On wedding photography minimalism

March 28 | Guest post by karynzero

I have always treasured my parents' wedding album, from the time that I discovered it on the bookshelf when I was six years old. I guess you could say my parents were a little offbeat, for the '60s anyway. They had a tiny little wedding in a huge cathedral; my father wore a suit and my mom wore a mini. They were so cute. (Look at how huge my mom's veil is, in an attempt to not look so short next to my dad!)

Their wedding album consists of exactly twelve 8×10 photographs. There's one wide shot of the ceremony in the cathedral, a photo of them signing their marriage license, a handful of portraits, one shot of the guests at the reception, and a photo of them cutting their tiny wedding cake.

That's it…

But it's still perfect and magical, and it captures their wedding day beautifully.

When I started to think about wedding photography for my own wedding, I wanted all the things and all the pictures. I couldn't get over the urge to capture every detail and moment. But the more I revisit my parents' album, the more I've come to the realization that I don't need (or even want) all the wedding porn that comes with some 8-hour package. I am not a model, and my wedding will not be a magazine photo spread.

This is just one more in a string of realizations I've had that "perfect for us" does not necessarily mean "perfect." And planning our wedding has gotten a lot easier with each one of these "ah-ha!" moments.

  1. My parents' wedding album is similar to the one you describe. It's maybe a couple dozen 4×4" photos that I don't think were even taken by a photographer – it was probably one of my mom's friends who had a camera. There are couple of my mom getting ready, a couple at the altar, various posed shots with family, one of my parents dancing (the only time I've ever seen them do that!) and then I think a cake cutting shot. Reading this little vintage snack piece makes me wonder why I didn't think to compare my mom's wedding experience with mine more often. It probably would have saved me some worry over "should I choose this or that?" and "will there be enough blah blah blah", as what was good enough for my parents back in '71 would certainly have been good enough for us in '11. Hooray perspective.

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  2. I'm pretty sure my parents had only a single photo taken at their wedding. It was at the courthouse and a quiet affair, so they walked to a nearby park and had one picture taken. It's sweet and rather mid-80's, lol. Personally, I've 86'ed having photos taken as I get ready. Last thing I want is someone I don't know hovering over me as I glue on my lashes on.

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    • I'm not trying to derail your decision – I just wanted to put in my perspective. I wasn't super keen on having getting ready shots at my wedding last year, but I'm SO glad I did. There are some amazing touching photos that are some of my absolute favorites from the whole day. If you don't want embarrassing pictures, just tell your photographer to focus on the emotional exchanges happening, rather than the nitty-gritty hair-curling/eyelash-gluing/dress-donning stuff.

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  3. I've almost gone in the opposite direction of this since looking at my parents wedding album. Some of my favorite pictures from my parents wedding are those of my grandfather who is longer with us and several relatives who aren't going to be here much longer either. I love the candid shots of my grandfather piss drunk and smiling big like how I remembered him. I almost wish that there were more for me to treasure. I have had a lot of tragic deaths occur in my family over the last few years and it's made me want to spend the money for oodles of coverage and pictures because honestly, once those people are gone, what else is left but the pictures. Tons of pictures may not be very important to everyone (and that's perfectly fine) but for our wedding it's the one thing we're both willing to spend money on.

    And I wish I had legs like your mom to show off on my wedding day! :)

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  4. I had a friend show me a photo from her wedding as she and her husband heading back down the aisle. It was taken from the vantage point of a guest, and not posed or well lit – in fact the flash kind of washed them out. Just a photo from a random film (not digital) camera. Only photo I've ever seen of the wedding. And she was perfectly happy. Reminded me that photos are merely reminders of the experience, and it's the experience that counts.

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  5. THIS. My parents have TWO photos from their wedding day in the 1970's. One "entire family" pic, and one of them by themselves.

    And neither of the pics were framed or anything, just put in the (regular) scrapbook. And they still worked out fine :-) .

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  6. I've only ever seen two photos from my parents' wedding. They got married in a courthouse, my mom wore a cute little suit, and then they went out for dinner with their immediate family and had some cake. One is of everyone sitting around the table talking; not posed at all, but fun. And the other is of them cutting the cake together while my mom grins like an idiot. Super cute.

    Though my mom later found an old black and white photo from her sister's wedding (my dad's in a suit and she's in a bridesmaid's dress) that she put up because she thought it looked more like a "real" wedding portrait. Oh mom…. ;-)

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  7. I really LOVED peeling through my grandma's photos recently for her 80th birthday…SO SIMPLE…the things in black and white, the clothing, the smiles…the looks of people that were NOT self-conscious asking for photosthopped images. :) My mom's wedding pictures were just that – those handfuls of formals to show who was there, how they dressed…and how tacky the 70s suits might have been. I'm thankful they took pictures at all, because my husband has NO RECORD of his childhood and life on the farm with grandpa and it makes me CRY EVERYTIME. I'm sorry, but that is part of why i like photos now…It makes me sad to know that life speeds by and I have nothing to re-live in how my husband looked and where he was in life…ahhhhhhhhh I say, document as much as you want or as little as you want. But, please document! :)

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  8. I can't agree with this post more. As a society (and as brides), we are way over-documented.

    The fun thing is asking photographers for smaller packages. They really don't know what to do with the request for "3 hours tops" with a wedding accomodating 14 guests!

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  9. I love your post because I feel exactly the same way. My grandparents got married in the 50s. Small church, small guest list, small dinner afterwards, very simplistic pictures. But their pictures are stunning. I'm planning on recreating some, esp signing the marriage contract and the last one when they're getting into their car after the wedding (and my grandfather has in one hand a cigar and the other a bottle of whiskey!). And I'm really lucky that my grandmother's wedding dress is in top condition and I'm going to wear it for our wedding!

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  10. I love this post! I am forgoing a prof. Photographer completely. My best friend/soulmate is taking pictures. She has a great eye and all I wants is the basics like your parents album! Your mom is so cute!

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  11. thanks for this post! it is a nice reminder for me right now to focus on the important stuff.

    my parents' wedding photographer left town abruptly, right after their wedding. luckily, they had the proofs, but that's all they have- small proofs. but the lack of photos hasn't diminished their memories of that day… :)

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  12. Thanks for posting this. I have a lot of photography anxiety and this post was a big sigh of relief for me.

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  13. Can we see the rest of the photos? There so cure!

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  14. I have only ever seen one photo of my parents wedding, them at the front of the courthouse listening to the judge read from the book. They eloped to Reno one weekend, with a couple friends to get married because they were doing taxes and getting married would be cheaper. Their anniversary is two days before tax day. LOL. My mom wore a red plaid mini skirt and red shirt, my dad wore a nice shirt and some jeans. 40+ years later, still married, still happy, and they have no regrets for having a small thing, With only one photo. :)

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  15. My parents had no money – and neither did my grandparents – and thus they got married at a tiny university chapel. One attendant for each of them (his best friend and her teen aged sister). My mom did have a wedding dress, but it was simple and inexpensive. Their reception was afternoon tea and cakes back at my grandparents modest home (packed to the rafters with family), and yeah, a very small cake. There are only a couple of pictures taken by a photographer, and yes, that is enough. We treasure them. It's about the marriage not the wedding.

    1 agrees
  16. I'm sure I've seen my parents' album, but it's the table photos that they break out all the time. It's nice to get to "meet" relatives I never had the pleasure of knowing. As for funky photos – oh the '70'! Dad's in a powder blue tux with black labels and ruffles.

    1 agrees

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