Recently, I was tasked with the daunting duty of being Best Man for my friend (and brother-in-law) Dave. Now, I know a thing or two about weddings, and I know that the Best Man has one of the hardest jobs. He has to ensure that he doesn’t outshine the groom (tough, but I managed it), keep the rings safe – and not drop them down the ever-present grate in the church floor – and of course, deliver the coup-de-grace: the Best Man’s speech.
Everything went well, including, I think, the speech. The sun shone during the day, and rain fell in the evening, which ensured that everyone stayed on the dance floor. I laughed, ate, drank and danced the day away. Dave and Fran became husband and wife, and all in all they organised and hosted an amazing wedding.
The next morning, I was sat at the breakfast table with my daughter, my wife and her parents, already reminiscing about the fantastic day, and comparing notes on who had said what, who had danced the wildest, and who amongst the guests had been the happiest drunk. As usual, to aid our memories, we turned to our phones for photographic evidence. It was then that I realised that, to my surprise, I had only taken six images over the whole of the wedding day.Three were photos of my daughter, and three were slightly drunken selfies taken at about 11 pm with my wife and the bride and groom. That couldn’t be right! The day before the wedding while we had been helping to set up the venue, we had paused for a chip-shop-picnic on the floor of the adjacent marquee (that’s the definition of irony: ten large tables and eighty chairs, but we couldn’t sit at any of them because they’d already been set for the wedding), and I had taken more than six photos then. I think I took two of my chips and battered sausage. (As an aside, while I think about it, hey Suffolk – what’s with the lack of a baked bean option in your chippies?! I asked for baked beans, and the guy at the counter looked at me as if I’d just asked for a naked photo of his mother).
One of the six photos I took.
When I’m working at a wedding, it’s usual for me to return home and back up anything up to 3000 images from my cameras, plus another 1500 from my second shooter’s. But I had only taken 6 the previous day. That’s not normal. Was my phone broken?
I know from long experience that people LOVE to take photos at weddings. I totally get that. People have always taken photos at weddings. My wife’s grandmother still has a 35mm point-and-shoot film camera that she takes around with her, and she probably took about six photos over the course of the day too. But other people were tapping away on their phones and their digital cameras, taking shot after shot. As we walked back down the aisle following the marriage ceremony, I felt like Prince Harry must do when he steps/staggers out of a club arm in arm with a LIttle Mixer and is surrounded by paparazzi.
The combination of social media and the ever-readiness of our camera phones has led to a culture where everything is recorded and shared. Some of the things we photograph are so banal, it’s frankly ridiculous. I can’t ever imagine a time when I sit down with my granddaughter and, with a nostalgic tear in my eye, show her the photo of my steak from our 2017 anniversary meal. “Ah, they were happy times.” I didn’t even share that photo anywhere, I just snapped it without thinking.
It was a really good steak though! And for those of you wondering… the chips came in a separate bowl.
But if ever there was an occasion to take photos, it’s at a wedding, right? Everyone is looking their best, (early on at least, if not by the end of the evening) with new suits and dresses. It’s a happy day and an ideal opportunity for a pouty Insta-selfie.
And yet, I know from long experience, that by trying to frame a shot, work out why the bride and groom are just black silhouettes (it’s because they’re stood in front of a bright light source, and your camera is confused), by trying to capture a perfect moment, you are necessarily removed from that moment. The scene that you are hoping to preserve forever is being played before your eyes, and yet you are seeing it through the muted colours of a digital screen. And the craziest thing is, that the couple has paid someone to be there to take these photos so that you don’t have to! You can witness everything first hand, drink in all the emotions, the little details occurring beyond the narrow frame of your phone, safe in the knowledge that you will be able to relive the whole day through the photographer’s online gallery – they pretty much all have one, just ask the bride and groom for the details if they haven’t shared them!
Of course, that doesn’t mean that there’s no room for the odd group selfie. I’m merely talking about those crucial moments that the day is built around: the arrival of the bride, the ceremony, the recessional, the speeches, the first dance. I don’t regret for one moment not taking a lot of photos at that wedding. I saw it, I lived it, I felt it. I was able to give those once-in-a-lifetime experiences my full attention.
And the next day, I still had enough memory left on my phone to take a picture of my pizza…
Brides and grooms, consider making your wedding ceremony ‘Unplugged’, just like Caroline and Adam did using the sign in the image at the top of this page. The nice words about the photographer are welcome, but not obligatory!