Vogue Magazine recently released a list of 10 things the modern wedding can do without. Along with rings and the first dance, Vogue wants you to say "I don't" to hiring a professional photographer because a wedding is about "true love" and a photographer "detracts from that." Excuse me?
Before I dive into this, I want to be clear about something: I'm not writing this purely from the perspective of a photographer who wants you to give him your money in exchange for photographing your wedding. I'm also writing this from the perspective of a human being who hopefully will one day be getting married himself. I'm writing this from a hybrid perspective of someone who takes photos at weddings in a professional capacity and someone who is discussing how he would like his own wedding to be.
Here's what Vogue had to say with regards to hiring a professional wedding photographer:
It made sense back in the olden days, pre-Facebook albums and Instagram hashtags, when the whole world didn’t have phones with cameras on them. Having the actual leather-bound album on your coffee table seemed like the only evidence that the whole thing actually took place. If social media is not your thing, why not scatter some disposable cameras around the party and let your drunken guests go to town? You’ll end up with hilarious and candid pictures without the pressure of 'likes.'
The first half of the quote seems to make the claim that the only reason to have a wedding photographer is to have physical proof that the wedding happened, and now that social media and camera phones are ubiquitous, such physical proof is redundant and unnecessary. I'm not really sure I understand the angle here. Without speaking for every couple who has a wedding album on their coffee table, I would go so far as to say that the more likely explanation for possessing such a book is for the purposes of reminiscing and sharing of a happy event, not literal proof of the event's occurrence. You'll have other legal documentation if you really need to prove that it happened. If the point is sharing the event with friends and family who weren't there, don't you want them to experience the event at the same level of detail and quality that you did? We'll get to that.
The second half of the quote seems to be implying that the only reason people get a professional photographer these days is to succumb to the social pressure of posting them online to receive affirmation. Frankly, if a couple is secure enough in their love to get married, I highly doubt they need it to be reaffirmed through Facebook likes. The author's solution to this nonexistent problem is to "scatter some disposable cameras around the party and let your drunken guests go to town." Sure, that'll likely capture a few fun pictures at the reception. What about the ceremony? You know, the part where you actually get married? Will you be passing out disposable cameras and flasks to get the guests prepared to photograph that too? Sure, most of the guests will likely have camera phones, but we know how well that works out.
The Vogue justification of this and its other claims seems to be following the faux trend of everything needing to be understated to the point of nonexistence, because extravagance, or simply taking a serious day seriously, is passé. I find that attitude so tiresome. A wedding is not a competition to show how much of a nonevent it is. The author asserts that we should dispense with the honeymoon, rings, and even the first dance, because "twirling around to a waltz as if you’re in a Viennese ballroom circa 1932" is "bizarre." I've been to a fair amount of weddings, and not once has the first dance been a waltz. Most couples have a song that's special to them, and that's what this entire day is about; it's a succession of special moments that celebrate a couple's love, even if that special piece of music is indeed a waltz. That being said, if you don't want to have a first dance, who cares? It's your wedding. Do it for you, not for the need to subscribe to the nouveau-chic idea of nothing being noteworthy anymore.
Let me put my photographer suit back on. The most obvious argument for hiring a professional is having professional equipment and experience. I'm preaching to the choir a bit here, but weddings are really tough to photograph. They're fast-paced, they demand technical and artistic prowess and efficiency, and they are notorious for offering terrible lighting conditions. Does your iPhone go to ISO 6,400 or sync a couple of off-cameras flashes? If your guests brought their DSLR, do they really know how to use it? You're taking quite the gamble on getting even decipherable pictures. And really, 20 years down the road, when you're showing your children or close friends what your wedding day was like, what do you think will convey the experience more adeptly: a blurry camera phone shot (by then, the quality from that camera phone will be horrendously outdated and likely tacky anyway), or a carefully crafted set of pictures that clearly, artistically, and unobtrusively capture a special day in its full elegance? Do you really want 200 guests clamoring and jostling over each other to get that shot anyway? Isn't that the point of a professional photographer — someone who is not only trained, but emotionally removed from the couple and thus, free to perform duties without worrying about missing the experience?
A wedding is a rapid-fire day of memorable minutiae punctuated by special moments. Even as the bride or groom, you might miss a lot of those moments; half the joy of receiving wedding photos is being surprised by those that you didn't see as they happened. Furthermore, a decade or three down the road, you'll want to remember those details. You'll want to remember exactly how those flowers you spent hours putting together looked. You'll want to remember exactly how you were gazing at each other during the first dance. This is what good photography does; it preserves every detail so you can relive that experience whenever you so desire. It transports you to that very point in time, just like the professionally shot photo of a bride posing with her bridesmaids (banned by the list) that ironically graces the top of the Vogue article.
And so when Vogue claims that having a professional photographer "detracts" from "true love," I claim that they couldn't be more wrong. If you're celebrating true love, show it the requisite respect that honors the magnitude of a once-in-a-lifetime event that celebrates such a deep and meaningful connection by having it captured in its full glory. Don't treat it like any other day, because it's not any other day. You only get one chance at this.