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Are we feeding the wedding beast ?

A few weeks ago at a wedding I was photographing I sat for dinner with the guests next to a lovely older woman at dinner.

She clearly was of the age that when you sit next to someone you don’t know, you make introductions.   After some niceties (“how do you know the couple”, “how long have you been photographing weddings?”)   she surprised me by asking “You’ve been doing this some time.  Can you tell me when it was that the weddings went from celebrating the marriage  with family and friends to seeing who had the most trinkets?”

I wasn’t really sure what she was asking. I wondered if it was a trap.  I wished she would just ask me how many megapixels my camera is or how many photos I had taken that day, because I know how to answer that.

I stammered that I wasn’t quite sure what she meant, and she elaborated.

Over the past few years, she’s noticed a shift in weddings.  That it seemed to be more about the “stuff”

That it used to be that if a wedding was earlier in the day, say 11AM the bride and groom did a bridal luncheon and the wedding ended in late afternoon.They didn’t expect their guest to entertain themselves in a strange city and then carry on with the reception until midnight.

She said that in the past 5-7 years, it seems that brides and grooms don’t care about the guests. They seem “obsessed with silly details, like they are trying to outdo each other”.

She told me the story of traveling across country to her best friends daughters wedding.  A little girl she had known since she was born.  They spent several thousand dollars between travel, hotels and the gift for the couple.

Her best friend spent the wedding day running around pinning flowers, placing dinner cards, tying bows on chairs for her daughter so the wedding would be “perfect”.   She spent almost no time with her friends that had traveled to celebrate with her because she had yet another detail to place, another lantern she had to see to it was hung.

And  on the wedding day, the bride and her new husband didn’t even receive their guests to say hello or thank you.

Then she said to me “And then 2 hours after dinner, they served us pizza. What is that all about, anyway? I don’t want pizza 2 hours after dinner. Why don’t these couples save their money on the pizza and spend time with the people who love them?”

It lead me to think…how many times as a photographer have you  knowingly taken the bride and groom  away from their guests for hours so that you can travel to multiple locations for different “looks”?

So you could have that killer sunset shot?

So you could add a urban grunge series of the bridal party to your portfolio?

Have you every told a client that “Sweetheart Tables” are cuter in PICTURES, encouraging them to sit away from their guests and wedding parties?

Have we fed the wedding beast so we have have panic-attacked regular people into believing they’re celebrities for one day out of their lives that MUST BE DOCUMENTED  for  hours away from their guests otherwise they won’t have any Pinterest-worthy shots?

Fast forward to a client meeting a few weeks ago.  While going over their Timeline, the bride and groom said to me ” We’ve decided not to do a receiving line.  They are stupid and a waste of time, and we want more time for pictures”

I put my pen down slowly, took a deep breath and said

“I’m going to pull the mom card here on you, even though I am not your mom.  You do need to receive these guests. They’ve taken time out of their lives, bought fancy clothes, paid for babysitters and gotten you a gift. They have decided that seeing you getting married is really important.  You owe it to them to say thank you for coming.  In person, up close. With a hug.  Not just a thank you note in the mail.  You can receive them after the wedding, at the cocktail hour or at the reception. But you must receive them and thank them for coming. Based on your timeline I’d recommend doing it right after the wedding so you can enjoy your cocktail hour. I don’t need 2 hours for photos, and we don’t need to go to three locations.  These first two will get you plenty of photos. Receive your guests first, then we’ll go take some great photos”

And they agreed.

6 Comments

  1. Love it! Great story and so true.

  2. “Fast forward to a client meeting a few weeks ago. While going over their Timeline, the bride and groom said to me ” We’ve decided not to do a receiving line. It wastes time, and we want more time for pictures”

    I put my pen down slowly, took a deep breath and said

    “I’m going to pull the mom card here on you, even though I am not your mom. You do need to receive these guests. They’ve taken time out of their lives, bought fancy clothes, paid for babysitters and gotten you a gift. They have decided that seeing you getting married is really important. You owe it to them to say thank you for coming. In person, up close. With a hug. Not just a thank you note in the mail.

    I don’t need 2 hours for photos, and we don’t need to go to three locations. These first two will get you plenty of photos. Receive your guests first, then we’ll go take some great photos”

    And they agreed.”

    AWESOME!!!!!

  3. Guilty. I think maybe 40% of my clients have receiving lines. This makes me think…

  4. Well said. Ive had a few clients at that point at the end of the actual ceremony say whats next, so I gently push them back towards the guests, and wait my turn.

  5. TOTALLY agree!!!!!

  6. Hmm. I’m with Andy. Although when my couples skip receiving lines, I really make sure to get them to cocktail hour. But perhaps it’s not a fair trade-off. You’re challenging my thinking, Kim, but I like it!

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