Real Weddings

I’m probably one of about a million photographers right now writing about this open letter to wedding bloggers and photographers posted on Hindsight Bride a few days ago. It’s a letter from a photographer on the state of popular wedding blogs that feature submissions of both styled shoots and “real weddings” (the popular term used to differentiate the set up shoots/fake weddings and the actual weddings) on a daily basis with the intention of giving inspiration, but with what some perceive as negative consequences. Here’s just an excerpt – I highly recommend you read the whole thing:

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Sometimes our clients get married in churches, country clubs, or even a VFWs (oh yes… it’s true!).
Sometimes
they wear a simple silk wedding dresses, or employ florists instead of roaming the hillsides of Sweden picking wildflowers the morning of their weddings. Sometimes they are doctors, lawyers, or police officers who are too busy to make custom bird cake-toppers and who don’t have access to a baby-blue vintage bicycles. Sometimes their weddings are simple/normal/average.

Now, don’t get me wrong; we all love the rustic, the unique and the detailed. I do too, but it isn’t realistic for every couple. And in turn, it’s not realistic to publish that type of wedding in every blog post! In fact, the state of the wedding blog-o-sphere is downright distressing for some couples.They’re visually overloaded by wedding blogs that showcase only the most unique and the most elaborate weddings, implying showcased weddings are the norm.

I’ve even had brides apologize to me! They say,

“I’m sorry, our wedding is very plain. We didn’t have the time to make a lot of decorations.”

“This is probably a really boring wedding for you to photograph, I’m sorry.”

Where are they getting this negative self-image of their wedding? Glad you asked, because I’ll tell you. They get it from the same place that gave women a negative self-image of their bodies: the Media. It used to be that the Media consisted largely of magazines and newspapers. But now you bloggers are a part of the Media, albeit the so-called “new media.”

Wedding blogs aren’t the only ones to blame. I’ve had a lot of photographers tell me that they only blog about weddings that are highly detailed or where the bride is pretty and skinny. They leave out the VFW weddings and the heavier couples so that perspective clients who aren’t Cockles and Pretties-worthy don’t think to contact them. They don’t want “weddings like that” in “places like that” with “people like that.” Why?

  • Because they won’t get published.
  • They won’t have their photography acknowledged.
  • They won’t end up in the 7th-grade popularity contest we call the Wedding Industry.

Read the article in it’s entirety here.

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This jumped out at me immediately for a number of reasons.

I’ve gotten the same emails from couples apologizing for their “simple” or “boring” wedding and it confuses me and makes me a little sad. What I love about your wedding is your love for each other and the love of your family and friends. You should never feel that what’s most beautiful about your wedding day is your centerpieces or your bouquets. I am in awe of the hard work so many of you put into that and I love documenting it, but years and years after your wedding I bet the photos you’ll spend the most time looking at and reliving are the photos of the two of you walking back down the aisle together, or the one of your dad holding back tears, or the one of your grandmother showing you up on the dance floor. You’ll remember all the details (many of you will remember your hot glue gun burns more than the actual finished product!) but the photos you pull out to show your kids and grandkids will probably be the sweet/tender/hilarious moments that made your wedding truly unique.

The part about wedding photographers is true too. I think as easily as couples get enamored with the thought of having their wedding featured, photographers get enamored with the thought of having their photos featured. I remember when I first started shooting weddings and spending time reading wedding blogs I thought having a featured post would be the coolest so in order to figure out how to do that I would take notes on the content of the posts that jumped out at me. What I found was about 80% details, 15% people (portraits), and 5% people (moments, emotion). The details are important, they’re shots we all try to take – it’s part of the story. But it’s not the story. To be fair, I know the vast majority of these photographers also submit beautiful moments and don’t have control over what gets picked for the feature. But to be honest, I’m seeing it more and more in the way that we as photographers blog about our own weddings – tons of details, tons of portraits, a few ceremony shots, and sometimes nothing at all from the reception. Say what?! Fellow photogs, I know you have that photo of grandma singing her heart out to Black Eyed Peas and I want to see that! I can’t help but think that’s related to what we either consciously or unconsciously pick up ogling all of the detail-focused rather than people-focused wedding blogs and magazines, and we are in turn telling our couples that that is what we find most special about their wedding days. I realized at some point that my desire for frequent features went against much of what I believed my job was, the reason I started doing this in the first place – to photograph love. Not Weddings – love. It’s just not me to spend an hour of a couple’s wedding day perfecting photos of candles and flowers and lanterns and invitations when I know upstairs the bride is having a sweet moment with her mom or across the street the groom is watching football and pretending he’s not the most nervous he’s ever been about anything ever. I want that photo, and I know the couples who choose to work with me want it too.

I shot a wedding recently that didn’t go entirely as planned. The wedding was supposed to take place on the beach but we’d had torrential rain for about a week and it didn’t seem like it was going to ever let up. At the very last minute, just as the venue had finished moving things inside and drying off all the chairs the clouds rolled away and a little color came back to the sky. We knew this break wasn’t going to last so we literally ran out to the beach – no floral arrangements, no chairs, no arbor or flower petals or anything else. Family and friends formed a circle around the couple as they said their vows and everyone laughed and cried and it was just beautiful. That’s a Real Wedding.

Look, I love wedding blogs. I am happy (and usually surprised) when one of my couples is featured on a blog because I didn’t send in 80% details. There are many out there who do a fantastic job organizing ideas, specializing in a particular type/style of wedding, providing inspiration to couples, and telling stories. But it’s clear to me from the interactions I’ve had with clients that there are many other blogs out there that set a bar that leads some to apologize for their wedding and I just need my couples to know that they should never feel anything but happiness about the day they marry the love of their life, whether it be on a glowing afternoon in the Swiss Alps or in between tornado warnings on a beach in North Carolina. =)

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Real Weddings

  1. After reading this, I would book you 1,000 times over. Not that I didn’t already know that.

  2. Ariana

    Thanks for sharing this; it was just the refreshing blog entry I needed to regain my focus during the craziness of wedding planning! Please rest assured, you are succeeding at capturing the people and the emotions and that is what made your photos stand out when searching for a photographer! I can’t wait until May when those people are my friends and family!

  3. Pingback: Dear Bloggers | Link Round Up and Hindsight Thoughts

  4. Hey – just looked through your work and it’s beautiful. I’m a blogger actively looking for REAL weddings to feature, especially those that are done for under the national average. If you’re ever looking for a blog to publish your work, please consider mine. I especially like the wedding shot with the bride, groom and dog. Moments like that are what make a wedding for me.

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