Congratulations! You’re officially engaged. It all seems like fun and games, marrying the love of your life, but there are expectations, darling. As a modern engaged woman, you must: set a date, find a fluffy dress, act like you care about centerpieces, play catering chicken roulette, and get engagement photos done.
What’s that you say? You don’t need professional engagement photos? You’re perfectly happy just sending out invitations, not Save the Date postcards, and besides you’re going to have wedding pictures taken anyway, so what’s the point? The point, liebling, is that it’s expected. People, apparently, want to see glossy pictures of you and Dr. Swoodilypooper. They want you to post them on Facebook. That want you to make Save the Date magnets with them. They want to stare at your smoldering love eyes while they eat cheesecake from a box at midnight, damn it, so smolder already.
Or, I guess that’s the point. I’m kind of foggy on the whole thing myself. People are really insistent that Professor McGregor and I have an engagement photo shoot. Note: that’s a photo shoot, not a quick portrait session. Important distinction! We need to be wearing perfectly coordinated outfits in a grassy field, or else. Ideally, a professional photographer will lie in wait for us there, snapping shots of us frolicking, staring deeply into each other’s eyes, and lying whimsically on a couch. Lolly-gagging on furniture in meadows is how people recognize true love!
Engagement photo shoots are, let’s be honest, a very odd phenomenon. The generations before us did not think it normal to hire a professional photographer, rent an abandoned warehouse, then stand broodingly against a brick wall staring into the distance. That’s not vintage romance, that’s modern excess. We’ve gone from using the camera to document our lives, to fashioning our lives for the camera. From my Facebook feed alone, I’ve seen couples posed in fields, reenacting classic movie train scenes, and posing in faux-picnic scenes. We do not see couples being in love, we see photography skill and styling.
Is this another example of our generation, the oft maligned Millennials, being self-obsessed twits? It’s easy to say yes. The wedding industry preys on our notion that this life event is just that: an event. Brides are fairy princesses, to be indulged in their every whim, and the union they form with their grooms is unique, magical, and rare. As such, that love should be documented properly! Instead of candid pictures of the couple at football games or Scrabble tournaments, they need glossy professionally finished photos worthy of magazine spreads. Or, rather: blogs and Pinterest boards and Facebook feeds. That is where this phenomenon comes from. Now that our whole lives have been boiled down to the images and text on a screen, those images take on more value. Our generation actively judges people based on their engagement photos. Of course, they’re going to get ridiculous.
We don’t believe you stumbled across vintage furniture in a meadow or that you bring a Victrola on your romantic picnics, but we do believe you should. When the self is distilled into a social media page, the desire to properly express that self is inevitable. You like vintage things? Grab an old dress and find an airport hanger: you’re on a retro vacation! You’re originally from Texas? You’ll want perfectly coordinated cowboy boots and a picturesque horse ranch. Hipsters need edgy graffiti; comic lovers need to fend off zombie hordes. How else will your friends and family know the true nature of your love?
Y’all, this is ridiculous. Life does not exist to look lovely on your Pinterest board. A relationship’s strength should not be judged by how photogenic it is. We’re not fooling anyone with these pictures. No one seriously snuggles up on velvet couches in poppy fields, or packs for a honeymoon in vintage suitcases. They’re lovely, but—darling, please!—a carry-on needs wheels. Must we all look like Stock Photo Couple #34, for our friends to know our relationship is legit? Do we really have a rare “fairytale” love, when it’s portrayed just like everyone else’s?
I vote we stop with this nonsense. If your grandchildren need proof you were once hot, you’ll have your wedding photos. A professional photograph is not required for all our life events. If we really want keepsakes, we’re doing it wrong. It’s not awkward smizing on a bench we’ll remember in fifty years, but the parties with friends and shared triumphs. We should be documenting the truth of our lives—the imperfect makeup, along with the real from-the-gut laughter—not a glossy, solar-flared impression of it.