The short and quite frankly easier answer (to me at least) is no. No you don't need a Wedding Album, but it always makes me sad when the last interaction I have with a couple is posting out their USB of images. I don't feel like photographs are truly finished until they are in printed form. It may seem to go against the current push towards all digital consumption, but I'm deciding to push back.
I go into a little more detail about why I offer Wedding Albums as standard in all my packages here. But I thought I'd try and address this push to all digital in more detail here. I think it's easy in the heat of planning a wedding to get swept up in all the amazing details and clothes and venues and forget about the one thing that will be there 20/30 years down the line and that is your photographs.
"We'll make our own album later" is a phrase I often hear from prospective couples. I know because I said that to my own wedding photographer and have regretted it ever since. Real life gets in the way, you've got 400/500 images to cull down into a succinct story of your day. You've got to design it and order it, and you've not got access to professional albums makers. Your photographer is in the unique position of being there alongside you all day, through all the emotions and at all the key moments. They, better than anyone, will be able to curate your images into a collection of memories that'll last you a lifetime.
I know I personally strive to shoot your wedding with a storytelling album in mind. As well as individual images, I'm looking for the flow of a moment, the ups and the downs , the small moments in between and the large parts of the ceremony. My background in film means I understand storytelling and the flow of what are essentially storyboards of your day. This experience allows me to truly integrate the album into your photography from the outset, as opposed to what it can be; an afterthought.
i know how difficult it is to project yourself into the future and understand what will be important in 30 or 40 years time (I try to here). But try to imagine sitting down with your grandchildren with a beautifully curated collection of images from your wedding day, presented in a way that'll never not work, it'll never not be compatible with OSX Space Monkey 7. It is essentially your first family heirloom that generations in the future will look back at to see the dimples in your face when you cry, or how proud your Dad looked when he first saw you in your dress.
I'm all for digital, it is one of the great advances in camera technology and allows me to capture your wedding in the way I do, but who knows where technology will be in 1 year, let alone 30 years time. Will your USB still work? Will your computer still work? Convenient side story : I have no photos from my life between about 2000 and 2005. This was before cloud storage, my hard drive died. It was unrecoverable. I can't even really remember what I was doing between those years anymore, and that's because I don't have the photos.
Everyone knows what happens when you come back from a holiday, you dump all your images into iPhoto and maybe print a couple out to go in frames. Those photos are soon replaced as time goes on, and you don't look at them until you're importing your next holidays images. But these aren't snapshots from your holiday. They aren't pictures from your iPhone. The fact you paid a professional photographer to actually capture your day shows that these images clearly mean much much more to you. Who knows when your computer will pack its bags or how soon the technology will move on? But you know what will last 100 years and onwards and that's a beautifully crafted professional album, using papers that don't fade over time.
As I've said, it would be much easier for me as a photographer to just copy your images onto a USB and send you on your way; it takes time and effort to create a Wedding Album. But I feel strongly enough about preserving your wedding day memories in a format that will never stop working that I include them as standard in all my packages. Regardless of if I shoot your wedding or not, please ask your photographer about an album and make sure you actually get it made.
Don't just do it for you and your family. Do it for your children and for their children. Because when they root around in your loft in 2070 for your wedding pictures, an album will be much more use that an out of date USB stick.