One of the things that is slowly becoming evident to me is the judgement made by some people about me being in the “wedding industry.” I sometimes feel a little embarrassed telling people I’m a wedding photographer and I’ve spend some time trying to figure out why. I’m really happy doing what I do so I have to admit that it is a strange guilt that I feel. This is a complicated thought process I’ve been through to get to this point so I hope you can bear with me. If you can’t be bothered, just scroll to the bottom, there’s a picture of a cat. I’m a photographer so my experience is limited to that area, however I imagine my malaise extends to the full spectrum of industry vendors. Additionally, I know that there are numerous other vendors and businesses who share my views and they’re frequently featured on sites like Offbeat Bride (USA), Rock N’ Roll Bride (UK) and I Do Too (Australia) so I am confident that I’m not the only one that feels like this. But this is my website so I can say whatever I damn well please! :)
The thing is, I think a lot of us “new wave” wedding vendors ARE indeed embarrassed with the wedding industry. It has, rightfully or wrongfully, a reputation for overcharging, pressure selling and being cheesy. And many people now are no longer interested in the traditional model of a wedding; they don’t want 200 guests, a function room reception or a white dress. People are becoming more individual with their choices and personalising weddings to be unique and consistent with their lives, personalities and relationships. I married my wife Kristen because it was a symbol of our commitment to spend our lives together. We didn’t see how a first dance or a cake cutting fitted into our relationship so we decided to dispense with those elements. There were a lot of things we chose not to do, and a lot of other things that we did choose to do that would be considered non-traditional, but it remained consistent with us and what we loved and wanted. But in saying that, this doesn’t mean every single person will want this, some love the traditional approach and good luck to them, there’s no judgement from me.
One of the reasons I am writing this stems from an experience I had with an album company last week. I’ve been thinking about upgrading my albums to a different product for a while now so went to a showroom to speak to them and find out what their albums were like. First of all, I waited nearly 10 minutes in the foyer while staff walked around me completely ignoring me until eventually, someone utterly disinterestedly asked me how they could “help me”. I explained my situation and asked him about their products. Rather than being helpful in any way, the staff member patronised me and spoke to me like I wasn’t worthy of their services. Perhaps the fact I was wearing torn jeans and a band tshirt and rode there on my bicycle contributed to his response but there was no reason he couldn’t have been polite to me or been helpful. He made a judgement about me because I didn’t fit into his expectations and was unfair in the way he treated me because of this. As a result, I’ve decided that this company will not be receiving my patronage.
Another example of this comes from a story that one of my clients recently told me when she had been interested in purchasing a dress from a shop. The staff in the store made judgements about her from her appearance and spoke down to her and made her feel quite awful. She ended up leaving the store in tears. I have many other examples, but I’m not in the game of naming and shaming so I will not go further. But this kind of thing is rife and is simply not good enough; I am now feeling more conscious of my role in this. Am I participating in an inherently broken system or is this kind of stuff an exception? Is it a case of a few bad apples? To be honest, I have no idea, but what I am sure of is that I don’t want to be one of the bad apples. I want to stay true to myself and do what I do because it’s what I enjoy and love doing. The fact that we make a financial gain in return for our skills and time is something all us vendors should consider as a privilege, not a right. I believe we need to work together, share and be supportive of each other as much as we can. In the grand scheme of things, the wedding industry isn’t really something that impacts the world or our civilisation greatly, especially when there is so much sadness and misery around us. The only thing we can do is provide happiness for people so we better well do a damn good job of it. The customer needs to see value in what we do and as an industry, there are many reasons that have caused the customer to not see that value and that’s something we can change by firstly becoming better people. My life motto is “Treat people the way you want to be treated” and I think that’s a pretty good starting point.
I appreciate I run a business and I’ll alienate some potential clients by writing this. However, I feel comfortable with that as I know that nearly everyone I have worked for in the past appreciates and supports who I am, what I do and how I do it. The reason I enjoy doing what I do is because I’m involved in something I believe in AND that I’m committed to. If I treated a wedding as something to simply make money, I’m quite confident that my photography would be far less creative and I wouldn’t enjoy carrying around 15kg of gear for 12 hours at a time (not that I enjoy the shoulder pain, but you know what I mean!). People let me into their lives for one day, for many the most significant day in their lives thus far, and I need to make sure that I treat that honour with respect. I’m more than aware that I’m pretty fresh in the industry but I am happy making my own path and staying true to myself regardless of what the experts might have to say. Also, the new generation of people getting married who are after vendors who’s beliefs are aligned with their own are the kinds of people that will continue to hire me and ensure that I wake up each morning and look forward to what I have to do.