The rise of the bloggable wedding
- 1 June 2013
- From the section Magazine
Enjoying their big day with friends and family may no longer be enough for the modern bride and groom thanks to the increasing popularity of wedding blogs, writes photographer Caroline Briggs.
Planning a fairytale wedding used to be so simple - meet handsome prince, spend big bucks, live happily every after.
But thanks to the rise of the wedding blog, there are some brides who are now consumed by competitiveness.
Blogs such as Love My Dress, Rock My Wedding and Rock n Roll Bride, feature "real" weddings packed with more "quirky" ideas than you can shake a paper pom-pom at.
And it means the modern bride is just as likely to agonise over the choice of chi-chi wedding favours as she is the guest list - all while squeezing her modern day proportions into grandma's vintage wedding dress.
Tired old sugared almonds? Pah. How about a handmade origami bowtie that doubles as a party game? Or Mr Men books carefully matched to each guest?
And many brides hope their efforts will be rewarded with the ultimate accolade of "bloggable".
"Some people see having their wedding blogged almost as a validation that it was a success, which I find a bit weird," says Kat Williams of Rock n Roll Bride.
"I see a lot of real weddings that are very similar, but I guess that's the nature of trends and fashions.
"But a lot of those trends - like bunting and hay bales - are still seen as very different to guests who are used to seeing traditional church weddings."
Even though she receives between 50-100 wedding submissions every day, Williams is still occasionally surprised.
"I recently featured a bride who arrived in a coffin. I'm not easily shocked, but I was with that," she laughs.
Williams, who started blogging in 2007, gets 650,000 monthly page views and is one of a handful of women who have turned their wedding blogs into a full-time business.
The blogs deal with every kind of wedding - vintage, eco, whimsical, DIY - under the sun.
The success of Annabel Beeforth's Love My Dress vintage glamour-inspired blog has even led to her writing a wedding inspiration book, Style Me Vintage.
For her, a bloggable wedding is big on detail, but is more than just simply about the styling.
"A wedding has to make some kind of connection with me and I have to know it will inspire our readers.
"Detail is important. Brides-to-be want to see that wrist corsage close up, they want to see how those shoes looked with that dress, they want to see that hair style from all angles, they want to see the table decor, stationery, the groom's outfit - they want to be inspired so they can plan their own weddings."
Joanna Hunter read blogs every day during the three years she was planning her big day, using them to consolidate her ideas for everything from table decorations to timings.
Her wedding dripped with vintage style like something off Pinterest, with china teapots, lace-tied classic books for each guest, and a vintage ice cream van.
Hunter's wedding went on to be featured on the blog Whimsical Wonderland Weddings, but she admits the effort was overwhelming at times.
"I bit off more than I could chew in the end, but it was all worth it," she says. "It was flattering to see it on all the blog and think people were looking at my wedding."
Blogs are at the forefront of changing wedding trends and the perceived ideal, but not every bride will marry in an oh-so-chic industrial space, flanked by nymph-like bridesmaids while wearing a bespoke headpiece.
And who really has time to hand-carve 100 wooden lolly-sticks for place names?
So is the pressure to be unique overshadowing what a wedding should be all about?
"There are so many ideas and such creativity that it can fuel a bit of insecurity and, if you let it, drive you to insanity," says Miriam Boote, 33, who successfully submitted her big day to two wedding blogs.
"I was worried I didn't have enough stuff so I rushed out and bought a croquet set and a fancy dress kit."
Treading the fine line between aspiration and attainability is something Williams says she is acutely aware of.
"My advice is to take blogs with a pinch of salt. Use them for ideas and to find suppliers, but try not to get too obsessed.
"It is one day in the rest of your life and how your wedding looked is not going to define your marriage."
But it's not just brides who are clamouring to have their weddings featured on blogs. Designers, florists, cake-makers, and photographers recognise the value of having their work at the fingertips of brides lapping up blogs during their lunchbreak.
Sally Thurrell is one of many photographers who use blogs as their only form of advertising.
"The bigger the blog, the bigger the impact on your business," she explains. "For me, it's more important to be a good fit with the couple and do a good job for them - it's a bonus if the wedding is bloggable."
"But I do know photographers with a very specific brand, who can afford to be choosy, who will point a bride and groom in a different direction if they feel the wedding isn't right for them."
So with more and more photographers underlining "blogs" in red pen at the top of their marketing plan, are they shooting to appeal to a blogger or the bride?
"One bride was so upset with her wedding photographs because there were 20 photos of the flowers yet only one of her nan," explains Williams.
"While I might not use the one of the bride's dad crying in church, that's the photo the bride is going to love."
Williams, who chooses just two or three weddings to feature daily, has heard stories about brides piling pressure on themselves as well as photographers to make their weddings bloggable.
Ellis Cashmore, professor of sociology at Staffordshire University, believes the media influences the obsessive preparations.
"We have a generation of people of marrying age who have grown up in a culture of celebrity.
"Getting married is a coming down to earth moment. It is what your grandparents did, your parents did, and it is expected of you - so in a symbolic sense it is the resignation that your life isn't going to be as fantastic as you thought it was going to be."
"With that resignation comes a sense of 'I am just going to be like everyone else - if I'm going to go down in flames I want people to know how fabulous it was'."
Miriam, who describes herself as a "bit of a show-off", agrees. "I definitely think celebrity culture is part of it, wanting to seek fame in whatever guise it is," she says.
"People detail every part of their lives online anyway - even putting pictures of their dinner on Instagram - so why not their wedding day too?"