Last week, The Onion ran a wonderfully biting post that lambasts a practice anyone with engaged friends is familiar with:
“Couple Thoughtfully Puts Up Wedding Website For Friends To Mock”
The satirical takedown of elaborate invitation sites hits all the tropes, from saccharine “Our Story” tales to a laundry list of FAQ questions no one was asking. As in indicated in the report,“’Will the band be taking requests at the reception?’ reportedly received responses including ‘Who gives a shit?’ ‘Why do I care?’ and ‘Here’s a frequently asked question: Is this website dumb or what?’”
While there’s a case to be made for wedding website — who can trust their relatives to hang on to a paper invite? — the Onion digs into something more baffling with its header image, a still of the titular couple laying in the grass, stroking each other’s faces. Clearly, a photo taken with this exact purpose in mind.
From what I can tell, having sifted through backlogs of horrifying spreads, post-proposal, pre-wedding photos have gone from one or two off-the-cuff snapshots the day of to a ritual photo shoot right as essential as wedding party pictures. Significant others put a ring on it, they wait a few days, then they book a photographer to ensure their pre-marital love is captured in shallow focused, sunlit pics. Cool, I guess?
My question is: who are these pictures for? Yes, it’s nice to take a few composed shots where you know you’re looking your best. No one wants the only the pictures of them and their future husband/wife to be an Instagram taken in the stark lighting of the local bar. But engagement photos go an extra step. They’re not people acting normally. They’re people acting in luuuurve. Gazing into each other’s eyes with palms to cheeks, laughing and running hand-in-hand without motivation, a staged date where you’re lounging on a blanket surrounded by a scenic vista just as the sun is setting. It’s perfect! It’s fake.
A wedding is allowed to feel a little manufactured. It’s carefully assembled to be the perfect day. Life before and after that? Not so much. If two people want a nice framed picture of themselves in a grassy knoll, they should go for it. Smile, hug, lovely. But unless they’re going to that picture of themselves feeding each other chocolate strawberries on their mantle, they don’t need to take it. They’re not going to pull out the photo book and relive fake moments captured weeks after they got down on one knee or said “yes” to the big question. So why take them?
Because they want others to see them. They want to torture us with their adorableness.
I get the impulse to put engagement photos on Facebook and Instagram. That’s where people share photos and you have photos to share. But taking engagement pictures should have a purpose outside of announcing the marriage through an onslaught of photographic evidence. Friends know friends got married. If there’s a shot of the exact moment the proposal went down, people will eat that up. 180 unedited shots from your staged trip to the lake? They are void of personality. People don’t belong in this moment of intimacy, if the couple dares call it that.
It’s really fun to take photos with someone you love. The activity of engagement photos might actually be worth it. Planting them so that anyone affiliated with the relationship will inevitably come across them is downright cruel and as the Onion puts it, they will be mocked.
Enjoy the momentous moment. Enjoy the glory of finding someone you absolutely love. Take a few pictures! Then keep them to yourselves.
Matt Patches is a writer and reporter living in New York City. His work has been featured on New York Magazine’s Vulture, Film.com, Hollywood.com, MTV, and he is the host of the pop culture podcast Operation Kino. He continues to love Groundhog Day.