Before the internet, wedding-centric media was largely restricted to bridal magazines and the final scenes of romantic comedies.
But now, all it takes to plummet down a white-lace-lined wedding rabbit hole is a single hashtag, video, or blog post surfacing on your social media feeds.
Back in pre-internet times, losing yourself in the details of someone else’s big day took commitment. You had to go to a store, select a magazine, and pay money for it. You had to get off your butt and head to the movie theatre to get your fix from a rom com. Even “Say Yes to the Dress”-esque TV shows were few and far between.
It took a lot of effort back then to lose an entire afternoon to wedding media.
Now, it’s easy! If you’re susceptible to the charms of the wedding industrial complex, a single click can get you going. You’ll find yourself on a Pinterest board, then click over to a lifestyle blog, then scroll through slideshow after slideshow until you realise you’ve lost an hour or more passively consuming other people’s weddings.
Magazines, movies, and TV shows all end, but online wedding content doesn’t.
A lot of wedding content is created with a practical use in mind, serving two audiences: people who are planning their weddings and people who want to reminisce about the weddings they have already participated in. You have the Pinterest boards and the bridal blogs for the soon-to-bes, and the meticulously edited videos and Instagram hashtags for the just-marrieds.
But there’s a third demographic that all of this media serves, even though none of it is built with expressly them in mind: The unabashed wedding enthusiasts who get an escapist thrill from all of it.
And I’m a little bit ashamed to say that I’m a member of that third demographic. I help keep the online wedding planning industry afloat not because I’m getting married any time soon, but because I am obsessed with other people’s weddings.
I wouldn’t be caught dead buying a bridal magazine or bingeing “My Fair Wedding” reruns on Netflix. But I’ve done enough secret googling of wedding stuff that Facebook seems to think I’m engaged. The site now surfaces ads for engagement rings and wedding dress retailers like Anthropologies’ BHLDN next to my news feed.
Most embarrassingly, I’ve caught myself — more than once — scrolling mindlessly, zombie-like, back to 2010 on the Facebook page of someone I barely know, just so I can watch her perfect wedding video for the 20th time.
It’s weird and it’s embarrassing and it makes me feel like a stock character in a chick flick. But I know I’m not alone. So I put out a call for other women who are as obsessed as I am and asked them what motivates this online behaviour.
The production quality connoisseur
Kim Renfro, who also works at Tech Insider, always thought she’d be the “cool aunt” who travelled the world and owned a cat or two. She had no plans to become a fussy, white-wedding-obsessed bride.
But then she discovered
this video online. It brought her to tears the first time she watched it, and she joined the ranks of the wedding-obsessed.
Now, Renfro has become obsessed with the Vimeo page for Paperback Weddings, the company that produced that first fateful clip. It has over 70 videos and Renfro has watched them all.
“The reason they draw me is mostly the cinematography style and soundtrack,” she said. “They use music I love, like Bon Iver and Jose Gonzalez. They are also based in California, my home state, so some of the wedding locations are very familiar and tangible to me.”
The videos all have the same format: a minute or so establishing the bride’s character, a minute or so spent on the groom, and then all the pomp and circumstance of the wedding itself. Paperback Weddings has effectively figured out how to distill every wedding-centric romantic comedy to the only 10 minutes anybody actually wants to watch.
But for Renfro, Paperback Weddings will remain a fantasy. She and her boyfriend are planning to get married in the next year or so — but she finds the company’s $US12,000 price tag per video to be prohibitively expensive.
Don’t expect her to stop bookmarking Paperback Weddings’ Vimeo page, though. Her interest in the company was never supposed to be practical or planning-oriented to begin with.
The girl with a million family weddings
Maryrose Mullen’s wedding addiction began in college, when she attended a family wedding — and all its ancillary events — as either a guest or a bridesmaid every single year.
Totally hooked, she then switched to a “Wedding Sunday” weekly binge of reality shows like “My Fair Wedding” and “Bridezilla.”
Then, the people she’d grown up with started getting married and posting on Facebook about it. That’s when her obsession moved online. Now, she can be found lurking deep in the Instagram feeds and Facebook albums of strangers and acquaintances alike.
Mullen loves the little details of weddings, she said, as well as the feeling of “dropping in” on someone else’s special day — again, like the SparkNotes version of a romantic comedy.
“Videos give a sense of the atmosphere while editing out the un-fun parts a wedding day entails,” she said. “You get the first dance and the wacky bridal party entrances, but don’t have to wait around an hour between the ceremony and cocktail hour.”
One highlight of her career as a wedding video voyeur was a stream of Giants players’ weddings that she watched through Instagram and Snapchat. Without those two platforms, she never would have even known they’d all gotten hitched. But because of social media, she found herself clocking every detail.
“I don’t feel weird about it usually,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll venture too far down the rabbit hole and realise I’m watching a video of the cousin of my best friend’s sophomore year roommate’s sorority sister.”
But, she pointed out, this content is posted on a public platform, so it was meant to be shared and viewed — “even by lunatics like me,” she said. “It’s cheesy, but I love seeing other people’s joy, even in short spurts.”
The woman who thinks choreographed dances are awesome
Michelle Zarella isn’t just into wedding videos — she has a special place in her heart for the brides and grooms who choreograph their first dance as man and wife.
“There has literally yet to be one that hasn’t made me cry,” she said. Here’s one of her favourites:
She also loves this classic of the genre:
Michelle loves the effort people put forth when planning and executing these choreographed dances and pointed out that “some of them actually kill it.”
“I get emotional because beneath all of the excessive planning and cost, there is the element of people’s families coming together to celebrate what is hopefully one of the most important days of their lives,” she said.
Michelle is engaged, but she won’t be recording her whole wedding on video.
“I’m only having the first dance with some shots of our guests and that’s it,” she said. This has to do with Michelle’s other favourite part of watching someone else’s wedding video: “I like to … pick out the family stereotype (drunk uncles, weirdos, rent-a-dates, etc.), and get a laugh. I would ideally like to not have to do the same for my own.”
The lady who got ordained
Actor and comedian Jen Keefe loves love so much, she’s become ordained to perform wedding ceremonies. Weddings and love are a hobby for her; she loves reading books of love letters and, yes, doing lots of online research.
“Part of this hobby includes poring over wedding videos, and specifically for me, engagement videos on YouTube,” she said.
Here’s one of her favourites:
She’s even found herself watching these videos alone at home on a Friday night — “not because I’m ferociously masochistic but because I identify strongly with that type of expression of love,” she said.
She’s moved to tears much of the time. “When, in videos of wedding ceremonies, people read vows which they have personally written, I am reliably reaching for tissues,” she said.
Part of her love for wedding videos might be the hope that one day she’ll be the one on the altar, she admitted. But like Zarella, she won’t be offering up her own hypothetical wedding video for public consumption. And she doesn’t envision herself planning the whole thing meticulously.
“The obsessing over ring cuts, save-the-dates, number of bridesmaids, bachelor parties, and registries is something I want zero part of,” she said, “and has nothing to do with the core of celebration that a marriage signifies: the finding of requited, unconditional love between two people.”
An overlooked market?
If I didn’t have frenemies’ wedding hashtags to click on every weekend, I probably wouldn’t have much contact with the idea of nuptials beyond physically attending weddings and watching movies that occasionally feature marriage as a plot point.
But thanks to social media, my fellow online voyeurs and I are part of an untapped market of women who are voraciously consuming wedding content. Even though none of the blogs, videos, or Instagram posts we love were created with us in mind, our pageviews, likes, and site visits are an unsung faction of the community that keeps a lot of these wedding-centric sites and businesses humming.
And I can’t help but think that the first website to capitalise on this demographic is probably going to make a mint — for better or worse.
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