Friday, April 29, 2011

On Weddings and Bicycles

[image via BEG Bicycles]

We are going to a wedding this weekend, where I don't expect to encounter any bicycles. But increasingly, bicycles and weddings are becoming an iconic combination - seen on wedding photographer and bicycle manufacturer websites alike. What is it about weddings and bicycles? There is, of course, the ever-popular Daisy Bell song, which keeps the association alive. Plus, the start of "cycling season" corresponds with the start of "wedding season." And while I put these in quotation marks, because both getting married and riding a bicycle are things that can be done year-round, any wedding photographer and bicycle shop owner will tell you that they get most of their business in April through October. Spring symbolises renewal, optimism, and a fresh start - which is appealing to cyclists and newlyweds alike. 

[image via Retrovelo and Velorution]

Would you believe that in 2010 I received half a dozen emails from readers asking for bicycle suggestions for their weddings? One couple was looking specifically for a vintage tandem, others were hoping to find matching cruisers, and one inquiry came from a wedding planner who was looking to rent several dozen bicycles, so that the entire wedding party could ride them. A wedding peloton? Would love to see that. I even know of a couple who are planning to purchase a black roadster and a cream lady's roadster from the same manufacturer. They will ride them for the first time at the wedding, then continue to use them for everyday transportation. I think that's an exceptionally cute idea - but then I love "his and hers" bicycles.


Last May, I tried my hand at professional wedding photography. It was a large wedding, but I would be working with two other photographers, so how difficult could it be? Well, oh my goodness! Without exaggeration, I was on my feet from 12:00 noon until 12:00 midnight with a 15 minute break for dinner. By the end, I was dehydrated, delirious, could hardly see straight and nearly sprained my wrists from holding up the heavy camera with enormous telephoto lens and flash unit. Things were spilled on me and my toes were stepped on. I dealt with drunken guests. I dealt with screaming children. I dealt with drunken guests holding screaming children... In short, yikes. The photos came out well, but I learned that I am not a wedding photographer - at least not of the sort of large and tightly choreographed weddings that have been popular in the US over the last couple of decades.

[image via Sheldon Brown]

But an interesting trend I observe, is that over the past years there has been a move away from the exuberant, stressful weddings and toward something simpler, more spontaneous and more tranquil. To some extent, I am sure this is due to the economy. But I also think that the trend reflects a change in priorities: It's the same desire for the simpler, the more natural, and the more genuine that we see across a wide range of lifestyle choices, from food selection, to interior design and home decor, to transportation. This May, an acquaintance of mine will be getting married and I happily agreed to be the photographer. It will be a tiny, unscripted ceremony involving a tandem bicycle, and I can't wait.

25 comments:

  1. I miss the subscribe button! I never have much to say, but I enjoy reading everyone else's comments

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  2. Erin - You don't see the "subscribe" link next to the comment window?.. Weird, it's there.

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  3. "His and hers" bikes are fun (and kind of ridiculous). We call our Pilens the "matching Jags" and laugh whenever they are parked next to each other.

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  4. Ha! Ironic that wedding photographers must endure all that you describe whilst producing bodies of work illustrative of fairy tale romance. Your May gig sounds a delightful exception. Someone who documented nuptials for many years on the Vineyard told me that rising property values all but guaranteed the bridezilla & mogul affairs. On my way out the door to watch the royals, I wholeheartedly endorse the trend to human scale living.

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  5. The "Wedding Trike" idea is so romantic. I love it!

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  6. My friends John and Pamela held their wedding on the Minuteman Bike path. Both arrived on solo bikes, then left on a tandem. It was well before I became acquainted with either of them, but the description on their site made it sound endearing.

    I've had the fortune of being asked to officiate a few weddings for friends and it is kind of surprising how even a supposedly compact role (I just have to stand there and say a few things for fifteen minutes) can blossom into this massive responsibility. Still, it's fun to be part of an event that makes so many friends happy and to be close and watch them enjoy themselves.

    In my time, I've definitely seen more weddings that are on the simpler side than on the massive one. It definitely predates the economy, and is more to your point about a desire for a more intimate, personal experience. Part of it is that I see a lot of wedding couples who opt to pay for their own wedding, rather than the traditional role of having parents support it. That automatically cuts down on the need to invite extended family members that one never sees and are, essentially, strangers. I also suspect that a general trend towards getting married later might have something to do with it as well -- like, if you get married at a younger age, you're more likely to go with a conventional ceremony, but as you get older you're likely to develop more distinct preferences for the ceremony which may involve discarding aspects that are less appealing (oh, the politics of arranged dinner seating) in favor of focusing on elements that are really special (bring on the cake tastings!)

    On the other side, thinking of ceremonial pelotons -- a fellow randonneur passed away last year while riding the Shenandoah 1200. On his family's request, we organized a memorial ride to the funeral home on the day of his memorial, and they said that it was like seeing an honor guard bringing him home. We did not do it at the time, but I think that if I were to pass away while on a ride, I'd ask my friends to ride in, and to have my bike shepherded in the middle of the peloton with no rider.

    (oh, fwiw, V I don't see a subscribe link either ... but that may also be because I haven't been able to post comments to your blog for the past few months using either LJ or OpenID auth, so I've just been using the Name/URL auth method ... may be it's only available to Blogger users?)

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  7. It would have been pretty awesome if William and Kate had popped out of Westminster Abbey this morning and hopped on a couple vintage bicycles.

    Of course, the antique carriages and horsemen were pretty cool, too.

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  8. Cameron - Yes, it feels more like photographing a play or a scripted reality show than a life event...There are even elaborate checklists that the photographer is given by the planner, of very specific moments that need to be captured. These can be quite detailed, like "person A chatting with person B, while laughing and sipping champagne".

    Garth - I am surprised that Pashley or Brooks did not try to make special Royal Wedding edition models, or at least ad campaigns. Could go nicely with this.

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  9. Maybe it's the version of Firefox I running or something, but the subscribe button only shows up for me AFTER I comment. It was there before, but about a week ago it stopped showing up until after I post something

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  10. We had a very simple wedding almost 8 years ago. There were less than 20 people total at the ceremony and reception, it was held in the mountains, and cost less than $2500 (including rings). I think it's easy to get caught up in giant celebrations, which is not to say that people shouldn't have big weddings, but simply that sometimes I see people getting very quickly out of hand. I am entirely grateful that we had a simple, fun, relatively non-stressful day. I guess I was just never one of those who dreamed about a giant wedding, and in fact often stated I would never get married (things change though, I suppose).

    As for wedding photography, you are so right! Holy cow, is it ever hard work. My ex-boyfriend of many years ago was a videographer, which isn't quite the same, but close (at least as far as stamina and length of time on site). I remember going with him to large weddings and it's literally a 10-12 hour event of standing on your feet, not drinking/eating anything, and dealing with a range of personalities from the drunk uncle to the screaming kids. It's certainly for a very patient person, I believe, and one who doesn't mind all the happenings that take place. Hopefully, your friends wedding will be nice and peaceful and enjoyable experience for you.

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  11. My cousin asked me to be the secondary candid photog at his wedding, so I happily did it. As long as someone else did the organization and staging it was fun. More like personal photography.

    Friends are getting married this year and would like guests and parents to build a tandem from scratch either from metal or bamboo. They'd ride away on it, of course.

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  12. My fiancĂ© and I are getting married next month. For our honeymoon, we are participating in the Pedaler’s Jamboree. It’s a 30 mile bicycle ride along the Katy Trail here in Missouri, where there will be bands and fun all along the way. For fun, we plan on making "Just Married" signs and tying them to the back of our saddles with tin cans being dragged along the back. And here I thought I was brilliant with this idea. After reading your blog, looks like I wasn’t the first with this idea. :) We are looking forward to it!

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  13. Velouria said: Would you believe that in 2010: I received half a dozen emails from readers asking for...

    and I thought you were going to say...

    'my hand in marriage!' ;-)

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  14. Chas - That would have been problematic : )

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  15. I saw on Twitter that Boris Johnson gave Kate and William a tandem.

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  16. I think one of the reasons my marriage didn't work is that neither of us rode bikes in the wedding. Then again, my ex never rode at all!

    I once rode 45 miles to the wedding of two former riding buddies of mine. And I managed to bring them a gift--a ceramic piece--intact. Last I heard, they're still together, twenty-some-odd years later.

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  17. I was told that I wasn't allowed to ride my bike to my wedding. But that could be because it's a 1.5hr trip (arriving sweaty and puffed out wouldn't have been a good look), and mandatory helmet laws aren't good for for styled hair :-p

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  18. neighbourtease said...
    "I saw on Twitter that Boris Johnson gave Kate and William a tandem."


    Cute, just saw that. Can't find a picture of the bike though! No bikes at the wedding where I'm at this weekend; horrifically mountainous here!

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  19. Oh, never mind - here's the bike they got.

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  20. Erin B - Sorry about that, I have no idea why. Blogger has some really annoying glitches, and increasingly I am considering installing a different comment system.

    Try updating Firefox?..

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  21. @ Erin B...hit the "preview" button, then "edit" and the email subscription link will show up, then you can subscribe and post. That has been my workaround for a while.

    We work weddings...my bride is a Wedding Planner (and I get drafted on a regular basis) I have yet to see a wedding with a bicycle, unless you count the one I usually have a along. But you never know.

    Aaron

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  22. 2whls3spds said...
    "...my bride is a Wedding Planner"


    Send my regards/admiration, I would not be able to handle it! Maybe it's less stressful on a bicycle...

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  23. I have come to the Blog occasionally. My wife and I had a bike wedding, with 10 of our guests riding with us from our house in Berkeley up the hill (thankfully both we and our guests were in shape to climb the 3/4-mile hill) to a campsite in Tilden Park 3 miles away. We decorated our bikes with flowers from our garden. My wife wore a white jersey with flower pattern and white tennis skirt. We had a blast!

    Here are a couple of photos:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/franklyn/5463995616/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/franklyn/3401767169/

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  24. Here I thought we were being different, and now I learn we were actually trending. We had a small ceremony at Yosemite Falls, then biked to the Ahwahnee Hotel for a dinner celebration.

    Here is a photo:
    http://i174.photobucket.com/albums/w92/brenhouli/jb_bikes.jpg

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  25. Love the bicycle theme, like the second pic. It's seems like an old culture of weddings. It's gorgeous. Great stuff, thanks for sharing !

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