PDA in wedding announcements

We get a fair number of wedding announcements from returned missionaries we’ve known and fed, and I’ve seen a trend emerging. In the last year or so, several of them coming from the Utah/Idaho area have the invitation printed on a montage of photos of the couple, and they include a picture of the couple kissing. Last week we had some missionaries over and passed a recent one around that featured a 4×6 shot of the couple in lip-lock, and I made a snarky comment about it; their response was that it was much better than the ones they’ve seen in Finland, where the couple just stand together politely smiling, usually in the forest. Hmm.

It’s at times like this that I feel out of touch with mormon culture. Why would young engaged mormon couples feel the need to photograph themselves kissing and send it out to their friends and relatives? Here’s my best guess:

When getting married, there is a need to have a sense of reassurance about the marriage lasting. The temple marriage may have provided that confidence at one time, but frankly it no longer does. Now the emphasis within the church is on the quality of the relationship between spouses, with advice for couples dispensed from the pulpit in general conference, articles in the church magazines, etc. Mormonism has never been shy about physicality, and so the active sexuality of married couples is one way of expressing the quality of a marriage within mormonism. The kissing shot assures the receiver, and of course the couple themselves, that this marriage will last, that they are able to build their family on a foundation of ‘wholesome recreational activities’ and all that.

Either that or they just think they look cool making out.


  1. I thought you were going to worry about people being photographed with their Palm Pilots for wedding announcements. I can’t decide which is tackier, now that you’ve got me thinking.

  2. The temple marriage may have provided that confidence at one time, but frankly it no longer does.

    Is there an upward trend for temple marriages ending in divorce?

  3. Proud Daughterr of Eve says:

    I think the kissing pictures are just in there to be romantic.

  4. Is there an upward trend for temple marriages ending in divorce?

    Probably not, but at this point everyone knows someone who has a temple marriage end in divorce, while earlier probably that wasn’t the case.

  5. What bothers me are the little cards telling me where they’re registered. I find that just tacky. Sarah’s mother-in-law wanted to put it on their invitations and I said absolutely not.

  6. I don’t know the stats, but it seems like a disproportionate number of temple divorces are happening to people in their 20s. Norbert might be on to something here.

  7. This whole “pictures with wedding invitations/announcements” thing is foreign to me. I grew up in the Boston area, and Wedding invitations were those flowery formal things, and the thought of putting a photo in there would be considered cheap and tacky.

    Then I moved out west, and saw some of the things that passed for wedding invitations/announcements in Mormon-land. At the time of my first wedding in 1998, my future bride and I had a huge fight because she wanted a postcard-style announcement with the photo montage as described. I said I wanted a traditional East Coast announcement. We compromised by having the traditional announcement, but enclosing a photograph.

    For wedding #2, fortunately my wife is from the east coast, and we went the traditional route.

  8. See comment #3. They’re young; I doubt they put serious philosophical thought into a kiss.

    Having said that, “Sealed with a kiss” is an old phrase, and it carries interesting connotations within Mormondom.

    Sterling, I know temple divorces among people in their 20s happen, but I think “a disproportionate number” is a real stretch.

  9. Aren’t Mormons the only ones who send out pictures at all.
    I recently recieved such a wedding announcement. It even included a shot with the couple walking and showed them with their hand on each other’s behinds.

  10. Aren’t Mormons the only ones who send out pictures at all.

    I thought so, but I don’t get very many of the things these days. I like the enclosed photo: usually the person I know I haven’t seen in years and its nice to see what they look like, as well as scoping out the spouse to be. Personally I find the kiss picture incredibly cheesy, but that’s just me.

    They’re young; I doubt they put serious philosophical thought into a kiss.

    That’s not the point. I’m wondering what in the culture makes this a practice when it was not a practice a few years ago.

  11. I’ve always heard people say it’s a mormon thing, but since I’ve started getting into the photography business, I’ve realized its not. Lots of non-LDS couples, at least here in California, send out photos with their announcements.

    And lots of them have a kissing photo. As far as photography goes, my personal feeling is that a picture of a couple just before the kiss is usually more dynamic and interesting than a picture of them actually locking lips. My favorite engagement photos usually don’t involve any kissing at all, though.

    I doubt the trend towards kissing photos has anything at all to do with mormonism – it’s more the trend of wedding photography in general, which has moved in the last 5-10 years or so from traditional formal portraits into a “photojournalistic” style. A lot more candid shots, detail shots, and more of an effort to tell the story in pictures, not just line the family up and take a few snapshots. This trend has spilled over to engagement photos as well, where the photographer will try to capture the couple’s personality instead of just posing them and having them smile at the camera. For some photographers, perhaps their best trick is to catch the couple kissing. Personally I think there’s better ways to capture the couple’s personality and feelings for each other than just a little smooching…

    Anyway, the point is it’s a trend in photography, not a trend in mormonism.

  12. This has nothing to do with mormon culture. I am a photographer who shoots engagements sessions and this (as Greg mentioned) is just a trend in photography. Definitely the trend in weddings/egagements and really all portraiture in general is a photojournalistic style. From one of my sessions you aren’t just going to get a series of different poses with different backgrounds – we shoot on location (multiple locations) and the pictures tell a story. I offer albums and cofee table books from my sessions, and I work really hard to make sure there is something worth putting in those :) I usually get plenty of kissing shots – but I also agree with Greg, some of my favorites are the ones where they are about to kiss

    so yeah, this is not a mormon thing at all.

  13. Oh – and its also true that its not just a mormon thing to use pictures. This is very popular to do, especially on the west coast but definitely in Texas it was true as well. People want photography on everything – save the date cards, wedding invites, programs, displayed at the wedding – and not related to weddings the same is also true. People want photo handbags, necklaces, calendars, books, puzzles, greeting cards – not just plain old prints. As a photographer i think its fantastic :)

  14. I agree with Greg – it’s a trend in photography.

    I am a bit disconcerted with the dress, though. For my engagement photo, I wore coat and tie. (We had East Coast-style announcements with a photo, as per my MIL’s dictate). I don’t recall, before my engagement, ever noticing an engagement photo not with a coat and tie. All of my contemporaries at BYU had coat and tie. In every case, the woman had on something nice that suggested a dress (you usually didn’t see below the waist, at any rate).

    Now, it’s common to see engagement photos with one of the couple wearing jeans and a OC Chopper tee shirt. And the groom is wearing a ballcap.

    Forget the kissing. Someone teach these kids how to dress.

  15. Great shot, veritas! Really warm backlighting with just enough face detail, and her expression is fantastic. The flare is nice too.

    When I (someday, finally) get married, no one’s army is gonna get me into a coat and tie for my engagement pictures. I may wear a collared shirt, though… and I will dress to the nines for the wedding… but for my engagement pictures, I’d rather look like the “me” I associate with. And I’m not a dress-up kinda guy. I won’t look my most slovenly self, so no ballcap for sure, but the pictures shouldn’t make my friends have to look twice to know who the groom’s gonna be. And it should make my mom complain a little that I’m not dressed up enough. ;)

    Anyway, I’m glad we’re able to conclude that kissing engagement photos have nothing to do with trends in mormonism.

  16. Thanks greg!

    Queno – that sounds like something my grandmother would say. People where outfits that represent who they are. I would never want a couple showing up to a shoot all dressed up if that was not their normal way of dressing. Then they are going to be stiff and awkward, which makes for bad smiles. Of course, in my engagement pics my husband and i dressed up, then proceeded to take the pics sitting in a tree and in the ocean on a surfboard in our sunday best. it was great. Which is another big trend in wedding photography – the trash the dress pics which i LOVE.

  17. (cue grandpa mode)

    Of course, I’m only still in my 30s, but there was a time when wearing a tie to a serious/important function was considered “standard attire” and “who you are”.

    I also wear a coat and tie when I interview for a job.

    (/end grandpa mode)

    Then again, I *like* wearing a tie. I also like working from home wearing sandals, teeshirts, and ballcaps.

  18. no one’s army is gonna get me into a coat and tie for my engagement pictures.

    It doesn’t take an army. Chances are, it might take just your fiancee, and that will be your first lesson in marriage…

  19. Until I joined the church, I had never seen a wedding invitation with a photograph- never. Now, that’s all we see.

    Really, I don’t care about the lip-lock, however, not very many people look their best in that pose- what actually bothers me most, like annegb, is the note about where they are registered. Gah! It’s just the tackist thing ever. These kids deserve a copy of the giant, unabridged Emily Post for their wedding present.

  20. What I hate more than the registration cards (and I do hate those) are the double envelopes. HELLO!? Why do I have to open up TWO envelopes for ONE invitation? Killing to many trees for style, I tell ya’…

    Oh, and the kissing pictures? Tacky, yes. But in a photo montage, it’s not so bad. If it had been the only picture, though? That would be weird.

  21. Oops. “Too” many trees…

  22. I think there’s a trend away from thinking that wish lists and registrations are tacky. Most of the 20-somethings I know are far more aggravated when it’s not clear where the couple is registered, and you often don’t know for sure who to call. For the last wedding I went to, it took multiple phone calls and emails (to the bride, her mother, and her brother) to find out what they meant by “you may want to change since we’re going to be really dancing” — if they hadn’t included the registration card I would have gone insane from the lack of details and general worry. Incidentally, what they meant was “everyone from the bride’s dance class should bring their shoes, but since the bride herself plans to wear her wedding dress while dancing a jig, you should probably just stay in whatever you were wearing during the ceremony.” So I’m glad I called and asked, and I’m glad they made the gifting part simple (and that they went with a pure vanilla Catholic mass, for which my research fully prepared me.)

    However, if/when I get married, I’m putting my next-youngest sister in charge of gifts, registrations, RSVPs, and everything else etiquette-related, as she has excellent taste. So my opinion on registration cards will have essentially no weight (the info will probably be on the website.) ^_^

  23. I like the registration cards. Buying gifts gives me stress, and if someone will tell me where they’ve got a list of exactly what they want, I love them for it. Anyone who didn’t send me a registration card would probably just get cash in the envelope.

    And I agree the kissing pictures are a trend in photography. That photojournalistic idea takes some getting used to. I took the baby in for pictures, and they wanted shots of me playing with him! Um, no. I want a picture of him and only him. I have 8 billion snapshots of the two of us together, but I’m not going to hang that on the wall.

  24. Oh, and as far as photos go… there’s no way you’d see a photo of me kissing someone being distributed to anyone. I find the kissing at the end of a traditional Western wedding to be exhibitionistic and often unbearable, from an etiquette point of view. Especially the way that some people think they should be kissing these days.

    And I’ve never received a wedding invitation with a photo. Usually they’re hand-made lace-and-dried-flowers affairs, built by the bride and bridesmaids, and take even more time to construct than your average “super special lesson” YW handout. I live in the Midwest, though, and even when I was in LA, all the people I knew who were getting married also came from out here. Ohio’s usually a little behind on these kinds of trends; if we get photos on invites it’ll be in another year or two.

  25. Queuno, since when are engagement pictures a ‘serious function”? I think most people are just trying to capture themselves on camera – who they are as a couple. And they want the pics to be stylish and artistic and usually romantic. These are not the formal Bridal portraits. Most people I shoot say things like ‘they want pictures like they see in a magazine’. They want lifestyle images. I am in no way the only photographer shooting these types of images, and none of my clients are mormon – not a single one. These images are being used for save the dates, newspaper announcements, wedding invitations, wedding programs, and on display at the ceremony/reception. I live in Seattle and this is pretty standard.

  26. Ha! As I read this story I glanced up at the bulletin board where my my friend’s kid’s wedding announcement is posted. Four (count ’em, FOUR) pictures in the four corners of the invitation, surrounding the event details in the middle. Holding each other this way, now holding each other that way, now holding each other on the ground, and finally the trademark lip-lock. I never really put any thought into the kissing shots, I just always thought LDS wedding invitations were cheesy– like receptions and ring ceremonies in the cultural hall. The photo that bugged me to no end is the wedding shot where they’re gazing lovingly at the wedding rings on their hands. Who comes up with this stuff?? At my wedding I did do the “Toyota Oh-What-a-Feeling Jump” in front of the SL Temple, though, and am still mortified.

  27. Gack! Forgive my lack of control with the italics.

  28. I wore a nice dress and dh2b a coat and tie for our engagement photo, lo these many years ago. We did not include a registry card. I am not a huge fan of those, but they don’t bother me; they seem to have become pretty much de rigueur. Around here, anyway.

    A couple of months ago we received an invitation from a shirttail relative in which the couple were rubbing noses; the bride-to-be was on tiptoe … and barefoot. (Her intended was wearing shoes.) Of course they hadn’t put a lot of deliberation into the message they were sending, but I’d say they were sending a message nonetheless.

  29. David T. #26, “hands on the temple doorknob” used to be a compulsory shot in an LDS wedding album. We were rebels in that respect and did not include that pose, but I think we did include a “kissing in the alcove” shot. Our wedding predated the “Toyota jump” trend.

  30. Damn all of you and your facts and actual information! I still like my theory and will use it to … explain something …

    It’s true that in the last seven years I haven’t seen a wedding invitation from America except for return missionaries and rich New Yorkers (no photos). Oh well.

    Feel free to use the post as an excuse to bitch about bad wedding invites.

  31. A year or so ago I saw a Mormon wedding announcement in which the largest photo in the montage showed the couple kissing quite intensely while standing waist-deep in a river. I just didn’t get it. I mean, if you want to make out, there are so many better places to do it.

  32. Sorry, Norbert. Your subject just triggered our opinions of silly wedding invitation traditions. To address your thoughts, though, I’d say the couples kiss for the camera to show friends & families how truly, overwhelmingly in love they are. I don’t think they’re trying to demonstrate the solidity of the union as much as they’re saying “isn’t eternal love wonderful?”

  33. If I had to do it all over again, though, I might make out for the camera just for fun.

  34. Maybe in a room at the Madonna Inn with a heart-shaped bed and mirrors on the ceiling. I think that shot would reinforce the message of our ability to build our family on a foundation of ‘wholesome recreational activities’ and all that.

  35. Proud Daughterr of Eve says:

    I like both the photos and the registration cards.

    1) It’s probably less an issue for people of our (average) age and average family sizes. For older people and/or people with bigger families, I suspect a visual reminder of who the happy couple actually is is quite handy.

    2) Um, if you’re going, of course you’re going to buy them something and I don’t know about you but I’d rather spend my money on something I know they need. Unless I know them very, very well, I’d rather not guess. My cousins-in-law registered for camping equipment. I didn’t buy them any. Yeah, some people register for silly things. It doesn’t mean you *have* to buy them.

  36. Kevin Barney says:

    I got married in 1980, long before these photojournalistic styles had taken hold, and firmly back in the posed shot in the woods days. But I did have an afro and a skinny new wave tie in the picture, so maybe there are worse things for posterity than kissing poses… (g)

  37. veritas – I grew up in Northeast Ohio descended from recently-relocated Utah Pioneer stock. My inlaws were midwesterner converts (from non-member extended families and social circles) relocated to SLC with Ivy League sensibilities. Wedding announcements were serious affairs meant to formally introduce yourself to society. In fact, my MIL was particularly concerned about the fact that our announcment was going to even mention the groom’s parents (mine) and not just the bride’s.

    (Our announcement said: Mr. and Mrs. Husband’s Name of Place are pleased to announce the wedding of of their daughter, Daughter’s Name, to Groom’s Name, son of Dr. and Mrs. Man’s Name of Place. Date. Place.

    My MIL was particularly concerned that her society friends would think the mention of the groom’s parents wasn’t considered appropriate.)

  38. PDOE – My brother and his wife registered at REI. I bought them a camp stove.

    I think the registration cards are a bit of a waste, but I am a *huge* fan of the wedding website that explains all of the details for the wedding, reception, registrations, etc.

  39. My wife mentions the movie “While You Were Sleeping”, where Lucy (Sandra Bullock) gives her boss a sticky-note with the details for her wedding. Classic.

  40. I should clarify: I don’t mind registries- (even though I hated doing it, my aunt convinced me it was polite for the guests), what I object to is the card in the invitation. Register away, but let us call your mom or the aunt or check the website to see where to find your registry.

    ps- we recently recieved an invite to a wedding (kissy suck face picture included) with a note ASKING for cash in lieu of gifts. Now THAT’s tacky.

  41. And sorry for the TJ, Norbert. You’re woods-y betrothal picture is darling!

  42. #40 – Tracy’s example gets my vote for tackiest so far.

  43. “Why would young engaged mormon couples feel the need to photograph themselves kissing and send it out to their friends and relatives?”

    I don’t know why kissing shots are on the rise, but I bet the photo-spread trend is at least partially rooted in disruptive technologies. Digital cameras make shooting multiple poses cheap. Internet culture has shifted the bounds of what is “normal” self-exhibition. Personal computers and photo-editing software make anyone a potential “artist.”

    IIRC, digital cameras penetrated the market in the late 90s, so the timing is about right.

    A possible consequence of making the announcement “creative” is that its function shifts from a signal that the couple is joining society to an expression of personality. The announcement mode emphasizes the couple’s conformity to existing norms (and, naturally, will use the dress code); the expression mode emphasizes the couple’s uniqueness.

    Once the images become creative it’s only natural that they become competitive. Like, for example, the bizarre ways that some BYU-ites ask each other on dates, like some craft-ish excesses at Relief Society activities, like Christmas letters, like the guys in Elders’ Quorum who try to out-sensitive each other with tales of how well they treat their spouses, etc.

  44. Proud Daughterr of Eve says:

    Queno (#38): I should add that I *love* camping. The camping gifts they asked for were not silly in and of themselves but were silly because this was a couple with a fully furnished home and two careers. They can well afford their own camping equipment.

    Tracy M. (#40): Do you, not to mention the mother of the bride, not have a zillion other things to do in your day? Why add the hassle of making and taking more calls when a small card in the invitation cuts out so many steps for so many people?

  45. PDoE, yes, I certainly have a million-kajillion other things to do-and the little card indeed does make sense… but I guess I senselessly hand onto this last little shred of good manners that my grandma beat into my head. One does not ask for gifts in an invitation. Period.

  46. The worst wedding invite I ever received was a CD. Seriously, you were supposed to put it in your computer, watch a photo montage set to music of the happy couple, and it ended with the pertinent info about the reception. There wasn’t a printed page with a date or an address or anything – it was all on the CD.

    Glad that trend didn’t catch on.

  47. I’d rather see a modestly dressed couple kissing in a photo montage than some of the bridal photos you see of the bride laying on the grass, popping out of her dress. What is the purpose of that?

  48. Don (#47),

    That depends… Is she hot?

  49. Cathy #28:

    Did the groom’s last name begin with a “W”, by any chance? Either that or another trend is developing in Mormon engagement land: barefoot nose rubbing!

  50. KenD #49, you know what, the groom’s last name did begin with W.

  51. 20somethingCA says:

    20-something Californian talking:

    Does a couple who grew up in Sandy or Ogden, UT, really need to introduce themselves to “society”?? LOL!! For that matter, probably most people living even in NYC don’t have any “society” on their invite lists (isn’t that the whole point of society–to include as few as possible?). If you happen to be so lucky, fine, send out a Society-worthy invite. The rest of our generation doesn’t see the need for putting on faux airs.

    And are we really supposed to feign being “shocked, SHOCKED!” that a guest might bring a gift to the wedding? As if people just spontaneously decided to bring a gift? The reality is that a wedding invite with no registration cards is 100% equal to one that does in terms of its functioning as a ransom note for gifts. Just tell me what you want so I don’t end up in your re-gift pile.

  52. 20somethingCA says:

    I just noticed I have 3 different punctuations/capitalizations of the word society in above post. [Insert deep insight on why that is here.]

  53. StillConfused says:

    According to my 20 year old daughter “kissing on the invitation is tacky. Obviously you have kissed if you are getting married.”

  54. StillConused–
    “Obviously you have kissed if you are getting married.”

    I personally know people who kissed for the first time over the altar.

  55. The comments of Tracy (45) and 20somethingCA (51) point out the somewhat tenuous “social contract” required or expected by a wedding.

    The wedded couple (or parents) offer me the opportunity to eat for free, socialize with infrequently seen acquaintances, and witness a fresh new family unit begin. In return, I “owe” a gift to the new couple. This is all a tacit agreement, but largely understood by society.

    As far as gifts go, I am torn. I, too, was raised by parents that asking for gifts is never appropriate. (My mother still has a problem with trick-or-treating.)

    However, as the proliferation of “blanket” wedding invitations seems to invade our culture, I have found the inclusion of registration cards helpful when dealing with invitations to weddings of not-so-familiar parties.

    In any case, I definately agree with Greg and others that the moment just before the kiss is much more interesting.

  56. #26 – re: close-up shots of wedding rings. My DH lost his wedding ring a number of years ago. We were able to replace it with one that is VERY similar, but I (being a rather sentimental female) am glad that we have that close-up shot of the original!

    I agree that registration cards help reduce the re-gifting pile. I think overall the pros outweigh the cons on this one.

    I like receiving pics in wedding announcements, but kissing shots shouldn’t be included. Save them for the photo album!

  57. I think registering for cheap stuff you saw online and thought “oh, yeah, sure, that looks good, I guess” is somewhat tacky, and try to exercise my right as a wedding attendee to buy the happy couple better stuff whenever possible. I mean, seriously. Who wants $1 not-heat-resistant spatulas with wooden handles?

    However, I remain pleased to receive invitations that include registration information. How am I to know whether you are experiencing an obvious quality spatula shortage unless you tell me?

  58. I hate the kissy-picture thing too. I don’t think I’ve ever had a photo taken of me kissing anyone, and I would never want one! Much too cringe-worthy! I don’t really like to see other people kissing either.

    I think my 7 year old has really rubbed off on me. Even when we see kissing on tv we all go, “ewww!”

  59. interesting blog topic. I am a 35 year old female getting married for the first time this September. I chuckle to think what my announcement would have been like had I gotten married when everyone else did 10-15 years ago. I live in Oregon and pictures of the couple to be are everywhere. I will not be including registry information however, as a 35 year old I have everything I need. However my mother and MIL, should they be asked, will mention that we are saving for a house. I don’t think that is tacky. My invitation will include pics of us…one of each of us when we were little and one of us together.

  60. Kevin Barney says:

    Oh, ladybug, how wonderful! Congratulations.

  61. Smoochy photo invitations can be gross, but personally I am more grossed out by “the look” that happens right before the kiss. That look was (or should have been) intended soley for the object of lust, not for me, the recipient of the card. Icky.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I think invite photos should show a couple looking a) happy, and b) at the camera. It’s a wedding, not a Calvin Klein ad. I put these things on my fridge as reminders — I don’t want to see people glowering off into the distance every time I go for a glass of water.

  62. I would rather die than send out a wedding invitation with a picture of me kissing my fiancee. Maybe that is why I am not married…