A Photographer's Guide to Being an Awesome Wedding Guest (Part 1)

February 07, 2015

First things first, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that a wedding I am photographing  is not about me.  Weddings are first and foremost about marriage and marriage is something I am a huge believer in, so much so that my husband (who is a pastor) and I do pre-marital counseling for couples because we believe in forever love.  I love marriage so much I made documenting the celebration my job.

That being said, there is a good chance I've been a part of more weddings than the average person.  Granted the last wedding I photographed, one of the bridesmaids had been a bridesmaid like nine times, and that's a lot, but still, more than your average wedding-goer.  Courtesy of my fabulous couples I have become privy to a few helpful tips to make the wedding experience totally awesome and memorable for all involved.  Also, since I have more tips than are fun to read in just one sitting, I am breaking them down into three articles and they will be as follows:
  1. A photographer's guide to being an awesome wedding guest.  (That's this one)
  2. A photographer's guide to being an awesome wedding guest with a camera phone
  3. A photographer's guide to being an awesome wedding guest with a DSLR
If you don't want to read through all of them, or even all of this one, here is a huge main point I want you to take away.  Photography is a huge investment for the couple.  They likely paid thousands of dollars for someone to document their day, so a photographer asking you to smile, step aside, put down your phone or turn off your flash is not a disrespect to you and the photo you wanted to get, it is out of respect for the couple and the photos they paid to get.

So, let's get started, shall we?  

How to be an awesome guest, part one.  (Please note all photos are of guests being awesome, there are no cautionary tales in these photos, just fabulous people having a fabulous time!)

  • Show up on time - Seriously, nothing is more distracting than trying to get you seated after the grandparents and before the processional.
  •  During the ceremony: look, listen and respond.  Don't live tweet it, don't over instagram it, your friends are getting married!  They are making commitments that they want you to witness, so be a good witness.  In fact pay the kind of attention that if you were asked to testify in court you would be considered a credible witness. (Cue Law & Order sound)

  •  If I point my camera at you, keep doing what you're doing, or smile.  The couple that invited you to the wedding wants to remember that you were there and there is a possibility that 20 years from now  you won't be distinguishable by a photo of the back of your head, no matter how distinctive your hair cut is.  Truthfully, the couple really wants you there, so be present!  Let me show them you were there!

  • Pay attention during the toasts.  Yes even the long ones, or the awkward ones or the really emotional ones.  Laugh along, cry along, nod along and then raise your glass.  Then when you all get together for brunch in a few months you can talk about those toasts and raise your glass again.

  • Dance!  If they are having a dance, get out there and shake it!  Grab the hand of someone you like and sway back and forth.  Have fun!  No one is worrying about your moves, this isn't a Match.com event, this is a party!  So party!  (Yes I know, that's a lot of exclamation points!)  And if all else fails, dance for me because I don't get to!  However, if you choose not to dance, don't sit next to the dance floor and glower at those being taught how to Dougie, mix and mingle with the less rhythmically inclined and snap a fun selfie with the bride's dad who has the same taste in bourbon as you.

  • Lastly, speaking of bourbon, keep the alcohol to a reasonable level.  I don't care if it's a bottle of wine at the table or a fully stocked open bar kind of celebration, lighting up a breathalizer like a Christmas tree shouldn't be your goal for the evening.  Have a drink with dinner, toast to new journeys  and old friends, imbibe in the signature cocktail or craft beer shipped from the couple's favorite brewery, but if it takes a spinning room to get you to enjoy the YMCA, just sit that song out.  Being the guy who is grinding against the bride or the girl who refuses to stop requesting Baby Got Back from the DJ is not simply uncool, it's disrespectful to the party's proprietors.  Also, in all reality, it could be unsafe.  Having a designated driver is necessary, but so is remembering who you came with and your own address.  If you've had too much to drink, a taxi is way cheaper than a DUI and no one wants your arrest or worse to be part of their wedding day.

OK, so that's part one, just be an awesome guest.  You're there to have fun, be present, be yourself and be sneakily photographed by me and my awesome long lens.  I hope you keep these things in mind when the next invitation arrives in the mail.  Keep your eyes open for talking about a photographer's guide to being an awesome guest with a camera phone, coming soon to alihormannblog.com near you.

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