The Engaged Life #6: Should I Wear a Wedding Band?

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I’m the type of person that needs a reason for everything. The reason doesn’t always have to be pragmatic. It’s okay if the reason is rooted in tradition, culture, or religion, so long as I know what the roots are. From there, I can at least make an informed opinion on whether or not I agree. Even a cursory look into some age-old traditions that us Americans take for granted will lead you to some dubious history. If you don’t believe me, really take a look at Columbus Day and the history of Thanksgiving. You might learn some stuff you wish you didn’t learn.

Before I get into this, I’m going to say upfront that I’m not knocking anyone for wearing a wedding band. The whole reason I’m writing about this is because I’m genuinely trying to sort out if this is something I want to integrate into my life. Everything means something different to every individual and this is my journey to try and ascribe my meaning to wearing a wedding ring.

Anywho, as our big day approaches, it becomes time for me to choose to choose a wedding band. This band will be something I will have to wear for the rest of my life. Or, at least that’s was tradition dictates. Who’s tradition, though? Every source I looked up seem to concur that the earliest example of this tradition was in Ancient Egypt, ~4800 years ago. It then began to proliferate from there as Romans and Judeo-Christians traditions adopted it centuries after. If you want to read a brief history on wedding bands, you can go here.

It seemed to me that I may find some answers within religion. I was raised as a Muslim and my wife-to-be was raised Roman Catholic. That said, I started with Judaism because it is the oldest of the monotheistic religions. Surprisingly enough, neither the Kabbalah nor the Talmud require it. Any gift can be given the day of so long that it is a personal belonging of the gifter, and has a value over a certain amount. Over the years, it just became more customary for this gift to be a ring. If a Jew wants to wear a wedding ring, it has to be simple, with no jewels or engravings. For why this is and more about Jewish wedding ring tradition, check this out.

Going over to Christianity, we find that it is has been tradition for a long time, but was not really adopted until the 9th century or so. Here’s a snippet from the article I linked above:

It was not until about 860 that the Christians used the ring in marriage ceremonies; even then, it was not the simple plain band as we know it. It usually was highly decorated with engraved doves, lyres, or two linked hands. The Church discouraged such rings as ‘heathenish’ and, around the 13th century, wedding and betrothal rings were considerably simplified, and given a more spiritual look which was very aptly expressed by a Bishop when he dubbed it a “symbol of the union of hearts.”

So this leads me to believe that wedding bands are not inherent within Christian theology at all. If it’s something adopted almost a millennium after Jesus was said to have lived, I don’t think anyone can say that wedding rings are a requirement under Christianity. I’m not too surprised here since Jesus was Jewish and I would have assumed He followed the Jewish customary traditions of the time.

If we move to Islam, which is the religion that I was raised in, no males are allowed to wear any gold rings, for any reason. It is haram and not permissible under Shariah Law. You may wear silver rings, and it must be simple. Here’s the kicker though, it cannot be considered a wedding band for religious purposesThis is where it gets kind of hazy. Islam has something called bid’ah, which are “forbidden innovations.” Before people get up in arms about me double-talking in Arabic, this basically means that any religious norm or custom that is foreign or counter-intuitive to Islam are forbidden. So taking communion or believing in multiple gods would be going against being a good Muslim. Nothing too egregious here. However, the loophole is if the ring holds some sort of cultural importance. If the ring is tied to some cultural tradition that isn’t religious in nature, then it’s fine. For example, heirlooms like rings passed down traditionally on the day of the wedding would be acceptable. At that point, it holds some cultural importance and it isn’t necessarily a borrowed or foreign custom. So that kind of leaves me where I started, since if I decide to wear a wedding band, I wasn’t planning on it having any religious meaning for me anyway. I’ve mentioned on the podcast multiple times that although I was raised in Islam, I don’t practice currently. I still wanted to do my due diligence regardless.

Looking at the cultural aspect of it, I can’t think of a single family member, extended or otherwise, that wears a wedding ring. My parents never wore wedding rings. Indonesians generally don’t wear wedding rings although you see it occasionally. In light of what I’ve learned about Islamic tradition and given that Indonesia is 90%+ Muslim, it’s starting to make sense. This is why I’m stuck having to figure this out on my own, it’s not something that comes up in my family.

I can’t seem to find any reference to wedding rings having any significance outside of religious or traditional symbolism (at least in any way that would be relevant to me). Since no answers have been revealed to me on either of those ends, it seems to me that this dilemma comes down to my personal conviction.

After much thought and discussion with others, I’ve come up with a few reasons that I can’t buy into, and only a couple that I can. Here are a few:

Reasons I CAN’T buy into:

It’s tradition/religious. Meh, not quite sure that’s exactly the case as I’ve elaborated above. Furthermore, I don’t think people really want to use historical reasons for their wedding bands anymore. You don’t have to search far before you find references to “ownership” of the wife and the other incredibly chauvinistic and antiquated meanings that the ring historically entails. I purposefully did not go into depth on this aspect of it because of this reason. Plus, it doesn’t hold any traditional value in my personal family, so I can’t find it within myself to do it just because it’s a commonplace tradition.

It will help to let people know that you’re married. I have no issues telling people that I’m married. If another woman wants to become romantically involved with me, it’s my responsibility to let her know that I’m not available. If you have an affair, does it really matter if your ring was on or off? I honestly don’t understand this idea that going out without your wedding ring means you’re any less married. Your fidelity is your personal responsibility. Own it.

A wedding band is to serve as a reminder. I really don’t like this reason at all if I’m honest. I don’t use anything right now and I seem to have no problems with staying faithful. I must have incredible memory. Joking aside, I think that I just don’t like the idea that someone needs to be reminded that they’re married. It’s like taking any other oath. You’re volunteering your love and commitment. As in, you’re doing it out of your own free will. It kind of defeats the purpose if you need to be reminded. If you’re dealing with an arranged marriage, then that’s a whole different ballgame which is too complex to even touch in this article.

It’s a symbol of your commitment to unity with your partner. This one is okay but I just can’t quite bring myself to fully buy into it. Ultimately, your actions are the symbols of your commitment. When you look at it that way, the ring itself as a physical manifestation of these sentiments seems to fall short. To draw an analogy, I’m sure it takes little effort for anyone to think of a person they know who is a complete dickhead but has something like a crucifix or an ankh or whatever somewhere on their person. The symbol means absolutely nothing without the accompanying attitude. That begs the question, “why have the symbol at all?”

Reasons I CAN buy into:

It’s a symbol of pride for your relationship with your partner. This is the only reason I’ve come across that I find acceptable. And I have to admit that I really like it. It’s akin to wearing the apparel to your favorite sports team or band. You just want to show off that you’re really into someone or something. In this case, it’s for your partner and the relationship you have built. I find this reason to be quite charming and endearing, as well as genuine. Another way to look at this is that it is an outward expression of your belief in the institution of marriage, which is also fine in my eyes.

Your partner wants you to wear it. There are 2 sides to this. If it’s something that is incredibly important to your partner and he/she really wants you to wear one, then I think it would be in your best interest to wear it, even if it doesn’t have any personal significance to you. This is part of the compromise that comes with marriage. However, that person needs to understand that you can never ascribe the same meaning to it as they do. It would be important to you only because they find it important. At that point, both parties just need to be happy with the final decision.

Conclusion

I know I’m in the minority and I’m sure this article has ruffled some feathers, but the real purpose of the post is to share some history with all of you and give some insight as to what it’s like being of a non-mainstream background. Conundrums like this have existed for me throughout my life and while I don’t feel like I struggle with it, I do see that most people are fortunate enough to not even have to think about stuff like this. Most people don’t even have it on their radar, and others simply take their traditions for granted.

Indonesian culture and American culture aren’t always easily integrated. Hell, that’s why they call it westernization right? The East has always been stigmatized for not doing things like the western world. Truth of the matter is, I know this is an ongoing thing for a lot of Asian-Americans. Do I default to my Asian roots, or do I defer to the American society in which I was raised? Some pick and choose based on convenience, and others (like me) have to dig deeper to find meaning.

Back to the question at hand, I know I’ll have a ring for at least the ceremony, but I haven’t really found much personal purpose beyond that. I might wear it the rest of my life, or I might even take it off before the reception. So, it’s still up in the air for me. I’m not married yet, so maybe I’ll be able to come up with a new reason through the actual wedding to help lock it down. I just have to continue to keep an open mind, in the same way as when I was doing this research. I know this is a bit of a crappy ending for this post, but I have to be intellectually honest.

If you think of any other reasons to wear a ring or any reasons that you wear a ring that I didn’t mention, be sure to comment below or drop me a line at therelationshipodcast@gmail.com. I hope reading this article was as enlightening for you as it was for me in researching for it.

-Drey

 

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The Engaged Life #2: How to pick a wedding photographer

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My cohosts have been doing a fantastic job of continuing to do their blogs on a weekly basis. Being the editor of the actual podcast episodes, I haven’t exactly had the time to flesh out a post since my first one. That said, I’ll try to be a bit more regular on my posts. Hopefully, I didn’t just jinx myself.

Rolling off this week’s episode about customer service, it dawned on me that I can share a good bit of advice about being engaged. This blog is supposed to be The Engaged Life, right? Aside from being engaged, I have been a photographer for about 3 years or so. I started doing event coverage for the events I would attend on behalf of my company, which included a lot of car shows throughout the year and included SEMA. From there, I ended up doing impromptu photoshoots of cars as well as product photos. My work was used as marketing material for the company. This experience fostered a love for photography and a recognition of the power that a strong composition could provide to the viewer. I began experimenting with different types of photography and loved all of them because of what each one teaches you. Street photography was great for getting raw, candid moments. Portraits help you learn how to pose and how to work with people. Macro teaches you about aperture and depth of field. Light painting teaches you how to manipulate light and your camera to create cool effects. I also shot film cameras for a year which taught me to slow down and wait for the right moments instead of spraying and praying. This list goes on ad nauseum.

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Some of my early work. Shot with a Canon Rebel T2i that I was borrowing from my manager at the time. Taken in Zurich, Switzerland.

I say all this because I feel like this laid a foundation for me that allows me to give advice on how to pick a wedding photographer. Everything I’m about to say is how a photographer would commission another photographer. So here goes nothing:

Step 1. Ask what the deliverables are

When you meet with your photographer, you should find out what you’ll be getting for what you’re paying. Here’s a list of things to watch out for:

  • Hours. Of course, you should know how many hours your photographer is willing to work and what overtime fees may be.
  • # of shooters and assistants. This would be especially useful since each photographer can focus on a different style throughout the night. Assistants, namely lighting, show that the photographers care about lighting and getting the right set up for the shots they need. You also need to know how many vendors you need to feed. FEED YOUR VENDORS. Don’t be a dick.
  • Is an engagement shoot included or separate? Not a whole lot to say about this one. You just need to find out if they charge extra for the engagement photos that you’ll most likely use for Save the Dates and/or wedding invitations. Sessions are typically 0.5-2 hours depending on how many locations you want to do and how far apart they are.
  • Don’t ask for how many pictures they’ll take. You can ask for an average amount that they normally deliver over the course of an event so you know kinda what to expect, but moments ultimately dictate how many pictures they take. If you have a boring event, they’re gonna take less pictures. They can only gather people up to pose so many times. They’re photographers, not promoters.
  • Don’t bother asking them about their camera, unless you’re a gear whore like me and just like talking about it. They don’t need to have a Nikon D4 or a Canon 5D or Sony A7R3. It doesn’t even matter if they run full frame, APS-C, or Micro 4/3. There are still some photographers that run 35mm film. The photographer just has to know how to work around the limitations of their equipment. Don’t let gear snobs tell you otherwise. However,  you can ask how large of a print they would be comfortable in printing based on the gear they’re using. As long as they can print 8×10 you should be in the clear for the most part unless you know you want to make a really large print. 99% of the time this isn’t an issue so don’t worry about it.
  • Ask what format they’ll be delivering the pictures to you. This can range from online gallery, to CD, to thumb drive. Also ask if they will provide all the raw images of the pictures they didn’t want to edit. You never know, maybe they captured a funny moment that only you and your partner cherish. Photographers vary on this and both sides are valid. If they do share, it’s because they want you to have access to everything that they captured on your day. If they don’t, it’s because they don’t want stuff that isn’t representative of their work to be displayed.
  • Don’t forget that they own the pictures. Under US copyright law, the person who presses the shutter owns the photos. Make sure you find out how they feel about reproductions or reprints of their work, especially if they give you access to raw, unedited photos.
  • Skip the photo album. I’m saying this because it’s a waste of money and time, unless you have samples of their books and they were thoroughly impressive. There are a lot of printing companies and they are not created equal. Not to mention, we live in a social media world. Almost all pictures are consumed digitally now. Unless the sample is amazing, skip the album completely and just print the pictures you really like from a reputable place so that you can frame them. You can always get the album further down the road if you change your mind.

Step 2. Know your style

There are a lot of different styles when it comes to wedding photography and you need to figure out what style you want so that you can find the right photographer. For example, right now the trend is what I like to call “super high key.” Long story short, high key is photography jargon for pictures with a lot of highlights or whites. A ubiquitous reference I can make is most of Apple’s marketing: white backgrounds with well lit subjects. To contrast, a lot of luxury brands of watches often use low key: dark backgrounds with the subject separated with moody lighting.

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Standard high key shot. The sun is directly behind them so they would’ve been completely dark without flash. I didn’t want to lose detail so I used off-camera flash to get it right in camera instead of fixing it in post. If the client gave me full creative control, the sky would have been perfectly exposed instead of being slightly blown out.
  • Super high key takes this a step further. It’s something that a lot of people call the romantic look or dreamy look. To achieve this look, the photographer basically shoots directly at a light source, usually the sun, and exposes for the subject(s), not the light source. If no other light is introduced, what happens is that the photo is overexposed and the direct light bouncing around the inside of the lens creates this “hazy” effect. The haze can sometimes look cool but also equates to loss of unrecoverable detail. As a photographer, this style personally drives me nuts. I personally don’t like it. It’s taking everything you learn and throwing it out the window. Granted, there are times where this works out really well, but this trend started because a lot of the photographers that came before didn’t know how to balance ambient with subject lighting. Be wary of photographers who ONLY shoot this style. If they do, it might mean they don’t understand lighting.

The other styles include what I call editorial, candid, and detail.

  • Editorial is when the photographer is mainly concerned with posing and composing shots for each group of people. The pros are that you get well composed pictures in a controlled environment. The cons is that you often miss “moment” and the humanity that’s supposed to be so vibrant at an event like a wedding is often missing from this style.
  • Candid is just that, candid. It’s somewhat like National Geographic where the photographer mainly tries to capture the moments and uses perspective to create mood in the pictures. The pros is that you get some interesting shots that often can’t be replicated. The cons is that this style isn’t always safe and you may not get the shots that you want.
  • The people who I consider as detail photographer is all about high fidelity and lighting. This is the epitome of wedding photographer. You must be a master of your craft to pull this off consistently. If you can do this style, you can do it all. They can pose you to create moments and use lighting to accentuate the mood of the photo. This is my personal preference obviously, and I think the photographer you choose should aspire to be this as well.
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Not much Photoshop involved. Elmer @ TNK Photo actually knows how to use gels, diffusion and lighting to achieve the look in camera. This doesn’t look that much different than what he showed me while we were there.

As further reference, you can check out Lin and Jersa’s page where they categorize their different styles. This is an example of a detail photographer and that is why they’re able to do every other style. If you can afford them, you should just book them. It’s a no brainer.

Step 3. Find out their lighting solution

Damn near everyone knows how to shoot in natural light. Most people with a phone can shoot outdoors during the day and get a decent shot. But what happens when it starts getting darker or you have to go indoors? This is what sets amateurs apart from professionals and something that I personally need to work on in my own photography.

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This picture was taken at ISO 3200, the maximum sensitivity that I would be comfortable shooting to avoid noise. This picture would not be possible without flash.
  • A pro-level camera can only get you so far. When you increase sensitivity on your camera, you inevitably reach a point when fuzzy noise starts entering the picture and you start losing detail.
  • What happens if you end up dressing up your venue with maroon and red colored uplighting? Are you going to like all of your pictures being maroon and red? This is where knowledge of lighting comes in.
  • Are they using on-camera flash, off-camera flash, diffusers, snoots, bounce flash, etc.? Situations dictate what to use, but they should know how to use what they have to its full potential.
  • Ask for samples of indoor or night events they’ve done.

Step 4. Stick with your budget and work backwards

Let’s face it, not everyone can spend $8-10k on a wedding photographer. While I’m a firm believer that your photographer will be an integral part of your special day, you shouldn’t have to take out a loan just to book one. However, here are a few things to consider:

  • Start looking a bit above your budget. This will open you up to the possibilities that more knowledgeable and experienced photographers can offer. Who knows, if you find someone and can haggle them down because they like you, you might be getting a steal.
  • Work backwards. If you’ve done the first part correctly, you’ll at least have a goal in mind. Start researching the type of work you get for closer to your budget. This way,  you start to see the difference between fair pricing and arbitrary pricing. There are plenty of photographers that just price themselves around the ballpark of what other people are charging, even though their work doesn’t warrant it at all. As you move down in budget, you should be able to differentiate between this.
  • Pay more for service. If you’re stuck between 2 photographers of about equal quality of work, err on the side of customer service, even if they cost a little more. A cohesive photographic team can become a crucial part of your support group during the stress of the actual day. Never underestimate the value of your vendors.

Step 5. Winning

Hopefully this guide has helped you figure out how to book your photographer. If you need help starting out, here are a few recommendations/references from me:

TNK Photos – the company that I picked. High def style with creative lighting and amazing customer service.

Brandon J. Ferlin Photography – Editorial/candid style photographer with over 8 years of experience. Also happens to be a personal friend of mine.

Jason Lanier – Incredible commercial and wedding photography. He does wedding workshops which he documents on YouTube. I highly suggest watching some of his workshops because they’re incredibly informative and entertaining.

Quick disclaimer, none of this is sponsored content. I am not receiving any compensation for any of these recommendations. This are my honest recommendations and want everyone to be successful at finding a photographer that suits their needs.

I hope this helps! If you have any questions, just hit me up at therelationshipodcast@gmail.com.

-Drey