Updated: Dec 12, 2019
I've learned a lot over the past three years about what my brides and grooms are looking for. Each couple is different. They each have their own sense of style and esthetic. But when I ask them specifically, what they envision on their wedding day, so many of my brides say the same thing:
"I want to look natural in the photos, Rachel. Not posed or stiff."
And while I agree that no one would want to look like a robot in their wedding pics, in today's blog, I wanted to push back a little on that word "natural." In my opinion, I think the wedding industry as a whole has gone a little bonkers with it. I'd like to make the argument that what my brides and grooms really mean is they want to look "effortless" and here's why I think it's important to note the difference between the two.
1. There really isn't anything "natural" about a wedding
This probably doesn't sound trendy, but hear me out. Unless you are literally just exchanging rings with your partner and signing the legal paperwork later, how "natural" is your wedding really going to be? Is it natural to get dressed up in a white gown that really is formal enough for the MET Gala? Is it natural to have your best friends get that dressed up too? And walk down an aisle, holding beautiful flowers, flanked by the rest of your friends and family? Does your hubby-to-be typically dress in a three piece suit or a tuxedo and walk in step with his best friends? Is it "natural" to stand in front of a religious figure, holding hands, and reciting pretty heavy duty vows? Since my natural state is lying on my couch, wearing yoga pants, watching 90 Day Fiance, with my hair in a bun, I'd say....not so much. And here's why that's OK!
2. Production is a good thing! Don't shy away from it
While there really isn't anything natural about a wedding, there is a wonder and magic to the production of it. Weddings are steeped in tradition and spiritual meaning. That's why we make such a fuss about them. There really isn't another event I can think of that carries as much meaning and symbolism for a modern, 21st century couple. Think about it. We don't have debutante balls anymore (well, most of us don't). The men in our culture really have very few rights of passage anymore. Marriage, it seems, is the one big, formal, meaningful tradition that is still practiced by the majority of us. My point? It's a BIG deal! So don't be afraid to celebrate it that way. Make it as glamorous and epic as you feel it should be! That doesn't mean you have to spend your life savings on a dress, or break the bank with over-the-top flower installments, but it DOES mean that you shouldn't feel ashamed or self conscious about celebrating and elevating your experience.
3. Effortless is more about telling a consistent story than it is about true photojournalism
When I hear "I want to look natural." I now interpret that to mean "I want to look effortless." And that means that they want their visual story to make sense. They want the photographs of themselves on that day to match the look and feel they've worked hard to create. Here's an example:
It's "natural" to photograph a bride slumped on a couch, fanning herself, sitting in a dressing room, waiting to get set up for the processional. The "natural" setting there is usually over head, not-too-flattering fluorescent light. Bags, boxes, hangers (maybe even some McDonald's wrappers!) in the background, with the bride's body somewhat hunched over and relaxed. What bride wants that picture?!
The "effortless" version of that might be the bride standing in some beautiful backlight, with a pop of reflected light illuminating the lace detail on her gown, as her bridesmaids fuss over her dress and prep her for her walk down the aisle.
See the difference?
As a wedding photographer, yes, I definitely do capture wonderfully, truly candid moments. There is almost nothing better than photographing a mom making an ugly cry face, tears of joy running down her cheeks, as she squeezes her little girl before she gives her away. But I say almost, because the "directed" candid moments I create capture the "feel" of the wedding in a truly beautiful way. And I love that. My brides end up loving them too. Not because they were totally "natural." But because they were artistically created to tell the story they have spent months and months planning.
So as you plan your wedding, keep in mind the visual story you are trying to tell, and make sure you have a photographic artist that can help you tell it. Don't be natural, be effortless :) Don't try to make your wedding feel like just another day. Make it tell your epic love story.