I have been invited to a couple of weddings recently, and noticed something that struck me.
Wedding photographers are not immortalising your memories of your wedding. They are creating them. After all, what exactly are you going to see on the photos in twenty years’ time? The couple holding hands, closeups, some spontaneous shots of the friends and relatives -all in all a great event, where everyone was enjoying themselves.
I think movies do form our perceptions what the real world should look like; the Wedding Crashers, the Four Weddings and a Funeral and other romcoms shape everyone’s ideas of how a wedding should be, how they should be feeling, and what they should be doing, regardless of how the real world actually is. (I think the same can be said about a lot of other human experiences, like love, sex and grief.) But this goes further.
The actual experience of the wedding is quite different from what you imagine (or remember) it was looking at the photos. These photos are not made by some “fly on the wall” that nobody notices. In fact, the presence of the photographers is quite pronounced during the whole of the ceremony. While the wedding is going on -either the ceremony or the party afterwards- all the happy couple sees is a couple of guys in T-shirts and jeans with two or three cameras attached to their bodies circling them, sticking their lenses and flashing their flashguns in their faces. It’s pretty difficult- I assume- to get into the whole “oh, I’m getting married to the love of my life in front of our loved ones, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience” feeling when no matter where you look, there is at least one guy in faded jeans with an enormous camera in hand pointing the damned thing at you.
As a guest you often miss things because they stand in front of you, blocking the view of the happy couples exchanging their woes. Even if you can see the couple the presence of the photographers is quite difficult to miss; in other words you will be always conscious of some people hovering all over the place. They have to be in the front, after all; it is their job to capture the moment. The moment that does not really exist, because the spontaneity is spoiled by the fact that there are people everywhere to record it.
This whole business does change your entire experience of the event a lot. The experience resembles the shooting of some Hollywood movie rather than any real-world event. In twenty years’ time, however, all that is gone; all you have got left with is the movie. Gone are the props, the cameramen, the director- you have something that convincingly looks like a real-world wedding should look like. Essentially you end up with some artificial memories, because in reality you spent the evening -while you were sober- wishing that the camera guy did not block your view.