Your Wedding Theme Might be Offensive…

For the past few years I’ve heard about weddings non-stop. My sister was married last year, and several family members and family friends have tied the knot recently, so at one point dresses, party favors and wedding drama seemed to be taking over my life. I planned a bachelorette party, helped with bridal showers, baked cookies and watched every episode ever of Say Yes to the Dress. I feel like I know a pretty significant amount about weddings now, so it’s been interesting to read about two recent weddings that have caused controversy on the interwebs.

The first is the African Colonial-themed wedding that Jezebel reported on (the original blogpost was taken down after thousands of commenters flooded the message board), and the second is the Depression-Era Hobo Wedding as seen on Etsy (and followed up with a harsh critique on Regretsy).

Maybe you think a wedding inspired by the film “Out of Africa” seems romantic and beautiful, but the bloggers at Jezebel quickly picked up on the racist tones (probably unintended) of the wedding theme. I mean, just look at this photo:

via Jezebel

Is that not the most awkward photo ever? Black server dressed in clothing typical of the colonial African period serves white guests as bride and groom laugh on. It’s just uncomfortable. And the wedding took place in South Africa (although the bride and groom are European), which makes the whole thing even creepier. They traveled all the way to South Africa (home of the apartheid) to make it a real authentic experience?

Perhaps even weirder is the Etsy-blogged Depression-era Hobo wedding that has received a great amount of attention after Regretsy pointed out the fact that it’s really inappropriate and offensive to glorify poverty for your wedding theme. Guess what? The Depression was one of the most tragic things to befall America in the 20th century. It wasn’t “cute”. And it’s really weird to dress up and play poor, starving moonshiner. Blogger Hellen Killer at Regretsy writes:

Today I present one of the most insensitive features I’ve ever seen on the Etsy blog. And as usual, it’s celebrated in a circle jerk of obliviousness, complete with hipstermatic photos and dipshit Etsy drones yammering in approval.

Yes it’s a poverty wedding! How fun is that? They dressed like actual poor people! They even did some research:

We got to work researching the Depression era and hobo culture. As we prepared to make everything for our wedding, we collected feed sack dresses and old work boots, antique hand-stitched quilts and jug band instruments. After reading that the word “hobo” may be a syllabic abbreviation of “homeward bound,” we fell in love with the notion!

They fell in love with the very idea of penniless, homeless migrants, drifting from town to town, looking for work! Those hobos were just yummy, with their faded antique quilts and feed sacks, and those super cute boots they always wore. That whole period was just so desaturated and Brother Where Art Thou,which is also totes adorbs.

Okay, maybe many hobos found themselves having to leave their families in order to find enough work to support them, or maybe they escaped from harsh lives in orphanages. And, okay, maybe they died on train tracks or sweltered to death in locked box-cars. And maybe when they did finally find some work, they were set upon by thieves who took everything from them and threw them off of fast moving trains.

I get that couples may want to be “creative” and “unique” in planning their wedding, but let’s use some common sense people!

A blogger over at has posted an excellent piece about “romanticizing problematic wedding themes,” in which she points out that these two particular wedding themes were criticized, “not because of whether they were romantic (because those couples look pretty happy and romantic to me), but because of the particular theme they chose to romanticize, and the way it was presented. Commentors frequently objected to the romanticization of these particular themes matched up with a wedding.” She continues:

With the Colonial African wedding, the issue at stake is that the photos of the wedding that were displayed and the title of the original blog post easily worked together to suggest a glorification of British colonization of Africa and the negative things that came with it such as slavery, white-privilege, and the bitter history that followed. A storm erupted on the internet after the initial post was seen with most responses being pretty negative.

The couple had based the aesthetic on the movie Out of Africa, appreciating the look and feel of that movie without necessarily condoning the historical period during which it took place. They loved a particular look and feeling. The original bloggerswere partially to blame as they admit they “were naive not to consider the negative implications of using the word ‘colonial’ in the blog title” and didn’t consider which pictures they chose to juxtapose with that title, ending up with pictures that all had black servers dressed in clothing that slaves would have worn (despite that the servers were not all black).

The Depression-Era Hobo wedding was written up by the couple themselves and they too made some grave word-choice errors that led to some very heavy criticism. Foremost among them was referring to their garb as “hobo-chic” which juxtaposed extreme poverty with high fashion. The wedding itself seems sweet and the romantic ideal they were going for came from memories of the Depression-era wedding of the groom’s grandmother…Regretsy criticized them for romanticizing hobos— homeless migrants who had no money and were forced to travel seeking work.

Credit: Chelsea Donoho via Etsy

The couples both look very happy in their photos, and I feel sort of bad that their special day is now being criticized and scrutinized by strangers on the internet. And I get that in today’s fast-paced, high-tech world, it’s easy to wax nostalgic for  simpler times, but it is problematic to glamorize or romanticize time periods and ways of life that were debilitating, torturous and horrible for those who actually lived that way.

So before you settle on that Civil War Confederate or Salem Witch Trial theme for your pending nuptials, think about what the theme really means sociologically and historically. Or just think. And don’t put it up all over the internet!


1 Comment

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One response to “Your Wedding Theme Might be Offensive…

  1. Bradley

    I just kinda happened upon this while looking at pictures to get ideas for my own wedding and I think The hobo wedding looked nice. And the depression was funny! The best part of the depression was the poverty! HILARIOUS! I’m talking patched pants a top hat with the open tin can thing going on!!! I REALLY hope it happens again. I PRAY for it! The south African thing was weird though.

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