Your wedding, and in fact almost anything you do, could be divided into two major categories:
These are tasks, events, actions, vendors, places and things whose absence would prevent experiential elements from happening.
These are events, actions, people, places and things which themselves are channels of happiness joy and satisfaction.
A lot of this wedding industry of ours beckons you to outsource everything that is not experiential, and leaving almost all of the pragmatics to all the various vendors. And in response to that, and the ever rising cost of weddings, I believe the DIY wedding movement was born. Although they come with mixed results (none that involve not ending up married), I’m in favor of the DIY movement.
However, the mixed results I mentioned before are worth talking about. The question of whether to DIY or not to DIY isn’t always much of a question. Weddings are expensive. The the way couples choose to invest themselves in planning their wedding day matters a great deal. And few couples deliberately think about the pragmatics and the experientials. As a result, sometimes energy is poorly invested, or more stress is taken on than was necessary, or things don’t come together the way you planned. In any case, the result is a pragmatic element coming at the cost of an experiential one.
So I’d like to talk about pragmatics and experientials some. This is not a ground breaking idea, but it might be a fresh perspective that can help you better decide where to invest your energies. And, hopefully give you some clues to avoid missing out on important experientials while chasing after pragmatics.
In Wedding Vendors
The Venue. The venue is both pragmatic and experiential. Since your goal is to get married and celebrate like crazy, you’re having a big party and that has to happen somewhere. You need a venue. The venue might also account for other pragmatics, such as supplying you with a place to put on your wedding attire, or to hold the ceremony. Or it might be a back yard. The venue is also experiential. It’s going to affect your real in-the-moment senses, and you want it to do so in a meaningful and pleasing way to you. You love the feeling of being beneath cathedral ceilings. You love the feeling of seeing friends mingling around the pier. You love the feeling of watching the sun set over the Bay Bridge.
The Caterer. The caterer is almost entirely experiential (although there are about a million pragmatics for them). No one ever said you had to serve a meal. No one’s putting rules on that. But if serving food is important to what you want to experience during your wedding, then food is both a pragmatic and an experiential. You can serve an abundance of organic cheese dishes from MOM’s. You will love the taste of the cheese and the feeling of standing around chatting with friends, spearing cubes of cheese. But someone has to actually go and purchase the cheese, display it on a dish, and present it to guests. So a caterer is entirely experiential. They handle all of the pragmatics and you simply have experiences.
The Florist. Much like the caterer, has the job of simply providing you with experience. The florist is experiential. You will enjoy the smell of fresh flowers tucked in the wedding arch. You will love the way the flow pins to your little brother’s jacket. You will feel elegant with them wrapped around the band in your hair. The florist gives all these things to you, with almost no pragmatics for you to consider at all.
The Officiant. There has to be an officiant. But it would feel wonderful if those immortal words “I now pronounce you…” came from your father’s lips. The Officiant is both pragmatic and experiential. They will provide you with an important experiential element on your wedding day, but they have to be there and your active participation is required or else you won’t end up married, and then you’d have no reason to celebrate, no reason to take photos, no reason to eat a crazy meal or go on a honeymoon.
The Photographer. The mere existence of the camera makes the photographer ubiquitous at weddings. Unless you truly have no interest in pictures at all, images in some form are important to you. Some ambitious brides coordinate a team of smartphone photographers. Creating pictures is pragmatic–in the course of a wedding, there are probably more satisfying experiences to be had than being in a picture. If a photographer is hired the pragmatics are reduced, and an experiential element is introduced, as the time spent alone creating those images is fertile ground for wedding day memories.
The Wedding Planner. The wedding planner might be the ultimate experiential vendor. The wedding planners entire job is to see your actual wedding day meet your vision. So, what the wedding vendor provides you is an experience free of all the pragmatics, except those that you must personally be involved in. Because the wedding planner was making sure the veil got to the dressing room on time, you get to love sitting and chatting with your little sister before leaving to get married.
In The Moments
Which moments you choose to have should come with the greatest experience, and the least pragmatics.
If your aunt wants you to do a classic Irish dance during the reception, but she insists that you would need to wear the traditional attire to do so, you could clearly see that all of the pragmatics involved in making this happen would come at the cost of many other experiences. Unless the experience of performing the dance itself, or the look on your aunt’s face as you dance will bring you a lot of joy, you could easily skip the dance.
Walking down the isle is both pragmatic and experiential. Cutting the cake is pragmatic and experiential. The first dance is experiential. Throwing the bouquet is experiential. Signing the wedding license is pragmatic. Driving to the venue is pragmatic. The first dance is almost entirely experiential, but might be pragmatic if your family will be sour about you skipping it. Then you dance pragmatically so that your family’s disappointment doesn’t douse some other experiential moment.
The moments in your wedding are a mix of pragmatics and experientials. When looking through which moments are important to you, don’t just consider the experience, and don’t just consider the pragmatics. Consider both together.
Wedding photography becomes the primary road through which the specifics of wedding moments are carried on into the future. Wedding photography also represents the most convoluted mix of pragmatics and experientials. The experiences you wish to have with your wedding images in the future rely on pragmatics capturing your experientials. That was confusing.
Wedding photography must capture a moment so that it can live on fondly and honestly and become a source of many more experiential moments. And therefore, they must be captured while you are having important experiences. This is part of what makes photography so challenging.
You want to be having good experiences while your wedding photos are being created, but the act of creating wedding photos–especially when your active participation is required–is a pragmatic thing! Wedding photographers walk a thin line.
Define the Experientials First
The experience of your wedding is what you are really after. Although that might come with some clear pictures of what that means, those pictures are simply you imagining yourself satisfied.
That’s what you’re after, a satisfying experience.
By taking note of what you’d like your experience to be like, you can more clearly see what pragmatics are necessary to support that experience, and which ones are likely to require a tradeoff in experience.
When you’re making important decisions about different aspect of your wedding, put them in a list. Now, under each list item, put in all the experiences that it will provide. Then, put in all the pragmatics it will require.
Now analyze the list.
Sometimes seeing a list of everything you’re getting next to a list of everything it will cost can make decisions a lot clearer.
Never Sacrifice the Experientials for the Pragmatics
Your entire wedding is based around an experience–the initiation of a lifelong commitment, friendship, partnership, romance. That is the basic element. You rightfully want to celebrate that commitment with a proportional excitement.
But don’t lose the forest for the trees.
Try to see all the experientes you wish to have when you dream of your wedding. When you see a very specific centerpiece that you like, try to imagine what experience it will give you, then the pragmatics required to get it. Do they pose challenges for another important experiential? Are the pragmatics required kind of experientials in and of themselves?
Sometimes when people put their decisions in lists and compare the pragmatics against the experiences, they realize that some things they’re doing are just pragmatic time-eaters, offering little of the experience you want.
I’ll say it again, don’t lose the forest for the trees.
How Petruzzo Photography Aims for Experientials
The most pragmatic portion of your wedding photography will be the formal photographs.
We try to capture as much as possible before the ceremony, thereby requiring people to shift gears less often. And, once the most important experientials have begun (your wedding vows), we would prefer not to take you out of that mindset–at least not for long. With that in mind, we hold formal photographs before the wedding whenever possible.
One exception is the family formals. We almost always hold this session between the ceremony and reception because this is the most reliable time to find every single family member in the same place.
This is far from the only way to think about your wedding planning and decision making. But a fresh perspective might bring about new clarity. Therefore, we encourage you to think about your the experientials and the pragmatics in the same breath.