Of the many odd questions my partner and I have found ourselves fielding since we got engaged, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that queries about why we didn’t get engagement photos taken haven’t been among them. The seemingly never-ending supply of engagement snaps that keep surfacing and resurfacing on social media, combined with the speed with which particularly clever or meaningful ones tend to go viral, have made them seem like one of those modern wedding conventions that absolutely must be followed — and although my partner and I have been spared it, I’m sure that many, many spouses-to-be have faced a whole lot of irksome comments from judgmental acquaintances about whether or not they decided to have an engagement shoot.
Despite what the cultural narrative suggests, though, engagement photos are like every other wedding "tradition": Something you can do if you want to, but which you can feel free to skip if you don’t. For my partner and I, the biggest reason to skip them came down to simple logistics: We’re getting married on the opposite side of the country from the one we live on, which means that we won’t actually be on the same coast as our wedding photographer — who typically also takes your engagement photos — until a few days before the wedding. Anything we might therefore have used engagement photos for during the course of planning the event— stationary, a website, etc. — will have already been taken care of by the time we can actually meet with our photographer in person.
The upshot of it all is that it just doesn’t make sense for us to try cramming a frankly unnecessary photo shoot into our already-tight schedule in the days leading up to the wedding. So, we’re not. Simple as that.
My point here isn’t to dictate what anyone should or shouldn’t do; if engagement photos are a thing you feel strongly about doing, then by all means, go do it. If you’re not as convinced, though, consider this an affirmation that you absolutely do not have to take them if it’s not what you’re into. There are a lot of cultural expectations attached to weddings, and I know I for one have found it extraordinarily helpful to get the reminder every so often that we're under no obligation to fill those expectations.
Here a few reasons you might skip taking engagement photos. It's by no means an exhaustive list, but it's a start.
1. You’re Not Making An Announcement In The Newspaper
Although announcing your engagement in the newspaper might not be done as frequently these days as it once was, when it does happen, the announcements often feature a photograph of the happy couple. In this case, I can see how it might be useful to have a professionally-shot photo handy. But if you choose not to make an announcement in your hometown paper, it might also be the case that your need for engagement photos diminishes somewhat. After all, we have a huge array of communication methods available to us now — calling, texting, emailing, social media — most of which don’t necessarily need a pro-shot pic to get the message across clearly and exuberantly. A phone selfie texted to your best friend can be just as fun.
2. You’re Not Making A Wedding Website
Engagement photos can spice up a wedding website — but if you’re not making a wedding website in the first place, then there’s no need to spice one up.
For what it’s worth, my own feelings about wedding websites are mixed: On the one hand, yes, I can see how it might be useful for everyone you’re inviting to be able to find all the important information about the event in one easily accessible spot; on the other, though, wedding websites seem to have become another one of those modern conventions that everyone thinks you absolutely need — with all the societal pressures that come along with conventions that everyone thinks you absolutely need.
Really, though, they're optional. So, if you find yourself being pressured by an argument that sounds like, “Well, of course you have to take engagement photos, because you need them for your wedding website, and of course you have to have a wedding website” — you can go right on ahead and free yourself of that flawed logic. Weddings have been carried off successfully for centuries without informational websites dotted with professionally-shot and edited photos of the couple in question; if a wedding website isn’t a thing you want, your event will probably be fine without one, too. And if you don’t have one, you might find you don’t want or need those photos for it, either.
3. You’re Not Using A Photo Of Yourself On Your Save-The-Date Or Invitation
Some people like to include photos of themselves on their save-the-dates and/or invitations, for which a well-shot engagement photo can make a great pick. If you and your partner would rather not include a photo of yourselves on either of these things, though, that’s A-OK, too. And if you’re passing on the photo-adorned stationary, that means you might be able to pass on the photo shoot.
4. You’re Having A Destination Wedding
Things I did not realize until I actually started planning a wedding include the fact that when you’re booking your wedding photographer (if that’s a thing you decide to do in the first place, that is — it’s also totally fine not to have a wedding photographer), engagement photos will often be included as part of the package. From what I gather, this is ostensibly so you can get a feel for how your photographer works, make sure their style is a good match for what you’re looking for, and so on and so forth — kind of like a trial run for the photography that will be taking place at the wedding itself.
But what if you’re not actually going to be in the location where your wedding will take place until the actual wedding? I mean, sure, you could hire a separate photographer to take your engagement photos closer to home, but if you don’t want to bother with taking that extra step, then skipping them might be the right answer. You might even be able to negotiate the rest of the wedding photography package if you don’t need engagement photos to be included.
(I’m using the term “destination wedding” a little loosely here, by the way; the way I see it, pretty much every wedding is a destination wedding for somebody these days, since it’s much more common for friends and families to be spread out across the country or the world. Do with that what you will.)
5. Your Budget
There are a lot of ways to save money on your wedding. Not getting engagement photos is one of them. And as I just mentioned, it’s possible your photographer might negotiate other parts of your package in exchange for cutting out the engagement photo shoot.
6. You Hate Engagement Photos. Just, Y’Know, In General.
Honestly, I can count the number of engagement photo shoots I have seen that I have enjoyed on one hand — nay, one finger: This set of zombie attack engagement photos that went viral a few years ago. They’re tongue in cheek and they tell a hilarious story, both of which are characteristics I love. Furthermore, since we hadn’t hit peak zombie yet then, the inclusion of the undead was fresh and new.
But that’s it. Literally every other set of engagement photos I have ever seen — even those belonging to people I absolutely adore — have inspired a deep sense of loathing in me. Not against the people depicted in them — I mean against the convention in general. Engagement photos can look inauthentic, which just isn't my cup of proverbial tea; additionally, they also can sometimes amplify what I consider to be the worst part of social media: The unnecessarily competitive, “LOOK AT ME, MY LIFE IS SO MUCH BETTER THAN YOURS!” trap that we’ve all fallen into at one point or another. The whole thing kind of leaves me feeling cold.
This isn’t to say that this sense of self-importance is the driving force behind all engagement photos; everyone has their own motivations, and no matter what they are, as always, you do you. My personal feelings about engagement photos, however, mean that I very much did not want to have them taken. And neither did my partner. So if you, too, just kind of hate the convention as a whole, welcome to the club.
7. You Have Plenty Of Other Photos Available Of You And Your Boo
It’s common to use your engagement photos as part of the decor for your actual wedding. In an age where most of us walk around with cameras in our pockets all the time, though (ah, the joys of the smartphone), you may feel like you already have more than enough pictures available to serve this purpose. Done and done.
8. You Just Don’t Want Them
Ultimately, what all of these reasons really come down to is one reason, and one reason alone: If you don’t want to take engagement photos, then don’t. It’s as simple as that. The mantra I’ve kept repeating to myself throughout the planning process has been, “Just because things are usually done a certain way doesn’t mean you have to do them that way” — which, honestly, helped a lot. Weddings come with an absurd amount of cultural baggage and expectations, but being able to say “Eff it, let’s not worry about it and just have the wedding we want to have” is largely what made the planning process fun.
And if not bothering with engagement photos is part of that “eff it” mentality? So be it. It’s your wedding, and it should be what you want it to be.