Different Just for the Sake of Different
When I started shooting weddings back in 2007, the ‘wedding’ as a specimen was a very different beast then it is today. Cross continentally, at least, weddings in the states were mostly centred around a bit of a country theme. Imagine lots of mason jars, twine-wrapped-things, guests sitting on hay bales, and couples leaning back for a kiss on a fence. This was the beginning of the word “rustic” making it’s way into the wedding realm. This was around the same time as the rise of Pinterest, so we can’t blame the brides of yesteryear for their fanciful feelings toward the mason jar or a good ole’ chalkboard sign. It was, after all, the beginning.
I remember a time in weddings, probably around 2011 when the trends started to change to the bold and daring. Smoke bombs began to appear. Brave brides were going out of their way to wear black if they felt like it. Blogs started to pop up and write about the unconventional experience you could have on what had formally been a very conservative wedding canvas. Flash forward to 2018 and the wedding is a very different sight to behold. With the development of great magazines like Hello May and Together Journal, alongside thought factories in the form of inspiring blogs (cough, this one, cough), there’s no shortage of ideas for brides who are doing things a different way. But in the way extremes often do, this has started a trend of differentiation that may have had it’s last laugh in weddings as well.
These days, it’s no secret to any of us that the weddings that get ‘featured’ on blogs are the ones who set themselves apart with a difference, and this is because we've now seen so many of them. It’s the bride with a coloured dress, the use of a theme we’ve never seen before, or the helicopter entrance. Social media has only helped the FOMO for planning brides everywhere, with the fear of lacking pizazz in their own wedding plans. So usually humble backyard weddings have been switched into surprise nuptials with confetti canons and exotic animal ring-bearers. Whether we realise it or not, our intentions throughout our wedding plans have become laden with the pressure for great uniqueness.
I felt a great deal of this in my own wedding plans, too. When lists began to form and seating charts came to fruition, I started to think about the added ‘dressings’ I’d contribute to my bridal look that would visually set me apart. When I chose a more traditional dress shape, the social-media-voice inside my head whispered, “but is it too traditional?” This insanity went on long enough before some reason was smacked back into the side of my delusional head.
The question I should have been asking wasn’t, “has it been done before?” but, rather, “does this represent us as a couple?” Although my purpose wasn’t to see my wedding on a blog feature (although the power of the industry said that it did in the end, anyhow), the pressure to set our wedding day apart was very real. But once my priorities had been ironed out by a rational friend at my side, I realised that the focus of my wedding had become skewed if I was thinking of it in terms of confetti canon creations or shock factor.
The truth was that confetti wasn’t my bag, nor was lingerie-inspired bridal gowns, exotic animals, or ceiling floral installations. For me, at least, the things that would’ve represented me would be 96% more subdued than that. So following my reality check, my husband-to-be and I brought it back to the grassroots of who we were as a couple. For every addition we thought of contributing to the wedding, our first question asked became, “does this represent us?” And from there the lens of priority went from foggy to utterly clear.
I’m a simple girl from a small town in Alaska. I grew up chopping wood and dressing only for functionality. My love for fashion never overcame my love for things that are practical and comfortable - so my wedding attire, ultimately, reflected that. I ended up closing all the needless Chrome tabs for ‘special coat to wear at dinner’ and ‘unique dance floor shoes’ and sported instead a leather jacket I’d owned for years and comfy flats that I generally wear to photograph weddings.
I found kitten heels that suited the era of my dress design for $30 at an antique shop 10 days before the big day (this wasn't before 3 failed online shoe purchase attempts, mind you). The reception was primarily decorated with furniture that came out of our own living room. In the end, the fuss had all but fluttered to the ground and whatever was left was what felt truly like us.
So while you may be feeling overwhelmed with faux fur boleros and light up dance shoes, take a moment, make a peppermint tea, and ask yourself, “am I feeling the pressure of difference?” or, better yet, “does this really represent me?” And I promise, when you do, the overwhelm will quickly flutter to the ground as quickly as confetti from a brutally expensive set of hired cannons.
The one thing I can tell you with absolute certainty, is that at the nearly 400 weddings I've been to over the last 11 years, the ones that leave the most lasting impression on me are never because of any of their 'stuff'. I've never remembered floral installations in ceilings, light shows, first dances covered in streamers, or the coat the bride changed into before the reception. The things that stick in your memory are the tears, the laughter, the jokes, the stolen glances, and the authenticity of the couple's love. You remember only what's important, in the end.