There is a phrase that’s often tossed around to couples as they prepare for their wedding – “This is your day.” (Or worse – “This is the bride’s day.” OR – one I’ve heard that’s even worse – “This is the mother of the bride’s day.”) As a recent bride and a wedding photographer, I don’t think any of those phrases are totally accurate.
A wedding is a community event. You’re asking all these people who have played a pivotal role in your life at one point or another to come together in support of you and your partner; to support your new marriage and accept your partner into their lives as a friend or new family member. And while the day is about this amazing commitment two people are making, I think it’s also important to recognize the role your community plays at your wedding.
So… how does any of this pertain to photography? Well, your community may have different photography expectations than you and your partner, and I have seen that come into play so many times at a wedding. I consider myself a wedding photojournalist, and I’m really proud of my style. It took me a long time to figure out who I was in terms of my wedding photography style, and now I feel I have a really solid sense of self (say that 5 times fast) when it comes to my work. Of course, I love to take portraits, and I always make sure I have plenty of time with you and your partner on the wedding day to do just that. But throughout most of the day, I try to stage as little as possible. I want the story to unfold organically in front of the lens. I love the finished product I am able to produce, but it certainly isn’t for everyone.
Your mom may be expecting a more traditional photographer. You may have picked out seven combinations of family and friends that you want for formal portraits, but your dad might have twenty groupings in mind for formals. Maybe your grandma is hoping I’ll do traditional “table shots” at the reception, which isn’t something I typically do. Your entire extended family may be hoping they can stand next to me while I take all these portraits, so they can capture the day themselves. (Something I don’t recommend, because it can be very distracting to everyone involved.) Whoa. Those are a lot of expectations to manage. And if you don’t talk to your community – especially your parents and immediate family – there could be some unnecessary disappointment or chaos on the wedding day.
I’m not saying your community should have their way or have a huge say in who you choose as your wedding photographer. Ultimately, the photography should be a reflection of who you and your partner are, and your style as a couple. But you should at least listen to what they are hoping for out of the photography experience and let them know what they can expect on the wedding day and once the finished product is delivered. It’s so much better for everyone involved if you can share with me any expectations your friends and family might have instead of having them bring it up last minute on the wedding day, when we’re all under a serious time crunch. I’m certainly happy to consider any of their requests, as long as I know about them beforehand.
If I am your wedding photographer, take some time to sit down and look at my website with the important wedding day players – parents, grandparents, siblings, wedding party. Let them read my philosophy, look at my work, and get an idea of what they can expect from me. It also will help to make me less of a stranger to them on your wedding day. Let them know I’ll be shooting candid photos of everyone getting ready, that I’ll have a second shooter with me, that I’d like a little time alone with just the couple for portraits, that I will try and be as respectful and unobtrusive as possible during the ceremony, that the final images are put into a gallery and they will be able to order their own prints if they want. Then ask them (especially your parents) what is MOST important to them in terms of the wedding photography, and share their answer with me. I’ll keep their request in my mind during the day, and see how I can honor it while staying as true to my style as possible. Everyone wins.
Ultimately, you and your partner are hiring me, and your happiness is most important to me. And maybe you don’t think anyone else should have an opinion about the photography – and that’s fine too! But I’m very aware of the community aspects of a wedding, and if I can, I want to make your friends and family happy as well. It’s a special day for them too, and I want you – and them – to know that I totally get that.
(And, on a somewhat related note, I highly recommend this article from Offbeat Bride, about guests staying unplugged during your wedding ceremony. My husband and I had an unplugged ceremony, and it was such an amazing experience.)