Blogs & Comment

The photo booth: a wedding's best friend

Booths are enjoying a renaissance despite almost being killed off by digital photography.

photo-booth

Peter Nowak and his wife Claudette looking sharp.

It’s official: I’m now a married man. My wife and I picked the absolute best time of year to go down to New Orleans, a great place to get married, as it was just a shade below hot and sunny all the time (aside from Texas tornado-inspired rain early last week). It was also great to spend a week with our friends, seeing the sights and carousing, even if it meant the days were too often spent recovering from the nights before.

When we first decided to get married, we knew we didn’t want to do it the regular way. The average couple spends $25,000 on their big day, which seemed like utter madness to both of us, so we thought we’d keep the event itself small, but fun. New Orleans was clearly the best place to do that.

Along the way, we discovered what every other married couple we knew had warned us about: that the wedding industry is a giant scam. As one person mentioned to me on Twitter, it’s about getting as much money out of people as possible to put on events that are just like everyone else’s.

In that vein, we examined every aspect of getting married and axed costs wherever they seemed nonsensical. Neither of us normally wear jewelry, so it seemed dumb to spend thousands on rings. We bought $100 cheapos instead (although they weren’t easy to find). Meanwhile, New Orleans is a lush, near-tropical garden, so spending hundreds of dollars on flowers looked like a giant waste. We cut those entirely.

Another element we avoided were photographers. With professionals charging thousands to take pictures we’d probably never look at, it seemed like one of the most foolish expenditures we could make, especially when we all live in a YouTube-Flickr-Facebook age where every single person has several cameras at his or her disposal.

We shot a lot of photos ourselves and asked our friends to take lots as well. The day after, I copied some off their memory cards onto my iPad and requested that the rest upload their good shots to a Flickr account I set up. Not everyone has sent in photos yet, but we’re already very pleased with what we have.

The best thing we did, however, was rent a photo booth. We got the idea from a wedding Claudette went to last year. The bride and groom had rented one, along with a table of props—silly hats, mask and so on—and set it up at their reception. Guests got to keep the strip of photos as a memento when they came out of the booth, while the digital originals went to the married couple. Not surprisingly, the photos got funnier and wackier as the night progressed and more booze was consumed.

We used Picture It Video Photo Booth, which cost us a couple hundred bucks—a fraction of what a photographer would have. The guests loved it and, when we got the originals back and saw the pictures people came up with, we agreed it was the best idea we’d had.

It’s no wonder photo booths are among the hottest wedding trends. It’s also amazing that booths are enjoying a renaissance despite essentially being killed off by digital photography. Ironically, their comeback is being fueled by that same, much-improved digital technology and printing.

And since we’re talking about photo booth technology, I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up my book, Sex, Bombs and Burgers, where some of their history is detailed. Booths initially rose to popularity in the 1930s, partly because they provided people with one of the only ways to produce illicit photos. In those days, trying to get naked pictures of your spouse developed at the local drug store could land you in jail. A photo booth, meanwhile, gave couples the privacy and speed they needed.

As one historian put it: “Complaints started coming in from Woolworth’s and other stores that people, particularly women, were stripping off their clothes for the private photo booth camera. Couples started being a little more adventurous in the privacy of the curtained booth.”

Alas, none of that went on in our booth. Wink wink.