Perfect Wedding Photographs
Perfect Wedding Photographs : The Fingerprints
One quick google search and you can already sense your wedding perfection-o-meter heading straight into overdrive : ‘A Bride’s guide to Perfect Wedding Photographs’, ’20 Secrets to Planning your Perfect Wedding’, ‘Choosing your Perfect Wedding Photographer’, ‘Plan your perfect wedding on a budget’, … Blogs, magazines, Facebook, Instagram and Hollywood movies all seem to conspire to create this ideal of the Pinterest-perfect wedding. In the planning stages you’re bombarded with images of how everything should look – your dress, your bouquet, the favours, your first kiss, the uber creative table plan that nobody else has thought of ever, ways to keep kids (and adults) entertained all day… This is your one shot at planning the party of your life and understandably you want it to be perfect. And you want the perfect wedding photographs to capture it all. Now that is a lot of pressure.
In the build up to our wedding last year I swooned over copper lanterns, fell in love with festoons, developed a slight eBay addiction and possibly overdosed on the toxic fumes of metallic spray paint. The week before our wedding and the last wooden elephant had been packed, the final name tag had been written and we were ready for our dream French wedding. Turns out the rest of France were not. Flooding, fuel shortages and air traffic control strikes threatened to ruin everything. Not because the outdoor ceremony might be rained indoors but because our friends and family might not be able to make the journey there. This was when I realised that it really wasn’t the flowers or the hand-written postcards or personalised tote bags or even the venue that would make our wedding perfect (although they were lovely!); these details were merely the backdrop and without the people we love the most being there to celebrate none of it would really mean a thing.
This got me thinking about all the weddings that we’d photographed. Were they perfect? Did they all go to plan? A groom’s wedding car on fire, bouquets frozen and stuck to the back of the fridge, a sliding naked cake, the groom locked out his flat with rings and speeches inside, all-day rain for a woodland wedding, Toby driving all five bridesmaids squeezed into our Golf because the Morris Minor had given up, a Father of the Groom with a bloody nose after particularly enthusiastic dancing. Weddings are full of cracks, like our fingerprints but just like our fingerprints the cracks are unique, beyond duplication; they’re imperfect. That’s what makes them human and that’s what makes memories.
As documentary photographers we shoot the big moments, the bride’s walk down the aisle, the first time you kiss as a married couple, the confetti tunnel, the cake cutting but we don’t stop there because we know that so much magic happens in those little cracks in between – the Father of the Bride wiping a tear as he lines up for his big moment, the angelic flower girl picking her nose through the ceremony, the look on the groom’s face when he takes in just how amazing you look, the extra tight bear hug your auntie gives you, the kid who decides gravel is way more fun to throw than confetti, that uncle who just can’t stay awake for the speeches and the bridesmaid who’s saved all her extra special moves for your dance floor. All these might not be the moments you’ve painstakingly orchestrated. You may have imagined some of them but they probably don’t happen the way you’ve pictured because you can’t plan for the rainbow of emotions you or anyone else will experience, you don’t know about that lick of sunlight framing you as you enter the church or the squeeze of parents’ hands when you say “I do” and the fist pumps when the DJ spins your uni mates’ tune.
So yes, of course we’ll take scheduled, pre-arranged group photos because we understand that you might want a document – a record – of your being there together. But better still we’ll tell the story of what happens around that moment and how it feels to be there. We may not be able to capture everything – the beauty of an unobtrusive storytelling approach to photography is that it isn’t planned, so you can’t construct it to happen exactly as you want it to and at the right time. You don’t have control. Sometimes things happen when you’re not there or, more often, things happen in circumstances that are less than ideal – the make-up artist sets up in the room’s darkest corner, Auntie Maureen steps into the aisle with her iPad, the rain pours and doesn’t stop, your adorable nephew throws a massive wobbler just as you walk into the church. Perhaps this doesn’t tally with your idea of the “perfect wedding” but these moments are genuine. The crazy bridesmaid is your best friend, your flower girl definitely thinks she’s the one getting married, that is your grandma on the dance floor, your Dad didn’t manage to quite hold it together for his speech and it was almost certainly your Mum who squashed your hair with that over enthusiastic hug. It’s the people who truly make your wedding day and it’s the cracks you’ll wish you could remember many years from now. So that’s our job – to try our very best to bottle those little bits in between that make your wedding imperfectly yours.
Luckily our wedding day was one of the best of our lives (so far!). The strikes were cancelled, the rains stopped and we partied hard with our very favourite people. To me the perfect wedding is a day you never want to forget, that’s filled with stories and love. Perfect wedding photographs make bloody awesome memories. They tell your story with genuine emotion, from the big moments to the little bits in between.