The Wedding Industry and The Ideal Body Myth

The Wedding Industry and The Ideal Body Myth

The obsession with body image often associated with the wedding industry is a huge gripe of mine. And it’s not just women who are feeling it, but men now too.

Hopefully you’ve managed to steer clear of all the “new year, new body, new you” crap that always circulates in January. But ludicrous articles like this from The Telegraph – which advocates a full lifestyle change at least six months before your wedding – are difficult to avoid if you’re in the process of wedding planning research. As if former British Army soldier Prince Harry is going to be concerned with “getting in shape for his wedding”?! He’s already in shape!

But the pressure is real and it’s having an impact. At a wedding expo in South Australia back in 2008, researchers found that over 50% of attendees were planning to lose weight before they tied the knot. 40% were planning to diet, while 67% were aiming to exercise more. Some also felt the force of peer pressure ahead of their wedding day, with 10% admitting that other people had told them they should lose weight ahead of their big day.


She’s probably not.

Feeling good vs. looking good

The wedding industry puts a lot of pressure on couples to look a certain way on their wedding day. The screws are tightened at every stage, from dress shopping to retouched wedding photography (more on that later). Even browsing online for décor or centrepiece ideas can result in a bombardment of images of impossibly glowing, supermodel brides in designer dresses.

Meghan Takacs in Elite Daily expresses the problem perfectly:

“The pressure to look and feel good on what society has made us believe is “the most important day of our lives” is unreal. Fitting in that dress down to the very inch is crucial; no crease is left behind.

“At the end of the day, the notion that you have to be at your “best” on your wedding day is created by society in order to make money.”

Now don’t get me wrong, if you love going to the gym and eating well, and exercising makes you feel good, then that’s great. But the assumption that you should suddenly change who you are by undergoing an arduous diet and fitness routine for your wedding (even if it makes you miserable) to look like a supermodel on your wedding photos, is just daft – and potentially dangerous.

feminist wedding photographer body positive

Does he really need a pre-wedding work out routine? Dude is a former British Army Soldier. He probably goes to the gym out of habit if nothing else!

Hypermasculinity in the wedding industry

The body image baton is now being passed to men now too.

In the last decade there’s been a massive increase on the focus of what a man’s body should look like, as well as a woman’s. This Huff Post article by Louis Michel explores the theme of hypermasculinity as another form of gender oppression. It’s just another damaging element of gender stereotyping, which as a feminist wedding photographer, I see all too often.

These images of Wolverine illustrate the issue perfectly, and show how ideals have changed over recent years:


Image from

This blog on the new and impossible standards of male beauty is also a good read.

Feminist weddings celebrate the important things

The media would have you believe you should get hung up on weight and appearance ahead of getting married, when actually the main focus should be the celebration of a loving relationship with friends and family and a person who adores you for exactly who you are.

But we can just say no to this kind of pressure? A focus on feeling good rather than just looking a certain way is a great mindset to have during wedding planning, and during the day itself.

Enjoy your wedding and stay true to yourself – remember that your partner is marrying you because of who you are now, not how you look in a bridal gown. That’s the joy of finding your best friend and soulmate. You don’t need to pretend to be anyone else or do anything other than be yourself to make them happy.  

This doesn’t mean you can’t pamper yourself, make a special effort on your appearance or get dressed up to the nines for your wedding. But these things should only happen because it makes you feel good. If you feel confident and happy within yourself, it’ll definitely show. I know what the pressure of being in front of the camera can be like. Only recently I booked a professional photo shoot for some new headshots and I felt like a wreck before it. I went from feeling very blasé about photography to all of a sudden constantly questioning all my choices of how I presented myself for the camera. Was my hair ok? What about my big belly? My arms are terrible I’ll have to cover those! The internal monologue was a stream of abuse.

But I got through the shoot and I actually ended up enjoying it. I did my best not to let the rumination take over. I breathed and bought myself back in to the moment and reminded myself of FACTS about my body. I reminded myself that the stream of abuse in my head were just thoughts. I trusted my photographer to take nice pictures!

When it comes to weddings, some tips I’ve picked up from fabulous feminist weddings I’ve photographed include:

  • Considering wearing something other than a wedding dress: If you aren’t one for wearing dresses, you could go with separates or a jumpsuit. Whatever makes you feel the most comfortable.
  • Make a list of your priorities for the day: Start with the reasons why you actually want to get married. I’ll bet that your appearance doesn’t make it on there. Put that list somewhere prominent and look at it whenever you want a boost.
  • Find your own inspiration. If you feel bombarded with TV shows and social media posts about finding the perfect dress or getting in shape for your wedding, take action. Counteract this negativity by finding inspiration of your own, from alternative wedding Pinterest boards to positive body image and healthy living blogs that focus on feeling good rather than looks.

If you’re feeling particularly shit about your body, and you have some time to spare, then I highly recommend watching this recording of Luisa Omielan’s comedy show ‘Am I Right Ladies?’. You’re not going to give a shit about having big thighs after watching it! 😀

feminist weddings body positive wedding photographer

This is me. I’m pretty squidgy all over, I’ve always had loads of spots and I’ve got cellulite. I understand that these are all considered ‘normal’!

Saying no to retouching

Your wedding photographs are an important memento of a happy day spent with people you love. They aren’t a statement about your dress size on a particular day nor are they to be submitted to the national archives as an example of a perfect wedding. They are a record of the love and emotion of the day, capturing the real life special, intimate moments you’ve shared together.

With this in mind, I keep my editing very natural. After I’ve taken your wedding photos I’ll adjust the exposure, colour, contrast, tidy up any stray hairs and delete any rogue spots. I don’t do any body manipulation, air brushing or anything of that nature. Instead, I aim to capture the authentic and beautiful moments of your special day just as they are.

Confetti at Camden Town Hall


To discuss wedding photography for your upcoming wedding, get in touch with me: Rowan, UK-based feminist wedding photographer.

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For wedding suppliers | My policy on sharing images

For wedding suppliers | My policy on sharing images

Hello friend!

If we’ve worked together at a wedding and you’re interested in using some of the images in your marketing then this is the info you need! I’m more than happy to share my work with the wedding community, but only if the couple have agreed to their wedding photos being shared. As the creator of the image I will always retain the copyright to it. My couples have a licence to use the images for their personal enjoyment, but not for commercial use. If you want to use images to promote your excellent work then I am happy to supply you with the image that you want, with a commercial licence.

I have two options available;

Option 1: Using images for print

If you’d like to use the images in print or advertising, or if you want to use the images online without having to credit me as the photographer, the cost is £35 per image. For 5 or more images I’ll do you a nice deal. Drop me an email to and we can chat.

Option 2: Using images for your social media, blogs, portfolio or elsewhere online

Sharing is caring. If you need online content I am more than happy to provide you with low resolution files for FREE in return for a shout out on social media and / or a link on the page where the image is displayed. You’ll probably know that getting backlinks for your website and social media is really important to the internet overlords. It’ll help us both get more awesome clients when you share my work and tag / link to me. To take up this option, send me an email to and let me know which images you want to use. Please do not edit, or use any filters, on the images. You can crop them to make them fit your digital space, but otherwise they should remain as they are.

Required credits for free image use:


Instagram: @parrotnpineapple

Twitter: @parrotpineapp

facebook: @parrotandpineapple

Advice from a wedding photographer. How to find your perfect bridal make up artist.

What happens if I have taken a photo of something your business supplies and you want a shout out?

Get in touch with me! The best way is to email me I always try my best to tag other wedding suppliers but this completely replies upon the couple telling me who they have worked with. Sometimes that goes amiss but I’m always happy to correct it.

Let’s link up and be friends!

I try to regularly feed the monster that is social media; here’s how to stay connected:

Click here to follow me on facebook.

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Where are all the women?

Where are all the women?

Another day, another social media debate about the lack of diversity in the photography industry. Last night Nikon Asia announced their 32 brand ambassadors for their latest flagship professional camera and the line up was a little ‘cock heavy’ so to say. As a woman and as a feminist in the photography industry I’m growing a little tired of this. It’s 2017, not 1972. I feel like I am surrounded by enormously talented photographers who also happen to be women, yet there is still a majority male conference speaker and brand ambassador bias.

Earlier this year Fuji hosted a gear demonstration seminar and provided the audience with a topless model to photograph using the new camera. Fuji were somewhat slow to respond to the social media backlash and eventually made a statement distancing themselves from the photographer leading the workshop and apportioned blame to the individual and not the brand.

These are just two examples of many that I could list out, but to be frank I haven’t got the time because I’m too busy being a woman in the photography industry. Women are systematically excluded from the top table of the photography industry and this has to stop. It is no longer acceptable to justify not including women in the speaker line-up of your conference or workshop because the photography industry is made up of men. It is not. Facebook marketing whiz and creatively brilliant photographer / videographer Hannah Millard found that just a quick and dirty review of Facebook suggest that approximately 24,000 people in the UK have their job title set as either photographer or photographer/owner. On examining the gender split of those 24,000 people, roughly 13,000 are men and 11,000 are women (45%). 

Estimating the number of women in the photography industry

If a Facebook data mine is a little too ambiguous and not robust enough for your liking then I contacted several industry bodies to ask if they could provide an estimate of the number of women in the photography industry based on their membership split. Only The Royal Photographic Society could share information and said that 25.1% of UK members were female (with more than half of their staff being female). The Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers, and the Bureau of Freelance Photographers said that they don’t collect the data. The British Institute of Professional Photographers and The Association of Photographers were asked to comment but did not respond.

However, I am not a member of any professional body, and I am not sure that I know of many of my female peers who are either. This suggests that as a data source alone, the validity is limited.

The UK government published a report in June 2016 that focused on employment in the creative industries, and covered the photography industry in the research. Unfortunately the photography industry data is very broad in coverage as it was combined with film, TV, video and radio. However the report indicates that women make up 39.9% of that industry group, slightly higher than the creative economy average of 37.2% but still lower than the national average of 47.1%.

Does this matter?

So it turns out that there are women in the photography industry. And the proportion is sizeable. It is now estimated that approximately 80% of all photography graduates from UK universities are female. Women are a growing customer base in this industry and it would be detrimental not to represent us at a leadership level. This isn’t just my opinion, it’s a well researched fact that gender diverse organisations will out perform their competitors by 15%. That performance escalates to 35% when the organisation is also racially diverse. Now is the time to start showing consumers that diversity is valued. This means that as an industry we have to start giving a platform to women and people from diverse backgrounds.

Even if you aren’t interested in the commercial success of the photography industry and we only evaluate the artistic integrity of photography, then to continue only representing white men will mean that we only get to see art from white men. Art is the accumulation of experience from the individual creator and do we really want to see just one perspective on the world repeated ad nauseam?

What can we do?

Several large workshop and conference organisers have specifically said they struggle to find women to include in their panel of talent because women don’t put themselves forward to speak, or aren’t willing to through lack of confidence. I know from my previous career in marketing that brand ambassadors and conference speakers aren’t born, they are made. To be considered a leader in any industry requires confidence and a specific skill set that doesn’t come naturally overnight. I’m particularly excited by a recent initiative from Laura Babb at Snap Photography Festival. I have been to the festival every year since it’s inception in 2016 and one of the reasons why I have now attended three times is because of the commitment to diversity and inclusion. Every year Laura finds interesting, creative and inspiring people from all backgrounds to share their expertise. Her aim is to invite speakers that reflect the make up of the community, this means that she actively seeks out speakers from groups that are currently under-represented and encourages their participation.

Laura has boldly taken the criticism and created a scholarship program to specifically nurture a female, or non gender confirming, photographer to develop these skills and start putting themselves forward.

If you are interested in supporting the Snap Photography Festival Aspiring Workshop Leader Scholarship, you can donate here. Just a few pounds will help make an impact in what is an industry that is desperate for change.

Further Reading Female Photographers matter now more than ever

Stylist: Why are women so under represented in photography?

Red Bull: Women in Photography, Is Photography Sexist?

Fast Forward: Women in Photography, promoting and engaging women in photography across the globe

Onward: Gender Diversity in the Fine Art Photography Industry (including lots of interesting data on the emergence of women in fine art photography)

Rebecca Douglas: An open letter to Nikon

Kick-Ass Female Photographers That I Admire

feminist wedding photographer group photo

Me and a group of inspiring and supportive photographers that I know to be well worthy of any brand ambassador status

This is Jessica. Jessica is an established wedding, portrait and boudoir photographer pushing creative boundaries in the UK and the US.

feminist wedding photographer louise sullivan

This is Louise. At a recent wedding photography industry training conference Louise bravely submitted one of her recent weddings for critique in front of more than 100 of her industry peers.

feminist wedding photographer marianne chua

This is Marianne. Marianne is an award winning wedding photographer who runs her own workshops, hosts a funny AF youtube channel doing gear reviews and is also a psychology PhD.

Feminist wedding photographer shelly richmond

This is Shelley. Shelley has two photography businesses, co-founded the co-working space Light Space Collective, runs business training seminars for women in the creative industry and is the trustee of an animal charity.

Feminist photographer candice cusic

This is Candice. Candice’s photography career includes 11 years as a staff photojournalist for the Chicago Tribune and 13 years as an Adjunct Photojournalism professor at Northwestern University. Candice is an internationally award-winning photographer with the WPJA, ISPWP and Fearless Photographer.

feminist wedding photographer sharon cooper

This is Sharon. Sharon is a wedding photographer who has been published nearly 30 times to date. She wrote a blog about confidence that I refer to on many an occasion.

This is Sarah. Sarah is a wedding and corporate photographer taking cutting edge images and putting the environment at the heart of her business practice.

feminist wedding photographer shot by amy

This is Amy from Amy also works in promoting diversity in the technology sector and recently took a ‘me-turnity’ to explore the world and creatively develop herself.

feminist wedding photographer ahmani vidal

This is Ahmani. Ahmani is one half of epic photography duo who last wedding season launched and took the industry by storm with their fun and feel good photos and video.

feminist wedding photographer rowan williams

Finally here’s a picture of me as captured by the talented Kat Forsyth I’ve got a degree in biomedical science, post grad diploma in marketing, 10 years experience in sales and marketing in the corporate world and now I run two photography businesses.


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