This opinion piece has been contributed by Cairns photographer Jannah Dryden, who founded Album Registry, an online photo gift funding platform. As a wedding photographer, and operating a business heavily reliant on couples tying the knot, Jannah is sharing her observations on the current state of wedding photography.
It comes as no secret that the ankle-tap that Covid-19 has had on the wedding industry is significant. In fact, it’s been huge.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I watched on in horror as the company I founded, Album Registry, came to an overnight halt – literally. Our wonderful community of photographers went into shut-down as social distancing measures saw weddings and family celebrations cancelled across the globe.
As I contorted my way into platform hibernation, I asked my suppliers to give me a few months grace and I applied for the Jobkeeper package. I wasn’t sure how long I could hold on for, or if we were going to come out the other side.
You know what though? The world was a bit batshit crazy back then. Everyone needed a chill. Lockdown created beautiful stories of expectant mothers racing to cross borders to be with their partners. We’ve seen some of the most talented photographers turn homeschool into works of art; and the simple task of taking the wheelie bin out has been embraced by total badass Divas.
Now here we are at the start of October and I’m so pleased to share we have seen a 75 percent increase in photo gift registries created in the last three months. Even mid-lockdown, our baby shower registries have boomed. And the reasoning is simple – while loved ones have been excluded from attending these momentous occasions, they have really enjoyed being able to send a gift from afar.
But what about weddings? I’ve watched the fluctuating trends within Album Registry, but I’ve also had the opportunity to observe the changes to this industry from the front line. Weddings have changed forever, and to be honest, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Last Saturday I photographed my first – and last – wedding of 2020, #ThanksCovid. Usually, as I make my way into a church for the ceremony, I reach for the holy water and make the sign of the cross. This time, an automatic pump of hand sanitiser was deposited onto my hand, and I wasn’t sure of the protocol. Had the sanitiser been blessed? Do I use it as a holy water replacement?
My bride had been planning her wedding for more than a year, and as if organising a wedding at any time wasn’t stressful enough, the pressure of a 2020 wedding is immense. There’s the ‘on-again/off-again’ dance and the ‘no-guests/some-guests/all-the-guests…but not indoors’ seesaw. It’s enough to cause long term anxiety. The build-up hit breaking point for my bride, and the tears started to flow.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we saw couples cancel weddings or postpone them until 2021, and in some cases, indefinitely. But now, I’ve noticed an interesting shift trending on Album Registry. I shall dub it The Rise of the Renegade Wedding.
I am noticing the emergence of the ‘post children’ wedding; the second wedding; the elopement. It’s a trend that is attracting the hip, the trendy and the budget-conscious. It’s those people who are choosing ‘now’ rather than 2022, because 2021 is completely booked out. And there are those who are choosing to tie the knot now and defer the party with all of their friends and family until later.
But it’s also those who are finally calling it out. ‘Getting’ married is a huge affair that is often all about pleasing other people and quite often misses the whole point of two people, committing to each other, together.
Personally, I think this trend is going to stick. I don’t think this will ever ‘go back to normal’.
With a huge decrease in attendee numbers, there is now an emphasis on producing quality memories. There’s the live streaming of video for those who cannot make it, and with absolute certainty, there’s a professional photographer. A Global Pandemic is not the time to be skimping on quality photography in the wedding budget, and it is evident that couples are very conscious of this.
During September, I closely monitored a photo gift registry for a New Zealand wedding. The country’s second wave of Covid meant the photographer had to refund a portion of the photography package, and I thought this would lead to the shutdown of their photo gift registry. When the couple chose to keep the registry active, we saw a sharp increase in gifting from family and friends in the UK who were unable to attend. Then, when those loved ones saw their Pound Sterling go a little further than expected due to the attractive conversion rate, we saw a second wave of gift-giving a week later.
There has never been a more critical time to document and capture life’s special moments with professional photographers. And I don’t use the word ‘professional’ lightly. Not only do professionals provide a higher quality of photograph to share with loved ones near and far, but they also preserve the images professionally. True professionals don’t throw some photos on a USB, charge $300 cash and are no longer in business a few years later when a replacement is needed.
A true professional is the photographer who is so invested in you both, that after a day of knocking around together celebrating your togetherness; they become like family. They’ve always got your back (and your back-ups) and they take the responsibility of capturing and preserving your memories very seriously.
And there has never been a more significant moment in time when friends and family need a way to give gifts across borders; easily and with absolute love.