Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez’s wedding celebration finally took place over the weekend, and there’s a lot to unpack when it comes to both the couple’s journey to the altar and their choice of venue. The first iteration of the highly reported-on romance between the Deep Water actor and the Marry Me star was at its peak in 2003 when Affleck purchased an estate on Hampton Island near Riceboro, Georgia, for $7.11 million. At the time, the Hollywood couple was in the midst of an engagement and planned on building a chapel on the property, according to a local news report. They called it quits the following year. By 2021, Bennifer had rekindled their romance, and this past weekend they finally said “I do” at Affleck’s same Georgia estate, Dirt reports. (The Gigli costars were legally wed in a Las Vegas chapel last month.)
On Saturday, the newlyweds held a ceremony and reception on the 87-acre compound. Lopez wore a custom Ralph Lauren gown and was matched by guests clad in an all-white dress code. A white piano, white wedding bell, and white walkway continued the snowy theme. Guests returned to the estate on Sunday for a brunch to celebrate the nuptials.
While it is heartwarming that these two made it down the aisle after so many years, their choice of venue has caused some criticism on social media. The main house on the compound, a 6,360-square-foot structure known as Big House, was designed to mimic a Greek Revival–style plantation house. Completed in 2000, the property was designed by James L. Strickland and his firm, Historical Concepts. “I think the success of this design is that it truly feels like an antebellum-era estate,” Strickland told Vie Magazine. Indeed, the imposing four-bed, five-bath dwelling looks straight out of the pre-Civil War South with its 24-foot-tall columns and 10-foot-tall windows along the exterior.
Two guest houses are also found on the property. The first, Oyster Cottage, stretches 10,000 square feet and has nine bedrooms, six of which are bunk-style chambers fitted with reclaimed merchant ship beds. Summer House, the other structure, has screened living and dining spaces for enjoying the hot Southern weather.
Although the building itself is a contemporary reproduction, the area was home to a plantation in the 19th century, according to the Hampton Island Preserve, and an unmarked burial site for enslaved people reportedly lies somewhere on the grounds. Affleck has attempted to sell the property in the past, putting it on the market in 2018 and lowering the price the following year, before taking it off the market in 2020.
Though former plantations once experienced a surge in popularity as wedding venues, the practice has garnered widespread criticism in recent years for being distasteful and disrespectful of the traumatic history of the sites. Actors Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively received notable backlash for their plantation wedding in 2012 before finally apologizing in 2020, and wedding planning websites such as Zola and The Knot made moves in 2019 to stop promoting the use of plantations as venues.