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The Rise and Reign of The Instagram Wedding

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The Rise and Reign of The Instagram Wedding

#InstagramWedding #ButDoYouReallyLoveEachOther?

Weddings are supposed to be the most special and memorable day of one’s whole life…. right? At least they used to be. Now, we don’t even get a chance to remember them for ourselves. The big day happens and it’s instantly available for replay in absolute full and finite detail thanks to a little thing called social media. The Instagram Wedding has officially taken over the big day.

The Facebook and Instagram frenzy starts as soon as a proposal occurs. It doesn’t end until months upon months after the actual wedding. Here’s a rough rundown of the typical wedding timeline, as seen on my timeline:

  1. Someone proposes, someone else says yes, a ring picture with some variation of “can’t wait to start our forever together <3” caption is posted, garnering hundreds of comments of congratulations
  2. Girl decides who she wants as bridesmaids, sends a clever Insta-worthy gift to confirm that her friends still love her in hopes that they’ll post a photo of it saying “10000 times yes! Can’t wait to watch you be the most beautiful bride and I’m so honored to stand by your side on your big day!”
  3. The engaged couple decides they want a #hashtag – asks for suggestions from 3478 of their closest online friends
  4. Engagement pictures are taken in an ethereal outdoor location, be on the lookout for countdown picture posts! Only 427 more days!
  5. Bride says yes to the dress, but obviously does not post a picture of the dress (bad luck), so obviously instead posts a pic of her holding a sign stating that she did in fact say yes to the dress
  6. Bachelorette weekend! Everyone’s #NashBash MUST include matching tank tops and too many drinks to count #DRUNKBRIDE
  7. Bridal shower! Another party before the party where alcohol and cute signs abound without discrimination, thanks mom and aunts.
  8. How is it only 1 week til I get to marry the person of my dreams? *kissing engagement photo*

You get the picture. Man, just writing all of that out was tiring, and I didn’t even make it to the big day. 

Rising Costs of Weddings to Blame on Social Media

I understand the whole point of social media is to connect and share parts of life with friends and followers. Duh. But, just because we can share every single thing about our wedding with the internet doesn’t mean we should. Not only is the Instagram Wedding diminishing the value of being present in the moment, but it’s driving the cost of weddings up to astronomical amounts. According to the Brides American Wedding Study 2018, the average cost of a wedding went up from $27,000 in 2017 to over $44,000 in 2018. 

If you’re like me, this is a serious shocker. With that amount of money, I could almost pay off my student loans, buy 2 cars, have an amazing down payment for a house, go on many trips around the world, or… the list goes on. I’m not sure what kind of brides were interviewed for the survey. But, after some reflection, this amount of money for a wedding actually does seem to fit the times. 

Girl taking pictures at a wedding for social media
Photo: Marco Verch etc via flickr/CC BY 2.0

Do People Have Weddings Just to Take Pictures of Them?

The more pictures I see from weddings on Facebook, the more often I think “wow, they must’ve bought that just to take a good picture of it.”

Consider those hangers that have words written out in the metal bar. They usually say “Mrs. ______” (fill in the new last name). A quick search reveals that these hangers cost anywhere from $20 – $40.00.

Literally the only thing this $40.00 hanger serves a purpose for is to take a few pictures of it holding the wedding dress. No one aside from the bride and her wedding party will actually see it in person. It has no practical purpose, considering regular hangers can hold a wedding dress. It most likely can’t be sold after the big day if the name is customized. 

“So what?” you say. If a bride has her heart set on having a picture of her wedding dress with a customized $40.00 hanger, then so be it – it’s her day. 

I see your point. However, this line of reasoning is neither rational nor sustainable throughout the course of planning an entire wedding. Think about all the little things that add up over time. The bridesmaids “proposal” gifts, the matching t-shirts and outfits for the incredulously over-the-top bachelorette parties, the custom cups and tumblers for the bridal/groom parties, the wooden signs with cursive writing, the donut walls, the sparklers, the antique convertible car rental, etc. All of these things create an unnecessarily expensive wedding. And all for…. what exactly?

To appease the bride? Before spending so much to appease the bride, the bride and co. should ask themselves if all of that spent money will make the wedding more meaningful. Will it enhance the love shared between the celebrated couple? Are decisions regarding all of these things distracting the couple from the life long choice they’re making?

So, this unnecessarily expensive wedding is then broadcast to the world via social media, and jealousy and rivalry from others future brides ensues. Brides see cute ideas for their wedding on Instagram that they will in turn purchase just to put on Instagram after their wedding. It’s a big cycle of wedding competition that continues to drive the average cost of a wedding up and up and up. I can practically hear the leaders of consumerism-driven corporate America singing their praises at this windfall.

What Happens After the Wedding?

All this money gets poured into a dream wedding, and then what? Pictures are taken, vows are vowed, and everyone goes home. All of the things bought leading up to and for this special day have served their purpose and get thrown out. In 2012, the average wedding produced 400-600 lbs of waste, based on 120 attendees. Considering the average cost of a wedding has gone up nearly 30%, one can only imagine what the waste is now.

Stop that thought right there before you go any further. It doesn’t matter that weddings are supposedly once-in-a-lifetime events (god forbid a divorce/remarry situation). With an estimated 2.3 million weddings happening per year in the US, this equates to over 1 billion lbs of trash just from weddings each year. Forget plastic straws and coffee cups, weddings are the ultimate producers of one-time-use waste.

Even so, there is a reluctance to commit to an eco-friendly wedding. Many brides dream of their perfect wedding starting in early childhood. Let’s be real – this was probably before climate change was on our radar. The long-time-coming dream wedding and being environmentally conscious are conflicting ideals. In the end, the wedding wins.

The majority of things bought for the big day end up in a large 500 pound pile of trash. What a sobering yet apparently unconvincing picture to paint. After all, those cute balloons, signs, and customized napkins from your bridal shower don’t take up that much room in a landfill, right?

A beautifully decorated wedding hall ready for the reception of an Instagram Wedding.
Photo: Parekh Cards via flickr/CC BY 2.0

The Instagram Wedding Misses the Point

The cost of Instagram Weddings, while outrageous, isn’t the worst part. Both those who can and those who can’t afford these extravagant gatherings will still have them if they want to. I suppose it’s none of anyone else’s business what couples spend on their wedding. No, the biggest problem at hand is that Instagram Weddings are distracting couples from the whole point of a wedding in the first place – love.

To remind you, a wedding traditionally comprises of 2 people who want to spend the rest of their lives together professing their love for each other in front of their closest friends and family. It is a celebration of real human interconnectedness, not that fake connection anyone can find on social media. When real love doesn’t drive the planning and creation of a wedding, it loses some credibility, and certainly its genuineness.

Additionally, it encourages wedding guests to avert their attention to social media. Yes, a wedding hashtag is a great way to collect the photos everyone took at your wedding. But, then you have 300 wedding guests sitting on their phones all evening. They ruin professional photographs by taking their own pictures. Some extremely bold guests post pictures of the happy couple on social media before the reception even starts. Additionally, these phone-crazed attendees take away from the experience of other guests who want to focus on the actual wedding.

One of the saddest statistics regarding this subject is that 62% of couples say they spend more time on social media after getting engaged. The New York Times published an entire article about couples “missing out” on their honeymoons. They spent too much time focused on making the trip look good for social media than spending time with each other.

Social Media Now Dominates Life, Not Just Weddings

Unfortunately, the internet has now infiltrated just about every important and meaningful moment of our lives. Social media drives our actions, our decisions as consumers, and it dictates how we spend our time. This holds true for much more than just weddings and honeymoons. Promposals, pregnancy announcements (and the subsequent 40-week follow-through), surprises, graduations, Halloween, gender reveals, acts of kindness, and even mourning the death of loved ones all seem to revolve around what will look good or get the most attention on social media.

“Going viral” is such a desirable thing now that people go to extreme lengths in hopes of achieving a certain amount of shares and views. Hours spent creating a perfectly posed photograph on a beach or filming a funny video hundreds of times before it’s perfect are, frankly, an incredible waste of time. 

I acknowledge that social media ultimately provides some value to our lives and relationships. It provides a free platform for small businesses and sole proprietors, such as photographers and artists, to sell their services. Long-distance loved ones that miss the wedding can still view pictures and videos online. Finding and comparing wedding venues, caterers, etc can easily be done using Facebook, without the hassle of looking in the phone book (ha!). I enjoy seeing the occasional post of one significant other displaying their love and affection for their partner.

But, a line does need to be drawn. It’s time for us to take back our weddings, our honeymoons, and our other real human connection-driven events from ourselves. It’s time to focus on what’s truly important throughout our cherished life milestones: family, friends, love, and being present in the moment. 

This caramel apple martini is a delicious fall cocktail.
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