Planning for Great Photographs | Thoughts on Ceremonies
"Mawage. Maaaawaaaage is what bwings uuuus togevaaaa todaaaaay."
Yes, sigh. Huge nerd over here. The Princess Bride has been my favorite movie since I was eight years old and saw it for the first time with my cousin, Jenny. Such a classic movie! Now that that's out of my system....
Let's talk about your ceremony! Now, in general, I don't like to interfere much in your ceremony. Wedding ceremonies are personal, and more and more these days they are customized to reflect the values and personalities of my couples. My job is to capture the feeling of the wedding you have created together. I love a good ceremony, they make me cry! I thank the stars for waterproof mascara and autofocus on a regular basis.
While I'm tiptoeing around as you say your vows, my hope is that you don't notice me and my second shooter. I will not be all up in your face! I will be to the back, to the sides, around the edges, stealthing along with my zoom lens like a sneaky little sniper. I want all of your guests focused on the two of you and the story unfolding in front of them.
So, you may ask, is there anything you can do to improve the chances for a great set of images to document your ceremony? Of course! Here are a few little tips I think each couple should consider if ceremony photos are really important to them.
Reserve a seat for a photographer along the aisle. Because part of my philosophy on a wedding day is that we photographers shouldn't be a distraction, it's important to me that we not be standing in front of your wedding party as the processional happens. I have found that a great way to work the processional is to have myself or my second shooter in an aisle seat a few rows back, on the side across from where the groom will be standing. This doesn't interfere with your family VIP seating, but allows for your standard "walking down the aisle" shots from a good perspective. That photographer can also shoot the groom as he waits for the bride, and as soon as the processional is complete, they or I will vacate the seat so your guests can scooch over. 🙂
Make sure that your officiant invites your guests to take a seat. I know this seems like it should be a no-brainer, but I have witnessed a couple of wedding ceremonies where an inexperienced officiant (such as a friend or family member) does not realize that the guests won't always sit down after the bride joins the groom. They need to be invited to sit down. If they stay standing, it can make photographing the ceremony from any angle other than down the center a bit of a challenge. Since many of my clients have ceremonies officiated by people they love, and not just a pastor or judge, I think it's a good idea to touch on this one! Just a gentle reminder!
Don't be shy. Just because a wedding ceremony is a sacred event doesn't mean you have to be stiff and still the whole time. You can whisper to one another, share a giggle, tell your bride or groom how amazing they look, and exchange unspoken thoughts while things are going on. Of course, pay attention- you've chosen some important sentiments to be shared on this day! But don't feel as if you can't react to the ceremony together. It's easy to capture a shot of you both standing at the altar, but I can't get that awesome shot of you laughing together if you don't, well, laugh!
Ask your officiant to step aside before you kiss. This is a REALLY good one, and if you take nothing else from this post, please take this! Many officiants will give you the green light for that kiss and then stand in their places. What this results in are awkward faces peeking out from behind the space between your necks as you kiss. I've seen this in FAR too many of my weddings, so I've begun reminding my clients to ask this one simple thing. I believe a great officiant will already know to do this, but some have never heard this request. They don't have to vacate the premises, but a simple step to the side will do.
Consider an "Unplugged" ceremony. If you've spent any decent amount of time planning this wedding so far, I'm pretty positive that you've heard of this concept already! It's a new thing, and it's being met with mixed reviews. However, it might be something to consider if you're really unhappy with the idea of a cousin or friend from work jumping in front of me with their iPhone right before the kiss. It doesn't happen often, but it happens. If you'd prefer to have your guests focused on being in the moment with you, instead of updating their Instagram feed at the first possible second you're married, then you might want to ask everyone to unplug. This can be done in a variety of ways, from a note on your program to a basket at the end of the aisle urging folks to drop their devices and tune into your love story!
I sure hope these little tips are helpful, because I wish for beautiful ceremonies for all of my couples! It's kind of the highlight of the day, right? And I want to do my very best to capture it as fully as I can. Best wishes for beautiful weddings, everyone!