A friend who recently got engaged was taking suggestions on her Facebook page for wedding hashtags. That got me thinking, why do I hate the idea of wedding hashtags so much? On the surface, the answer seems simple. A wedding hashtag combines two things that I already hate: weddings and hashtags.
But no, it’s not quite that simple. And any of you who are currently planning a wedding, and planning to invite me, please don’t take me off your invitation list because I said I hate weddings. I didn’t mean it that way, and I totally want to come to your wedding. Keep reading; I’ll explain.
In 2007, I was at a wedding for some friends from church. I was in kind of a grumpy mood that day as it was. I have mixed feelings about weddings in general. Weddings are supposed to be a happy occasion. Everyone seems to have that phase in their mid-20s when all their friends get married, and they get invited to weddings every few months. After I went through that phase, I moved at age 24, made new friends who weren’t married, and went through that phase all over again. Then I moved again at age 29, and went through several of these cycles: make new friends, watch these friends get married, watch them move on with their lives and not spend time with me anymore, and repeat. GOTO 10. And through all of that, I never got my chance. I’ve been to approximately 40 weddings in my lifetime, and each one represented close friends who I was about to lose because they discovered this strange alien phenomenon called love that was going to take them into a new phase of their lives that required leaving all their old single friends like me behind. I’m happy for my friends who get married, but I can’t shake the feeling in the back of my head that I’ve just lost two friends, and that I’m missing out on this next phase of my life.
The reception for this wedding in 2007 was at a different location from the ceremony. I got there a little later than most of the people I knew; seating was not preassigned, and everyone I knew had already found a table, and there was no room left at that table for me. Given the way I had been feeling that morning, that was enough to set me off; I quietly walked back outside and sat on a bench. An older friend from church (not older as in old, but older as in around my parents’ age rather than close to the age of the bride and groom) sat next to me and asked what was wrong. I told him. “Go home,” he said. “If you really don’t want to be here, just go home.” I thought about it. I almost did go home. But then I said, “No. I’m not going to go home. This day isn’t about me and all of my issues. It’s the bride and groom’s special day, and if they think I’m an important enough part of their lives that they wanted to share their special day with me, then it would just be selfish for me to turn my back on them because of my own issues.” So I went back inside, and I was determined to have fun at that wedding reception. And I did. And ever since then, I’ve taken that attitude whenever I’ve been to a wedding.
As for hashtags, let’s review first, especially for the benefit of my readers who aren’t up on the latest social media trends. A hashtag is a number sign (called a hash in British English) followed by some string of letters and numbers (no spaces or punctuation) intended to group or categorize a caption, status update, etc. Hashtags in their current form started as a function of Twitter and later spread to other social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. They can be used in mid-sentence, such as “Is anyone watching this #SFGiants game right now?”, or as postscripts, such as “Home run!!! #SFGiants” The original intended function of a hashtag is to group or categorize posts. In my examples, clicking on “#SFGiants” wil bring up other posts that contain the hashtag #SFGiants, which would presumably be posts about the San Francisco Giants baseball team.
The problem with hashtags, in my opinion, is their gratuitous overuse. Let’s say you go to a Giants game and take a self portrait (that’s what the word “selfie” actually means, by the way, so if someone else is taking a picture of you, it’s not a selfie) with the scoreboard and the view of the San Francisco Bay in the background. Your properly tagged caption might say something like “At the game today! #SFGiants #SanFrancisco #baseball” An improperly tagged caption might say something like “At the game today! #icanseethebaybehindme #lookatthathugeshipunderthebridge #ihavegreathairtoday #busterposeyhasaniceass #iwantgarlicfries #cutehair #omgitotallylookcutetoday #selfie #hashtag” For one thing, that is hard to read. The English language has spaces and capital letters and punctuation for precisely that reason; please use them. Spaces and punctuation aren’t allowed in hashtags, I know, but capital letters are, and that would significantly improve the readability of this caption. More importantly, though, most of those things shouldn’t even be hashtags. Remember, the point of a hashtag is to make your post searchable. I guarantee you, very few people, quite possibly no one, is out there searching for “lookatthathugeshipunderthebridge.” It’s way too specific. If you wanted to categorize your pictures of ships under bridges, use something more succinct and easier to find like “#ship” or “#bridge.” If you wanted to categorize your selfies with great hair, use “#greathair.” That’s how it’s supposed to work.
So, back to the original topic, wedding hashtags. When the kids these days get married, they make up a hashtag specifically for their wedding, and tell all their friends to use it when posting statuses and pictures related to the wedding. To me, this seems kind of narcissistic. Do they really expect people worldwide to be searching for their wedding? And do they always need to come up with something cute and sappy? Can’t it just be their names and the word “wedding” or something like that? Some keep their hashtags simple like that, I know. But I’ve seen others that just want to make me barf. I’m not going to give examples here, because I don’t want to alienate my friends who have done that.
I realized something about wedding hashtags, though: I can’t really complain, because this is a perfectly legitimate use of a hashtag. A hashtag specifically for posts and pictures from a wedding creates an easy way to see posts and pictures on that same topic, and this is what hashtags are supposed to be for. Maybe the whole world won’t be searching for that topic, but the bride and groom and their family and friends might. And as for being narcissistic, it’s a wedding we’re talking about here, and the bride and groom have a right to be the centers of attention for that one day. Like I said, if I don’t like it, I’m just being selfish. I have my own issues to deal with, and I shouldn’t take them out on two other people who deserve to have a special day.
So if you’re planning a wedding, and you want me to be there, invite me. I’ll be there. Go ahead and make up a hashtag too. I won’t use it, but that’s only because I generally don’t use hashtags at all, not because I’m going to stop you from celebrating your wedding your way.