I just read this blog post by Jonas Peterson. It made me think of a brilliant piece from Adam Vincent’s stand-up show about when he and his wife were getting ready to tie the knot… I’m wildly paraphrasing, but the basic gist is “Why can’t weddings be two people in the forest. One says “I love you”, the other says “I love you” You bang a gong. You’re married.”
I recently got married. It wasn’t a two-people-bang-a-gong-in-a-forest kind of wedding, but that’s pretty much because I struggled with the idea that if two people bang a gong in a forest and no one else is around to hear it, did they really get married?
So Justin and I held quite the event.
We collected and crafted til the cows came home. We spent 16 months planning and executing every last detail. We questioned at times why we were bothering. We asked “Should we have eloped?” (more than once). We hired wedding stylists to pull it all together on the day. It was all at once the most labour intensive/frustrating/gratifying/electrifying experience ever, and looking back, we would change nothing. Why? Well in our case it was just so, well…heartfelt. Not a single decision was made by anyone except us. I never set foot in a single wedding store. We supported our local op-shops so whole-heartedly I’m pretty sure they’re now partially floated on the stock market. Do you need to go to as much trouble just to tie the knot? No way! But whatever you do, it has to have heart.
Long before Mr Peterson took to his blog, a good friend of mine single-handedly changed my entire perspective on the wedding industry. She’d been a bridesmaid ten hundred times, witnessed brides having meltdowns over the tiniest of decisions, and I remember her saying to me “Sarah, you’re going to have a big white wedding. Me? I’m going to have a backyard bangers and mash BBQ wedding. And screw white. I’m wearing green.” I thought she was a little mad.
Then she moved to Melbourne and in with me. Her first job? With a wedding stylist. It was so absurd I joked that her new employer’s decision was just about on par with hiring a convicted murderer to babysit their kids. They honestly could not have picked a worse candidate to represent their business. Every weekend she’d arrive home, exhausted, having set up a handful of weddings all priced above the $50,000 mark. She was earning a shitty wage, and not long into the job exclaimed her total hatred for the wedding industry, all due to the stupid decisions people had made because they felt they had to, and the senseless money being spent on things that “didn’t even matter”. My favourite quotes from her during this dark time?
“Every time I tie a stupid sash around a chair, I think “$6”, “$12”, “$18″…”
“At the end of the day I can’t remember what colour ribbon was tied around their napkin, what their stupid candelabras looked like, or what kind of plates they insisted would ‘make the event’ “.
After hearing the same kinds of stories for months on end, her words finally clicked. I’d never even entertained the thought that weddings were a total industry, but when she came home and said “I set up a $150,000 wedding today” I remember saying “That must be how much they had to pay to make it look like they love each other”. I too had become a sceptic.
Back then, the terms ‘vintage’, ‘indie’ or ‘simple’ didn’t exist in the wedding world. Now, the majority of our clients say they found us after googling “Vintage Wedding Photography”. The blogosphere has done an excellent job over the last few years of turning the traditonal wedding world upside down, and I am forever grateful to all of them for opening up my mind to the wonders of some incredible weddings and images.
But I get Jonas’s point. Katie and I have been the recipients of depressing email rejections stating “We loved your photos! Unfortunately we can’t accept your shots, as we are only looking for weddings with unique styling”. Apparently love is(n’t) all you need at a wedding these days and that’s frustrating for several reasons. But I get it.
I have no idea how much wedding blogs make from vendor advertising because we don’t advertise. What I do know is they exist to make money, therefore they want to look their best, and with this I have no problem. It’s when ‘fluff’ (as Jonas calls it), replaces ‘love’ or ‘heart’ to function as the centre of a wedding. Some of the most beautiful weddings I’ve seen are the bang-a-gong-in-a-forest kind, but there literally ain’t any blogs around who will acknowledge it; despite how unique and jaw-droppingly awesome they may be.
Just a short time ago, vintage weddings were the punk movement of the wedding world – a rebellion to the big white wedding. Now they too are big business and I have groaned on occasion seeing how far a stylist is willing to take it. I think the day I saw a humble stripey straw dressed with a monogrammed straw tag something inside me died a little. But what do I know? We had a wedding so packed with details one of my friends later commented “There were so many personal touches, I felt violated!!!”. Ah, but there was heart in everything. We were never seeking perfection, but we were seeking something that truly represented us.
So my advice to you lovely in-love couples planning your weddings now is to start with heart (it’s my golden rule for approaching EVERYTHING artistic). Have the details if they’re your details. Or go bang a gong in a forest. Both are equally compelling, and we’re going to prove it to you during the month of November. Get set.
Love Sarah x