Weddings are amazing, exquisitely planned events that all boil down to a day of completely unplanned, spontaneous moments. For real... couples spend up to a year planning their perfect day and yet, on the day of, the florals could arrive late, the maid of honor could be deathly ill or the bride's hair takes just a little bit longer than normal. But that's okay! As wedding photographers, we deal with this at every single event... seriously... EVERY SINGLE EVENT something doesn't go quite as planned. That's just the nature of live events and we're okay with it.
But this is a post about guests so I hate to say it (really I do!) but sometimes it's the guests that can be the biggest issue with wedding photography. Look.. your friends and family are funny, amazing, loving people and your wedding wouldn't be as wonderful if they weren't there. I know this. You know this. They know this... but there is something about a wedding that turns some of them into wanna-be professional photographers, society reporters and that one guy that doesn't want to wait his turn in line for those amazing new cronuts (we won't eveb mention his shirtless tie dance to all the single ladies).
So here it is... my next installment of the Girlfriend's Guide to Wedding Photography, a list for "that" guy (and okay a pre-wedding prep for the rest of your guests).
Let's start with the don'ts of being a great wedding guest:
1. If you arrive early (courtesy says 30 mins prior to ceremony start time just in case you were wondering), don't head straight for the couple. We are usually finishing up their photos at this time (especially if they had a first look and want all their photos done right before the ceremony) and if the couple stops to greet guests upon each arrival, it may delay the ceremony start time or mean we have to fit images in later during the reception when they could be hanging with their homies.
2. Unless the bride's dress is on fire and you have hose, try not to interrupt when the couple, bridal party or family are having formal photos taken. It can take several minutes to get spacing and posing just right and if anyone moves, we have to start from scratch (this means less photos in their final gallery). I know you are excited to see them and want to spread the love but the sooner we get the images the couple has requested done... the sooner we can get amazing photos of them enjoying themselves with you.
3. NEVER, EVER follow the photographer around taking the same photos. Now first let me explain that I'm not talking about people that take photos here and there. I'm talking about... decked out Uncle Bob who uses flash when it's not necessary and I can feel his breath on my head as he's stooping over me to take the same photos I am. This drives me wild and it can really stifle my creativity. First, it's so hard to get 20 people to look at the camera as it is, add in more cameras and it's instinct to look at all of them. Second, I have limited time. Very, very limited time and my team is really good at maximizing this time but if we have to stop after every pose... it really limits creative posing. And finally Third, it's just plain creepy (think about it, a stranger pushed up against you is okay in a crowded subway car... it is not okay while I'm trying to artistic).
Hangry Photographer Thoughts: Alright, I have to explain my strong feelings on this... Gone are the days when couples had to pay for or choose only a limited number of photos. These days most couples will get all the images of their day in digital form to share with the world. Unless you are a pro photog, it's unlikely that your images will turn out as well as ours. Plus I personally love the reveal. I love the notes I get from couples about how they cried at their photos or how much they love them. And if that's not reason enough to let me work free from the bonds of creepiness... How about a little story? So there I am photographing this incredible first dance and I keep swatting something on my head. It felt like maybe a decoration or something heavier than an insect was laying on my head. I couldn't stop photographing since I was on my own this wedding but it was driving me CRAZY PANTS! So the dance ends and I start to stand up and step back... right into the guy that had been hunching over me and lightly resting his hand on my head because he was "using my flash to light his picture". Could you imagine?! I went from photographer to furniture in 10 seconds flat.
4. We are hired by the couple. Being in attendance at the wedding does not make you, the guest, our boss. I'm always happy to photograph you and your family... for one or two photos. But this is not the time or place for you to get a free photo session in. And yes, it happens. I would say every other wedding one guest will come up with a list of pairings, family groupings or poses they would like to see taken because "they never have their photos taken". And if they are brazen enough to come to me with the list, they get really angry with me if I don't do it. So while I could be getting amazing candid shots at the reception, I'm outside doing a mini family session. And unless you want the hangry photographer to come out... never, ever snap your fingers at me or tap me on the shoulder like I'm a waiter.
Hangry Photographer Note: Most of all remember, I am there to photograph the wedding. Directing me to do other things... like the lady that wanted me to go up and adjust the bride's train during the ring exchange is really not where my priority should be.
5. Leave the posing and location suggestion to us. It's what we are there for. We know what works or what doesn't work. While I will ask the couple if they have any ideas for poses or locations at the venue, it's really hard to be creative when someone takes it over. And after a while, I just give in. I photograph those poses and locations because I'm in the service industry and it's all about great customer service. And this guest is usually just brazen and loud enough to complain when I don't follow their suggestion or tell them why it won't work. Remember, the photos the couple saw on my website are why they hired me and are not what they are going to get when anyone but me is making location and posing decisions. You might have the best idea in the world but there may be a really good reason why I didn't choose to do it.
Hangry Photographer Thoughts: So you might be thinking... if the photos suck, just take them and then not deliver them to the client. That would be a great idea. Except in the mind of this person a rusty old arbor with a dirt yard (prepped for seeding) surrounded by dying flowers has grown into the most beautiful, lush place in the world for photos and it's not in direct sun where it will seriously degrade the quality of photos. And that person WILL call or email me (80 times) about why that one photo isn't in the 1000+ image gallery the couple received. Of course, they'll tell me not to tell the couple that they have hounded me for it like the best debt collector out there.
6. Don't yell at the photographers. As I'm sitting here trying to express how frustrating it is to deal with unhappy guests while my couple is sitting in happy oblivion, knowing that these same people WILL complain to the couple and I will hear it... I just can't properly express my feelings without giving a hangry photographer true story.
Hangry Photography Story: There we are working a beautiful wedding and I'm trying to photograph the father-daughter dance where the bride's sisters had stepped in and all were dancing with their father. A beautiful moment, right? Well, it was until I made a huge mistake. Without looking to see who it was I politely asked this dancing couple that kept blocking my shot to step to the side so that I could get the bride and her family. I just kept photographing this touching, beautiful moment. As soon as the dance ended and dinner was about to be served, I stepped outside to get a couple candids of the guests milling about on the lawn... the father of the groom came up and let go a wrath you have never seen. He finished with that he hoped I had gotten a photo of him and his daughter after I so rudely "pushed" them out of the way. Let me explain here... I am the primary photographer (my name is on the sign after all). I am hired to photograph the couple and the main events. This is my primary function. The thing is while I focus on the couple (or in this case the bride and her father), the second shooter focuses on the other guests on the floor. So while this man was berating me (not seeing one photo)... what he didn't realize is that the second shooter had gotten images of him dancing with his daughter. So now I'm hungry (because it's not dinner time yet and I haven't eaten since before the wedding) and angry... hangry. At the same time, I'm supposed to put myself and sentiment into each and every photo.
7. Be aware of your surroundings. I know everyone wants to capture an amazing photo to share on social media. It's the time we live in. But you are not a ninja. Let me repeat that. You are not a ninja. There is no stealth or invisibility in your repertoire. You will be in every photo. The couple may love you enough to invite you but they may NOT be so in love with you after you show up in every sweet sentimental moment. The couple pays their photographers good money to photograph their wedding... while you may get one or two great shots on your phone... you've for sure ruined the image they paid for when you leaned out in the aisle to get a photo of the bride walking down to the altar. Wait for me to get out of the center of the aisle (because I will) to get your photos. And as for the first dance, don't actually go onto the dance floor and get up close and personal with the couple. No one wants to see you or your phone in the background (or even worse just your hand holding up your phone) in EVERY single first dance image. Stay to the side. If we see you are making a video, trust me... we'll try to stay out of your way.
8. Wrangle your kids. I'm a mom of four. I love kids. Kids are the cutest BUT kids on the dance floor during the first dance or running up to the altar during the ceremony may not be so cute. And don't be embarrassed or hesitant to get them. You are not ruining our shot with a little wrangling. It's so much easier than having to remove a child doing the Nae Nae from the images.
9. Don't direct the couple's attention. I'm going to put this plainly and bluntly. When you interrupt the first dance to get a photo and say "Hey, look here", you are doing it for you and your photo... not for the couple. This is a special moment. A moment for the two of them to enjoy and BE in. The most beautiful first dance photos I have are when the couple is caught up in the moment.
So after all that, we'll end on a good note. Here a few Dos.
1. Let me know if there is someone super important at the wedding I may not know about. Or something super sentimental. I had this one couple use a wedding cake topper that had been used in weddings since the early 1900s. While most couples will let me know these things, they may have forgotten and it's always good to be reminded.
2. Give us a shout out on your social media posts if you loved us or the couple has given you a few images to share. Seriously... we put a ton of work into the wedding and I think the wedding photography field is by far the least under-complimented field I've ever worked in. There is nothing sweeter to me than when a guest posts something on social media about my business or my team. It really does make me all teary-eyed. By the way, liking and commenting on my posts, helps me too. If you love a photo... let us know! It makes us happy!
3. Be you! If you are the wild, zany uncle. BE the wild, zany uncle (but leave your shirt on, please). I love capturing images where guests' personalities shine through. Nothing is sweeter than seeing the flirty grandfather dancing to moves like jagger with a group of bridesmaids around.
4. Be sweet with your honey. One of the best moments from this year that I can think of is when I saw this couple off in the distance, holding hands... it's was a sweet shot filled with love. I later found out it was their 25th wedding anniversary. I'm so glad I captured that moment.
5. Smile. Laugh. Cry. Dance. ENJOY the moment. These are the images I love to take. It's why I love weddings. You may have on uncomfortable shoes but kick those bad boys off and get out on the dance floor! Have fun. It's about making memories with the couple that we can capture.
Final thoughts: Images included in this post are from a wedding that contained some of my fave guests photos ever. They were in no way horrible guests and they honestly did everything right.
And on that note, I'll leave you with a video:
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