Wednesday, March 10, 2010

You Won't Find Beauty in the Portraits

Spring is just around the corner, which would be great except that it means bikini season is just around the corner. And, more importantly for many readers here, wedding season is around the corner and you "need" to look bikini-ready for that dress.  And even worse than the how-do-I-lose-ten-pounds-fast-and-entirely-unhealthily panic is the oh-fuck-I-have-to-take-pictures despair.  Complete and utter despair.  Because you aren't as pretty as the gorgeous women featured on the major blogs.  Because your wedding won't have all of the gorgeous professionally designed details featured on all the major blogs.  Because you haven't seen yourself reflected in any of the literally thousands of weddings you've been pouring over in the last few months and so you already feel a little sad about your little stretched-budget wedding of ordinary people and ordinary marriage hopes and ordinary joy.

Usually I censor my language a bit. However, after a few angst-ridden posts and twitterings around the wedding web, I'm too angry to care, so please bear with me here.

Turn away from those fucking blogs right now and reclaim your wedding. For yourself. Because your love isn't ordinary. It's rooted in your unique how-we-met story and your own we-snorted-soda-out-of-our-noses stories and your individual how-the-hell-would-I-have-made-it-here-without-this-partner stories.  Your love is gorgeous and obvious and entirely personal.  And it will shine through in the pictures.  And it will illuminate your faces with complete and utterly stunning joy.

I know. You want to believe me. You really do. But you've never seen a photo of a bride who looks like you: maybe not blond, maybe not white, maybe not straight, maybe not slim, maybe not photogenic.  Well, that's because someone running the mainstream blogs you read perhaps can't write insightful content and context but instead posts a bunch of photos.  And perhaps, due to an over-reliance on photos submitted by photographers desperate for exposure who send in only their prettiest clients for wedding submissions, this person is under the misguided impression that beauty exists in a narrow strata of near-impossibility. And, perhaps most importantly, that blog you read is focused on "detail" shots and posed bridal portaits in which bone structure matters more than emotion, because bone structure is immediate and easy and advertiser-friendly.

You know what I think about detail shots and wedding portraits?  Yawn.  Just. Fucking. YAWN.  You know what I think is beautiful?

Photos courtesy of Hazelnut Photography
Photo via Jezebel

There it is.  Stripped of bone structure and excuses about culturally defined norms of beauty. Stripped of perfectly lit poses and perfectly chosen backdrops.  No worries about weight, wrinkles, or whatever the hell anyone else was thinking. Just perfect moments of honest gorgeousness.
 THIS is beauty.  It may not meet the bullshit criteria of the wedding blogs we frequent, but fuck those blogs.  Those blogs won't make you uncontrollably smile to yourself fifteen anniversaries from now.  Those blogs and their cold notion of detached-portraiture-as-wedding-beauty won't break your heart into a million little pieces of joy whenever you look at them.  Instead, those blogs suck honesty from the concept of weddings and leave us with vintage dressers artfully placed in fields surrounded by prancing people in suits and white dresses.  They leave us emotionally empty, yet yearning for some unreal image of a wedding day that never existed.

I don't know about you, but my prancing will be of the oh-hell-yes-I-love-you-SO-DAMN-MUCH-can-I-kiss-you-again-and-again-and-again variety.  My wedding will happen surrounded by family and friends and love and not in the privacy of a damn field with good lighting.  And if my photographer doesn't capture those ugly messy kisses and that sea of community love, I will rip them to shreds in my vendor recap. Because they will have entirely missed what's essential and essentially beautiful about the day in lieu of a magazine editorial/marketing shoot.

On your wedding day, your face will scrunch up with emotion.  Your makeup will run.  You will forget anyone else is in the room besides this person who you are entirely and utterly in love with.  Simply put, you will be resplendent in utterly beatific joy.  And why would you want it any other way?

Fuck you, mainstream wedding blogs.  I challenge you to hold up your posed images of "beautiful" people against the joyful photos above and tell me that your photos are better and more worthy of public celebration.  I challenge you to defend your narrow selection criteria and aesthetic "standards" for blog submissions and tell me these images and people aren't overwhelmingly beautiful.  I challenge you to remember that you're not just selling photography, event design, and paper goods services but that, in the process, you're selling us on your hollowed out definitions of weddings and where their intrinsic beauty lies.

Frankly, I'd bet against those blogs. I'd bet your readers overdosed on bullshit months ago and are yearning for real inspiration from images of sheer, unadulterated joy and not of empty, near-impossible, aspirationalism.  I'd bet we've all hidden away an image of what we really want our wedding to feel like, and it wasn't the one you gushed over.  So come on, readers, let's start a new inspiration file that reflects true beauty and joy here in the comments.  Which moments or wedding stories do you cling to when things get rough durning planning?  Which images stayed with you months after your wedding passed?  My money's on the messy kisses and tears.

69 comments:

  1. Two words: THANK YOU. I needed this, I think a lot of us needed this.

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  2. I have to say I've found myself steering away from the mainstream blogs and reading more and more awesome blogs by just other ladies planning their wedding like me. their words inspire me way way more than blogs who post weddings that I already know mine will be nothing like. I am so happy to have a great party that i decorated and pig out and dance. all i want is for my pictures to show people rocking out. i don't need picture perfect photos. just happy and hilarious ones. who cares if i didn't lose the weight? more booty to shake it with

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  3. I'm glad to read such an angry post because I swear the discussion of this is always too nicey nicey. Wedding blogs are no better than Cosmo in the "make women feel shitty about themselves" scheme of things.

    This whole discussion has been reminding me a lot of this post I wrote about my most emotional moment in the wedding: http://accordionsandlace.wordpress.com/2009/09/07/the-moment-that-i-return-to-the-most/
    I made an aside about how the photo was not flattering, but I loved it anyway, and people were very nice about responding and telling me I looked lovely in it, which was great. But my whole point was that yeah, my chin looks freakish in there, and IT DOESN'T MATTER because I see more important things when I look at that photo, like the weight of what we had just done hitting me like a tonne of bricks. Which makes more of an impression than a chin.

    As I said to you yesterday, have any of us ever been to a wedding where we didn't think the bride looked absolutely beautiful? Of course not. We need to start looking at ourselves as our community looks at us, and not a bunch of judgemental strangers.

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  4. Hell, yeah! I love that you talk and think rather than posting a bajillion pictures. I would love to see more "not skinny, not white, not blonde, not straight, not perfectly made up, horking drinks out of your nose because you're laughing so hard" photos.

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  5. This, this, this. I think I am going to share this with Mr. Beagle tonight. He doesn't understand how women can sometimes get obsessed and overwhelmed with all the wedding media they consume. This says it more eloquently than I could.

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  6. I love your honesty. Reclaiming right now and also admitting I had cookies with my coffee this morning at breakfast!

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  7. Wow, those pictures you posted are just amazing. Like make you tear up amazing. I am really getting sick of the sterile photos of pristine brides and grooms, the ones I have to check to see if they are jcrew photo shoots or real weddings.

    Btw, two things I find inspiring (not wedding related, but I find myself turning to them often when I get freaked about wedding beauty + photo expectations) are on youtube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxJDy9vxyqo

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lp3TiHCO8os

    seriously check 'em out. always makes me smile and brings me right back to what matters.

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  8. I fucking love you. Thank you for this.

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  9. YES. And THANK GOD. And thank *you* for saying what I keep thinking, scrolling through wedding websites. Every bride is beautiful - how can you not be when you're that damned happy?

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  10. LA Love,
    You are just so wonderful at putting in words what so many women feel. I think you know how I feel about "those" wedding blogs these days. It just totally pisses me off all the time.

    And can I just share a second? In reference to your language? I got railed the other day on my blog for cussing on it. On my blog. My an anonymous poster. Now that I have my own domain and slick website features, I can totally search IP addresses. And I found out who it was: ANOTHER FUCKING BLOGGER! Local 20-nothing girls getting totally caddy behind my back like a bunch of goddamn sorority bitches. So as to your blog - go on and cuss it up. It's YOUR blog. Hopefully, you won't mind my cussing in it!
    And on top of it, there is another local blogger who is really nationally popular and her wedding has been featured all OVER the damn place. And guess what? She's an editor's pick on The Knot. Really? What a surprise.
    So over it.

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  11. Once we found our photographer, I kinda stopped caring about the pictures of other weddings. I know that Kiersten will make me look absolutely beautiful, and that a good photographer knows how to pose anyone to make sure they can deal with their insecurities. But also, I'll be so happy that you couldn't make me look ugly if you tried.

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  12. I've never left a comment on any blog before and today is the first that I've seen your blog (got the link from accordians and lace). I just had to say THANK YOU. For reals. Thank you.

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  13. Personally, I don't get it. I don't get the obsession with blogs such as Style Me Pretty and what not (that the only one I know so no offence to them). We booked our photog for precisely the reasons you described, the emotion we saw in his pics. There was one picture in particular of the brides hand and her father's hand as they are standing next to each other. Thats all you could see. She is picking at her nails in nervousness, as is her dad. We were dying to find out the story behind that pic because of all the emotion that it elicited (apparently the groom had forgotten his cell phone at home, was late, and wasn't answering her calls, poor thing). Anyway, I get so much more from reading all the personal blogs I follow. I feel like I am emotionally invested in all these great ladies and genuinely want to know what is going on in their lives. Those other blogs bore me.

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  14. Amen.

    For real.

    I wish more people remember that brides will always be beautiful.

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  15. Absolutely. The corollary to this is that a good photographer - or a caring friend/ family member - makes everyone look good in wedding photos because they capture the depth and beauty of true emotion. It's not about the aesthetics of thin/ white/ blond/ typical, but about the way the photographer can hone in on the moments of joy that define the wedding.

    Mine favorite moments - which amazingly are captured in gorgeous photos (this from one who is NOT photogenic): seeing the Mr. from the first time before we walked to the ceremony, laughing my ass off with my best friends (ya know, your face gets all scrunched up weird when you laugh really hard), listening to moving words at the ceremony (I look teary and/or distraught). That's what our wedding was. It wasn't standing in a field with a bunch of J Crew models and a piano.

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  16. oh, and: I never did lose the 7 pounds that I was supposed to. My dress fit fine, and I wasn't cranky from lack of food. Take that, Wedding Industrial Complex!

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  17. He he... I just came over here after writing a post inspired by the same subject (has to be said I came to a more delicate conclusion!)

    "Fuck you, mainstream wedding blogs" probably just made me look extremely unbeautiful as I nearly snorted my cup of tea out of my nose - but who cares, it had to be said! ;)

    Brilliant :D

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  18. yeah, i have pictures of dresses and flowers and shit on my hard drive, but my biggest folder is just titled "photography" (for lack of a better title?) and it's filled with all those engagement shots with that "look" on the to-be-groom's face, the pictures of people dancing their butts off at the reception, the pictures of dad's giving their daughters away. yeah. those pictures are what matter.

    :) :) :)

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  19. I have a confession to make. I have never read Style Me Pretty, or anything on The Knot.

    Never intend to start.

    Thank you for writing this. I think everyone needs to be reminded of what really matters everyone now and then.

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  20. Love those photos. Especially the first one - that bride looks so happy. Happiness is the thing that shows in photos. I think the prettiest brides are the happy ones.

    I find it hard to look at the fancy blogs with the set designed photo shoots. I was really disappointed about our photos because they didn't look like all the fancy weddings. But that's because we're real. It's not a photo shoot - it's a wedding. And the more I look at our photos the more I like them. I look happier than I even remember being on the day. That makes me happy.

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  21. Amen sister! These photos rock. I am a bit obsessed with looking though photographer blogs and I love the smiling, hugging, crying, laughing, cuddling photos better than posed perfect photos any day. Whenever I see a "diverse" photo (ie. not model thin perfect couple WASP photo) I get so giddy.

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  22. oh. hell yes. maybe i'm a bit weepy since i'm 30 days out, but you made me CRY!! thanks for the very real reminder.

    xo.

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  23. Every once in a while I find myself worrying about how me and Mr Fix It will look in our wedding photos. He has some scars on his face from his wilder, younger, rebel days and I am of course pretty skinny...have been my entire life. So I stress out about what if people think I look 'too' skinny in the photos or what if you see the little gray scar next to his eye? It's truly stupid. And yet I give in to the lies that I need to worry about this. Thank you for remind me (and all of us) that what is most important is just 'being ourself' and letting our health and beauty shine from our emotion and not from our skin or body type. Honesty is so appreciated.

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  24. YES.

    And @brideonashoestring, that is so spot on.

    (I wandered over here via esb. So glad I did. I'm already married, but I still this needs to be messaged to all engaged folk.)

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  25. RIGHT ON. Thank you so much for writing this. The more we all read and write things like this, the less "unusual" (to use my family's favorite euphemism for authenticity)this mindset will seem to people entrenched in the WIC. Thank you!

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  26. I'll give a disclaimer since my wedding did, in fact, wind up on a blog (http://eastsidebride.blogspot.com/2009/06/black-wedding-shoes-white-paper-flowers.html), but none of that really matters. So much of what we had was through the exploitation of our friends, requesting that they perform the wedding, act as photographer, exploiting their construction (or in the case of my mother, artistic) skills, that the result was so full of love, it didn't matter if it played well on screen.

    My wedding was not perfect, nor would I have wanted it to be. The imperfectness of it all set the tone for our marriage to follow -- it was fun, the food was delicious, and the bumps in the road didn't really matter since the important stuff all happened. At the end of the day we were married, we made a choice to commit to each other, and felt ridiculously fantastic to do it surrounded by the people we loved - which is exactly how I want to spend the rest of my life.

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  27. Agh, THANK YOU. I think anyone planning a wedding needs to read this. Everyone chill out and have an authentic-ly fun wedding - forget about the little wedding favors that no one will remember.

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  28. Yes, yes, yes. And I will admit to loving some of those blogs, but going through my inspiration folder I realize that I've saved 0 photos from them of actual people (I like details). The real wedding photos that I go back to time and time again are from Our Labor of Love. I think they're genius. Also, they get it.

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  29. Amen! As a photographer who *chooses* to shoot real life, I want real life to be true-to-life, and not just resemble something sort of like it. Particularly not in some crazed and unattainable way. I got into photographing weddings because I thought getting married was something momentous that should be documented - and not contrived. I've been doing this long enough that some of the weddings I photograph are very photogenic and detail-filled. And the couples are beautiful by any standard. But what inspires me, really inspires me -- and I'm sure inspires any photographer who loves photographing real weddings -- is tenderness between two human beings, honesty, and having a window into how other people love each other (not so much how the bride and groom love each other as much as how everyone else loves them).

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  30. I just became a follower of your blog because I believe I need to read this post daily just to keep thing is perspective with all the other blogs. PS the pictures. made me cry.That last one... wow that is a tear jerker.

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  31. I am favoriting this post and making a mental note to revisit it OFTEN. Thank you for writing this. It is a good reminder to not only love yourself and the wedding you throw, but also to forget what is expected of you.

    I do resent the hint of stereotyping in there though, as a straight blonde white thin-ish girl I can assure you that I am not photogenic, and I think you could have sufficed by taking out those "defining" characteristics and simply put "if you're not as photogenic as the photo-shoot bride bitches". Just sayin.

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  32. Fucking brilliant post.

    The wedding photos that I love? The ones that make my chest hurt and take my breath away from the sheer raw beautiful emotion that was captured. The ones where tears are ruining my makeup and you can virtually see my tonsils, because I was weeping and laughing my head off all at once. Crazy wonderful memories.

    And? I love myself in ALL my wedding photos, even the ones where my backfat is practically dripping out my dress. Because Oh My God, the joy, the love, the joy.

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  33. well said! it gives me anxiety and I am not even engaged yet. thanks for the wise words.

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  34. Thank you so much. I'm going to probably read this post every single day up to my wedding and then probably after that too because it may keep me grounded enough to stop freaking out about not looking perfect. I'm also sharing it with my fellow bride friends who also happen to be getting married this year. You're a blessing.

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  35. brilliant. Thanks for swearing - lots. it was Necessary.

    Just today I saw one and was thinking to myself 'STAGED, EMOTIONLESS & BORING' and then I read the 'brides story' of the wedding. vomit.

    If my photographer doesn't take photos of our crinkled crying faces during the ceremony or me laughing my ass off with our friends and the vein that pops out of my forehead in those situations because he thinks it's 'not pretty' I'll loose it.

    Awesome blog BTW, first time reading.

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  36. Well done; you've quelled the insecurities of countless brides-to-be who will have beautiful, joyous weddings, who might have to wear Spanx, whose Aunt Ethel and her oxygen machine will be in the background of the ceremony shots, who won't have color-coordinated letterpress menus at the reception, and who will live long, fruitful, adventurous lives with their spouses.

    Huzzah.

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  37. I kind of love you. And I kind of have head to toe chills and a giddy grin on my face after reading this. Rock on, sister.

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  38. Like k_darling, my wedding did end up on a blog or two... but I never felt as pretty, straight, photogenic as those glamour shot brides. It was kind of a boost to me to see my pictures featured... but I agree with you. This whole wedding corporation thing revolving around beauty is sickening. Kudos to you for calling it out and reclaiming self confidence and reality.

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  39. amen sister. amen.

    my favorite photos from our wedding are the ones where we're laughing hysterically or kiwi is dancing with my grandma... you can't plan photos like that.

    i was a little worried about how i would look in my dress (c'mon you know we all do) and when we got the photos back all i could think was wow, we look happy. over the moon, giddy in love, happy. and it was awesome.

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  40. this is absolutely wonderful and true! as a photog as well as a blogger, i MUCH prefer the candid images that can't be re-created at every single wedding. i love this post :)

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  41. EXACTLY WHAT I WAS THINKING. I can't wait to have great candid photos taken at my city hall wedding. Thank you!

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  42. Amen. I'm a wedding photographer and feel that if you left with just portraits you would have missed a great opportunity to have real, true documents of family history. Just like you mention above.

    I rarely even share the portraits I take at weddings, but I've been thinking more and more about how important those portraits are. Not the fake cookie-cutter portraits, but an honest, into the camera gaze on one of the most important days of your life. I think that picture is really important in the context of all the natural moments. To look in your own eyes 30 years later, or for your children to look into your eyes before they even existed, is a really powerful thing. And since natural moments aren't controlled, there are limits, and it's important to have one really nice portrait of you and the person you will spend the rest of your life with. Not lots, but one nice one.

    But I don't think you would disagree, and I appreciate all your points above. Just wanted to add another thought.

    Great post.

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  43. HELL YES!!! THANK YOU!!!! We got married on the weekend and I remember the smiles and the tears and giving my dad extra hugs.

    Our photographer was not a wedding photographer, rather she was an amazingly talented documentary photographer and family friend. She was really nervous about portraits and group poses, but i kept telling her don't worry about those things, i just want you to capture the day as it unfolds'. Our mothers wanted group family shots, so we obliged, but in all the chaos and toasting and happiness, they too ended up much less posed and more random and spontaneous.

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  44. thank god! i was always worried that i will have an ugly wedding, but eventually came to realize that those blog weddings aren't 1) really me and 2) photos of stuff that won't make me a goofy-smiling when i'm making my wedding album. i mean, shoes? would i care about my shoes and table settings when i'm flipping through my album at age 50? nope. so thank you for the reminder.

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  45. This inspired me to recall one of my favorite Mae West quotes: "I'm no model lady. A model's just an imitation of the real thing."

    LOVE IT!

    xox

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  46. Thank for telling me exactly what I needed to hear today - and every day!

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  47. I should send you a link to the joy inspiration board I made the month before my wedding. I still love it.

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  48. I LOVE THIS! Because our wedding will be interracial and I am tired of all the white girls getting all the attention. I am filipino/spanish and my fiance is mexican/jewish. I am also tired of them only showing super massive budget weddings. DIY all you want, Honey, but through that bunting and fake smiling, I can tell your wedding could have not been cheap. My fiance and I might not have a lot of money, but we sure do have a lot of love and THAT is what I want to show in those pictures.

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  49. Awesome post. Brilliant and true.
    For what it's worth to all the future brides out there my husband and I allowed some posed photos to be taken (to please the mothers), and in every single one we look like a deranged ken and barbie, not because we are so pretty but because we are regular people who can't model pose and therefore looked plastic and insane.
    In the good photos? We look like ourselves in wedding clothes. And, you know, non frizzy a hairstylist did it for me thank god hair.
    So honestly be your normal, happy, lovely self and everything will be and look beautiful!!

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  50. YEAH! Damn straight! Thank you!!!

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  51. Those wedding blogs were such an addiction for me for a long time. I looooved just the photography in general and they served good inspiration. Now I am 2 months from my wedding and whenever I look at these blogs I get so annoyed because they really do have you believe that you need to be perfect on your big day! I find that I stress about my make up and little things and then I'm like... when have I ever scrutinized every detail of someone else's wedding that I've attended? Um... NEVER! It is all about the love and happiness and MARRIAGE happening that day. The details are just a fun side note.

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  52. OK. it's been forever since you posted about this - but my computer is finally up and running and I can finally comment.

    Except, there isn't a whole lot I can contribute. This is a phenomenal post - it's helps build women back up, after all the tearing down the glossy mags, movies and even big wig bridal blogs do.

    You have inspired so many of us with this bold and clear post. THANK YOU for the reminder that we are all beautiful.

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  53. I completely loved reading your post! My sister explained to me when I started planning....it starts small (because you still have your head on and can't justify the expense)

    then it grows....out of control....from all the attention to details and reading all the blogs....

    then you get your head back on, snap back to reality and your original vision comes true and it goes back to your original size.

    Then you get married, look at pictures for a few months, and forget why so much attention was geared to the small details....

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  54. thank you thank you thank you thank you.

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  55. HELLS YES.
    As much as I love little design details in everything I make in life (kinda part of my job as a graphic designer), the INTENSE focus on such trivial things as card boxes and out of town favors and hand-wrought iron placards in the shape of each guest's freaking initials (or whatever) is RIDICULOUS.

    Focus on the love, the fun, the emotion of the day and then? For all the days afterward. Because that's what it's all about in the end.

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  56. This is very true. And, in my own blogging, I am guilty of posting photos for inspiration, but I make it my goal to feature the different, the new, the unique and find things I think are a good source of making a wedding personal. Not mainstream.

    Everything about your wedding should be uniquely personal, the bride will always be beautiful, and it is a photographer's job to capture that emotion. I think what makes a wedding special is the couple. Not the decoration, not the invites, not the dress, but the raw emotion of two people making a vow to each other, surrounded by friends and family.

    And, wedding blogs, just like the fashion industry, need to recognize all brides and grooms and couples. ALL.

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  57. hello! surfing over from "A Beautiful Life" - nice post! I think the swearing is entirely appropriate, honestly. I feel like the dominant "wedding narrative" that the wedding industry provides is so strong that it's hard for people to see a way around it anymore, which is kind of sad.. And I think we need to encourage more diversity in how people begin their lives together.

    After nine years, my sweetheart and I are finally getting hitched (I took a long time to feel "ready"), and we are quietly opting out of the stress, expense, and madness of dresses, flowers, tent rentals, halls, ministers, and catering. And somehow, it's all very sweet. We're going to Europe together - for the first time - and plan to go to the Embassy to make it legal. And when we return, we'll host 25 of our nearest and dearest for a fine home-cooked bistro meal, out in the backyard. It'll be lit by candles in mason jars, served on the vintage china collection we are accumulating, music by musically-inclined guests, photographed (hopefully) by an old boyfriend of mine. Everything about this small gathering is going to be intensely personal, carefully composed, and ultimately, an expression of who WE are, not what an industry tells us we should be.

    I'm blogging the process, as it comes together, if you'd like to follow along! Not much together yet - but that's the beauty of low-key: there's a lot less rush, too.

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  58. I'm a wedding photographer, and I have to say that this is so spot on. It's so important to remember what a wedding is REALLY about - celebrating love. I do very little posing, because I want my photos to be organic and honest. If my clients are kinda geeky and awkward, I don't want to take unnatural photos of them that strips their geeky and awkwardness from them - I want to show them, in all of their joy, their geeky awkward joy.

    Don't have unrealistic expectations. Plan your wedding to be about your love for each other, not to be about all the impressively fake photos you'll get after the fact. If you focus your efforts on planning a day that you'll enjoy and your loved ones will enjoy, you'll probably get great photos regardless.

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  59. I love this post sooo much! I felt the same way you felt when I was planning my wedding. Once I stopped looking and did exactly what I wanted, a fun, relaxed, take off your shoes and dance, and laugh out loud kind of wedding. That's how our wedding turned out and it was perfect and memorable!

    Thank you for writing this post. I truly adore you for it. That's exactly why we created our magazine in the first place. Three girls who wanted to bring back and celebrate all the forgotten and real beauty. I think you would totally dig one of our issues. It's called "tear jerker" My favorite issue! http://www.utterlyengaged.com/category/issues/issue-007/ HUG!

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  60. I could not agree with you more! (Now I need to stop reading your blog tonight and get some posts written on my own!)

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