Editorial | Weddings for people allergic to drama

September 1, 2017
marrying couple walking in dry grass at intimate bay area wedding

Average wedding cost

The average wedding in the US now costs $35,329[1]. There is definitely a disparity between different regions of our nation however: the most expensive part of the country to get married in is Manhattan where on average couples will splurge $78,464, and the cheapest is Arkansas where a wedding averages $19,522. But what about the San Francisco Bay Area? In our part of the country, in 2016, couples getting married were spending an average of $42,716 – 17% higher than the national average.

I’m going to try really hard not to moralize as I write this, but this is an issue I feel strongly about. I get that there is often a huge amount of pressure both from peers and parents, as well as the stranglehold of the wedding industry in cultivating this idea that you can’t start married life without an extravagant, expensive bash with several dozen or even hundreds of people present.

But still, it’s my contention that getting married doesn’t have to be expensive. No couple should feel obligated to stick to traditions that they feel don’t represent who they are. And, I feel the wedding industry has a lot to answer for in creating demand for unnecessary things that many people unfortunately are powerless to resist.

photography outside city hall san francisco

Starting married life financially drained

The fact is, lavish weddings often leave couples starting married life with regrets and a strain on their relationship. Sure, everyone wants their wedding to be special, memorable and unique given that it is a hopefully once-in-a-lifetime event. (Don’t get me started on the statistics that almost 50% of marriages in the US end in divorce[2]: an unfortunate but real fact that the wedding industry conveniently forgets). However, spending money that people don’t have and need to borrow is a foolish and irresponsible way to start married life.

Many couples get financial help from friends and families but how weird does that feel, asking them for money so we can have a big party, when they have already given us so much growing up? If we’re self-sufficient adults by the time we choose to get married, is that really OK? If parents have already saved up a nest egg for the big day, perhaps even since the day their daughter was born, wouldn’t a better use of the money be as a down-payment for a home, an eye-opening trip around less developed parts of the world, a car bought outright, or as a stock market investment that will see the couple through retirement? Or basically, anything else that will last longer than that one day and perhaps benefit their relationship and new life together?

just married couple gaze to sea with golden gate bridge in background

A better way?

Yes, I am biased. I just don’t get the whole fascination. Never have done and probably never will. Through my experience as a wedding photographer and a newlywed, I am a fierce advocate of small, intimate weddings. Brides and grooms can personalize their wedding day in a meaningful way that honors who they are as a couple, rather than honoring arbitrary, outdated traditions.

Sharing their union with those that directly support them makes the experience much more emotional in terms of the sheer closeness of everyone present. The impetus isn’t on pleasing distant family members whom the couple doesn’t actually know personally, but instead on celebrating with their dearest and closest loved ones. Or celebrating in any way they wish but honoring their unique story, not someone else’s idea of fairytale perfection.

just married couple kissing outside city hall photography

It’s all about connection

A photographer like myself who only shoots small weddings and elopements can tell the emotive story of a couple whose day is truly… no, but I mean truly… unique. Moments aren’t rushed and there isn’t such a strict, soul-sapping adherence to a timeline that makes no-one happy, and seems pretty absurd when you actually break it down: why are we doing all these random silly things?!

I connect with my couples in a valuable way. Our photography ideals align, and chances are our values do too and we connect on an emotional level. In my work I capture emotion, spontaneity and intimacy, and my couples want their emotive, spontaneous, intimate day captured meaningfully. It’s a shared passion which means both parties have a true experience together, rather than going through the motions of a ‘perfect [$42,716] wedding day’.

This is an age and an area of the world where we all talk non-stop about authenticity, our personal brand and telling our story. I would like to put this out there: if having a big, crazy wedding just doesn’t feel like you, it probably isn’t you. If you decide to have a small, intimate wedding or elopement, get in touch with me, I promise I’m truly on your team.

muir beach overlook bride and groom


[1] Source: The Knot: https://www.theknot.com/content/average-wedding-cost-2016

[2] Source: American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/topics/divorce/