"It's hard to think of good wedding hashtags," said Zoe Pollock, who ended up settling on #PartyTimeNC for her North Carolina festivities this June. But not even that met the new standard. "I forgot that it wouldn't be #PartyTimeNC, since a lot of people didn't capitalize nc," she said. "Timenc sucks." But it could have been worse. As in: #JackJulia4EVA. "I was like, What the fuck was that? It was like a child that did that," said Micah Resnick, of his friend Jack's affair on June 15. Resnick, for his nuptials a few weeks earlier, chose #MicahAprilFTW. "We did FTW because we like those Tumblrs," he said. (He also had a FTW Tumblr for a wedding site, naturally.)
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Welcome to the season of the wedding hashtag, in which it has become an accepted rite of planning for brides and grooms to craft a quirky phrase or mash-up of their names, all the better — if not necessary — for their friends turned free wedding photographers to use on Instagram, creating an easily (if sometimes awkwardly) organized filtered album. The hashtag originated on Twitter, of course, but the mobile wedding-party trend has evolved as Instagram and now even Facebook users have become more accustomed to hitting the pound sign, turning the inward-focused brunch photos of Instagram past inside-out, for all the celebrants to see and share. And so, a search on the service for #PartyTimeNC or #MicahAprilFTW brings up a beautiful log of a single event, captured in perpetuity rather than disappearing in a drunken, tuxedo'd evening. That's good for weddings, and it represents an important shift for Instagram's lasting moments in a world of Snapchats and Vines. Everyone's been taking Instagram photos out at night for a year or so anyway; now the couple featured in most of them tends to make sure everyone else can find them. And maybe introduce Aunt Sarah to the service along the way.
Of course, not everyone plays along. Despite an increasing number of wedding planners who include a hashtag on a slip of paper — or couples who add a note at the bottom of ceremony programs below, say, a list of religious traditions traditions (pictured below) — not every flip-phoning relative will figure out Instagram while sitting in the synagogue. A recent scan by The Atlantic Wire of dozens of wedding hashtag feeds revealed that typically just a handful of attendees — bridesmaids, groomsmen, and closest friends — tend to dominate the makeshift albums, which couples thing ends up being enough of a bonus to the photographer they're already paying for.
"I like the hashtag because I can go to it the very next day and see all these different points of view," Shana Sperling, a wedding planner, told the Wire. "It's like instant gratification." Indeed, that's one of the biggest draws: professional wedding photos take weeks and weeks to develop; Instagram is a sepia-toned hangover fix that lasts well beyond a guest's wait at the airport for a trip home. "We woke up on Sunday morning and it was really awesome that we could go through it and look at it," said Ashley Wolff, the "ash" of #Mashwed. She found the morning after on Instagram particularly uplifting since she didn't have a honeymoon planned until weeks later. "Going right back to work, I was definitely depressed," says Wolff, a landscape architect.
Sperling, the wedding planner, had never heard of the Instawedding until this wedding season, when two clients in a row proposed it themselves. She remained skeptical, since for some couples, like the ones who ban phones from their weddings entirely, the idea of encouraging social media during their big day amounts to sacrilege. "A wedding is about having people paying witness," one such person told The New York Times. "How can they do that if they don't even hear your vows because they’re too busy taking pictures?" That's certainly a concern at many weddings, despite the influx of enforced Instagram: "They put a lot of effort into planning their wedding," Sperling says of her clients. "They want people to fully enjoy it and not be distracted by their phones."
For many young brides and grooms and their friends, though, taking filtered photos at big events is only natural, and official hashtags make nightlife easier. "Instagram is like the first thing I check in the morning and the last thing I check at night, so it only seemed appropriate that it would feature prominently on our big day," admitted Pollock, a former Senior Editor for the Daily Dish pictured right with her husband Will. Brides who use Instagram, it's becoming increasingly clear, really want their friends documenting every single moment. Or at least the important ones, like the bride looking at her just slipped-on ring, or the groom-to-be mid-leg-raise before the breaking of the glass, or the couple grinning just after the nuptials. "Your intimate friends, bridesmaids, and bffs aren't afraid to stick a camera in your face at the best moments," Pollock said. In the "wedding mindset," says Wolff, you want "every possible documentation of the weekend." A hashtag categorizes that, which now married young people like Resnick, a pediatric resident Montefiore Medical Center, can hold onto forever, from all around. "If the assumption is that it cheapens the wedding," he said, "I think it's great — it's crowdsourced, so it gives you great perspective."
For some couples, though, it's all about the name. "It was kind of more of a cheeky way of talking about the wedding in general," says Kwesi Blair of his wedding hashtag last year, which takes on a whole new relevancy this week: #InterracialGayMarriageOnAPlantation. "Some people used it some people didn't — it was for fun."