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#thebigday: Documenting a wedding

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#thebigday: Documenting a wedding

Photography hashtags help capture the moment for couples, guests
#thebigday: Documenting a wedding
Paul Gallo (lower right in photo) and Maeve McEneny Johnson, walking down the aisle, used hashtags for their weddings.
Photographer: Provided

“ ‘#’ was the pound key on a telephone when I got married,” says Craig Gravina, of Albany, who was married in 2003. Though it was only 15 years ago, the wedding industry has changed dramatically thanks in part to the utilization of social media.

Today, most betrothed couples are more likely to use the “#” symbol to document their weddings on Instagram and Facebook.


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Hashtags are popular tools to retrieve posts and photos from social media. You have likely seen them in relation to company promotions or big events, like #TheOscars or #SuperBowl, but they can be used for more personal events, like a family reunion or wedding. When Matt Ramos, of Matt Ramos Photography in Schenectady, first starting taking wedding photos, hashtags didn’t exist, but he’s quickly adapted to the trend. He says that advances in technology (cell phones with great cameras, especially) have allowed wedding guests to share photos quickly, and hashtags are just a way to help document the moment.

“I actually think the wedding hashtags are a really fun and brilliant way for the couple to have lots of extra candids and fun images from their wedding day, in comparison to just a few years ago when people used to have all these ugly disposable cameras all over the tables with film that needed to be processed and paid for,” Ramos says.

Dexter Davis of Dexter Davis Photography and Films in the Capital Region says that wedding hashtags have become the new normal. “If a couple has a wedding day hashtag we use it in any teasers or blog posts from their wedding.”

Heidi Sicari, who works in the wedding industry as a venue owner (Takk House, Troy) and photographer was married in 2016 and used the hashtag #partylikeasicari to document her wedding. “We used one and it was a lot of fun. It was kind of like keeping a little photo diary. I like going back and looking at it,” she says. Hashtags sometimes go awry, she finds. “I have also seen them kind of forced and not work at all though. It depends on your group and how socially connected they are.”

Paul Gallo, who was married over Labor Day weekend in 2017, says part of the trick is finding ways to inform guests of the hashtag. “Choosing a unique hashtag and then reminding guests to use it allows you to pool everyone’s photos without having to request photos from each person,” he says. His hashtag (#pstoyourunion) was present on the wedding website, invitation and signage throughout the day.

Mackenzie Smith, a photographer who works in Texas, says that the hashtag is beneficial to the photographer, too: “I love being able to contribute to my clients’ hashtag. It gives me more exposure. Anyone who looks on that tag will see my photos.

And if I’m the only one there with a pro camera, chances are my pictures will stand out. That’s potential for new business.”

Davis agrees, saying, “We love it since our photos will show up when people look at the hashtag. On all of our posts on Instagram and Twitter we use various hashtags. It definitely helps with visibility.”

The hashtag can serve as documentation for a life beyond a wedding, too. Smith retroactively tagged all photos on Instagram of her and her now-husband with their wedding hashtag #macktothefuturejk and continues to use that tag on pictures of the couple to easily find photos in this new era of digital pseudo-albums.

Because of her wedding hashtag, people continue to mistake (intentionally or otherwise) Maeve McEneny Johnson’s surname months after the wedding. “Our hashtag — #mcjohnson2017 — has taken a life of its own post-wedding. People actually call us the McJohnsons when they see us. We even received Christmas cards addressed to McJohnsons,” say says.

Not all weddings have gone digital, though. Alan Rudnick, a local minister and wedding officiant, says some couples still desire an “analog” wedding free of technology interruptions, at least during the ceremony.

“I’ve had more couples ask me to announce for people to put away their cell phones during the service. Ministers used to announce ‘no flash photography’ because it is distracting for everyone in the wedding. When asked why couples want people to put cell phones away they say something like, ‘I don’t want pictures of people holding cell phones taking pictures of us walking down the aisle.’ Most of these couples are young and use technology every hour of their life,” Rudnick says.

The subject of a wedding hashtag is popular on wedding planning websites, like TheKnot.com, which has a few simple rules for creating a hashtag. It suggests starting with the couple’s names and using numbers (like a wedding date) to personalize the hashtag. From there, incorporate puns on the name, avoid misspellings, capitalize the first letter of each word, and confirm the hashtag has not been used by another couple by searching it on social media platforms.

Too arduous? For a fee (which contributes to the $72 billion U.S. wedding industry), companies like Wedding Hashers will develop a hashtag for you. 

Deanna Fox is a freelance journalist. @DeannaNFox www.foxonfood.com

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