The Knot and Pinterest, two popular sites used by couples to plan their weddings, said on Wednesday that they are making changes to ensure former slave plantations aren’t romanticized as wedding venues.
Both sites announced the changes after being contacted by Color of Change, a civil rights advocacy group. The changes were first reported by BuzzFeed.
“Weddings should be a symbol of love and unity. Plantations represent none of those things. We are grateful to Color of Change for bringing attention to this disrespectful practice,” Pinterest told NBC News.
Pinterest will change its policies to limit the distribution of plantation content by turning off search recommendations, autocomplete and email notifications. The platform’s team is also working to deindex plantation content so it doesn’t appear in online search results.
Anyone who searches for plantation-related content on Pinterest will also see an advisory that some of the results may violate Pinterest’s policies. Additionally, Pinterest will make sure no ads show on those search results so the company does not make money from them.
“They aren’t tributes to innovation and hard work and agriculture. They are sites of forced labor, beatings, and rapes and so much more and some of the worst human rights abuses the world has seen. To have your celebration there is to give clear celebration to this.”
Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change
While The Knot will still allow plantations to advertise as wedding venues, it is working with Color of Change on new guidelines to be released in the coming weeks that will limit the adjectives that can be used to describe a venue.
"Our goal is to ensure that the content of all of our vendors on our sites is respectful and considerate to everyone," The Knot said in a statement to NBC News. "We’re currently working with Color of Change to create additions to our current content guidelines that will ensure all couples feel welcomed and respected on our sites. These guidelines will prohibit any vendors on The Knot or WeddingWire from using language that romanticizes or glorifies a history that includes slavery. We will remove any vendors from our sites that do not comply. By creating these guidelines, we are providing a respectful experience for all couples, wedding professionals, and employees."
The new rules will apply to all venues, not just plantations, ensuring that venue owners don’t try to get around the rules by rebranding as a manor, for example.
“More work has to be done, so people recognize what these sites are,” Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, told NBC News. “They aren’t tributes to innovation and hard work and agriculture. They are sites of forced labor, beatings, and rapes and so much more and some of the worst human rights abuses the world has seen. To have your celebration there is to give clear celebration to this.”
A quick online search yields hundreds of plantations that are now making money from hosting wedding venues. They entice engaged couples with lines such as “beautiful emerald farmlands” and homes with “Southern charm.” However, the listings rarely mention, or gloss over, the dark history behind the plantation homes being promoted to celebrate what should be one of the happiest days of a couple's life.
Even celebrities have gotten in on it. Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively got married at Boone Hall Plantation in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, in 2012.
The venue website describes it as a “majestic setting on a tidal marsh amongst over three centuries of history, beauty, and grace,” and the “perfect setting to let those memories for a lifetime unfold in a variety of ways.”
A separate page on the site offers tours and promises tour groups can see “the different aspects of daily life, how black Americans worked and lived, struggles that were faced, as well as follow different periods of historical progression from the beginning all the way up to present day.
Robinson said Color of Change reached out to companies including Martha Stewart Weddings, Brides magazine and Zola, but Pinterest and The Knot were the only ones to respond.
“To the extent (the remaining companies) have been unwilling to engage, the question moving forward will be for their advertisers,” said Robinson.
The wedding industry is big business. This year, it is projected to bring in $76 billion of revenue in the United States, according to IBIS World. The industry includes more than 334,391 businesses and has been expanding at a 0.3 percent growth rate over the past five years.
Robinson said Color of Change plans to keep pushing other companies.
“People have a short memory about what has happened and what those impacts currently still are,” he said.