If they forgot, the bridesmaids and groomsmen could always check their socks.
On the bottom of this customized, polka-dot hosiery, bride and groom Lauren and Ryan Cohen had printed some vital information for their wedding this past June: #RyLovesLoLo. It was the hashtag the couple had picked for their nuptials – “Lolo” being Lauren’s nickname. Guests were encouraged to amass snapshots and videos to post to social media under this hashtag, documenting for the busy bride and groom how their big day was unfolding in “real time,” as the bride put it.
In the end, there were 113 references to #RyLovesLoLo online, a resounding success: “It just brought the whole evening together on Instagram, which we both absolutely love,” said Lauren Cohen, a 27-year-old advertising account manager in Toronto.
People Instagram their food and what they look like in the morning; it should follow that they’d want to catalogue every bit of nuptial minutiae as it happens. The customized hashtag is suddenly ubiquitous at weddings, allowing couples to collate everybody’s photos, videos, congratulatory tweets and inebriated overheards in one place on the Internet. People are now enlisting wedding planners to brainstorm catchy hashtags.
The specialized hashtags are then broadcast from “wedding websites” in advance, displayed prominently on signs erected at ceremonies, or pressed into invitations and place-card holders – all a nudge for guests to serve as photographers and narrators of the big bash.
But with social media still relatively new terrain in the wedding-industrial complex, two camps have emerged: those who photograph, hashtag and post everything, and those who are going unplugged, pushing back against a sea of devices glowing down the aisle.
These camps stand firmly divided on what brides and grooms gain and what they lose when they encourage a communal recording and broadcasting of the entire day.
Social mores emerge and diverge at weddings, with nuptials often serving as a cultural litmus test. In this case, it’s how a generation feels about the place of social media in their lives.
There are brides and grooms who feel it brings everyone together and others who believe it alienates guests from each other.
When you focus more on sharing the moment than the moment itself, what do you experience and what do you miss?
Kristin MacKenzie left her own phone in the hotel room on her wedding day this May but encouraged guests to post under #kpmmwedding, which fused her initials with her husband’s.
“People used to put cameras on the table. I love having the scrapbook online. It turns a wedding into one big giant conversation,” said MacKenzie, a 24-year-old seminary student at the Atlantic School of Theology in Halifax. “These were reminders of conversations and inside jokes that brought everyone together. It’s even better than having photos.”
MacKenzie said her guests knew better than to snap photos or tweet during the traditional Anglican ceremony, whipping out their phones only at the party.
“There is a balance to be struck between actually having experiences and recording them,” she said.
“We watch concerts through our phones. We take so long logging everything that we miss out. But with a wedding, there’s a balance to be had for taking the day in but also having these records.”
For some, the wedding hashtag has become political. When he married his partner James in a civil ceremony in Toronto last December, Anglican pastor Daniel Brereton wanted to share the day via social media with his American friends down south, where gay marriage remains banned in many states. “For them it was important to be able to follow this, be part of it and voice their support for it,” said Brereton.
He had a friend live tweet the proceedings, posting photos, Vine videos and transcripts of the vows under the “slightly embarrassing hashtag” #royalwedding2013 (Brereton is a big Kate Middleton fan). As a bonus, the two men received wedding gifts from Twitter followers they’ve never met in person.
Brereton’s only regret was that he failed to inform guests at the ceremony that he’d enlisted a transcriber who would be live tweeting throughout: “She was getting a lot of really angry stares with people thinking she was being rude on her cellphone and not paying attention.”
Ceremonies remain sancrosant for many guests, brides and grooms, who prefer them iPad- free. In July, Kimberlee McCormack was married in an unplugged ceremony at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music. Ahead of the vows, her wedding planner took the stage to request no smartphone photos, videos or social-media updates.
“It was an intimate setting. We wrote our own vows. It was really important for us to have everyone present,” said McCormack, a 29-year-old account director at an advertising firm.
As a result of the tech ban, McCormack feels the audience was more attentive: “The quiet was what really surprised us. Everyone was looking at us. I’ve never seen that before at any wedding I’ve been to.”