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Wednesday June 05 2013

Finally.  Well, yes, fair comment, but I had and I have my reasons.

One of the reasons there have been so many inanimate objects in these wedding photos so far is that I got there so very, very early.  And it was such a lovely day, and such a lovely place.  What was I supposed to do?  Not take photos of stuff?

But another reason for the relative absence of people in these photos is that just shoving random wedding photos of people at a wedding and its immediate aftermath onto the internet raises the question of just how public a wedding is.  Is it the business of the entire world?  Not really.  Not necessarily.  (Think of the arguments that rage about who may and may not photograph celebrity weddings.  These arguments are not only about money.)

So, are weddings entirely private?  Again, not really.

A wedding is certainly not just about the Bride and the Groom.  They are of course central to everything, and in modern, self-scripted weddings, we guests are often included in the proceedings by being told that we are “sharing” this “special day”.  But I think more is involved than us merely sharing a basically personal ceremony.  What these two people, and typically also their two families, are doing is proclaiming to one and to all that, as of now, things are different.  The Bride and the Groom are no longer separate individuals in quite the way they were before this day.  They are now, in whatever way they want to do this, a couple.  Still two individuals of course, but also in it together.  And they are not just saying this to each other.  They are saying it to … everyone.  We are now living a different life.  Back us up, people.  Don’t hit on either of us during marital rough patches.  Help us to live this new life we are embarking on, rather than expecting us to behave like the singles we used to be.  If you are a long time friend of hers, but don’t much care for him, make the effort to change that, and meanwhile, keep your grumbles about him to yourself.

In the past, holding weddings in public was even more important, because only if you had lots of witnesses could most of those directly concerned be entirely sure that the wedding had even happened.  Public ceremonies, a marriage ceremony being only one such, were public ceremonies in order that everyone could then agree that they had happened, on that day, in that place, and that this or that, these or those promises had indeed been exchanged.  In pre-literate times, public ceremonies were the nearest thing most people had to a collective record of events.  They weren’t merely the principal form of public propaganda (although there definitely were that too); they were the public record.

As the old Church of England marriage ceremony puts it, right at the very start of the event:

Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; …

God, this congregation, this Man, this Woman.  The congregation is no afterthought.

But exactly who, at a wedding these days, are the members of this congregation?  In the internet age, is the congregation the entire world?  Hardly.  Yes, families and friends gather together to tell each other, and then to pass the word on to all their families and friends, that, as of now, they’re a couple and we will all help them to be a couple and to stay a couple.  But what of total strangers on the other side of the world?  Do you want random bods in faraway places to be told all about this event, and all about who was present at it, what they were wearing, and about how drunk they all got?  Maybe you will be delighted to be telling absolutely anyone who cares all about it.  But, maybe you will not.

So, in this next clutch of photos I have once again downplayed the individual portrait aspect of things, and concentrated on the kind of generic wedding-ness of the event.  Ceremonial niceties, beautiful or quirky fashion statements, food, sunshine, music making, distant shots of brideness and groomness.  But individual, recognisable faces?  Once again, hardly any.

For me, the fact that, in my pictures of my fellow amateur wedding photographers, faces are so often hidden behind cameras is a feature rather than a bug, when it comes to showing my snaps, at least in theory, potentially, to total strangers.  That’s basically why there are more photos in that collection than there are in this one.

Let me add another point on the anonymity front, relating to the sticking up of photos of people on a blog.  Let me put it thus: I have quite a few subjects which I instruct Google to email me about whenever anyone mentions them on the big old www.  One of these subjects is “face recognition”.  I get a lot of emails from Google about that, often involving Google itself.

By now, the name and face of the Groom is not much of a secret to any friends of mine or of his or of both who care, what with him explicitly name-checking a couple of us guests for a couple of our photos (in this piece), my one being one of the sign photos I took beforehand.  I did take quite a lot of portraits of people at the event itself, of course I did.  But they will be thrown into the photographic bran tub that the Bride and Groom will presumably trawl through about once every decade, without casual internet passers-by seeing them.  I may even have the odd trawl through them myself in the years to come.  But as for the rest of you, you will have to make do with snaps like this:

image image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image image

As you can see, this is not just the ceremony itself.  It is also the reception.

In 2.1 we see the Bride putting a ring on the Groom.  And in 1.2 we see us guests passing … something along between us, but I already forget what it was.  This was in accordance with some kind of Hindu ceremony that the Groom had read about on the internet and, if I recall what the Bride’s Mum said, we (i.e. regular Hindus) never do.  So the Groom, no sort of Hindu himself, had invented an entire Hindu wedding tradition.  Outstanding.

I particularly enjoyed the bit later on in the day (see 3.2) where the Bride and Groom, surrounded by musicians, were photoed together, at the far end of the lawn from the rest of us.  I got no really good photos of this, but what I saw reminded me somewhat of this famous Jack Vettriano painting, of people dancing on the beach, attended not by musicians but by umbrella holders.  I thought there were musicians involved in that picture, but I now reckon I was combining in my mind that painting with this one.  Ah, it seems that the man with the umbrella was singing.  So music was involved.

Setting Vettriano aside, one of the musicians told me that although they had performed at many weddings, they had never, ever been asked to do anything like that before.  So it was a slightly special day for them also.  Excellent.