Weddings and Cultural Appropriation

October 16th, 2017
Rabbi Debra Nesselson was their terrific officiant. Photo by Danielle Heinson Photography.

Whose wedding customs are you using? Photo by Danielle Heinson Photography.

All right, I have a tough subject for you today.  Let’s talk about cultural appropriation and weddings.  Ready?

So, what is cultural appropriation?  How is it defined?  Everyday Feminism defines it more or less like this:

Cultural appropriation is when a person adopts parts of a culture that is not only not their own, but which also belongs to a group that has been systematically oppressed by their own group.

That includes a whole swath of cultural items, from visual art to hairstyles to music to cultural artifacts to religious practices and beyond.  Well known examples are things like a famous white singer adopting a hairstyle that originates with people of African origin, such as cornrows.  Or wearing a costume that represents stereotypes about a group of people.  If you’re interested in all the different ways that these practices are problematic, I refer you to the Everyday Feminism article linked above.

All right, so what does this have to do with weddings?  Well, I’ve seen various cultural practices, almost entirely Native American in origin, used in weddings and wedding receptions by white people who otherwise appear to have no connection to any Native culture.

For example, I worked with an officiant once who began an otherwise standard wedding ceremony between two people who were not of Native origin by smudging the area with burning sage and using what they said was a Native invocation.  I’ve seen dream catchers used as reception decor and you can rent a so-called wedding tipi for your outdoor reception.  (I won’t give the companies clicks by linking to them, but you can look them up and see what I’m talking about.)

Just for fun, use a search engine to look for things beginning with “Native American wedding….”  You’ll find dresses, blessings, traditions, vases, rings, vows, gifts, and so on.  Apparently, there’s an entire subsection of the US wedding industry devoted to selling Native American elements of weddings–probably mostly to white people.  I have to wonder how much of that money is actually going to Native people.  My guess is that it’s a pretty small fraction.

So, should you use elements of another culture in your wedding ceremony or reception?  I’m not going to tell you one way or the other, since everyone’s circumstances are different.  All I’m going to do is ask you to think about it before you do and make sure that there is no element of exploitation or other harm in your use.   That will require research, perhaps some conversations, and a good bit of soul-searching.  It’s worth it, though:  After all, you’re only planning to get married once, so you might as well do it in such a way that it causes no harm.

Information and Your Planner

October 9th, 2017
Here's me pinning flowers on a family member.  Naturally, you want me to know who gets which flowers.  (Photo by HappyBuddy Photo Art.)

Here’s me pinning flowers on a family member. Naturally, you want me to know who gets which flowers. (Photo by HappyBuddy Photo Art.)

Because most people don’t work with wedding or party planners (or coordinators) most of the time, when they hire one, they have to figure out how best to work with them.  If you’re in that position yourself, let me give you one really big tip on how to make the most of your planner or coordinator.

The first thing you can do to make sure your planner can do her best job is give her information, lots and lots of information.  I have had clients say to me (in these exact words), “I don’t want to overwhelm you with information.”  But it is my job–and it is my specialty–to hold and use and organize massive amounts of information.

In fact, most of what you might need a planner to do is organizing information.  Never thought of it that way?  Well, it’s true:  The schedule for your event is a document that organizes and systematizes information, as is the ground plan.  And you’ll get the best, most functional schedule or layout if you give your planner every bit of information at your disposal, even information that doesn’t seem vital.  Your planner might also be in charge of your decorations.  What she needs is not just the decorative items, themselves, but also the information about where they go and how.

You could say that my motto is, “There is no such thing as useless information.”  As a planner or coordinator, I am often asked the most obscure questions by other wedding vendors.  You never know what someone will want or need to know in order to make your event stellar.

So, please, overwhelm me with information.  I love it when you tell me everything you need–and everything you’re thinking is important.  When that avalanche of information arrives on my desk, I’m always so happy, because then I know I can do my absolute best work to make your wedding or event turn out as you envision it.

One More Set of Wedding Photos

October 2nd, 2017

I know you love seeing photos, so here is one more set from a recent wedding reception.  The couple were married earlier in the year, with just their families attending in their home.  This was the big reception they threw to celebrate after the fact.  And it was a terrific party!

The reception was at The Clubhouse at Dolphin Lake in Homewood, where the in-house caterer is Wiley’s Grill.  Roses are Red Flower Boutique provided the floral displays.  The Cover Girls provided very popular entertainment (dancing violinists!).  I hope to be able to share professional photos from GodzRoqk Designs Photography in a few weeks, and maybe even some video from Media in Black.  These are my photos taken at the event.

reception hallhead tablecenterpiecebanquet tableguest booksweet tablewedding partycouple and flower girlmusic standsthe cover girls