Photography is a tricky thing.1
Photography is both art and science. It is record and story. It is truth and fiction.
From the moment we enter the wedding planning world, we start to develop a love-hate relationship with photographs. First, you’re bombarded with brightly saturated, shallow depth-of-field pictures of cute and trendy must-haves. If you’re anything like me, you likely got wide-eyed with the possibilities… and then you got pissed off. This stuff costs how much? Do they think I’m freaking Martha Stewart over here? I don’t have time to make 200 pinwheels by hand! These expectations are ridiculous!
Then, you’re bombarded with photographs of other weddings. At first, they look amazing. Thirty weddings in, you suddenly realize that the joke is on you, because you’ve clearly been looking at different details of the same exact wedding shoot. All the brides and grooms have now blended into one cute, hip, impossibly thin couple with a propensity for adorably mismatched vintage place settings. You gradually realize that the style blogs are full of shit.
Somewhere along the way — probably in self-defense — you begin to scoff at the phrase blog-worthy. Blog-worthy? Whatever. We are real people with real weddings. We come in every size, shape, color, backstory, and age bracket available. We have ugly cries and mountains of stress and poorly-crafted decorations and half-assed centerpieces. Oh, we are worthy in every sense of the word, dammit — we’re just not going to be featured on Style Me Pretty or Snippet & Ink any time soon. As in, like, ever.
So then you switch to only looking at photographs of “real” weddings. Ah, finally, a place to call home. A place where the people look different and the sentiment can’t be faked. But that’s not the best plan, either. Because, oh my god, how do these people still manage to look so amazingly good? They seem so genuine, happy, and emotional. Everyone is so present in their own individual moments. Everything looks like it came together so well, and without a hint of drama. The guests are all smiling and crying. Somehow, all of their outfits are better than the ones you’re considering for your own wedding. All of their details are more poignant than your own. It all looks so effortless. And even while your heartstrings are being tugged, your brain is lamenting the fact that your wedding could never, ever, ever look like this.
Or maybe, after all, it was just me who went through this. The endless cycling between scoff and swoon; covet and resent.
Understandably, I developed a bit of anxiety around wedding photography. Because I understood what it felt like inside the planning of my own wedding, and it did not seem to line up with what I was seeing on my computer screen. I didn’t feel coordinated. I didn’t feel prepared. I didn’t feel pretty. I didn’t even necessarily feel happy — at least at first. From the outset my wedding seemed like a useless pile of last-minutes, halfhearteds, and coulda-shouldas. I was afraid that I shouldn’t expect very much to come from it.2
Then, just a few weeks after the wedding, I saw the first pictures our photographer Christina Richards posted on her blog. And I thought: Oh, my god. My wedding looks blog-worthy.
And I loved it.
And I was confused as hell about this.
It took me a long time to sort through it. Hell, even now, as I write this, I’m not sure I quite understand. I feel like I spent so long alternately railing against the relentless visual imagery and succumbing to it that I almost feel embarrassed that my wedding photographs look so good. Does this make me fake, too? Am I a style blog waiting to happen?
No. Of course not.
Am I suggesting that the only way to make your wedding look really good is to hire a professional photographer?
No. Of course not. Meaning isn’t generated via photographs. And if professional photography isn’t your bag, don’t do it. Spend your money on something you care about more.
Here I feel the need to wrap this up with some sort of call to action. A proposal to redefine the meaning of blog-worthy, perhaps. A rallying cry to take back our self-worth from the badlands of other-wedding-envy. But no. What we need is some good old-fashioned sense kicked into us. We need to stop listening to others.3 We need to stop caving in so easily to doubt. We need to stop feeding those voices that say I could never look like that or my wedding could never be that nice / pretty / cool / sincere / relaxed.
Because I saw my wedding from the ugly, messy inside. And what came out of it, both on film and in real life, was still beautiful. No, you can’t see the shitty stuff that went on behind the scenes in my photos. You can’t see all the stress and tears and hard work and late nights. You can only see the beauty of that day, and the love. And what I said up there, that meaning cannot be generated via photography? I mean that. But what’s also true is that a good photographer can take the best parts of your day and make art out of them.
Go. Please go and look at our wedding photos on Christina’s blog. If you like the photos there, please leave her a kind comment. She sure as hell deserves it.
1 Okay, this totally goes completely against the tone of this post, but whenever I read over this line I hear it spoken in my head in the same way Rick James said “Cocaine is a hell of a drug” in that one Chappelle Show skit. No? No? Come on.
2 I mean, except the happiness that comes from being married, of course.
3 Easy as pie, non?