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I don't want picture-taking
to take over the wedding
I want good pictures of the wedding,
but I don't want picture-taking to take over...

What can I do?

Picture-taking on the day of the wedding will expand to fill the time you allow for it. If you allow 5 hours, that's exactly how long it will take. My experience is that unless you plan wedding-day photo shoots at different locations prior to your wedding, it is safe and sane to allot an hour for pictures prior to the wedding ceremony and another half hour for pictures following the ceremony.

It's your option whether the Bride and Groom take pictures together prior to the wedding. If you want to honor that tradition of the Bride not seeing the Groom until he sees her coming down the aisle in her full wedding finery, go for it. Some photographers will argue that you will be less nervous, or more considerate of your guests if you take pictures together beforehand. None of your guests will be impacted by picture-taking prior to the wedding, and half an hour after is not a great burden, so do what you would like. Remember, the wedding professionals you hire work for you, not vice-versa.

A Bride called me in a fit of anger: "Why won't you let me get good pictures of my wedding? I'm paying a lot to my photographer and it's going to be wasted if you don't give me more time!"

(We had told her from our first contact with her about her wedding at our Chapel that we would set aside an hour prior and another half hour following the wedding for photography.) Her photographer convinced her that, as a true artist, he would be unable to "practice his art" with those kind of restrictions. He would need at least three hours prior and an hour after. If she wanted good pictures of her wedding, he told her, she would have to do battle with the church and get him adequate time!

Arrangements were made for her to have access to the Chapel two hours prior to the wedding, and if she chose to dress before her arrival at the church, she could add another half-hour to her photo time. She still wasn't happy.

On the day of the wedding, the artist-photographer showed up three hours prior. Our staff was there extra early to open the buildings for the wedding party. The artist-photographer waited. We waited. No Bride. No Bridal party.

Finally, an hour later, the Bride arrived, still not in her wedding dress. She rushed upstairs and jumped into the dress. When she was finally ready, I finally found out why this photographer needed so much time. Before and after each shot which took a fraction of a second he spent five minutes explaining why it was a truly brilliant work of art, and why they would want multiple copies of this pose when he offered it to them later. The extra time was for sales, not for pictures!

Take a minute at the rehearsal dinner, when wedding party and relatives likely to be in pictures are present, to outline what their "photo opportunities" will be. If certain family members will be in pictures prior, (e.g. parents, grandparents and siblings of the Bride) tell them where to be and when. Likewise for those family members who are to be in pictures following the wedding. Tell them to exit with the guests and then report immediately for pictures. You might even include something like "If you aren't there, we'll assume you don't want to be in the pictures." This may relieve you from doing any searching and/or begging on the wedding day.

Plan with your photographer what pictures you want both before and after the wedding and who should be in them. Then plan a sequence of pictures that makes sense for each of the photo sessions. The best plan might be to start with small groups and work up to larger ones as the wedding time gets closer. After the wedding you might consider the reverse: start with the biggest groups and then excuse more and more people to go to the reception as you move along. The last pictures might be of just the Bride and Groom.

The Most Time Is Wasted One of Two Ways:

1. Looking for wandering friends and relatives who you hoped would be in the picture you are now setting.

2. Listening to the photographer tell you how great the picture is going to be. If you are organized, the "before" pictures shouldn't take more than an hour; and the "after" pictures should take no more than 30 minutes.

Talk with your photographer about the balance between recording the event and controlling it. The wedding is not a photo session with music. It's a landmark celebration for you and your families and friends. The photography and videography shouldn't distract your guests from what you have invited them to witness. Therefore I recommend that your photo people remain behind the guests during the wedding and refrain from using flash. Same goes for video people: out of line-of-sight and no special lights during the ceremony. I told one photographer he couldn't walk down the center aisle during the wedding, so he crawled. It was a sight to see.

The trade-off I usually suggest is that after the ceremony I will return with the couple and their wedding party to do "instant replay" for the sake of pictures. I don't redo all the ceremony content, but we restage the important "action shots": the processional, the rings, the couple facing each other; the kiss, etc. It seems to work. 

Submitted by:
Dave Sugarbaker


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