We get many requests for 'USB only' packages, and I'd suggest it's because of the perceived cost saving of not having an album. We all know weddings are likely to be the biggest spend on a single day you're ever likely to engage in. In fact, on average UK couples now spend a staggering £33,884 according to The Independent*. When Graham and I got married back in 2011 we opted for this ourselves, for that very reason.
I can confirm that the CD is still in the draw (I think anyway), it's not easily accessible anymore as our newer computers don't even have a disk drive anymore. To be fair I did print a handful of smaller prints and they are on our wall.
I totally understand the restrictions of a budget, I've been there and got the credit card statements. But I wish I had used my budget differently. I'm not sure why I felt my photographer wasn't worth investing in. True, the day had to be perfect in my eyes, like most brides – all the things our guests could see, feel or hear – the dress, the welcome drink, the table decorations, the DJ, the invites...So why did we decide that the one single thing that would be OUR lasting memory of the day, the legacy for my family to come, was so far down the list of value? I didn't keep the table planner, I have a couple of favours tucked in a draw somewhere (I doubt any of our guests kept any?) and the chair covers were actually more of an inconvenience than anything else.
What my disk of 500 or so images does not do is tell the story of our day. Yes, all the pictures are there but a disk can't edit the best selection or re-tell the order of events. It can't draw my attention to a particular person or detail from the day. Have I ever shown anyone ALL the images from my day (in fact I'm not sure If I've ever looked through it all?) - no, of course not because I don't feel the disk in its unedited format is a good representation of my day. I can't just 'flick' through and go back to that day again. It's like going through a sock draw where none of them are paired up – it's all jumbled up! Soon technology will take away my ability to even be able to load the disk.
We'd planned to get an album printed, we were under the illusion that we could do it cheaper ourselves. And yes, I probably could have done so, if I had ever had actually got around to doing it.
I know the world we live in now is a digital one, we take more pictures of ourselves than ever before I'd hazard a guess. And can share them with all our friends and family as quickly as your internet connection will allow. But how many of them images will last for the next generation? I've got hundreds of pictures of my family on my phone, none backed up let alone printed. Will I still have access to these in years to come so that I can embarrass them on their 18th birthdays or even at their weddings?!
I'm not saying if I had of had an album printed by my photographer that I would have whipped it out at every coffee morning I ever had at home, much to my guest's horror. Or would never roll my eyes when I dusted it, especially for the 10th time, wondering why it's still taking up room on my bookshelf at home. But the reality of it is this. I only got married once, I have no plans to do this again. I married my best friend and it was witnessed by all the people who meant the most to us at that time. For that one single day many people travelled to make a day that was all about Graham and me. We were surrounded by love and our favourite people. We ate our favourite food, drank our favourite drinks, we danced the night away and got to do it in a style that we dictated. The story of our first day of marriage was the start of a new chapter. 7 years later it doesn't matter to me as much what we ate or drank, or danced to, or the detail on my dress. What matters to us now is remembering the feelings and the emotions that we experienced that day, that is what I'm nostalgic about and want to pass on. When Graham first laid eyes on me at the altar, my dad giving his speech, our first dance. I want to remember and see the story of the day. Something that I can't get or pass on from my shiny little CD in its pretty little box.
We will have been married for 7 years soon, and in that relatively short time close family members have passed away, old friends have moved on, memories have faded, fashions have changed, and we now have a young family of our own. What a privilege it would be to be able to pass on this piece of history to our girls. So, they can, in years to come, no doubt laugh at our choice of outfits and ask what those funny things were that ran on 4 wheels (when petrol cars no longer exist!), to be able to see their family members who will have passed on laughing and enjoying life. The feel of the album, the smell of the print and the paper, the craftsmanship gone into the making of the album, the story it tells the reader – that's just priceless. I want to be able to pass on our business to them, the family home to them, so why would I not want to pass on the love and foundation that they were born into, in something tangible that they can feel and cherish too? A disk of images just doesn't quite have the same meaning.
I've had the good fortune to spend some time at the factory in Italy where we get all our albums made and let me tell you they are not all the same. I'm not about to go into the intricacies of printing or binding, that's a whole other post! But what I will touch upon is what I think is important. The album designs are endless, there is something to interpret every couple's style and wedding day, so no two are the same. The albums are hand-made where ever possible and go through stringent human quality checks at every process. They aren't about speedy turn-around times, it's not a fast-food factory. What they build is meant to last and if necessary, if it doesn't meet the standard it's re-done. In an era where we are all becoming conditioned to getting what we want at the click of a button it's refreshing to know that actually this is not the case and what you'll be getting is a piece of art in its own right and that takes time. The album is a one-off piece of art, not an 'off the shelf', 24hour turn around, that every second customer gets.
I feel like it's too late now for me to do my own wedding album, because sadly I've forgotten the exact order of the day, and exactly who saw who first at the altar. So, whatever I build as an album will be at best a good guess. Maybe that will be better than nothing. But for a relatively small amount of money given the overall budget of my wedding I wish I had of been a bit selfish and made sure that I secured a piece of history for me and my future generations, so that mine and Graham's story will live on. Still I'm sure the money I spent on flip flops for my guests was appreciated at the time. Or that extra choice of starters made, oh I don't know 5 people I probably haven't spoken to in 5 years, all the happier.
So, the next time someone asks me the cost of a USB package I will try to resist the urge to scream "No don't do it!!" as it is everyone's choice, and an album just won't be for everyone I can understand that. But I can't promise I won't at least try to persuade them...because can you really afford not to?