Social media is changing how weddings look

On Instagram, Angela Pan’s wedding looks perfect. At her hen’s party in Auckland, she sports a train of balloons in millennial pink.

In a short video, gentle music accompanies an unboxing of her gift boxes for bridesmaids, featuring customised wallet pouches and fluffy slippers. In a crisp white dress, she kisses her new husband Joseph in front of their family and friends.

Pan, a creative director now living in Australia, is one of the approximately 20,000 New Zealanders who get married each year.

Most of those people will use social media.

Given that the global wedding industry is worth hundreds of billions of dollars, social media is both a lucrative place for businesses that work with weddings and a place for people to perform their happiness.

“I used social media as my planning tool for the entire wedding,” says Pan.

She spent hours exploring wedding hashtags on Instagram and seeing who friends had mentioned when posting wedding pictures.

She made Pinterest boards for cakes and decor and hairstyles, then shared them with her wedding planner.

All the vendors she used at her wedding were found through social media. There wasn’t necessarily much choice; the online wedding industry, just like everywhere else, overrepresents white cishet people.

It was difficult for Pan to find makeup artists and dress designs who had experience working with Asian skin tones and body shapes.

Rachel, a Wellingtonian who got engaged to her partner in March, has also been finding inspiration online, but finds herself more sceptical of the “generic” Instagram wedding – flower walls, cottagecore, and unique hashtags.

“A lot of that is about status and flexing – it isn’t within my budget,” she says frankly.

“The Disney industrial complex tells us that we need these huge weddings, because it’s supposed to be the happy ending.”

For wedding businesses, social media is an excellent way to find clients.

“We think social media is wonderful,” says Sirjana Singh, one half of Tinted Photography.

Singh and her husband Ben Lane have 18,000 followers on Instagram, drawn to their moody, lush photography and behind-the-scenes Stories.

Singh says that Tinted Photography became a full-time business because social media got them enough clients to photograph weddings for a living.

Teuila Benoni, a wedding planner with Wedding She Wrote in Auckland, agrees that social media is good for business, as well as helping couples to communicate what kind of wedding they want. “It definitely helps with aesthetic, [especially] if you want a magazine cover wedding.”

She pauses.

“It can put a strain on budget, though, wanting a whole lot of different things to put in your wedding photos.”

Weddings are no longer just for loved ones, but demonstrations of intimacy and wealth designed to be shared with the world.

Is the proliferation of wedding content on social media homogenising weddings?

Benoni doesn’t think so.

Wedding She Wrote specialises in planning for couples of various ethnic backgrounds, many of whom find inspiration to embrace aspects of weddings from their culture online.

“You can showcase diverse rituals,” she says. “Ones that haven’t been repeated in your family for a while.”

While Singh stresses that Tinted Photography – who specialise in adventure photography and elopements – make every shoot unique, she also says that photographers and couples have nothing to fear from looking like other people.

“Centuries ago, people were saying ‘oh my god they painted the royalty like this. I want to be painted like that.’”

Photographers like Singh have to be immersed in trends – and they’re still not sure what the TikTok era of wedding photography is going to look like.

While social media is useful for wedding businesses and the betrothed alike, the connection between the social internet and weddings raises bigger questions about why people get married at all – and why they feel the need to tell other people about it. Continue reading

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