Between the wedding planner, venue, and designer gown, celebrity weddings are usually glamorous peeks into the kind of Pinterest-perfect lifestyle most of us can only dream about. But for a number of years now, people have been asking fans to think critically about Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds‘ 2012 wedding, which was held at a former plantation and enslavement site called Boone Hall. Now, the dad of three and co-owner of Aviation Gin is opening up about the regret he and Lively feel for that choice.
In a new interview with Fast Company, Reynolds called the misstep “impossible to reconcile. What we saw at the time was a wedding venue on Pinterest. What we saw after was a place built upon devastating tragedy.”
A site that also served as a location for the 2004 film The Notebook, Boone Hall was previously owned by white enslavers who forced dozens of enslaved Black people to hard labor without pay, as well as other imaginable cruelties. The location still offers weddings, as well as educational tours, and other “fun” community events, but the racist cruelty of the space cannot and should not be overlooked. In December 2019, Pinterest and The Knot announced they would stop promoting wedding content that whitewashed plantations as anything other than a painful reminder of cruelty for millions of people.
Reynolds agrees with the decision to look at Boone Hall and other former plantations in their full context. “Years ago we got married again at home—but shame works in weird ways,” he said. “A giant f-cking mistake like that can either cause you to shut down or it can reframe things and move you into action. It doesn’t mean you won’t f-ck up again. But repatterning and challenging lifelong social conditioning is a job that doesn’t end.”
It seems that he and Lively are sincerely trying to invest in doing the work, both monetarily and otherwise. In June, they donated $200,000 to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in light of the uprisings against police brutality and anti-Black racism that occurred in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd. “We’re ashamed that in the past we’ve allowed ourselves to be uninformed about how deeply rooted systemic racism is,” Lively and Reynolds wrote in a joint statement they posted to each of their Instagram accounts. “We’ve been teaching our kids differently than our parents taught us. All of it…especially our own complicity. We talk about our bias, blindness, and our own mistakes. We look back and see so many mistakes which have led us to deeply examine who we are and who we want to become… We’re committed to raising our kids so they never grow up feeding this insane pattern.”
Reynolds is also making sure that work extends to his businesses, including his marketing company, Maximum Effort. “Representation and diversity need to be completely immersive,” he said. “It needs to be embedded at the root of storytelling, and that’s in both marketing and Hollywood. When you add perspective and insight that isn’t your own, you grow.” Clearly, he and Lively are committed to making sure 5-year-old James, 3-year-old Inez, and their new baby girl are growing along with them.