Today’s guest post comes from anthropologist and wedding planner Alexandria Proko from Alexandria Catherine Events. She recently addressed cultural appropriation in weddings it on her own blog as well – please take time to read. This is important for those of us in the industry.
As an event planner with a background in anthropology and archaeology, I always encourage my clients to embrace and incorporate meaningful traditions into their ceremony and reception.
Recently, I was chatting with Joelle Duff about cultural appropriation and weddings. As professionals, where do we draw the line for inspiration? When has it gone too far?
It is important to recognize that there is a difference between theme and inspiration. Many styled shoots claim to be inspired by Native American or Mexican cultures, but instead, end up mocking them (even though they probably don’t mean to).
When adopting cultural traditions, you should make a conscious effort to use them within context, otherwise it can come across as insulting or inappropriate. Let’s take the Native American culture for a moment: I went onto Pinterest and searched “Native American Weddings” and was baffled by the event design that popped up in front of me. There were collections of dreamcatchers acting as a backdrop for a dessert station and, most startling, was the escort card station of arrowheads engraved with the names of guests.
We can take notice of the artistry and hard work that the tribespeople put into their items, but these items also possess sacred meaning to a particular people, and we’re abusing them for the sake of aesthetics. That dreamcatcher display, while eye catching, doesn’t have much to do with the Ojibwa tribe or their tradition of catching the bad dreams of young children within the web. Arrowheads, while fascinating, served as weapons and a means of survival for tribespeople who needed to hunt.
It isn’t only the Native American people that are exploited in the event world – how many Mexican-theme ‘fiesta’s’ have you seen where the sombreros, mustaches and pinatas are aplenty?
Other cultures come with beautiful traditions, customs and celebrations that we can certainly embrace, but it isn’t fair for us to steal bits and pieces without acknowledging the meaning behind what something might represent.