Why Is There A Couch In This Meadow?

45Congratulations! 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.

k-k-vintage-engagement-11

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.

– Grace

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19 thoughts on “Why Is There A Couch In This Meadow?

  1. “Life does not exist to look lovely on your Pinterest board. A relationship’s strength should not be judged by how photogenic it is.”

    I find myself heartily crying “amen” at yet another one of your blogs, Grace! Being an engaged woman myself, I find that I’ve been obsessing over Pinterest and Facebook feeds for photography ideas, anxious that our wedding will be documented in a way that will be shared and liked, which IS DUMB. And self-indulgent. The best pictures are the candid ones anyway!

    • I’m so glad this resonated with you! It’s so easy to get caught up in that social media wedding frenzy. The first month we were engaged, I spent an ordinate amount of time on Pinterest, amassing “inspiration” like a squirrel with way too many acorns. Some good things came of it, but more and more my wedding vision started resembling some shiny, perfect event that had nothing to do with who the Professor and I really are.

  2. AMEN! (although I do love my engagement photos…the whole focus for us was to get comfortable with the wedding photographer and be able to critique his style and how he worked with us prior to our big day. As a photographer’s daughter I was feeling extra picky about my wedding images and really thought this was a good test run. No field furniture needed 🙂

    • Lauren, that is such a great way to treat an engagement session! So many photographers automatically include them in their packages anyway, so why not use it as a test run? Also, I think wedding photos are definitely worth being picky about. They do, hopefully, last forever and are shared through the generations. Consequently, they should totally reflect y’all as a couple and your wedding day!

    • Rachel, thank you so much for the link! I loved your post! Not going to lie, I have a mostly-written post coming up about the ubiquity of mason jars. We’ve all become some sort of wedding-focused hive mind. All of our “special days” are starting to look eerily similar.

  3. We didn’t take engagement pics either, for exactly the reasons you cite. (I actually wrote a whole blog railing against the Marriage-Industrial Complex, but that’s a comment for another day.) The only thing that could possibly count as an engagement picture was the one we asked a stranger to take with Brandon’s camera phone the day after we got engaged. And, since we got engaged while camping and we both looked like shit, we’ve kept it in his phone for posterity and have decidedly NOT gone all Pinterest-y with it.

    That said, this is another brilliant post — I nodded emphatically throughout it, like I always do when reading CoS!

  4. As always, love your post! I chuckled a few times, since I can relate to everything you said. I will admit that we did have engagement pictures done, I was lucky enough to have a friend/photographer do our pictures. She gave us a great price on the engagement session and the day of. We took the engagement pictures in our front yard (which is on a river and next to a bridge) wearing normal non matching clothes. This helped my fiancé feel much more comfortable getting his picture taken and made him realize that you don’t have to be all super mushy pants to take a nice picture. The photog did a great job, she mostly took pictures of us just being normal so they look natural. And yes I did use one for the front of our invitation! No save the dates though. And Pinterest has been a huge inspiration for me, as far as decorations and DYI projects are concerned, but that’s it! Our budget is about 5000$ for the entire thing, so I highly doubt my wedding will rival any of those picture perfect weddings you see on Pinterest. But that’s how I like it 🙂

  5. You are absolutely right! I think it might even be worse when people go to JCPenney and pose with one of those garish watercolor backdrops.

  6. I agree! I didn’t have to fend off engagement photo-shoot expectations (thank god) but the amount of pressure we got for having a wedding photo-shoot in multiple scenic locations because IT’S YOUR DAY and YOU WANT TO REMEMBER IT PROPERLY! My parents have about 6 shots from their wedding day and somehow they survived and are still wed 😛

  7. As someone who is also getting married and also a photographer, I don’t see the point in engagement photos. Granted wedding photography is not my thing, I find it too stressful. But yeah I keep getting told that some of the stuff I wish to do is different and its like, its my wedding why do you care? Wrote a rant about it recently. But yeah completely agree, if you want engagement photos fine but if you’re like me and don’t care, who cares what others think. They can do it for their own weddings if they want it so badly.

  8. Damn. Now I want to go snuggle on a velvet couch in a poppy field. That sounds pretty dreamy. Although I might want to do it alone with a book and leave my husband at home. Not really interested in the photographer either.

  9. I believe that engagement pictures are a waste of money, and if mine didn’t come free with my wedding, I would probably have had them done by my mom. However, we don’t have a photographer around to snap photos of us candidly interacting as I wish we could so we stylize it. I like to think that despite the poses and vintage things, the photographer is capturing the love that I have for my fiance in my eyes (and even more hopefully the love for me in his). The photographer is the most important part of my wedding to me simply because I want these moments captured, because memory is faulty. These pictures aren’t for my grandchildren; they’re for me. I seem to be a minority here which is rare for me, but I felt it was necessary for those of us who did have them done. I did enjoy reading this even though I disagree, but you make a good argument as usual, and I agree that a lot of people have them done for the wrong reason.

  10. Not to mention all the wedding reality shows.I’d try and name them all, but I’m afraid I’d be here for longer than 10 minutes, and frankly, I’m too hungry for that. Definitely a good point made here. We are quite self-obsessed in this way. Not to mention, obsessed with our “friends” in this rather showy and superficial way. Just snap a picture yourself and save the money for your wedding.

  11. I keep getting whacked over the head by all the things a bride and groom *have* to do these days apparently. Granted, this was way worse when I moved to the UK, in Germany it doesn’t seem to be such a huge industry (yet). Save the date cards? Engagement photographs? Gifts for the best man and maid of honor (or why not for all the ushers, bridesmaids and flower girls as well – oh, what the heck, why not for every guest!)??? And of course a hotel room for every guest to spend the night to boot. No wonder weddings have become all but unaffordable for young couples.

    Utter BS, thanks for calling it, Grace!

  12. I can see where you’re coming from, and I agree that you don’t need flash pizzaz to be happy with your wedding/whatever, but I am a sucker for professional photos of all kinds. More as a keep sake than to share. I mean I do post a few here and there on my FB page and here on my blog, but the majority of them end up in our family photo album which is currently collecting dust on an end table in the living room. lol. It could be because my family is spread out all over the world and the photos we have to share are most times the only way we can share our experiences with loved ones.

  13. I liked your whole article… but the title is superb!!! Specially if read (like I read it) after reading the post. I could not help smiling.

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