Ah, weddings on Pinterest: 38 million boards brimming with white, pink and gold for all to admire.
Except when it’s not. Except when the planning is too personal — or too secret. Or when you don’t really have a wedding to plan at all.
Jessica Zahn, a 25-year-old marketing specialist in Atlanta, has two wedding boards: one private, one public. And more importantly, no significant other with which to plan a wedding … yet.
“I know some people feel that pinning/planning for your wedding before you are even in a relationship is silly, or even offensive,” she said. But by all accounts, a lot of pinners are doing it.
According to Pinterest — the social network that’s part scrapbook, part vision board — making a wedding board “secret,” or private, is becoming more and more popular. Since January 2015, secret wedding boards have grown from 15 percent of all boards to 30 percent of all boards created across Pinterest.
This kind of power is unprecedented in the Pinterest world. According to a recent study from Millard Brown Digital, 96 percent of pinners are using Pinterest to plan for purchases — and 87 percent made a purchase because of something seen on Pinterest.
That doesn’t necessarily mean more pinners are getting engaged. As Mashable wrote when secret boards debuted: “Pinterest is the perfect place to plan your wedding, whether you’re wearing a ring or not.”
The unbearable lightness of pinning
Wedding boards aren’t breaking any norms of Pinterest. They’re dreamified road maps for future nuptials. And, of course, for the products, services and mason jar chandeliers you’ll buy — or (ideally) (pinterestingly) handcraft for yourself.
And yet there’s a subculture of undercover wedding pinners who never show their boards to anyone, tucked away from the larger world of DIY crafts and fresh tomato salads pinned for everyone.
“I haven’t shown my significant other my Pinterest board,” one Internet friend said of her secret board. “I don’t want him to get the wrong idea and think I’m ready to get married or that I’m always thinking about our future wedding.”
So what are these secret wedding-pinners thinking about — if not the big day?
“It’s a kind of dreaming, a kind of fantasy,” says Pepper Schwartz, a sociology professor at the University of Washington. “It’s like reading bride magazines, but it’s also like people reading Architectural Digest … I should say 99 percent of them cannot afford — even 99.5 of them can not afford what they’re looking at. But they think about it.”
And then come actual wedding day, everything has effectively been mythologized. The pins tell their own story: a farmhouse wedding, with chalkboard nameplates and a mason jar chandelier.
Your Pinterest board is your “perfect” wedding.
At least, it is on Pinterest.
‘There’s a sense of panic’
More than 38 million Pinterest boards are dedicated to weddings.
That’s a lot of pins to peruse. Pinterest is different from bridal magazines in that there’s no page limit — you don’t hit a final page in a photo spread or back cover of the book that snaps you out of wedding Fantasyland and back to reality. Sara Fields, an Asheville-based wedding planner, encourages her brides to pin — to a point. “I’ll have a bride who stayed up all night with a bottle of wine and pinned and changed her mind,” she said.
“It’s not just that it’s limitless,” Schwartz explains. “But that you’re actually doing something. When you do something, you invest more in its reality. You put together the pictures. You make it real, in a funny sort of way. It’s more real in the fact that you’ve assembled your dreams. It’s personal. Now you have a better sense of what you’d really like to do, and that makes you more invested than you would be if you were just flipping through a bridal magazine.”
And that’s exactly why Fields tells her brides to stop pinning at a certain point in the wedding planning process. Partly to solidify a vision for the big day — but partly to quell the pinning mania.
“You kind of can’t stop yourself,” she says. “‘Oh,’ you’re second guessing. ‘Oh, I thought I wanted this.’ It’s a lot of additional stress.”
Pinterest user Amanda Taylor felt that stress even without a wedding to plan. She calls it “doing her due diligence.”
“There’s a sense of panic, too: ‘I have to remember that, but what if I don’t,” she says.
‘You can’t be public about it’
Fields says she requests access to her clients’ secret pin boards — even though, as she admits, a secret pin board is “almost like a diary.”
“I can see, ‘This is what this wedding looks like inside this bride’s head,’” she says. “Before we had Pinterest, that was such a hard thing to cultivate. ‘What are you seeing in your head?’ You can describe it with words, but on Pinterest you’re seeing it all.”
All of it.
Amanda Taylor deleted her Pinterest account, actually. Secret girly wedding board and all.
Taylor lives in Utah, and she’s a member of the Church of Latter-Day Saints — most of her friends started living out their Pinterest wedding fantasies a few years back, but she’s single and not looking to get married any time soon. She says there’s an overwhelming sense that had her hovering over “private” before clicking the lock and hiding her wedding dreams forever: “It’s like ‘You’re one of the last. You can’t be public about it.’”
Her wedding board was so different from her ironic, funny, quirky side she shared on other platforms like Twitter and Tumblr — the board was softer. There were more flowers.
And, of course, conspicuously, no guy.
“I don’t date that much. I don’t want people to know I’m even thinking about it. Like, ‘Oh you’re so sad you’re single, let me set you up with my cousin,’” she says.
She was ashamed of her secret wedding board, and also ashamed of the pull she felt to Pinterest and it’s idealized version of her future — she knew deleting the board and starting over was a good move.
“There was this pressure — ‘I need to do all these DIYs! I need to make these tiny pots to put miniature succulents!’” she says. “I had to ask myself: ‘What’s the end game here? Will I be remembered as Queen of the Succulents?’”
On the day of her eventual wedding, she says she won’t miss her secret board and the pins pinned, plans and dreams now lost to the manicured sands of Pinterest time.
“Maybe if I was Kate Middleton —” she starts, and then stops herself. “But I’m not.”
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Correction: A previous version of this story reported a study from Millard Brown Digital specified pinners are using Pinterest to plan for wedding purchases. The story has since been updated to specify that pinners are using Pinterest to plan for all purchases.
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that secret wedding pin boards comprise 30 percent of all boards across Pinterest. The story has been updated to report that secret wedding pin boards comprise 30 percent of all *secret* boards created on Pinterest.