Zola, a major wedding planning platform in the US, has removed all plantation venues listed on its website and is reexamining existing wedding content involving such properties, Zola spokesperson Emily Forrest told BuzzFeed News on Thursday.
"We reevaluated all our venues listed on Zola and determined we will not allow vendors to list who are plantations," Forrest said, adding that the company is "actively evaluating" posts featuring wedding photoshoots on plantations.
The decision comes one day after BuzzFeed News reported that Pinterest and the Knot Worldwide will no longer promote wedding content that romanticizes former slave plantations in response to a campaign from the civil rights advocacy group Color of Change.
"The decision to glorify plantations as nostalgic sites of celebration is not a compassionate one for the Black women and justice-minded people who use your site," Color of Change wrote in a letter to Zola executives, which BuzzFeed News reviewed. "In fact, 'classic,' 'elegant,' and 'glamorous,' are just a few of the tags that your site uses to describe the places where many of your readers’ ancestors were tortured and stripped of their most fundamental rights."
Former slave plantations have become popular wedding venues in the South. On many of these plantations' websites marketing themselves as wedding venues, there's little to no mention of black people who had been enslaved there.
Rather than putting pressure on these plantation venues, Color of Change Vice President Arisha Hatch told BuzzFeed News that wedding planning websites may be more motivated to address concerns about plantation weddings because the websites don't profit directly from them.
That strategy has paid off: After receiving the letter from Color of Change, Pinterest, The Knot Worldwide, and Brides have since taken down or are in the process of removing references of plantations and language romanticizing them from their websites.
Though Zola initially told BuzzFeed News the concerns raised in the letter don't violate its nondiscrimination policy, Forrest said Thursday that the company is now working with Color of Change to update its policies.
"We recognize that this is a painful issue and have been evaluating on an ongoing basis," she said. "We appreciate Color of Change for bringing this issue forward, and will work with them and additional organizations to ensure our policies and guidelines are inclusive and make everyone feel welcome."
Martha Stewart Weddings did not respond to a request for comment about the initial letter, but in a statement to BuzzFeed News on Thursday, the publication said: "We thank Color of Change for bringing this valid concern to us. We feature how couples have chosen to wed and celebrate their special day. We will give this careful thought and attention."