Has social media ruined weddings?

Wedding photographer/art director has happy couple pose in front of sweeping vista and highly plausible retro bicycle.

Wedding photographer/art director has happy couple pose in front of sweeping vista and highly plausible retro bicycle. Photo: Getty

These days, it's practically part of the liturgy - the moment before the wedding ceremony when the celebrant asks assembled guests to put away cameras and phones.

Every time I witness the sliding of smartphones and cameras back into pockets and wedding-only beaded clutch bags, I can't help but think the whole situation has become a chicken-and-egg question – do we document weddings because they're important, or do weddings exist to be documented?

A recent survey in America found that for a majority of brides-to-be, the sharing of photos begins at the pre-wedding dress fitting, nearly half of those surveyed also said they would happily Skype their weddings to family and friends who didn't want to travel for the big day, who would prefer to ''take part'' from their lounge rooms.

And what would be the point of Facebook without wedding photos - posted as-live for friends to delight in and for ancient school frenemies to rip to pieces.

But for all that I have complained about the number of times I've been assigned by friends to the table with the single cousins to keep the mood up with witty banter, I still appreciate weddings for the most part – it's always lovely to be invited.

But that enjoyment wanes when proceedings veer into performance – when the photographer or videographer's artistic vision directs proceedings.

I have been made to trek through a muddy field in lovely shoes to lark about in group photos. On another occasion, I and other guests were kept waiting for 20 minutes in the cold while the bride and groom posed for photos signing the wedding certificate – even though the wedding ceremony had been performed by one of their friends and the certificate wasn't legal (they had tied the knot in a registry office two weeks earlier).

It's tempting to say this is an example of the shift towards the commodification of a once-meaningful milestone, but then weddings have always been about commodification. For older generations, this meant fathers finding husbands to pass on the ownership of daughters. For our generation, it's increasingly the case that the commodity is the wedding itself.

What is meant to be one of the happiest days of your life becomes an exercise in personal branding to communicate the message: "We're in love! We're really in love, and here's the proof in 300 carefully art-directed photos!"

But if there's ever an occasion calling to be over-shared, your wedding might as well be it. After all, if you choose to spend a small fortune celebrating that you and the person you love most in the world have decided to spend the rest of your lives together (or perhaps, to gamble on the 50 per cent chance that you'll spend the rest of your lives together), you might as well plug every, single, expensive, second.

Does documenting the heck out of a wedding devalue its importance? Perhaps, but then I'm not sure that weddings have very much else to support their existence – they're no longer the hinge between child and adulthood, they're no longer a prerequisite for starting a family, cohabiting, they do not represent financial independence from parents.

Weddings may be the beginning of a marriage, but they don't really reflect the reality of it – a project relying on love to overcome moments that don't look pretty even behind an Instagram filter.

There's a strong argument in favour of the non-social wedding then – when we put our phones away, we have the opportunity to be truly present. But then again, you might then be tempted to consider whether a wedding actually makes any sense in the modern era (many aspects don't).

By distracting us from analysing the legitimacy of the wedding as ritual, social media will help us to preserve weddings as a tradition for the generation to come. A generation that will regard the digital relics of our love affairs with fond sentimentality, mixed with confusion about why women wore stilettos to leap about in muddy fields.

37 comments so far

  • As a wedding photographer myself I see the interaction of social media to be a double edged sword. Weddings are a celebration, of course for the bride and groom, but also for those who are close to them. There are few times in one's life that you allow yourself to celebrate in such a way so it makes sense that the occasion should be documented. It can be literally years, if not decades before families come together again like this.

    Social media allows the instant sharing of these celebrations to those who aren't able to be there on the day and in my opinion, should be encouraged - to a point. However, I feel for the bride and groom every wedding when guests feel that their snapshot is worth jostling the paid professional out of the way. It has become a selfish scramble to get a sub-standard shot on one's phone in a manic competition to beat everyone else in posting the blurry shot on Facebook.

    Enjoy the wedding, take in the celebrations and emotions unfolding in front of you. Keep your phone mostly in your pocket and realise that the bride and groom, those people who this is centred around would rather look at the professional photos in years to come than your Instagrammed effort taken by elbowing your way if front the crowd so you can be first on Facebook.

    Remember we used talk, dance, sing and join in the fun at weddings....

    Commenter
    darrinjames007
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    April 18, 2013, 8:43AM
    • Further to this, when I attend weddings as a guest, the absolute LAST thing I ever do is start taking photos. I want to celebrate the couple's commitment to each other, enjoy the company of the others attending and respect that the couple have paid to have a professional cover their wedding, let them do their job...

      Commenter
      darrinjames007
      Date and time
      April 18, 2013, 1:14PM
  • You are so right Jean, I am about to get married have no facebook profile or twitter account. I am cringing about people putting my wedding photos up on social media for frenimies and old spinsters to rip apart. I don't know how to politely ask people not to take photos.

    Commenter
    Sparrow
    Date and time
    April 18, 2013, 8:56AM
    • We politely asked and people were more than happy to comply! We simply said that it was a private affair to share with those present and we would prefer it if photos were not placed on facebook. None appeared (except one we chose to put up). You can always angle it along the lines of ownership of the photos, when we were married the Facebook policy that surrounded photos was that once they were uploaded they became the property of facebook (not sure what it is now). I was super nervous that a giant picture of me with a grimace might appear on a billboard somewhere advertising stomach cramp medication! Good luck and have wonderful wedding day!

      Commenter
      Pluto II
      Date and time
      April 18, 2013, 9:42AM
    • @Sparrow

      They're your friends and family that are attended. If you just put it as a side note then i'm sure people will comply.

      Commenter
      hippydippy
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      April 18, 2013, 11:57AM
  • The thing that ruins weddings is weddings. Tedious, expensive, inconvenient. The sooner they are eliminated as a form of social torture the better.

    Commenter
    Old bag
    Date and time
    April 18, 2013, 9:01AM
    • bitter much?

      Commenter
      Ha
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      April 18, 2013, 9:45PM
    • No. Bitter would imply that I was sad that I hadn't inflicted the torture of a wedding on others, which is not the case. I just don't like weddings. I don't care if people are married and I don't have the faintest interest in witnessing it taking place.

      You sound like someone who spent a lot of time letting the world know that you'd bagged a man and nagging him about the size of your diamond. Classy.

      Commenter
      Old bag.
      Date and time
      April 19, 2013, 9:30AM
  • Jean, your article appears to be more a critique of weddings rather than an examination of social media. As someone who is getting married in 10 days' time, in a simple ceremony with close family and friends, let me say that the wedding day is an important occasion. For me, it's nothing about spending a small fortune, it's not about 'branding' out love, it's not about being 'commodified', and it in fact does reflect the reality of starting a marriage and life together. It is about committing to each other in front of close friends and family. Not everyone has to believe in marriage or need a wedding - but let's avoid the broad-brush (and antiquated) statements about what a wedding is and what it means to people.

    Commenter
    Reor
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    April 18, 2013, 9:06AM
    • I was married last weekend. It was a beautiful day... and probably the only fly in the ointment was that so many people insisted on taking photos with their phones and posting them to facebook before the wedding was even finished. I woke up on Sunday to find some 200 pictures all over facebook, and the vast majority of these were unflattering and not images I would have chosen to share with the world. I can untag myself all I like, but they are still out there.

      Now it feels like it may be a bit of an anti-climax when we receive our professional shots, because everyone and his dog have already seen so many crappy ones.

      I wish I could have thought of a polite way to tell everyone to put their goddam iphones away for just a few hours.

      (Still was a lovely day, though).

      Commenter
      Red Pony
      Date and time
      April 18, 2013, 9:45AM

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