Usually, weddings are about as controversial as a bump on a super boring log. The bride wears white, the in-laws give passive aggressive hugs, someone toots a wet fart while doing the chicken dance. Every wedding is the same because most of us don't want to use the most important day of our lives to shock our friends and embarrass our families.
Most of us, anyway. In other cases, attempts to have a unique and kitschy ceremony wind up celebrating historical horrors in the process. That's how we wound up with the ...
It's one thing to naively admire another culture and half-assedly incorporate their look into your wedding day. We're guessing most of the, let's face it, women who plan theme weddings like we're about to show you are more devoted to fashion than history -- if you want a medieval-themed wedding, you're not trying to make a political statement, you just think having the groomsmen in suits of armor will look cool. Besides, it's not like somebody is out there saying, "Hey, those Nazi uniforms looked suave as hell, let's do that!" Oh, wait ...
Oh. Oh, God.
So what in the hell could possibly be the innocent context behind this? Well apparently "Nazi Chic" has taken Asia by storm, to the point where the Chinese couple above felt no shame in using an SS uniform for their ceremony. The original blog post, published in 2011, is entitled "My SS military uniform and bridal veil~Everybody, be nice now~(^o^)/~." And as everyone knows, cutesy emoticons automatically negate judgment for romanticizing the most hated symbol of all time.
While no one seems to know exactly who this couple is or why in the sweet name of God they're dressed like this, most "Nazi Chic" cosplayers insist that they're not in any way Nazi sympathizers but rather Nazi fashion emulators, a distinction that gives no one anywhere any sense of comfort or relief.
So, already you can see the problem with these theme weddings -- it's usually fairly oblivious people who won't spend one minute Googling to find out why what they're doing is just so, so wrong. So, they wind up glancing through a history book and adopting styles of the people in it as if they're fictional characters. Like the above Australian wedding, where they're ironically dressing as "Indians" as if "Indians" were something hilarious they saw in a cartoon once.
This wasn't a one-time event, either. Here's another one also from Australia:
This couple from Byron Bay wanted a Native American-themed wedding, but without the smallpox and forced relocations and heartbreak associated with the Native American narrative. And by that they meant they just wanted to incorporate feathers and teepees and dreamcatchers into their ceremony without everyone getting all judgy about it.
After all, it's not like the feathers Native Americans wore in headdresses had any kind of ceremonial meaning or anything, right?
At least these two tried to keep things tasteful -- or as tasteful as you be when your wedding looks like Coachella's Instagram feed. On the other hand, the wedding of another Australian couple didn't bother with the subtlety of nuanced ethnocentrism and instead just went for straight-up racial stereotypes. From this:
Originally featured on novafm.com.au (although the article has since been removed), the husband explained, "My wife loves her American Indians and always wanted to get married in America by an Indian Chief but decided that we would have it here in Perth." You'll notice there aren't any history books pictured.
Motivated by their love of Judaism and the traditions of the Torah, Melanie Lo (Episcopalian) and Michael Pezzula (Catholic) decided that despite not being Jewish themselves, they wanted to have a Jewish wedding as a way to honor the faith of millions who have endured persecution and genocide throughout history with grace and dignity. Ha! Just kidding! We'll let the couple explain their motivation:
"I've ... been to a Catholic wedding, and they just seem boring. It's just like church," Michael said. "I thought, 'What am I going to do to set up the front of the room? 'A huppah would be perfect,' Melanie said.'"
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So the real key to Melanie and Michael's desire for a Jewish wedding was that in the whole universe of indoor tent-like structures, there was absolutely nothing else that could go at the front of the ceremony than a huppah. Which is stupid, as any kid with a sheet and five minutes on hand could tell you. But erecting a Gentile canopy at the front of the church wasn't an option, especially after the couple asked a rabbi to conduct their ceremony. And decided to display a ketubah, or Jewish marriage contract, and incorporate a Jewish blessing as they drank from the same wine glass. By that point, Melanie argued they might as well go whole-hog (so to speak) and do a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony. So they did.
The obvious problem here is that each one of those ancient rituals are steeped in traditions that go beyond a simple "This symbolizes our love." For example, there's a moment in a Jewish wedding ceremony when the groom steps on a wine glass and everyone shouts "Mazel Tov!" That's not just a fun opportunity to be destructive. Some scholars believe the tradition arose as a way to remember Rome's destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 AD. As in, "don't get too excited, Jewish wedding guests, life still sucks sometimes." It would be hard for a non-Jewish couple to get that reference -- especially when one member of the couple professes a faith that is headquartered in the same city that was once responsible for the destruction of the Temple that they're commemorating. It's like he's acting out the Destruction of the Temple with his presumably Italian foot. Mazel tov!
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On a scale from "none" to "very," how romantic is homelessness? What if we told you we were only focused on one specific homeless subculture: migratory workers of the Depression? You know, the guys who desperately took to the road in search of work when the country's economy went to shit. The ones who lost limbs and lives while hopping freight trains to get from town to town. Those guys. In the mood for love yet? Sarah and Brian must get major hard-ons from poverty, because they did a whole wedding with a hobo theme.
The idea started innocently enough: Sarah and Brian didn't have a lot of money to put into a wedding, but they wanted a memorable, fun day. After toying with a 1918 Flu Pandemic theme and flatly rejecting a Challenger Explosion theme, the two decided the best way to celebrate the beginning of their marriage was to play hobo, by dressing the wedding party in one-of-a-kind "hobo-chic" outfits purchased off Etsy.
Instead of wearing regular bowties, the groom and groomsmen used bandannas. Instead of carrying traditional bouquets, the bride and bridesmaids carried bindles -- those bandannas on a stick carrying a hobo's worldly possessions. Instead of "getting married," they acted out the drama of getting trapped under a moving train and losing a leg.
Eventually, Sarah and Brian "entwined their boot laces" and "shared a bean" among all the hobo kitsch that $15,000 could buy. When criticized that maybe her wedding's theme wasn't in the best of taste, the bride responded about as thoughtfully as you'd expect: "My 'hobo' wedding is featured on @Etsy blog, and all of the Internet is being a dick. :("
Sad face, indeed.
In recent months, the entire planet lost their shit when it was revealed that Paula Deen fantasized about staging an old southern plantation-style wedding, complete with all black waiters, and maybe black children tap dancing for her amusement if she was lucky. It was a stupid idea that was thankfully never executed ... in the United States. But one South African couple totally got the spirit of Paula Deen's fantasy when they staged a "Colonial African" wedding, complete with an all-black wait staff.
The key to understanding the offensiveness of the wedding is remembering what "colonizing" meant in South Africa. For hundreds of years white people took over South African land and gold and diamonds while displacing and subjugating the country's black inhabitants. Sometimes the guys in charge were British, and sometimes they were Dutch, but during the colonial days they were always white. And this is South Africa, a country more associated with systematic racial discrimination than any other.
So mistake No. 1 was just using the word "colonial" to describe the wedding theme. It would be like if Paula Deen used "slave era" to describe her dream ceremony. Which brings us to mistake No. 1: the staffing situation. It just so happened that for whatever reason, all the white waiters phoned in sick that day. Which made for some awkward pictures, considering the theme.
When everybody on the Internet saw the photos and kicked up the appropriate amount of shit, the couple responded by saying that the photos (that the couple uploaded) were "maliciously" taken out of context, and the wedding was incorrectly described as colonial (a word the couple used in the blog title "Colonial African Wedding"), when, in fact, it was Out of Africa-themed.
For non-movie buffs: Out of Africa was about a Dutch plantation owner in colonial South Africa.
Related Reading: None of these can compare to the most offensive wedding in history, probably because none of them destroyed a national forest. If insane cultural wedding traditions are more your thing, click here and read about butch Spartan brides. Has all this reading inspired you to ruin a wedding of your own? Check this video out.