Stuffed polar bears and Eiffel Towers: wedding snaps have come a long way
Forget a live band, and wedding breakfasts are so last Tuesday. Big-day photos have had a 21st century update
Weddings used to be simple affairs. A slightly dull ceremony, a few glasses of bubbly, beef wellington, drunken speeches, and then it was a steady descent through George Michael’s back catalogue, veering into Oops Upside Your Head and finishing up with the warbling chorus of Come on Eileen.
Memories lived on in the professional photographs – most of them stiff and staged – as well as a jaunty collection from the disposable cameras you’d left scattered on the tables. And then, 10 years ago, photo booths arrived. Now guests could queue up to pose for silly snaps, with props thrown in (think fluorescent sunglasses and a false moustache).
But those halcyon days are gone. Enter a new era of wedding entertainment: the photo experience. Picture the scene: full-sized taxidermy polar bears flank a huge installation featuring hundreds of multicoloured balloons. Revellers dance in front of the scene in their finery, posing for multiple cameras, which will turn their snaps into photo strips and shareable gifs, which can be downloaded by the happy couple and turned into everything from posters to wallpaper. This might sound rather like 2019’s answer to one of Jay Gatsby’s West Egg knees-ups, but this is par for the course at modern weddings.
Analysis from Google Trends last week showed that searches for the term “wedding photo booth” have exploded since 2010, even overtaking “wedding DJ” at one point. Couples will now happily forgo other staples such as a live band, instead pouring their budget into a full-blown Instagrammable photo experience. But why have guests cram into a rudimentary booth, when you can build an entire set?
“It’s the most visual moment of the day and couples know they will be the shots that are circulated endlessly across their guests’ social feeds,” explains Jade Beer, editor of Brides magazine. “It’s the moment on which their level of creativity will be judged. I’ve been to events where the floral arch was several feet deep and took three days to install, requiring huge teams of florists. The bar is being pushed ever higher.
“I’ve seen so many different kinds of styling for these photo moments, from painterly canvas backdrops with antique furniture to hot-air balloons, and giant paper poppy fields that dwarf the couple.”
The world is your oyster when it comes to styling your “photo moment” – whether your heart desires a Gypsy caravan, miniature Eiffel Tower or even a petting zoo. Darren Ezekiel, of UK luxury photo experience company Mega Booth, says a current favourite is for couples to have a shiny foil room installed for guests to dance around, taking pictures, which they can instantly share online. “When we first started we built photo booths inside vintage cars. Now people are looking for custom experiences.”
Renata Gal and Mark Shepard have spent about £600 (R11,000) on a flower wall for the photo experience that will entertain guests at their wedding next weekend. “We’re having a beautiful huge flower wall; a green backdrop with wisteria and roses coming down,” says Renata. “We were lucky and got a deal but I think it’s usually £800 to £900. Every wedding we go to these days has a photo booth and I think it’s great fun, because it’s an activity to entertain the guests. We’ll get a USB stick with all the photos, so we can share them.”
Beer explains: “We’re working with a bride at the moment who dedicated a huge resource to the design of her photo moment. Her 1,500 guests entered ‘the booth’ – after making use of hair and make-up artists hired for them – through 3D doors made to look like an enchanted bird, and into a neon mirror room.”
But it’s not just the styling that has evolved – technology has come on, too. “Think 3D image overlays and interactive backdrops,” says Beer. Mega Booth offers a package called Bullet Time, where nine cameras take a picture simultaneously to create a moving gif. It will set you back about £3,500 (R65,000).
“That’s where the market’s moved,” says Ezekiel. “Prints are still nice and nostalgic, but it’s all social media orientated.”
Says Beer: “For many, this is money well spent if it means they host a memorable event that trumps anything they’ve been to before.”
At Bride Book, the wedding planning app, there are more than 100 companies focused solely on photo experiences. “It’s big business,” says Hamish Shephard, its founder. “The evolution has been enormous, because it’s interactive. Everyone can get involved. It’s perfect for a wedding because it can sit there for most of the day, so it’s great value. You also have fantastic memorabilia. A friend of mine got their 300 crazy photos printed as a wallpaper, which they put up in their loo.”It may cost half your budget, but it seems in 2019 it would be unthinkable to get married without installing a full photography studio. Who needs a wedding breakfast anyway?– © Telegraph Media Group Limited (2019)