This engagement session reinterprets all those oh-so-familiar couple poses

December 31 | Guest post by Marian Schembari  
Photos by: Malia Moss
All photos by Malia Moss.

When my fiancé Elliot and I got engaged, we didn't have any plans to take engagement photos. But when we started our wedding research, we had a bit of a chuckle seeing the same series of photos again and again:

  1. Woman looking daintily up at her intended while he looks broodingly into the distance
  2. Couple holding hands in an awkward position so the shiny bling was obviously front and center
  3. Couple kissing on the beach with pre-wife lifting one leg and pointing her toes

…you get the picture.

So, as a joke, we started talking about doing spoofs of these photos — some gender-swapped (how would Elliot look with his leg cocked while kissing me?), others just extreme takes on traditional photos (what if, instead of leading me gently down a grassy meadow path, Elliot was snapped dragging my body into the woods?).

Elliot and I started a Google doc for fun, highlighting our most ridiculous ideas. When my dear friend, Malia, saw the list, she insisted on taking the photos. She'd been a wedding and engagement photographer for 10 years and said she was tired of the familiar poses. So as our wedding gift, Malia followed us around San Francisco while we acted like idiots and Elliot posed as a traditional blushing bride. I don't think anyone has ever had more fun…

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  1. The photos by the couple are funny, using other people's engagement photos without their permission, not funny. I recall jezabel being very mean spirited about an offbeat couples decision to have a 'vegan, kale' wedding. How is this post any different? Justifying the use of the photos for satirical purposes isn't okay. Love the off beat empire but the use of the photographs without permission is a concern particularly in the way they have been used.

    8 agree
  2. I echo the others who are concerned about the use of pictures of other couples without their permission. My wedding is coming up on April 12. I have already talked about privacy concerns with our photographer. Seeing this post makes me less inclined to have my pictures put on the web – anywhere. If it's easy for a pic to end up on Pinterest, then reposted all over the web, no way.

    5 agree
  3. I too love Offbeat Bride and the related sites. I have to admit though, this post has given me a pretty uncomfortable twinge.

    Crediting/fair use/permissions: if these poses are so pervasive (and I agree that they are), I feel that someone could have found ones that DID have an identifiable photographer to use for the contrasting. That way, appropriate permissions could have been sought, and proper credit given.

    Secondly, I echo a few others here… while yes, the poses are most definitely funny for subverting the normal roles, but posting them side-by-side with particular traditional photos feels less like satire and more like mocking. Really, where is the line between satire and mocking? Is it not, at least in part, in the perception of the targets? (ie, if they find it funny, then cool, satire… if not, it's closer to mocking). I know I would be pretty upset if I found my photo used in a context like this (offbeat or not).

    I dunno, as someone who was bullied as a kid, I feel like some of the responses here are waveringly close to the responses I got whenever I tried to call someone out on bullying: "Don't take it so seriously, I was only teasing/kidding, it was just a joke, jeez!"

    8 agree
  4. Hey guys, thanks for all the feedback. We've opted to remove the inspiration images, which folks expressed concern about in terms of both attribution and privacy. I stand behind publishing this post, but I also recognize the concerns. I feel like the reimagined images stand up just fine as their own playful commentary on the gender norms and familiar shots we've all grown to love seeing in engagement photography.

    If anyone has any additional thoughts on the post, feel free to email!

    10 agree
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