And then they lived happily ever after... But not before promising to showcase the biggest day of their life with idyllic Insta images that would get thousands of likes, hundreds of reposts and trending hashtags. In the times of social media, millennial couples are ready to put in hours of sweat and toil, braving sunshine and rainfall to get that perfect shot that will trigger viral online love.

For Nayana Santhosh and Abhijith PK from Alapuzha, Kerala, it meant lying in a large copper vessel that was submerged in a pit full of water for four hours in the scorching May summer. Along with photographer Shine Sidharadh, the couple wanted to create an image of them floating in a lotus pond while rain drops fell over them. ‘I’d seen several wedding photo shoots online and those of family and friends. They mostly featured a beach, a houseboat or a sunset. For my wedding in May this year I wanted something more innovative and adventurous,’ admits Nayana.

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So, a small pond was dug in the backyard of their house in Kerala and filled with water. The couple – Nayana dressed in a red saree, Abhijith in a black and white outfit – cuddled in an uruli (a large flat -bottomed copper vessel used to prepare community meals). While a motor sprayed jets of water in the air to create the feel of rainfall, Shine climbed atop a ladder to freeze that perfect shot. ‘It was not easy at all,’ says Abhijit, who works in a local spice company. ‘Water kept falling over our faces constantly, and we [struggled] to balance ourselves in the uruli and strike romantic poses.’

Nayana and Abhijith were submerged in water for four hours to fulfil their dream photo shoot

But for the couple, all the discomfort they endured was worth it all as their post-wedding shoot video went viral on TikTok, with 18.3k views and 2.6k likes.

Nayana and Abhijit are not alone.

In February this year, Dubai-based Sahar Mahmud and husband Waleed Sadiq spent more than three hours prior to their nikaah ceremony getting hundreds of insta-perfect pictures clicked at a Lahore farmhouse. Heavily inspired by wedding shots on Instagram, Sahar had spent close to a year planning every little detail of her big day.

Inspired by wedding shots on Instagram, Sahar and Waleed replicated several famous insta-poses

Dressed in ivory gold-white co-ordinated outfits in a setting adorned with a gallery of flowers in pastel hues, the couple posed tirelessly in front of three photographers. They replicated several famous insta-poses.

‘I’d saved wedding inspiration photos from Instagram on my phone so that the photographers could capture similar shots. Well, honestly, it took a lot of effort to get those perfect Instagram shots. But I value pictures and knew that they are going to be there for a lifetime,’ says Sahar.

She had requested the photographers to send her a few edited pictures right after the event so she could post them straightaway on social media sites. ‘Everyone loved our pictures. Several publications and designers reposted our wedding pics on Instagram and the most loved one got 2k likes,’ reveals Sahar, managing director of Selfie TV.

Undoubtedly, social media has changed the way we live our lives and little wonder it has a major influence on couples planning the biggest day of their life. Today, impressing family and friends is just not enough. Eye-catching pictures must be posted online so millions of friends – and strangers – will like and share the pictures while rooting for you online.

‘At the end of the day everyone wants a wedding that can go viral. That is their five minutes of fame, when they feel like celebrities,’ says Mumbai-based celebrity wedding photographer Harpreet Bachher, founder of The Wedding Story.

Besides hours spent on getting those striking shots, the emphasis is equally on curating standout looks, exclusive to their wedding. Emerging from behind exploding smoke bombs, having confetti showered from helicopters, riding aerial bikes, getting clicked atop mountains and inside historical forts are some of the out-of-the-box ideas that couples and their entourage of planners, decorators and photographers are employing to push the envelope.

At Rishika and Saksham Aggarwal’s destination wedding in Jaipur, India, Saksham entered the sangeet ceremony on an aerial bike. For their cocktail party at the Jaigarh Fort in Jaipur, guests had to enter the fort via a mystery maze through narrow passages leading them to the main courtyard of the castle. The pre-wedding shoot was done in a farm and a few other locations – including amidst planes. It helped that Saksham is a private pilot.

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‘We were featured on several wedding blogs that generated a lot of engagement. Our wedding trailer uploaded by The Wedding Story, our wedding photographers, got about 7.5k likes,’ says Rishika.

A bounty of inspiration

Almost all couples agree that social media plays a major influence in every aspect of a wedding today. They look for inspiration and even contact wedding service vendors through these sites.

Type #wedding on Instagram and over 162 million posts pop up, indicating the power of social media on weddings. ‘Brides use social media, now more than ever before to source ideas and inspiration. Beautiful images and inspiration is so easily accessible today especially on Pinterest and Instagram,’ says Rhiannon Downie-Hurst, founder and editor-in-chief of UAE wedding planning website 

According to a 2018 study by a magazine, 33 per cent of couples planning weddings in the US are connecting with brands and products through Instagram. Forty-two per cent of the 2,800 couples questioned for the National Wedding Survey 2019 by UK-based Hitched website said that they felt ‘under pressure’ to have a Pinterest or Instagram-worthy wedding.

‘To a great extent, social media has overtaken the role of a wedding planner. Not only has Instagram built up a feeling of pressure to produce a noteworthy wedding, but it’s also given couples time to dream big,’ says Rishika.

Besides taking inspiration from social media for their wedding jewellery, make-up, outfits, décor and photo-ops, couples also create specific hashtags for weddings. Guests are requested to post pictures with these hashtags. #WaSa2019 was mentioned on the welcome board at the wedding events of Waleed and Sahar. Rishika and Saksham joined their names and created #Riksha and an instagram page called #rikshawedding.

Social media has emerged as one of the most significant business elements for wedding vendors as well. ‘Instagram specifically serves as our portfolio where we share our work and creativity with the entire world. With social media we are able to stand out, cross boundaries and reach customers everywhere,’ explains Sandy Audi from Bianca Events, a Dubai-based wedding and event management company.

Yet the flip side of all the glamour and ease of social media is that it can be a double-edged sword if couples do not utilise it intelligently. Online inspiration can be endless. Often pictures and videos shared on social media are heavily edited and do not necessarily portray the real picture of the story. Couples compare themselves to others or tend to try upstage their peers.

Harpreet, whose team shoots 35 to 40 high-profile destination weddings every year, recounts several instances when the brides become social media bridezillas. ‘They come to me with all kinds of references from social media; sometimes it can be exasperating. For instance, there was this bride who came with 200 pictures that are must-do in her wedding – some of them did not even make sense.

A pre-wedding shoot Harpreet did in Seychelles

‘Another wanted a pre-wedding shoot done in seven different countries over seven days with 14 to 15 outfit changes. They just wanted to outdo what their friends had done in three days in three different locations. That is the extent of the insanity of social media influence on some couples,’ he says.

All about likes

According to psychologist Reem Shaheen, social media is taking away the core value of marriage and having a wedding. ‘Weddings are about celebrating with others the commitment a couple makes, but today it’s becoming more about impressing others, receiving positive feedback and getting likes,’ she says.

Often, after all the frenzy of the wedding dies down and the likes on Instagram take a dip, getting back to daily life could feel like a downer for some couples. Missing the buzz and excitement that their wedding generated can have emotional and psychological effects on their well-being.

‘The first few months of any marriage can be challenging. Being just focused on the wedding and impressing others often results in a rift between the couple. Relationships require a lot of work, especially during a transition. But many couples focus on the wedding planning and translating a perfect image on social media while ignoring the relationship,’ says Reem, founder of Be Psychology Center, Dubai.

So how does one ensure the relationship continues to develop long after the buzz on social media plateaus or dies down?

‘It is essential for couples to focus and nurture their relationship, especially if they are experiencing a low,’ says Reem. ‘They should try to reconnect to the reasons that brought them together as a couple. Set weekly date nights and ensure fun times together. Couples should also increase their communication, express their feelings and thoughts to each other.’

Obsessive social media influence creates unexpected expectations and takes away the focus from the wedding to its portrayal. In the end, there aren’t any absolute reasons why a post or a video goes viral.

Jessica Palmer and Trent Lawler found out their proposal picture received 9k likes

‘People are very sensitive today, they like pictures that have a lot of energy and positive vibes; nothing posed or artificial. So pictures that touch a chord with people become viral,’ says Harpreet. Just what Jessica Palmer and Trent Lawler found out when their proposal picture received 9k likes a few months ago. At sunset, on a rooftop restaurant in Bali, Trent arranged dozens of red roses to write ‘Will You Marry Me?’

‘We had no idea that it would go viral. I had hundreds of companies reposting my proposal, contacting me regarding wedding supplies. I was in shock,’ says Jessica.

Undeniably, social media is here to stay and so will its hold on weddings. For those of us who believe in magic and romance, here’s hoping social media helps celebrate the best version of a couple’s union.