutions. I don’t get that off plantation houses, for which I blame GWTW, no question. I suppose for some plantation houses that were occupied continuously through the Civil War and into the 20th Century that’s true as well and they might be a separate case. For the standard white columned mansion in a former Confederate state, however, I’m just bothered and puzzled why any couple, of any gender or race, would see the setting and think happy life ever after thoughts.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 8, 2014 @ 11:18

      Why must the dominant narrative of such a structure and in every setting always be linked to slavery? I still don’t understand this argument.

      • Nora Carrington Jan 8, 2014 @ 11:38

        Because slavery is what a plantation was *for*. It’s not just about wealth — I don’t have the same squeevy feelings about the Charlestown town houses of the same men who built the plantation houses, although their creation was no less dependent on slavery. The fact remains that the town houses could have been built with wealth created by shipping or by manufacturing or by investing in railroads even if they mostly weren’t. The plantation houses were built not just by slave labor, but by slavery itself. Of course the country was built by slavery itself, too, but I can’t think of another cultural icon that so purely distills the existence and the facticity of slavery than The Plantation House.

        There were rich landowners in the north, and many of them had stately homes. Have a wedding at Hyde Park if you’re all het up to get married where there are bugs and boggy bits in the lawn for the chairs to sink into. Knock yourself out. I just don’t get the psychology that says “here is a beautiful place where slavery thrived and it’s the happiest day of my life.” Do Not Get That.

        • Kevin Levin Jan 8, 2014 @ 11:58

          I just don’t get the psychology that says “here is a beautiful place where slavery thrived and it’s the happiest day of my life.” Do Not Get That.

          But that is probably not what the bride and groom is thinking, though perhaps what you are suggesting is that they should be.

          I am not denying in any way the centrality of slavery to the origins and maintenance of the plantation home. What I am questioning is why that narrative alone is what must always remain dominant. That you feel uncomfortable is not really an argument. Would you have the same response to a northern home that was built by slaves and that remained the center of slave life for a number of years?

          • Nora Carrington Jan 9, 2014 @ 0:16

            What I am questioning is why that narrative alone is what must always remain dominant.

            I’ve been mulling this over all day, and the only thing I’ve been able to come up with is this: what other narrative does The Plantation House have? I can’t think of a single one. The narrative of The Plantation House is slavery. There isn’t anything else, save the slave prisons, graveyards, and marketplaces, to the extent they still exist, that have slavery as their only narrative, but The Plantation House surely does. It’s not the only narrative of The White House (mentioned above as a slave-labor built structure). It’s not the only narrative of Southern white people. It’s not the only narrative of Southern black people. It’s not the only narrative of Southern cities, including the town homes of slave owners. What other narrative does The Plantation House have? Especially since they’ve been preserved and restored in the main with the express purpose of distilling their form and function before the Civil War.

            • Eric A. Jacobson Jan 9, 2014 @ 7:22

              I’m sorry, but to say there is no other narrative for a “Plantation House” is such a narrow perspective. Let me put it this way. Many white families never even used the term plantation. The McGavocks, for example, exclusively used the term farm. So they had a farm on which slave labor existed from the late 1820s to the early 1860s. There is no doubt that Carnton was developed and thrived through the use of slave labor. Yet after the war John McGavock continued farming, using a combination of white and black labor. So the crops remained the same, as did production, but the labor force was radically different. He continued farming until the early 1880s.

              So is the narrative exclusively framed around slavery? I think not. What about the post-war years? What is that narrative? How about labor contracts entered into with poor whites and now free blacks? How did fluctuating commodity prices affect those parties and whether they chose to sign contracts or whether they chose to work seasonally? How did it impact the McGavocks? How was John McGavock able to use relatively solid land prices to leverage against new and constant labor costs and a fluid market? How did this particular farm maintain itself without ever having cotton as a crop, but rather corn and grain and a massive livestock operation?

              There are many lessons to be learned and many narratives. So are we to focus only on the time slavery existed and pretend a farm such as this ceased to exist after 1865? I think sometimes greater lessons can be learned from time to time by focusing on the aftermath of the war and how white and black were plunged into the abyss of slavery’s destruction.

              Also, and without sounding rude, if you think such homes have been preserved to distill history, then you are sadly mistaken.

              • Kevin Levin Jan 9, 2014 @ 7:24

                There are many lessons to be learned and many narratives. So are we to focus only on the time slavery existed and pretend a farm such as this ceased to exist after 1865? I think sometimes greater lessons can be learned from time to time by focusing on the aftermath of the war and how white and black were plunged into the abyss of slavery’s destruction.

                Well said, Eric. Thanks.

              • Evan Kutzler Jan 9, 2014 @ 17:06

                Hey Eric – Fancy seeing you here. I meant to stop by last time I was in Franklin. All good points, but I think what Nora is saying is that the plantation was inseparable from the context of slavery. The plantation was the product of its system of labor just as a factory was the product of industrial capitalism. It all comes down to how central you think slavery (and race) was to the politics, culture, and economy of the US South. Of course slavery isn’t the only story that could be told, but it’s there and raises an important question of emphasis. I tend to lean toward the infusion of slavery and race in strange places. If nothing else, what better place to talk about the retrospective gap between ideals and practices in American history than a plantation?

                The questions you bring up remind me a bit of Thavolia Glymph’s *Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household.* That book might interest you if you haven’t read it already.


            • Brooks D. Simpson Jan 9, 2014 @ 11:01

              Let me ask a question. Monticello was the headquarters of a plantation. So was Mount Vernon. These are plantation houses. Is slavery their only narrative?

              • Kevin Levin Jan 9, 2014 @ 12:24

                Every year Monticello hosts a swearing in ceremony for new American citizens. Is this inappropriate given what took place on these grounds?

  • Eric A. Jacobson Jan 8, 2014 @ 8:38

    I read the Salon article several days ago. In fact, one of the links takes the reader to another page which shows Carnton and quotes from the Battle of Franklin Trust’s website. My initial reaction to the article aside, I think events at historic sites where slavery once existed, let alone a Civil War site like the one I manage, where men suffered, bled, and died, must be carefully vetted. I could list a number of events that I frankly think are inappropriate for such a site. However, what really peeved me is the attack on weddings. Other than death and taxes what is more a normal part of life than a wedding? I have often said that at Carnton, life went on for the McGavock family long after the war and long after slavery was extinguished. In fact, both of their children were married in the house. Now if someone wants to have some silly tea party event and play the part of old-time white Southern aristocracy, yeah, I think definitely not.

    I think you raise a good question about why does slavery have to be front and center? In the aftermath of reading the article I wonder if the author would be so indignant if a couple wishing to get married at a former plantation was not white?

    • Kevin Levin Jan 8, 2014 @ 9:04

      I completely agree. Of course, it is possible to hold an event at such a location that is in bad taste, but a wedding isn’t one of them.

      In the aftermath of reading the article I wonder if the author would be so indignant if a couple wishing to get married at a former plantation was not white?


  • Will Stoutamire Jan 8, 2014 @ 7:38

    On the wedding issue: I think you may be right that many of these sites would have to close their doors without such special events. It’s an unfortunate and tricky situation, but often the financial reality of managing a private historic property.

    That, of course, does not excuse the one example the author sites (Tuckahoe) of a tour deliberately hiding the slave narrative so as not to offend their special guests. But that’s not necessarily the rule – I went to a wedding at a former plantation in south Georgia 10 years ago and vividly remember walking through the former slave quarters as part of our tour.

    What confuses me, however, is the author’s semantic focus on “work” and “workers” in the first couple examples. I don’t particularly see how acknowledging plantation wealth based on “enslaved African Americans,” while admitting “little documentary evidence remains about the personal lives of these *workers* or the slave culture at Oatlands” is skirting the issue. I also don’t see how Belle Meade Plantation’s use of the phrase “136 enslaved workers” obfuscates the fact that these individuals were slaves (the term “slave” is, in fact, used throughout their website). Perhaps “136 enslaved laborers” or simply “136 slaves” is better, but one could just as easily write about an enslaved cook or enslaved field hands without causing much issue. I do understand the potential power connotations of “enslaved” vs. “slave,” but it’s not as if Belle Meade claims that there were “136 servants” at the plantation.

    The author later takes issue with the word “work” in a slave history panel entitled “Their Work and Life.” Again, perhaps “labor” is a better term, I don’t know, but I imagine the content of such a panel could quite easily “describ[e] unpaid, endless labor that could include being bought, sold and having one’s children forcibly removed.” For the record, this is the exhibit the author is being critical of based solely on what she could find online: http://boonehallplantation.com/black_history.php. (Note the video captions, especially)

    I know plantation houses are often criticized for lagging behind in their interpretation of slavery, but I can’t believe these are the worst offenders. Am I missing something? I’d be happy to know what.

    • Kevin Levin Jan 8, 2014 @ 8:28

      I just don’t see what is morally problematic with a wedding at a plantation site. What exactly is the offense and who/what is it being committed against? The thrust of the author’s argument is centered more on the inconsistency among these sites in openly and properly acknowledging the history of slavery. That seems to me to be a different issue entirely from whether certain types of ceremonies are permitted.

  • Bill Backus Jan 8, 2014 @ 6:32

    Interesting analysis from Mrs. Beck. While valid concerns, many museums and historic sites are actively courting special events, such as weddings, as new sources of revenue. With museum attendance dropping, Colonial Williamsburg as an example, and a downed economy which is putting a damper on donations, these special events can be a significant source of a historic sites operating revenue.

    While some historic sites, mostly plantation sites in the Deep South, still behind in inclusiveness, many others have made leaps and bounds since the 1990s. So a practical question needs to be asked, should weddings be deemed inappropriate at a historic site, even if the fees (sometimes amounting to $20,000 for one ceremony) allow historic sites to interpret more diverse stories?

    • Kevin Levin Jan 8, 2014 @ 6:40

      The author dismisses the fact that weddings and other events have the potential to expose visitors to a little history and interpretation.

      • JW Phillips Jan 11, 2014 @ 14:33

        The progressive narcissistic personality disorder and debt generator of the big American wedding is a poor vehicle for focusing historic sensitivity and interpretation. It’s a good source of money from people looking for new venues and a sexy backdrop. To the extent the public is displaced from its tax payer entitlement to enjoyment of tax exempted 501C-3 funded organizations, that’s not so great, but dwarfed, no-doubt by spectacles like the Metropolitan Museum’s Temple of Dendur Billionaire fashionista shin-digs.

        Again, the only concern would be if any such institutions would choose to preclude a mixed race couple or a person of color from access or use of the same facilities for a similar purpose at a comparable rate.

        In reality many of the “Plantation Homes” were considerably less grand and vaulted than the crane shots in Hollywood extravaganzas would suggest, and for authentically overstuffed grandiosity many of those seeking to commemorate their Napoleonic aspirational nuptials would do better to hasten to the Breakers at Newport and other residences of the barons of the Gilded Age.

        All that said, it is a way to try to raise the funds to pay the staff, maintenance and upkeep of these living museums and historic sites. Just so long as Paula Deen isn’t hired to cater with staff of blackface waiters in thongs, or similar thematic nuclear breeches of taste and decorum are not allowed, most of this activity sounds ancillary and benign.

  • Mike R. Jan 8, 2014 @ 6:05

    The White House was built using slave labor, and many of its residents were sworn to uphold the Constitution, which at one time permitted and protected slavery. I have yet to hear of anyone turn down an invitation to perform there, or attend a state dinner on the grounds that it glosses over the history of slavery the White House was involved in, not to mention the many atrocities that happened to indigenous peoples that came about as a direct result of decisions made by the occupants.

  • Patrick Young Jan 8, 2014 @ 4:21

    The repurposed mansion is always a dodgy affair. I stayed at a retreat house recently in the Adirondacks where the non-profit that owned it openly acknowledged that the endowment that allowed them to own and run the house had been left to them by a disgruntled heir disgusted by the wealth his father had piled up through the exploitation of miners in Africa. The mansion had been the family home.

    Walk into Carnegie Hall or the Frick Museum and think of the Homestead Strikers.

    Many great buildings built with wealth piled up in the 19th Century embody the tears of workers, including children, sweated to death.

    • JW Phillips Jan 10, 2014 @ 8:59

      For those who like love stories and the ‘great romance of the South’ may I strongly recommend the 2011 documentary, “The Loving Story” (available on Netflix), directed by Nancy Buirski, including absolutely stunning footage from the 60s and concerning the marriage of the Lovings, an interracial couple, who were jailed in 1958 by Virginia for breaking their law prohibiting interracial marriage. It was this case that was heard before the U.S. Supreme Court and led to striking down such laws in several other states with the last hold out (as always, seemingly) Alabama, in 1990. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loving_v._Virginia

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