Pics or it didn’t happen: Celebration versus validation

Guest post by Beatrix734
friends photos

I once had a teacher who went on a school trip with us overseas. He never brought a camera. When asked why, he'd always smirk and say, “If you take too many pictures, you'll miss your trip.” I still have those pictures from that trip and I love them. But what he said really stuck with me over the years. It especially rings true now that I'm planning a wedding in the age of cellphones with cameras, instant uploads, and Instagram.

Between making sure my makeup is “photo-worthy” to chronicling the planning progress (Offbeat Bride Tribe, you are my enabler!), the era of instant documentation and weddings is a match made in heaven. Who doesn't want an excuse to show off pictures of their wedding day? Now you have a reason to take photos of the knitting project you've been toiling over for months. Who doesn't love to get feedback from others fawning over your dress, décor, music, etc?

But when does celebrating a day become validating an event?

Do we NEED to show these pictures off? Do all of your Facebook friends need to see the video of your first dance? How about your guests “checking in” at the event and making sure they're in at least one picture to document their presence. At what point does the day go from pictures of the new couple to “pics or it didn't happen!”?

How many people Liking (not liking, but Liking) my wedding will it take to validate it? How many social media shares or comments are needed to make my marriage official? The answer is, obviously, none.

I already know that no matter how gorgeous the professional pictures, the way I will feel that day will be 100X better than anything captured on camera. The music will always be better on the day than in the video, as will the laughter and the smiles. The food will obviously taste better. The pictures will be a great way of remembering the wedding (and let's be honest, I'm pretty proud of those homemade bouquets), but if no one were to ever see them, the day still happened.

So as I excitedly post Offbeat Bride Tribe journal entries of progress and fantasize about submitting my wedding to Offbeat Bride, when the day comes I'm keeping myself in check and making sure it's for the right reasons.

I don't want to miss my trip down the aisle because I'm busy wondering which Instagram filter would look best for the moment.

How are celebrating and validating-seeking different? How do you navigate the difference? And is anyone doing an unplugged wedding?

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Comments on Pics or it didn’t happen: Celebration versus validation

  1. I have been thinking about this topic a lot. My sister just got married and during her first dance it looked like she was lost in a sea of cellphones. When she gets those photos back from her photographer everyone’s face is going to be obscured by their phone :/. People documented the entire wedding that way. But on the other hand, I LOVED looking through all those pictures on Facebook after the event! There were so many really wonderful shots that it would seem sad to limit the photos to “hired photographer only” or to make a “no devices” rule. So what to do? I am getting married next summer and was thinking about maybe making the ceremony and first dance tech free, then opening it up after that. Maybe this is a happy medium?

    • This is what I’m doing: No cameras during the ceremony, aside from maybe a brief moment of ‘hey, get your pictures in now!’

      After the ceremony, guests are free to take pictures as much as they want. 🙂

    • This is what we did as well…no pictures except the professionals during the ceremony, but after that it was all good. It actually seemed to have the effect of letting people relax on the picture-taking during the reception…once they were in the mode of “the bride and groom will be sharing the pro pictures with us”, there was less pressure for they themselves to take their own pictures. It might have helped that we had a “church” ceremony, so it wasn’t outside of the norm to ask people not to take pictures in church, but go ahead and snap away for the “party”.

      • This is a great idea! I am a *very* plugged-in person so, I have to admit, the idea that this somehow diminishes special events can sometimes put me on the defensive. I personally love seeing a stream of photos of weddings on FB and Instagram especially when I didn’t attend. Also, my FW recently proposed (yay!) and it was a complete surprise to me! I was so involved in that and the after party that I did not take any pictures (except for the ring-shot to update my fb relationship status and text all of my friends #OMGengaged!!!) so I was very happy that there were dozens of smartphones taking pics and video of that moment.

        *However* I was recently shooting video for someone’s wedding and I was soooo frustrated that there were so many would-be photographers leaning into the aisles and stepping in front of me to take photos. At one point I actually bellowed “GET OUT OF THE WAY” at some nice old lady because I had about 30 seconds to catch their exit via horse-drawn carriage. Plus, it was just hella distracting for all of the other guests.

        So, while I still plan on having #ourwedding trending on our day 😉 I really like the idea of nixing the photos at least during the ceremony. I know there will be tons of people wanting to take selfies with the brides and, honestly, there is only going to be at most two photographers to capture all the special moments. And I want everyone to feel like they are an important part of the event.

  2. I’m getting married next summer. We’ve decided to ban cameras, cell phones, ipads, etc from our ceremony. We hired a photographer.. We are going the big church wedding and I’ve seen other peoples what would have been beautiful pictures ruined by LCD screens… But that’s just me. The reception they will be allowed… Like I said just my opinion..

  3. I agree with what the teacher said, I find myself taking less photos and enjoying things a lot more in the moment. I recently shot a wedding where the entire wedding party surrounded the dance floor during the first dance but every single one of them was looking down at their phones, I think there was a game on or something. I think the photos would have looked better had they all gone to their seats to sit down than to stand there and look uninterested and of course it wouldn’t have looked much better if their phones were in front of their faces, but at least if they did it would have looked like they were interested in what was going on in front of them. Another wedding not too long ago the mother of the bride was taking photos during the ceremony, I had stepped around to get a different angle of the ceremony and what could have been a great photo of her mom watching her daughter get married, you can’t see her face at all because the camera is in front of her face. I have only done one unplugged wedding and the photos were so much better, everyone stayed in their seats during the entire ceremony, it was hands down one of the best photographed weddings because of it, it was the bride & groom’s idea and I didn’t even suggest it.

  4. I think the cliche that your wedding day goes by in the blink of an eye is true, at least I know it was for me. I missed many things, which is going to happen unless you can clone yourself with hive mind, but with all my friends taking happy photos of smiling faces I could look through them all after the wedding, and go up to them afterwards and say “hey, what was happening here, this looked fun”, and hear how my friends were enjoying themselves at my event. Digital cameras/phones get a bit of a bad rep these days, but I have no regrets about my guests using theirs at my wedding

  5. Everyone wants wedding photos, even me, and I consider myself to be one of the most unphotogenic people in a planet of 8 billion people. What I did not want was a plethora of bad amateur photographs, shot by friends and family on Iphones excited to say, “I took that picture.” So, we hired a photography team. But, with that came another dilemma: how to enjoy the day without photographers and their equipment in your face. I was in my sister’s wedding, and while she has amazing photos, I felt like the photographers were intrusive at really private or emotional moments because they were determined to capture that perfect shot. We chatted with our photographers about what we wanted, and I think they understood. The day of the wedding they were lovely and sweet and anywhere and everywhere taking photos of people and details, but not once did I feel like they were in the way. I’m still waiting on the pics (it’s been less than a month) but based on the one I have seen, I will be happy.
    The only photo I took that day were with my iphone of the dog and I taking the “morning of” selfie as I tried to have him pose with me in the protype veil. It did not go well.

  6. I feel this way about events & vacations — I take a *few* photos, if any, & put the camera away. I’m so glad I got married before cellphone cameras were everywhere! I love to travel, but I hate how every beautiful spot is just a photo op, nobody seems to be really enjoying the view. People aren’t in the moment when they’re sticking out their cameraphones to record every little thing.

  7. Too much phone-glued-to-face time is totally not great. I will say, though, as someone who was a photographer in a former life, taking pictures of things is part of the way I experience the world.
    I /love/ taking and having pictures of events and stupid daily stuff.
    If disconnecting from your device makes you feel awesome, cool! You should totally do that. But! I like being able to take pictures (and will consequently frequently have my phone out), and I don’t think I’m missing out on life this way or any such silly thing.

  8. Yeah, I’m not quite sure how I feel about people taking videos and pics with their cell phones at events. Are you paying more attention to the phone or to what’s actually happening. I think it takes away from experiencing the moment a little bit.

  9. I am one of those people who takes pictures of the humdrum stuff in my life. My Facebook albums are littered with my dog, my food, weird craft beers, and more sunsets and clouds than I care to admit.

    But it’s not because I want to document something or prove a point; I love taking photographs and my camera happens to be my phone. I don’t think it takes away from the enjoyment of a Thing to take a picture of that Thing.

    I am leaning strongly, though, toward an unplugged ceremony (versus a radio silence ceremony) – a “you can take a picture of everyone now if you would like” moment before putting cameras and phones away but not necessarily a “no phones or cameras” rule.

    That way, people still get to have an opportunity to take a picture for their memories or Facebook documentation/sharing needs, but they’ll be tuned in for the important bits – hopefully.

  10. We’re going for an unplugged wedding, as we would like our guests to be present during the day, not watching it unfold through a viewfinder!! (also, not having a swarm of bad/blurry iphone shots all over the internet is as added bonus!) As a photographer myself the official photographs are very important, and we have found an incredible photographer who completely matches our vision. For us it’s not about validating the day ‘pics of it didn’t happen’ style, but rather having a visual documentation of our day, that we can hold onto and share with loved ones for decades to come.

  11. we had a client a while back (for a totally non wedding related job) who when we got talking about weddings admitted that she hadn’t had a photographer at her wedding and also did not allow phones, cameras or anything else as she wanted to remember her wedding the way it happened to her, not the way someone else saw it. I thought that was really special.

  12. I don’t plan to have a dance floor or a sweetheart table in the very small barn. I envision asking my guests to put away their electronics when I pull up a seat and relax at their table. The afternoon party is only 3.5 hours long, and I want to make the most of it.
    As for social media, I don’t like it. I keep in contact via texting, phone calls (*gasp!*), writing letters/cards (*what the fuck???!!!!*), or actually seeing people that really mean the most to me. (*We have a Code Crazy Person over here, we need help STAT!!!*) The only reason I broke my Facebook silence is because I felt like I owed our photographer. (As a way to add clients to her very small portfolio, she offered three couples free a wedding session… We are one of the lucky couples who she is giving 7 hours of free time too!) So I posted some of my favorite engagement photos and gave Meg Mathews Photography a little plug for doing such a great job. The “Likes” are coming out of the woodwork as if the colony of ants found a pile of sugar after a long winter.
    It’s actually fascinating to watch.
    Anyway… Getting off topic… I won’t ask people to put the electronics away, but I’m going to remind them that this day is different than their kids’ first dance recital. I would like to enjoy their time face-to-face. This is why I have a professional camera buzzing a few steps behind.

  13. This is such a huge issue on my mind right now. My fiance and I originally agreed to have an unplugged ceremony and then a photo happy cocktail hour and reception. But last week I changed my mind and said I wanted to allow people to do what they want. I even started thinking about joining Instagram and we deleted our unplugged ceremony wording from our website. But now I’m changing my mind again!

    We get married in 2 weeks and I don’t know if this is the pre-wedding crazy kicking in or what! I’ve never been this indecisive. I just want people to feel comfortable at the wedding and know it’ll be great to look through pics asap. Plus it’ll be nice for the friends and family who won’t be able to attend. But I really want the ceremony in particular to feel intimate. I’m not a huge social media user and am totally freaked out about videos of our vows being posted online. And I do not want people to get completely lost taking pictures (even though I know that this is their prerogative). I wish there was a social rule that dictated 1 picture each and no videos (haha). I think I’ll run my reverse decision by the fiance and see what he thinks. We may go back to an unplugged ceremony once again since people will still have plenty of time to take couple shots and personal pics the rest of the night. I just know it’ll be disappointing to catch a glimpse of the audience and see nothing but cameras and phones. Especially the cameras with flash, that make noise every time someone takes a picture!

  14. We just eloped two weeks ago. I’m not a big fan of being photographed at all, so hiring a photographer was not high on the list of “must haves.” My now husband took one of our Kodak Zi8 cameras along because he wanted video & one of the few witnesses was kind enough to run it for him.

    What makes me bemused is that my friends know I’m not a fan of being photographed, but as soon as we broke the news over FB, one of them started in about “Video. Now……PICTURES. NOW.” *eyeroll*

    I took a couple selfies before our short ceremony so after we got back home, they went up on FB with “OK, for those of you who’ve been crying for pics, here’s your wish!”

  15. hehe, that’s my wedding in the article photo! I thought about doing an unplugged wedding but then couldn’t be bothered with the hassle. and I really like this photo Jim captured I think it’s clever

  16. I was just thinking about kids these days, and how by the time a baby is 1 month old he will have like 20398234092832420 pictures and videos already on the internet. Everyone has to document when their baby takes his first step, eats his first solid, makes a cute face, is sleeping, is at the park, or is wearing something cute. By the time kids these days are old enough to sign up for Facebook, they will have already had a huge presence on Facebook thanks to their parents.

    I think weddings are the same kind of thing. As soon as I got engaged everyone was asking for photos of the ring. I don’t really like sharing photos of myself on Facebook. I’d rather share photos of things like nature or art, like “hey, I saw something beautiful and I just had to share it with all of you!” I think sharing photos of yourself and your life is a little conceited, and honestly takes away the value of the photos.

    I remember as late as the 1990s photographs were consumed as art. Photos were precious and bound in books, framed on walls, or pinned to tack boards. Photos were intentional. Even if you had an instant Polaroid camera, you still had a limited amount of film so more care was taken to select things worth photographing. Now, everything is photographed. I did not put all of my engagement photos on Facebook because I wanted to retain the artistic quality. We paid for those photos; they are precious to us and not to be shared carelessly all over the internet. We did put them on our wedding website, but that website was only shared with specific people near and dear to us.

  17. Two of my children will be getting married next year. My son and his bride-to-be have not stated a preference, but my daughter said that she and her future husband are leaning towards slightly unplugged (no pics during ceremony). I love taking pictures, but for these moments, I plan on being totally in the moment as my children get married. I was at a wedding where the professional photographer was all over the place and I felt that it ruined the intimacy. On a non-wedding note, I recently saw my first ocean sunrise. I literally gasped – it was just that beautiful. A woman on the beach nearby must have taken a few hundred pictures, but I doubt that she lost her breath as she clicked away.

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