Learning to Love my Wedding Photographs

The time between your wedding day and getting your photos back can seem like forever. You may be dreaming of gushing over each one, getting your favourites framed and sending out thank you cards with your happy ‘just married’ faces on the front. So, what happens if you get your pictures back and you’re less than thrilled? Or, worse still, what if you hate the way you look in them? Recently married, Steph Hale, is here to share her experience of hating yet eventually learning to love her wedding photographs.

When we got our wedding photographs back, I cried. They were not happy tears either. Upon opening the package, I discovered the photo DVD had a picture frame built in to the leather holder and our photographer had selected a photo to put in it. In that picture I looked like a horse. I hated that picture and once I put the DVD into the machine and the images rolled by one by one, I couldn’t think about anything other than picking holes in almost every single one I was in.

Now don’t get me wrong, we hired incredible photographers who captured the day beautifully, but my own appearance, or at least my feelings and my perception of my appearance, made me dislike the photos. Intensely. I sobbed and sobbed as disappointment washed over me, and I hated myself for spending so much money on something I now didn’t like.

And then, for the first time in my life, I did something sensible. I put the disc away and for a while forgot about them. A couple of months later, I looked again, and to my surprise, my feelings had begun to change. OK, I still looked bad in some of them, but that one wasn’t as bad as I first thought – I looked passably human! And so, this continued, I found the images more tolerable every time I looked through them after a break of time. When we reached the 10 month point post-wedding, I discovered that I actually adored my pictures, and now, as we approach five years that love has only grown!

Now don’t get me wrong, I have not suddenly become a supermodel in my own eyes, but now when I look at the photos, I see a well-dressed, well made-up version of the woman I usually see in the mirror.

I think two things have happened. Firstly, the further I’ve gotten away from the wedding, the more perspective I’ve gained. Right after the wedding, I refused to throw away anything connected to it, even keeping the sweetie bag my daughter had been nibbling from. IT WAS USED for goodness sake! However, as our first anniversary approached, I gave away the left-over unused bags and threw the chewed ones in the bin. I didn’t need to keep them anymore.

It’s all about perspective. When you first see your pictures, you’re still attached to the tension, the hype and the expectations of perfection that weddings can bring. So many newlyweds say that on the day the little details really didn’t matter, but when you’re living that pre-wedding stress, even though you KNOW no one else cares if your napkins are the perfect shade of pink, you can’t help but think it really does matter!

I think it’s the same with photographs. But photos are not about being perfect. They’re about freeze-framing a moment in time. Looking back, you stop focusing on your perceived ‘flaws’ and instead look at all those happy faces, remembering how you felt and maybe even noticing certain things you didn’t see at the time.

Just like in 5… 10… 15 years’ time you won’t care that the napkins weren’t the exact right shade of pink, the carrots were diced instead of sliced or that that certain person didn’t show up EVEN THOUGH they RSVPed, you also won’t necessarily feel the same about your photographs.

When we first got our pictures back, I still had my wedding planning head on, my head that told me everything needed to be perfect – myself included. I was looking for some kind of miracle in which my photographers had been able to make me look like a completely different person. But instead, when I looked at the pictures, I saw me. However, now when I look at them, I don’t just see myself, I see a memory, I see a feeling. I get a little flutter somewhere inside as the well-made up version of me in the photo stares back.

I now feel good about my photos. Nothing has changed within them but my opinion has changed about them. And it’s not just me that they evoke memories for – all our family and friends have memories around that day too, and they’re all there, captured forever. My mother-in-law sadly passed away just six months after the wedding, and the pictures from our wedding made the family so happy because we’re reminded of her joy on the day. My grandmother passed a year ago, and one of our wedding pictures was used on the order of service at the funeral. The joy she felt that day radiates from her in that picture.

I offered this advice once to a group of friends only to be asked how long this feeling of hating your pictures lasts, and honestly, I don’t know, everyone is different. What I do know though is that even if you’re not massively fond of your photos right away, your feelings will change as the years go by. On your 25th anniversary you won’t give a damn about all that wedding stress or desire for perfection. You’ll look at those images and smile because once upon a time, you were surrounded by people you loved, you threw one hell of a party, and you married the person of your dreams.

This article originally appeared in issue 25 of Rock n Roll Bride magazine, which is now sold out. You can purchase the latest copy here, or why not subscribe to never miss an issue?

About Steph Hale

Steph Hale is a wedding journalist and blogger, who specialises in budget weddings. She has a passion for all things wedding, metal music, and the Nordic countries, and she 100% refuses to fit in or be normal!

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