The humble photo booth: a wedding’s best friend

11 Apr

Me and the missus.

I’m back and Claudette didn’t change her mind at the last minute, which means I’m a married man. Sorry ladies, this Lego Death Star-building man is taken.

We had a great time and a fantastic wedding. We picked the absolute best time of year to go down to New Orleans, as it was just a shade below hot and sunny all the time (aside from Texas tornado-inspired rain early last week). It was also great to spend a week with our friends, seeing the sights and carousing, even if it meant the days were too often spent recovering from the nights before.

When we first decided to get married, we knew we didn’t want to do it the regular way. The average couple spends $25,000 on their big day, which seemed like utter madness to both of us, so we thought we’d keep the event itself small, but fun. New Orleans was clearly the best place to do that.

Along the way, we discovered what every other married couple we knew had warned us about: that the wedding industry is a giant scam. As one person mentioned to me on Twitter, it’s about getting as much money out of people as possible to put on events that are just like everyone else’s.

In that vein, we examined every aspect of getting married and axed costs wherever they seemed nonsensical. Neither of us normally wears jewelry, so it seemed dumb to spend thousands on rings. We bought $100 cheapos instead (although they weren’t easy to find). Meanwhile, New Orleans is a lush, near-tropical garden, so spending hundreds of dollars on flowers looked like a giant waste. We cut those entirely.

Another element we avoided were photographers. With professionals charging thousands to take pictures we’d probably never look at, it seemed like one of the most foolish expenditures we could make, especially when we all live in a YouTube-Flickr-Facebook age where every single person has several cameras at his or her disposal.

We shot a lot of photos ourselves and asked our friends to take lots as well. The day after, I copied some of their memory cards onto my iPad and requested that the rest upload their good shots to a Flickr account I set up. Not everyone has sent in photos yet, but we’re already very pleased with what we have.

The best thing we did, however, was rent a photo booth. We got the idea from a wedding Claudette went to last year. The bride and groom had rented one, along with a table of props – silly hats, mask and so on – and set it up at their reception. Guests got to keep the strip of photos as a memento when they came out of the booth, while the digital originals went to the married couple. Not surprisingly, the photos got funnier and wackier as the night progressed and more booze was consumed.

We used Picture It Video Photo Booth, which cost us a couple hundred bucks – a fraction of what a photographer would have. The guests loved it and, when we got the originals back and saw the pictures people came up with, we agreed it was the best idea we’d had.

It’s no wonder photo booths are among the hottest wedding trends. It’s also amazing that booths are enjoying a renaissance despite essentially being killed off by digital photography. Ironically, their comeback is being fueled by that same, much-improved digital technology and printing.

And since we’re talking about photo booth technology, I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up Sex, Bombs and Burgers, where some of their history is detailed. Booths initially rose to popularity in the 1930s, partly because they provided people with one of the only ways to produce illicit photos. In those days, trying to get naked pictures of your spouse developed at the local drug store could land you in jail. A photo booth, meanwhile, gave couples the privacy and speed they needed.

As one historian put it: “Complaints started coming in from Woolworth’s and other stores that people, particularly women, were stripping off their clothes for the private photo booth camera. Couples started being a little more adventurous in the privacy of the curtained booth.”

Alas, none of that went on in our booth. Wink wink.


Posted by on April 11, 2012 in photos


4 responses to “The humble photo booth: a wedding’s best friend

  1. randifer

    April 11, 2012 at 12:52 am

    Chris, Congrats on taking the plunge, Claudette, you have my sympathies…

    All kidding aside, my wife and I could not agree more about the overall cost of a wedding these days. Here in Boston, just the pictures will run you $5k-$8k and more. Dinner goes for $75 to $150 a plate at the standard locations, and half the time you are surrounded by people you are not close to, but HAD to invite.

    Much like yourselves, we booked a trip to Vegas for 10/10/10. One of 385 couples married there that day. My wedding band is silver, and my wifes ring, white gold with a man made diamond (not Zirconia). The best part of Vegas is low cost flights, hotels, and if you eat in the casinos, cheap food! Although we went for 9 days, our guests (19 in all) came for 3 to 5 days.

    We got married at the foot of the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign which is in the median on Las Vegas Strip. We did buy a package that included the service, Limo, and a photographer on site (which because it was outside infront of a lit up sign at night was a GOOD thing, seems not a single one of my friends knew what white balance meant!).

    We invited everyone to dinner in the Casino the night before the wedding, and the day after we rented a poolside cabana and had folks over to chill for the day.

    Total cost:
    Package, $ 750.
    Air/Hotel: $ 1750 for 8 days
    Rings: $ 800
    Dress and Tux: $ 900 (tailored)
    Food and Drink: $ 1000
    Cabana: $ 175
    Wonderful Wife: PRICELESS

    Total $5300 including the honeymoon 🙂 Add to that a jackpot I hit for $4K and it was not only a bargain, but it was one of the coolest weddings I’ve seen. (Although your pictures look like you rivaled us I think)

    While we might not always agree on various topics, you have my sincere best wishes for a long and happy life together.

    • petenowak2000

      April 11, 2012 at 12:24 pm

      Thanks man! I’d half entertained the notion of a Star Wars-themed wedding in Vegas, but there are limits to how dorky the wife is willing to let me be. Your’s sounds great, though, especially the part about recouping almost all your costs through winnings. Nice! Thanks for reading, although my name is Pete, not Chris! ; )

      • randifer

        April 11, 2012 at 12:45 pm

        Thats what I get for being up late! In another window I was writing something to a client called Chris! Sorry bout that dude.

        If Claudette had of let you do the Starwars thing, maybe you could have been a finalist in the George Takei Ultimate Geek Photo Contest. One couple was cutting their wedding cake with a replica sword from World or Warcraft.

  2. russellmcormond

    April 11, 2012 at 12:57 pm


    When Rina and I got married back in 1997 we didn’t have the freedoms you seemed to have. We joke that we were simply invited to our wedding, and it was put on by our parents. We had a western back-yard wedding with about 30 close friends/family (and 2 United Church Christianministers) and an eastern wedding at Tudor Hall with almost 300 people (and 2 Hindu ministers). The “legal” wedding was the smaller/first, and to this day I get the dates mixed up.

    Having Lego Death Star-building men, and even geekier guys like me, being married is likely good news to younger geeks. I know when I was in my teens and early 20’s I didn’t think I would ever find someone who would put up with my non-mainstream-ness.

    BTW: I won’t bring up the complexities that C-11’s changes to photography causes for weddings. Who is the first holder of copyright for that photo booth now that the comissioned photography and owenrship of equipment sections have been repealed? 🙂

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