Perfectionism is the Enemy of Joy

Perfectionism is the Enemy of Joy

 

Looking back over all the weddings I have been lucky enough to witness, both as photographer or guest, the most memorably uplifting ones are those that flowed with joy. The Debbie Downer who sometimes shows up to turn the party down, she arrives as the plus one to Mr Perfectionism.  And to quote Ze Frank – “Perfectionism may look good in his shiny shoes, but he’s a bit of an asshole and no one invites him to their pool parties.” So how do they end up crashing a wedding?

Social media has made our lives very performative, and the addictive natures of our devices means it’s pretty difficult to avoid the steady stream of perfect lives and moments, everything all beautifully lit, perfectly arranged and sprinkled with avocados, #instagoodness & #blessed (vom). We know it’s all heavily curated, that scene was actually photographed fifty times, sprinkled with tears of frustration, and someone has a sore neck from the weird head angle. We know this but it still seeps in under our logical brain to undermine our sense of worth and connection. Everyone does it.. gosh I do it. Maybe I should start sharing some photos of my working desk covered in half drunk cups of tea, ancient toast crumbs and notes that make no sense. #ikillsucculents #whatdoesmakestrindedmean?

Studies have shown that perfectionism disproportionately affects women. We are socialised from a young age to be rule followers and people pleasers, this pressure leading more and more of us  towards anxiety and depression. Following the exact rules of what a ‘perfect wedding’ should look like can easily send the most steely-minded down the path to anxiety and throw open the doors to the aforementioned wedding crashers Mr P and his +1 DD. And here’s the thing, after attending many, many weddings – of all the wonderful people you will have at your wedding, hardly anyone cares what a ‘perfect wedding’ looks like. All they care about is how happy you are, and after that emotional & social need is met the rest is purely physical. Is there good and abundant food, plentiful liquid refreshment, and is there a comfortable place to relax, dance and catch up? The rest is window dressing. Beautiful window dressing, but no-one goes home complaining about the colours of the flowers (and if they do, they are seriously not worth worrying about).

Of course a lot of pleasure can be had in creating and enjoying an aesthetically pleasing event. My wonderful sister in law has had a wedding scrap book since she was a little girl, she had the time of her life planning and pulling off her spectacular wedding. The whole thing brought her immense joy and we were all thrilled to share in that happy beauty. That’s the key, does it bring joy? Is that joy spreading outwards? Awesome, then continue as you were!

But if you are feeling your joy evaporate in the face of competing wedding and life pinterest boards, it’s time to hit the brakes. Delegate. Set fire to that beast of a craft project that seemed like a good idea at the time but now haunts your dreams and made your fingers bleed (hint – if it’s going to take 75 hours of work and people will look at it for 15 minutes.. here, use my flame thrower), invite your friends around to watch it burn while you drink beers and cackle at the bonkersness of weddings. And now, like RIGHT NOW – delete any and all ‘thinspiration’ that may have snuck into view. F*** dieting to fit into a wedding dress, or pressuring others do the same to fit a narrow version of beauty. You are beautiful. You are beloved because of who you are and all the great things you do. As the wonderful, gorgeous Tess Holliday says, @effyourbeautystandards!

Being a human is being imperfect. Loving someone is loving their imperfections. Enjoying your wedding day means focussing on the important bits – the love – and laughing into the wind together.

Feminist Weddings and other Winter Morning Musings.

Feminist Weddings and other Winter Morning Musings.

Sun breaking through on a foggy winter stroll to nursery, Hackney Marshes.

Sun breaking through on a recent foggy winter stroll to nursery, Hackney Marshes.

On my studio days I load my daughter into her buggy and we roll on down the river to her nursery drop off, then I continue to the studio to get on with editing your beautiful weddings. I love this walk because not only is it quite pretty (as only a bit of rubbish strewn patch of marshland in East London could be!) it’s also when I get to slip on headphones and catch up with my favourite podcasts. And this morning’s walk to work sure did deliver.

One of my most beloved podcasts is Stuff Mom Never Told You, where my pretend BFF’s Cristen & Caroline tackle the most amazing range of subjects from a feminist standpoint via history, sociology, biology and psychology. All while being super funny and people you’d love to have a beer with. Today they got onto the subject of feminist weddings, speaking with the author and founder of A Practical Wedding about many things, including how the wedding industrial machine got so crazy and how you can outwit that monster and have an affordable, practical wedding that doesn’t tow the patriarchal line. Listen to it here. It’s a U.S. based perspective but I still found it super relevant to anyone planning their wedding who has a serious side-eye to the more gender-biased aspects of getting married. And there are a few of them!

I am a feminist and I love weddings. I love them even more when my couples are thoughtful about what certain traditions mean and how those traditions relate to them. I can easily mist up during an eloquent, proud Father-of-the-Bride speech, but hearing great stories from the mum, the bride’s best girlfriend, and the bride herself will give me all the joyful feels and I’ll be that weird photographer lady in the corner weeping and raising a solidarity fist (metaphorically speaking of course)! Sure, the bride and bridesmaids all look gorgeous (said every best man ever), but they also have voices, they are eloquent and they are becoming less shy about standing up and telling those stories.

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One of my favourite brides of 2015, walking her fierce self down the aisle in a gold sequinned ballerina dress.

Another wedding tradition that I get a huge thrill out of seeing inverted is the whole big white meringue dress. Does it indeed mean purity and unsullied femininity? Historically speaking, no. Brides just used to wear the best dress they could get their hands on, until Queen Victoria got married in a cloud of highly-prized and highly-annoying-to-clean white lace. In an era that was pre-bleach and liberally coated in layers of coal dust, making, wearing and maintaining yards and yards of the fluffy white stuff was pretty much the most extravagant fashion statement you could make. That fashion statement took a vice-like hold and eventually morphed into the ‘traditional’ dress Princess Di wafted down the aisle in and populated the dreams of romantically inclined girls everywhere for ever more.

As an interesting historical side note, not only was QV’s white lace a symbol of wealth, it was also a symbol of patriotism and supporting English artisans. Queen Victoria commissioned the lace to be made by traditional Honiton lace makers who were suffering a decline due to the explosion of textile industrialisation. The wealthier brides emulating her choice did actually help save the Honiton lace makers. Good for you Queen V! Another pretty cool thing she did was alter, re-use and get a lot of wear out of her dress, including her and Albert just dressing up in their wedding finery and posing for pictures for fun, which is pretty cute when you think about it.

Anyways, I didn’t mean to fall down the hole of Queen Victoria and her wedding dress, but I just did! Hope you found it just as enthralling as I did.

What I initially set out to say is that wedding traditions change and the meanings are often not exactly what they say on the tin. People are changing things up, bringing in and mashing together different traditions from different cultures, questioning old ways of doing, re-purposing and re-making, creating ceremonies of togetherness that are deeply meaningful, beautiful, loving and inclusive. And I’m so, so glad I get to photograph them.