How to be a good wedding guest | From a photographer's perspective
I’ve been to more weddings than your average person and I’ve run across every personality type imaginable. It’s funny - one of the reasons I became a photographer was so I could “be my own boss.” Little did I know that instead of having no boss I would end up with thousands. I’ve come to realize that as a wedding photographer, everyone at the wedding is basically your boss and the couple getting married is the CEO.
What I mean to say is that guests are at a wedding to celebrate the new husband and wife and to enjoy themselves. Often they’ll ask me to take pictures of certain things and 99% of the time, I will oblige. I’m there to serve and part of that involves accommodating wedding guests. However, as I mentioned, the bride and groom are the CEO and their wants and needs come before all of my other bosses.
That’s why I think it’s important for wedding guests to know how to act at a wedding so myself and the other vendors can best serve our clients and your friends and family.
Be on time! Especially for the ceremony. This is not the time to be fashionably late. It’s honestly a good idea to be 20-30 minutes early for the ceremony. There is usually a strict timeline that must be adhered to in order for the day to go off without a hitch (no pun intended). If the ceremony is supposed to start at 7 and it doesn’t start until 7:15, then there’s less time afterwards for formal portraits. Being late has a drastically negative effect on the bride and groom - the people you are meant to be celebrating. Don’t be late!
Try not to get in the way of the formal portraits. When weddings don’t have a scheduled receiving line or “mingle time” it can be tempting to chat with the bride and groom when they are supposed to be taking pictures. If this is all happening after the ceremony, it will cut into picture-taking time and everything will be a bit more rushed. There will be plenty of time to congratulate the new couple at the reception. Also, I’ve seen a lot of guests stick around the ceremony site for seemingly no reason. They are just talking amongst themselves. If you’re not supposed to be in the family pictures, then it’s best to leave the room because the talking can become loud and distracting. My husband Mason often has to grab a microphone just for family members to hear him directing them for portraits - and he’s a loud guy.
Leave your DSLR at home. I’ve actually seen wedding guests pull out professional DSLRs with the same lenses that I am using during a wedding. I’m not really sure why people do this - whether it’s for their own enjoyment or for building a portfolio - either way it’s highly inappropriate. When I see someone with basically the same gear as me, I consider them another pro photographer which is a breach of contract for me. You don’t want the bride and groom to breach their contract.
Don’t take pictures during the ceremony - especially not with an iPad for crying out loud. This past year I was taking photos at a wedding and I was standing relatively close to the alter. I turned around to move somewhere else and almost ran into a person standing behind me! Somehow, she had sneaked up behind me and was talking photos as I was. I didn’t hear her and we almost had a mid-ceremony collision. It was incredibly embarrassing for me and hopefully for her as well. I also have a ton of pictures of brides walking down the aisle with guests holding up their phones taking pictures. Once, a woman had a bedazzled phone case that caught the sunlight and literally blinded me for a second as the processional was going on.
Do not take pictures of poses and portraits arranged by the photographer. Most photographers have a clause in their contract expressly forbidding this. I certainly do. It’s really distracting for the people in the pictures. Don’t ask for additional family portraits during this time. I work with brides and grooms long before the wedding to develop a shot list of family portraits. There’s a limited amount of time to take photos after the ceremony so if there is a particular group photo you want, ask me during the reception. I know what she wants and what she doesn’t. Also, when I’m taking pictures of just the bride and groom, I have to move around a lot and I can’t worry about getting in someone else’s shot so please don’t follow us around (unless you’re a bridesmaid who we’ve asked to help us out).
Extra tip: If you’re confused or angry as to why a certain group picture combination is being taken, keep it to yourself. The bride knows what she wants.
Don’t give the photographer pose suggestions. The bride and groom hired me for my skills, my vision, and my style. My style does not include cheesy pictures in which all of the bridesmaids are hiking up their skirts. No, just no. We’ll definitely take some fun pictures but there’s no need for you to suggest poses. Trust me, I got this. Brides - suggest away! You hired me and you’re paying me. I want you to get exactly what you want.