Let’s talk about wedding albums, shall we?
My wife Barbara and I have one. My mother has one. Her parents likely had one. Somewhere there are probably cave drawings of Neanderthal women reacting as a bouquet is thrown, although back then I think they used rocks instead of flowers, so the women were trying get out of the way.
Almost every married couple has a wedding album, although if, under threat of death to their first born, you asked them where it was, they might not be able to tell you.
For years, Barbara only looked at the cover of ours, and only because she could never recall the exact date of our wedding. Now she doesn’t even do that because she’s finally committed the date to memory…or Outlook.
For generations, every couple did the same stupid thing: after the wedding they waited for months with high anticipation until this massive volume arrived with its leather-like cover and gilt-edged leaves. The thing weighed about twenty pounds. They’d look through it immediately, reliving their magical day, then put it on the coffee table so they could glance through it absently during commercials (or, before there was TV, while they listened to Fibber McGee and Molly on the radio) and remember to subject guests to it when they had visitors.
After a few weeks, they’d notice the coffee table was starting to sag, so the album would get relegated to a shelf, never to be looked at again until it was time to move to a bigger place. While packing, someone would find it, blow off the dust and look at a few pictures nostalgically before tossing it into a box. That box would be one of the ones they never got around to opening at their new place. The unopened box would then make two more moves. During that time, the couple would occasionally wonder where their album was, perhaps so they could show the photos to their children who don’t believe they were ever in their twenties. The bride in particular would get upset at the album’s absence, and complain about it to her friends (“Can you believe it? How can you lose something like that?”). However, even she would quickly adjust to an albumless life.
It is now 40 years after the wedding and it’s time to downsize. That means throwing stuff out. One of them, upon finding this box with yellowed sealing tape and faded Magic Marker labeling, thinks “I wonder what’s in here.” He or she opens the box and there, among old college textbooks they have no idea why they kept at all, much less moved with three times, is the wedding album. They sit side by side on the basement stairs, looking through the pictures, wondering who all the strange-looking people are and what possessed them to wear their hair that way.
Okay, so now we’re planning the wedding of our daughter Casey, and it seems like everything about wedding photography is different from when we got married, except the cheesy poses. You can shop for photographers online instead of visiting a series of uninspiring studios mostly located on the second floors of strip malls. You can get the mustache Photoshopped off your aunt’s face if you like. You can get your photos on a disk, which is much less strain on the coffee table, but will be obsolete in a few years, so you’ll need to keep getting the photos converted to other formats. At some point, you’ll not only forget where your album is, you’ll forget what it is. (“Honey, am I looking for a flash drive or a microdot?”)
A major advantage these days is that you don’t have to worry as much about the photographer screwing up. After all, there will be about 125 back-up photographers at your wedding, wearing out the batteries of their smart phones.
For that reason, we decided not to have a videographer. Barb and I had one at our wedding 30 years ago, and we’re sort of glad we did, because it’s the only proof we have of our band playing “Here Comes the Bride” when I walked down the aisle (Barbara was met with silence). The video also holds the voices of people who have since passed on.
But, these days, you know that if someone trips comically, or falls off the raised chair during the hora, or loses their pants while drunkenly trying to imitate John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, someone will capture it on their phone so it can go viral the next day.
One thing I didn’t know is that there are now different styles of wedding photography. There is the artistic style, with more creative poses and with special effects added so that, upon viewing the pictures, you might think you got married during the filming of a Charleton Heston biblical epic. Then there is journalistic wedding photography, where the subjects are more likely to be in motion, and there are often crime scenes or wars in the background.
For my part, I was more concerned with the process. I figured these were professional photographers who were probably going to do at least an okay job; I just wanted people who wouldn’t be too annoying. You know what I mean: the guy who starts arranging the people for a table shot while they’re trying to eat; the one who shines glaring spotlights in your face so that you think there’s a motorcycle coming at you; the one who thinks he’s the Martin Scorcese of wedding photographers and does eight takes for every shot (“Okay, this time, look at your wife!”); the one who walks around taking “candids” with a shrimp hanging out of his mouth.
Most of the photographers we spoke to were in more or less the same price range, depending on what sort of “package” we wanted. (“Do you want your wedding portrait on a mug?”) I thought they sounded a bit on the expensive side considering they don’t have to develop film anymore, but then I figured if they can make me look good, they’ll be worth it.
Many also offered a photobooth option, where guests can have their pictures taken and framed in fake magazine covers so that it appears as though 300-pound Aunt Josie is on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition*. Casey wanted this on the theory that it would give people who don’t dance something to do.
Barb calmly pointed out that, since the wedding would be in an aquarium, there would be plenty of non-dancing activities available. I believe Barbara’s exact words were, “You don’t dance? Go pet a friggin’ shark!”
See you soon.
*But at least you had her mustache Photoshopped out.