‘Trash the dress’ sessions yield unique wedding photosWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
When Justin and Kristen Perkins of Rossford married in April in the Virgin Islands, Kristen knew she wanted to take advantage of their destination wedding’s beach locale to do “trash the dress” photos the next day.
Her husband needed a little more convincing — and their families and the resort staff thought they were crazy — but Kristen said the resulting photos are worth it.
“I told them once they saw the pictures, they would understand why I wanted to do it so badly,” Kristen said via Facebook. “I knew these pictures would be something I could have forever. To me, these pictures were just as much — or even more — anticipated than our actual wedding pictures!
“The very first walk into the water — when it hit above the hem of my dress — did cause my stomach to drop for a split second, but after that it was a lot of fun,” Kristen said. “I figured if I wanted to ever do this, this was my chance and I wouldn’t have the same beautiful surroundings if we didn’t do it there in St. Thomas. I also figured that I spent a lot of money on a dress I was going to wear once, so I might as well wear it twice and get really awesome pictures in it to cherish forever.”
The Perkins’s photographer, Julie Paszczykowski of JP Photography in Holland, said “trash the dress” sessions give couples a chance to get more relaxed, artsy images in places or poses not feasible on their wedding day.
Some couples want to do a session totally different from their wedding day while others are looking for an extension of their wedding portraits, Paszczykowski said.
Beach photos were a natural choice for the Perkinses, but the possibilities are endless, Paszczykowski said.
“It’s really all about making it personal to the bride and groom,” she said in an email.
Paszczykowski calls her “trash the dress” sessions UNVEILED so as not to scare people away — especially mothers of the brides. Even so, “trash the dress” is somewhat of a misnomer.
“In the past, ‘trash the dress’ sessions were all about just that,” Paszczykowski said. “Cutting it up, rolling in the mud, setting it on fire, working on engines and getting it full of grease, etc. But honestly, most dresses can be pretty well-cleaned after these sessions.”
Kristen said her dress was “soaking wet and sandy” but salvageable after the session.
“I would be able to wear it again and nobody would be able to tell — minus the sand in some of the seams,” Kristen said. “It depends on the dress and how crazy you get, but mine is just fine. I hung it over our balcony for several days to dry and shook out the massive amounts of sand a few times. The bustle — which was already broken from the reception — broke some more, but never ripped my dress. I don’t want to get it preserved because I like the sand in it and want to remember that day.”
Some brides buy inexpensive dresses to use for the sessions so they don’t have to wear their original dress, said Kurt Nielsen of Kurt Nielsen Photography in Sylvania.
Nielsen said couples are drawn to “trash the dress” sessions because they are unique.
“It’s something different. Not all their friends are going to have it,” Nielsen said. “They’re fun to do because you’re not locked into anything. It’s not like the wedding-day photos. It’s something completely different; more carefree and fun. There’s lots of possibilities. It just really depends how far they want to go.”
Kim Koluch, owner and senior photographer of Considering Lilies Photography in Perrysburg, keeps wedding dresses on hand for brides to wear during “trash the dress” sessions if they don’t want to wear their own dresses.
“Clients love it because then they don’t have to worry about their dress,” said Koluch, who buys dresses off sale racks and has also had dresses supplied by Atlas Bridal Shop in Toledo or donated by former clients. “We have different sizes, different cuts and we try to find something that matches the original cut of their dress. Honestly, in photos you can barely tell it’s a different dress.
“It’s an interesting thing here in Toledo because you have a really, really sentimental, traditionally minded people and yet you have daughters who want to do something different. So that’s been my compromise,” Koluch said. “Buy dresses so we can get as crazy as they want, be as dramatic as they want, and I don’t care if they totally trash it. If I use it again, I do. If I don’t, I don’t.”
Koluch said she approaches a “trash the dress” session the same way she approaches any other session.
“We photograph relationships, not just people,” Koluch said. “So to just put somebody in a wedding dress and put them in a crazy spot is not going to be a great picture. What’s going to be a great picture is when they get playful and they have that real emotion going. It’s still about the people no matter what.”
The trend of “trash the dress” photography is often attributed to Las Vegas photographer John Michael Cooper, Koluch said.
“He’s done things like pose a bride and then light a dress on fire and then superimpose the picture so it looks like the bride is on fire,” Koluch said.
One of Koluch’s favorite “trash the dress” sessions took place the day before a destination wedding in Rhode Island, with the bride wearing one of Koluch’s spare dresses.
“It just so happened the day we flew in, Hurricane Earl was making its way in to New England,” Koluch said. “It was the Friday night before their wedding and we went out on the beach. The photos are very dramatic. The sky just got worse and worse. Of course, the wedding the next day was gorgeous sunshine, but it was crazy fun.”
Koluch stressed she would never put couples in unsafe situations.
“We didn’t go out in the water too much because it’s not safe,” Koluch said. “We stayed at the edge. What you can’t see in the photos is there is a road and there were cop cars lined up all along the road. The cops were right there and they were fine with what we were doing. When we shoot in the street, we take spotters with us to make sure there’s no traffic.”
In August, a Canadian bride drowned during a “trash the dress” session while posing in a river when her dress became waterlogged and the weight pulled her under.
“That kind of woke everybody up,” Koluch said. “Safety is definitely a factor. We would never put our brides in a situation that wasn’t safe.”
Kristen said she has no regrets about her UNVEILED session — and even Justin was won over.
“He agreed the session was one of the most fun moments from our wedding and he was really happy we decided to do it,” Kristen said. “That morning was so much fun and it was so worth it. I would highly recommend this to anyone.”
Her advice to other couples is to find a photographer you can trust and have fun.
“Don’t talk yourself out of it once you decide to do it,” Kristen said. “It can be scary, but the images pay off and they are something you can look back on for years to come.”
If nothing else, the photos will be a conversation piece, Kristen said.
“People will talk about those pictures whether they think it’s crazy or cool,” she said.