In December I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Chattanooga, Tennessee to see one of my dearest friends get married. It was the first wedding I have attended as a guest in five years and despite the urge I amazingly left all camera gear behind for the wedding day. After we got home, my friend gave me small framed print of the group of us Kansas Citians that her professional photographer had taken during the reception. The lighting is gorgeous and despite my husbands closed eyes and our silly poses I absolutely love it. Without the group of us asking the photographer for the shot, all I would have of that night are the grainy and dark pictures off of my iPhone. Because of that I have decided to write an open letter to wedding guests everywhere.
Dear Wedding Guest,
Hi! Congratulations! Your daughter/sister/brother/coworker/friend/distant relative you haven’t seen in 5 years/college roommate/etc is getting married! And guess what?! You are invited to their wedding. Woo Hoo! They are going to spend months planning the perfect party for you. It is going to be a blast, probably one of the best parities of the year. There will most likely be tons of food, cake, maybe some booze, dancing, and general celebrations galore. Basically it will be amazing!
While we have never met, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself. I am their professional photographer (yup, this is my job) and they have entrusted me to capture all of the amazing moments of their wedding day. It is a job I take very seriously. I promise it will be pretty easy to pick me out of the crowd (just look for the camera or two). While I realize you may not feel like I should be concerned with you on this very important day, I actually am. You are a part of the bride and groom’s story; one of the chosen ones there to witness their marriage and celebrate with them. Their day is going to FLY by and you may not get to even talk to them for more than a minute or two. I want more than anything else to capture you in their images to remind them ten to twenty to fifty years from now that you were there on that day. So I am going to give you a few pointers.
I know this sounds pretty basic, but it seems as though when someone catches me in the corner of their eye and realizes I am about to take their picture, this is the last thing they do. Often times I get the I-hate-having-my-picture-taken grimace and that doesn’t really make either of us look too good. If you see me coming head on, just roll with it. If you don’t want to be the only one in the spotlight, grab onto whomever is next to you and squeeze in for a cheeky shot. Flash your favorite hand sign (excluding the bird, or other signs that run the risk of police officers knocking on your door and/or my door), give me a cheers with whatever drink you are holding, or even do duck face if you need to. Just do something to show the bride and groom what a great time you were having.
2. Don’t hesitate to ask!
If all of your cousins/sorority sisters/coworkers are finally together again, please don’t feel silly asking me or my team for a group photo. THAT IS MY JOB (caps for emphasis, i’m not yelling, I promise). If you think, you may have blinked when the flash when off, tell me and I’ll take another shot. If your grandpa is out dancing with your little nephew and you think I may have missed it, tell me. Chances are I already got it, but if I didn’t I will love you forever and, more importantly, so will the bride and groom.
3. Don’t worry about getting the perfect shot.
I always giggle just a bit when the DJ announces it’s time to cut the cake. A rush of people flood to the cake table with iPhones and itty bitty cameras intent on capturing that perfect moment. While I absolutely encourage guests to take photographs, it is my job to make sure that the shot is perfect. I typically have two to three lights aimed directly at the bride and groom at all moments to make sure that the exposure will be perfect. It is extremely helpful to me if you do pay a tiny bit of attention to what I am doing during those big moments. Are you standing right in front of a light? Is your arm that’s holding your iPhone out into the center of the aisle blocking my second shooter? I realize it can be tough to take a step back, but if you help me get that perfect shot for the bride we all win.
During any of the formal portrait times of the day, relax. Seriously. Sit back, grab a drink (or 3), and thank your lucky stars you are not one of the sorry suckers that has to take 83 variations of the portraits on shot list. Oftentimes we are working on a very tight time schedule. I know it can be tempting to try to sneak in a shot or two of grandma or the flower girls with the bride and groom while I am shooting, but it is super distracting to the people being photographed and can really slow down our flow. If you are using a flash it can even ruin the photograph completely. I am always more than happy to share copies of the images that I take at all times of the day (and so are most of the photographers I know).
5. Just have a great time.
The biggest part of my day is to document the wedding day as it happens. If you are having a great time, the pictures will show it. So get up and dance. Mingle with the people around you even if you don’t know them. Make sure to eat some cake. The more out there you are the more chances I have of seeing you and capturing you in a photo. If you sit in the dark corner and give me dirty looks, you probably aren’t going to end up being in any pictures. And these aren’t really about you (well they are, but not really). The photographs are to remind the bride and groom what everyone else was feeling on their wedding day, and that’s actually a pretty big deal. (Photo below: Best time ever? You bet!)
That’s it. The keys to being an amazing wedding guest and having a killer time! So the next time you see me at a wedding, remember to smile!