In defense of Trash The Dress

Guestpost by Angela from Milestone Images on May. 28th

You might remember Angela, aka. New York based wedding photographer Milestone Images, from our previous Q&A's. Well, she's back with more awesome wedding porn and a guest post in praise of Trash the Dress sessions. -Megan

I've had a lot of interest in Trash the Dress sessions from OBB readers, and yes, true confession time… I love doing them!  One of the things I love about Offbeat Bride is that Ariel has created a space where such things can be discussed in a fair, thorough, candid way. I know that the concept of Trash the Dress is not for everyone. In fact, when I first learned about it in 2007, I blogged excitedly about how awesome it was, only to have one of my most loyal readers, an "alumni bride" whose wedding I photographed in 2006, point out in the comments how wasteful and decadent it seemed. She felt very, very strongly about it. I was taken aback at first by the strength of her reaction, but I was so grateful for opportunity to really think through the concept of a trash the dress session beyond my initial "Oh, cool!" reaction.

For me, it's about creation, not destruction…

I think one of the things that make these images so provocative to the viewer is that it's a complete reversal of the traditional notion of how wedding dresses are depicted. A wedding dress is so much more than a dress. Yes, there's the emotional component. This is the dress in which you publicly honor and celebrate your union. That is so powerful. Just speaking from my own wedding dress shopping experience — from the shame of not fitting into ANY of the sample sizes to the moment my mom and sister saw me try on the dress I eventually wore and realized, "My god, I feel actually feel good about this one!" It was honestly one of the most emotionally charged purchases I've have ever made.

And yet, wedding dresses, particularly traditional, poofy white gowns, have such a powerful symbolism in pop culture. Traditionally, they represent purity, innocence, virginity, wealth and status. In contemporary culture, they've taken on new symbolism as icons of celebration and new beginnings. Photographs created during trash the dress sessions subvert the traditional implications of how a wedding dress should be worn, and how a woman wearing one should be seen and act. And now my degree in academic feminism is showing, isn't it? Semiotics! Subversion! Visual issues in the media! Cultural studies and critiques! Can I get a shout-out from my fellow women's studies majors? :)

Deep thoughts about visual depictions of femininity aside for a moment, with the exception of one client who wanted to do underwater photography in her gown, my clients who have booked these sessions haven't ACTUALLY trashed their dresses. It was more of a relaxed, day after the wedding, "don't-worry-so-much about the dress" session.
Both Heather, the bride sitting on the wall, and Lesley, the bride in the wheelbarrow (Editor's Note: and OBT member southpaw23), are sitting on clear shower curtains. Both of their dresses are completely fine. Lisa, the underwater bride got married in a beach town and took lots of photos with the wedding party down on the sand. Between that and rocking out of the dance floor, the bottom of her dress was in rough shape long before she and her husband booked our session. Their wedding day sounded pretty hectic, as well, and she and her husband didn't get to take as many photos of just the two of them. The TTD session was an opportunity for them to put on their wedding clothes one more time and create memories for the two of them.

Of course, truthfully, there are much nobler destinies for gently used dresses. I get that. As such, I donate a quarter of what I earn from each Trash the Dress sessions to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for breast cancer research. By donating a portion of the proceeds from Trash the Dress sessions, I'm honoring my mother-in-law, a breast cancer survivor, AND recognizing that women who want to do something different with their dresses often feel conflicted about donating them.

The other argument against this kind of session is, of course, what if you daughter wants to wear it someday? I've shot more than fifty weddings. I've only had one bride wear her mother's veil. That's it. On the other hand, my maternal grandmother got married in a chic brown suit in 1944, which is displayed proudly on a dress form in my studio.

That said, the whole pro-TTD argument that says, "Show your man you love him and won't marry anyone else by trashing your dress" thing is bullshit. The end.

If you're like me and Angela, who are of the pro-TTD variety, and you would like to do your very own Trash the Dress session, then you'll be happy to know that Milestone Images is offering 10% off to all Offbeat Brides!!

Or if you're not into Trash the Dress but ARE into having really good wedding photos, you will also be happy to know that Milestone Images is offering 10% off to all Offbeat Brides!!

So get in touch with Milestone Images and feel free to do whatever you want in your wedding dress! -Megan