Denée Benton on Why Her Wedding Venue Was So 'Powerful' for Her & Husband as an Interracial Couple
"Because Florida is the South, we wanted to make sure that the venue had never been the location of a slave plantation, which was harder to find than we thought," the actress says of her nuptials to Carl Lundstedt
Denée Benton is opening up about her wedding to actor Carl Lundstedt.
The Tony Award nominee, 28, spoke to Vogue about creating a harmonious celebration among their family and friends while also honoring her and Lundstedt's backgrounds for their Jan. 2 wedding in Florida.
"We wanted to find a beautiful outdoor venue, but because Florida is the South, we wanted to make sure that the venue had never been the location of a slave plantation, which was harder to find than we thought," Benton told Vogue.
The couple, who met while studying acting at Carnegie Mellon University, chose Bella Collina, a wide-open golf community, for the location of their nuptials. It was the "perfect venue" for the two for several reasons.
"My parents grew up in the Jim Crow South of Central Florida and spent time as kids working and picking oranges on the land surrounding Bella Collina to help support their hardworking families, Benton said. "So for Carl and I as an interracial couple, it was so profound to have our parents be able to throw us the wedding of our dreams on the land as a very powerful full-circle ancestral moment for all of us."
The couple also made sure to incorporate diversity in their wedding planning, with the former Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812 star saying, "It all came back to our original intentions of community, unity, and color and twinkly lights."
The bride and groom also included more traditional aspects of their faith having grown in "religious families," Benton said, such as a gospel rendition of the Lord's Prayer and readings from the Bible.
Benton and Lundstedt also thought hard about bringing their guests together for the ceremony.
"Being interracial, we didn't want the seating to look racially segregated, so we had long communal dinner tables where we combined groups of our guests from different sides of our community," the actress said. "It looked like a snapshot of the world we would dream of living in."
After the ceremony, Benton also got to honor her Bahamian roots with music from the Sunshine Junkanoo Band kicking off the couple's reception.
"Junkanoo is a Bahamian tradition, which is where my late maternal grandfather was from, so we wanted to do something to honor him and my family’s culture there," Benton said. "One of the things that these bands do is ‘rush’ parties in incredibly brightly colored headdresses and costumes."
"They rushed our cocktail hour with a band made up of a lead dancer, trombones, tubas, steel drums, cowbells, and an amazing cacophonous percussion while the two of us followed behind the band dancing to the incredible music," she explained. "We made a line dance of sorts through the entire cocktail hour, picking up guests to the line as we went and led everyone down the stairs to the reception dance floor, where we started the reception with a hands-on-the-knees, sweating, grooving Afro-Caribbean dance party."
She added, "It was awesome!"