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‘Trash the dress’ tradition in spotlight after Maria Pantazopoulos’ death

Jordana Divon
Shine On
August 28, 2012

What began as an interesting take on a new tradition swiftly turned into tragedy.

Newly married Maria Pantazopoulos had set up a "trash the dress" photo shoot in Quebec's Ouareau River near Dorwin Falls a few months after her June 9 nuptials.

Under the direction of photographer Louis Pagakis, the Laval real estate agent stood in shallow water posing for artistic shots in her now-dirty wedding dress.

Pagakis' girlfriend, who was assisting with the shoot, tells CTV News that Pantazopoulos suggested a pose where she was floating in the water. She moved to a part of the river where her feet could no longer touch the bottom.

With the water transforming her dress into a 100-pound weight, the 30-year-old was dragged down and swept away along a strong current.

As commenters weighed in on the horrible incident, many pointed out how unnecessary Pantazopoulous' death had been and questioned why the woman would want to destroy her wedding dress in the first place.

But trash the dress is a trend that has been popular among newlyweds — and a lucrative business for wedding photographers — for over a decade.

Though Las Vegas lensman John Michael Cooper usually gets credit for sparking the trend in 2001, many point to Hollywood for first inspiring the idea.

Back in 1998, a storyline on now-defunct soap Sunset Beach had character Meg Cummings (Susan Ward) run into the ocean, dress and all, after her wedding gets interrupted by some nefarious plot-line intrigue.

[See also: Wacky bridesmaids dresses]

Since then, post-wedding photo shoots where brides and photographers stage ways to contrast the beauty of the gown with the creative destruction of the expensive garment have turned trash the dress shoots into a multi-million-dollar international business.

"North of the border can get way, way too stressful and many are coming to unwind. They are relaxing and getting away from things in life, they see this as a chance to live as a character in their life, they get this one moment with the lead role," award-winning 'trash the dress' photographer Matt Adcock, who works in Mexico, tells the Star Phoenix.

Brides who partake in the shoot also say they'd like to do something artistic with the dress rather than have it collect dust in their closet.

"You feel so beautiful and sexy," Sasha Taylor-Mouchet reveals to the Star Phoenix of her own Ottawa-based trash the dress shoot. "I'm not the type to put it in a box and put it away. I let my daughter play dress up in it. I think times have changed."

Outtakes often get posted to social networking sites like Facebook, while the best images likely get framed and put up around the house.

Popular methods for "rocking the frock" include burning the dress, getting it wet at a nearby beach or body of water, going wine stomping in it, having a messy food fight with brightly-coloured groceries, or smearing it with mud.

Depending on the photographer, shoots can run newlyweds anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Due to the high cost, it's something they're likely to have already budgeted into their final wedding tally.

That hasn't stopped a chorus of critics from weighing in on the trend after last week's shoot-gone-terribly-wrong brought "trash the dress" shoots into the spotlight.

Many see the trend as a sign of great indulgence, vanity and waste, while others questioned why brides don't simply donate the dress to less fortunate women if they never plan to wear it again.

Everyone agreed that Maria Pantazopoulos' life was worth far more than a set of attractive photos.

What do you think? Is 'trash the dress' a fun take on traditional wedding photos, or is it a wasteful, potentially dangerous activity that needs to be trashed instead?

Find out what makes a woman wife material in the video below.

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