Embracing Your History: Do You Display Wedding Photos at Home?

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My one-year anniversary is next month, but the only photo my husband and I have from our wedding is the wallet-sized one pinned to my office bulletin board. Our photographer, we found out too late, has major delivery issues. I never thought of myself as someone who’d hang a wedding portrait in her home. Now I can’t stop thinking about how much I long to have one.

We had a small wedding and a smaller budget, and we had to plan everything from afar in just under four months. We contacted a photographer in the area based on a venue recommendation (bad idea!), and though she was new(ish) to the business, her portfolio was adequate. And we could afford her. In retrospect, I wish I'd asked for references.

Long story short, she took a ton of photos, put up an online slideshow, and then gradually disappeared. Instead of responding with yet another flaky excuse, she eventually stopped answering our emails and phone calls altogether. My father-in-law ordered some prints back in September and still hasn’t received them. A batch of 2”x3” photos for our thank-you cards was the only order the photographer ever filled. She has all our photos and won't let us buy them. It's baffling!

Ah well. I’m still hoping for a good outcome. I even tried to get on one of those consumer advocacy TV shows (also known as public shaming). Now it looks like small claims court is our only option, but collecting doesn’t always pan out, so who knows.

Enough of my sob story, though! That’s not what this post is about. The experience just got me thinking about wedding photos and why (and how) we cherish and display them.

Those of us who dig design face a challenge when it comes to displaying wedding photos (or any personal photos, really): how to make them mesh with our aesthetic. Do we mat and frame them, or choose something modern and less formal? What if we’re hardcore minimalists? Or what if we're just not the personal picture-hanging type?

Furthermore, which photos will we choose to display: posed or candid? How many is too many? Do we go modestly sized or room-spanning canvas billboard? Would life-size cardboard cutouts be taking it too far? I mean, c'mon, we worked really hard to look that hot.

Seriously, though, even if all you have is a few Instagram shots from city hall, I think it’s worth displaying at least one of them in your home for as long as you’re together (here’s hoping for always!).

The wedding photo isn’t just a humble-brag to hang on the wall for all time (“Look how young/pretty/stylish Grandma was!”). The feeling of nostalgia it provides, whether brand-new or comfortably broken-in, can be really powerful.

Hung at home, a wedding photo reminds us of one of the happiest days of our lives. When we’re feeling especially loving and loved, the photo lifts us up even higher. When we’re having a rough patch, we look at that photo and remember how drunk on love we were when it was taken. Maybe it gives us hope that we can reach that place again.

Hung in parents’ homes, a wedding photo reminds them of how beautiful the wedding was, and how they got to play a part in making us so happy. And what better gift for your 90-year-old grandmother than a bifocal-friendly photo of you and your husband, whom she has a little crush on. (Or is that just my grandma?)

I get excited when friends snail-mail a photo from their weddings, as well. Those earn a front-and-center spot on our fridge for at least a few weeks, and then they go in a memories box for nostalgia sessions in the future.

And I can only speak from personal experience, but I loved — still love — looking at the wedding photos of my mom and her sisters that hang in my grandma’s house. Back then, people didn’t document every moment of their lives with photos. Photos merited an occasion, especially when professionally done. Today, digital photos are ubiquitous and easy to save and share. Still, nothing beats the printed real deal.

Of course, I realize that not everybody wants to get married — and some people aren’t allowed to get married, which I believe is ridiculously unfair — and I also don’t want to give the impression that a wedding in and of itself is some colossal achievement worthy of permanent celebration. The big thing is loving someone enough to make a lasting commitment in front of family and friends. And to have look-at-us proof of it!

Which leads me back to my possible future without wedding photos. I really hope that doesn’t happen, but if it does, we’ll be OK. Memories don’t need photographic evidence to last a lifetime, even if you have to strive to recall all the little details someday.

Or am I just being overly sentimental as my first anniversary approaches?

What do you think about hanging wedding photos at home? How do you display them, if at all?

(Image: AnnaMaria Stephens)

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