On Appropriation in the Wedding Industry
Appropriation pops up constantly in the wedding industry. From tipis and sugar skull decor to photo booths with fake mustaches and sombreros. It’s not rare to search a wedding blog for “fiesta theme” and find a majority white wedding party.
According to Wikipedia, cultural appropriation is the “unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of an element of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity. This can be controversial when members of a dominant culture appropriate from minority cultures.”
Cultural appropriation highlights the novel parts of another culture, while leaving its people oppressed. Despite how good intentions might be, it doesn’t make it harmless to the community as a whole (even if there are people within that culture who aren’t offended).
It’s awesome to have a taco bar at your wedding reception, but if you find yourself planning a Cinco de Mayo-themed wedding with fiesta cutout garland — better known as papel picado, which is often incorporated into altars during the Día de muertos —ask yourself, why? Is it because you like pops of color and want to “borrow” certain aspects of a culture to enhance your celebration?
Appropriation doesn’t end there. Many non-Black brands center AAVE, or African-American Vernacular English, in their marketing. Phrases like “AF,” “it’s serving, “giving me life,” “lowkey,” or putting clapping emojis between words.
On TikTok, non-Black wedding vendors can be seen appropriating culture by doing exaggerated lip-synching to audio by Black creators. It shows up as digital Blackface in Facebook groups, where white photographers respond with recurring GIFs of Black people to react to a controversial thread.
We have to do better. This coming from someone who, many moons ago, appropriated the word “jive” in my illustration brand. So emphasis on the “we” here. I am not excluded from this work.
If you want to further discuss topics like AAVE and appropriation, click on my affiliate link to check out the @pauseontheplay community. The most recent episode of their podcast with E.K. Powell centers around AAVE, so I encourage you to give it a listen.