NEW ORLEANS — Five popular wedding websites have announced they will no longer push plantation weddings, in response to a campaign asking for the wedding industry to stop romanticizing plantations.
The changes could impact the wedding industry in Louisiana which has at least 24 venues from the coast to Baton Rouge which refer to themselves as a "plantation." About a third of those venues are newer establishments and not actual antebellum plantations, but many of the others have grim and violent histories of slavery.
That's the basis of a campaign by national civil rights non-profit, Color of Change, which asked the wedding industry to re-think the way it views marriages at historic slave plantations.
In response, The Knot and its sister company, Wedding Wire, are removing terms like 'elegant' and 'romantic' from descriptions of plantation venues.
Pinterest has chosen to limit auto-complete and search recommendations regarding plantations. It will also limit email notifications and what shows up in Google searches.
"We're making these changes because everyone deserves to feel welcome and inspired when planning their wedding on Pinterest," Pinterest representative Jamie Favazza said.
Brides, a website dedicated to wedding ideas and planning, is removing content that 'glorifies' plantations. WWL-TV obtained a statement from the website's owners saying:
"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."
The website Zola also announced Thursday it will remove all plantation vendors from its website.
Bobby Asaro, the owner of Southern Oaks Plantation in New Orleans East, says his business is in a gray area. While it uses "plantation" in its name, the building was built in the 1960s and only made to look like a plantation home.
"I mean what can they do? Do they go down to every business in the South or in New Orleans and try to investigate whether there were slaves on the property or did slaves build the property?" Asaro said.
Asaro says he gets most of his business from The Knot and isn't sure where he fits into the website's new rules. Now, he's considering dropping the word 'Plantation' from his business' name.
"I never have ever had anybody go, 'Oh, are you gonna treat us right because of the word plantation in your name?' They know from our history of what we do," Asaro said. "So it's a tricky situation."
The situation gets even trickier for real plantations. The Ormond Plantation in Destrehan, La. wrote to WWL-TV:
"We do regret the actions Wedding Wire and the Knot have taken and hope they realize the impact it will have on the lives of business owners and employees in the industry that have nothing to do with actual slavery. This action penalizes modern-day business day owners.
"One cannot erase history but should embrace the past, never repeat it and move towards the future. We will never forget all who sacrificed before us, enslaved or free, to give us this historic estate."
Plantations tell WWL-TV they have not been contacted by The Knot or any other website to explain these changes. All five websites say they're working with the nonprofit Color of Change to set more solid content guidelines.