Wedding Wednesday – Picking Your Battles (Clients) & Breaking Traditions

I’m going to try to make this a weekly, if at least bi-weekly, series to share my passion…weddings…with those not so “in the know”.  So, subscribe and stay tuned for off the cuff, real talk, wedding advice for not only Brides, but for photographers as well!

Weddings are the jam to my biscuit ya’ll…and this Southern female photographer LOOOVES her some biscuits! HA!  I may not be the master Wedding Photog I’m still hustlin’ to be…yet ;)…but I do know weddings…and I know them WELL!

That being said, let’s get this party started…Welcome to Wedding Wednesday’s First Post: “Picking Your Battles & Breaking Traditions”.

Don’t misunderstand…I LOVE traditions like I love weddings, traditions can be sweet, sentimental and fun, but they shouldn’t be relied upon to make or break your day.

Recently I spoke with a bride and groom, and both of their mothers. I adored the Bride and Groom, we were on the same page…they were without a doubt a “BJP Couple”…I didn’t book them. And I didn’t lose sleep over it!

“WHAT!?” Let me break down the scene….

We were talking about flow of the wedding day (something I’m a *bit* of a control freak about) and I asked 1) How long their reception was (only 3hrs would remain for time in the reception venue top to bottom after ceremony!), 2) how much time they wanted to have to Dance and party with their guests before their grand exit. (They wanted to “get there and party ASAP!”)

Both of these are basic, but important, questions because they tell me where their priorities lie…and I loooove brides and grooms with great priorities!!

“How does that tell you about their priorities?” Well, it tells me if they are more bent towards spending time with their guests who gave up a day, many of which probably had to get a sitter, use a sick or vacation day, etc… to come celebrate their special day, or not.  I prefer the former!  

Wedding Guests DO give a lot to share in a wedding day, and I’m not just talking about gifts here…I want couples who recognize, and appreciate, those sacrifices, and want to get down with those people to show some appreciation. 

I’ve been a wedding guest many times, and it’s true they DO want to interact with you… if only for a few line dances out on the dance floor. 

SO, back to the story of the unbooked Bride & Groom…

Those questions and their answers (They wanted to interact and party with their guests!) led to this exchange that went something like this:

Me:  “I see! So getting to the reception ASAP is of utmost importance to you huh?”

Them: “yes!”

Me: “and before the ceremony we’ve basically got the whole day at the venue?”

Them: “Yes! Isn’t that great?!”

Me: “That’s FANTASTIC! Now, in order to get you to your reception we’ll need to shoot as much as we can beforehand.”

MoG: “Oh yes!! We are thinking 30 minutes after ceremony until they enter so as much as possible before is great!”

Me: “Ok wonderful! After ceremony it usually takes about 10 minutes for everyone to wander out of the ceremony site, so that’ll give us about 15-20 to do a few pictures with the Minister, and any family shots we had to postpone or couldn’t grab earlier (there’s always a family member or two who can’t make pre-ceremony pictures!)….

HALT….the MoB interrupts me: “We can’t do the family shots before the ceremony…it’s bad luck for them to see each other! Thats what the 30 minutes after the ceremony is for!”

*in my head: “WOW! Bless her…she clearly has no idea!” *

I chipperly chime in “OH! I see. So you all don’t want to see each other before hand?”

*the couple look at each other like deer in headlights* then the bride speaks

Bride: “whatever will get us to our reception in a hurry! I was in _____’s wedding and we were taking pictures for an hour after the ceremony because they had to do all the bride plus groom, whole bridal party shots AND all the family. I want to dance!”

Mother of Bride: “Well we’ll just rush and do that all in 30!”

*me in my head: “BAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!”

Me out loud: “Unfortunately just the family portraits alone take a minimum of 20 minutes…and we can’t start those until everyone is rounded up and the area we’re shooting in is clear…that usually takes a good 10 minutes. If you add in doing just the Bride with her family and just the groom with his that’s another 10 minutes.  That’s the whole 30 just for family, and the most important images are those of the Bride and Groom which is a minimum 15, but I prefer at least 20-30 for dress positioning, moving locations, etc.. 

(side note: can someone explain this to me? If the marriage were to fall apart do people still keep those wedding photos of the bride and her family, Groom and his family? I’m honestly curious why so many mothers insist on not including their child’s new spouse in all the family portraits…aren’t they now too part of the family? Just curious because I’d feel like that was a slap in the face if my Groom’s family insisted on an entire set of images without ME!)

Mother of Bride: “OH we definitely want pictures of just her with our side!”
Mother of Groom retorts: “Us too!”

*Bride and groom exchange a pained glance, I felt their pain, and know I’ve got to reign this in before it turns into a scene from “Monster in Law”*

Me to the Bride and Groom: “And What are YOUR thoughts?”

Bride: *I wanted to just squeeze this lil peach!* “Well we don’t really see the point in extra time for those…it’s not like, Heaven forbid, something happened that we’d still want those, plus I know from my friends’ weddings how long it takes to position the dress, pose everyone, corral kids…there’s no way we can do that plus allll the family photos in 30 minutes! I vote let’s do one of those 1st looks and knock it all out before!” 
Groom: “I agree! I want to hit the cocktail hour before the cocktails get gone. haha!”

*insert evil glares from BOTH moms to them*

Me: “Lovely, you hit the nail on the head! I always say if you’re relying on luck to get you through your wedding day then you don’t need to be getting married!”

*Bride and groom laugh and nod in agreement. Moms look less than amused.*

Me: “Plus the two of you will be so much more relaxed. I mean really if time isn’t an issue after the ceremony I don’t mind not doing a First Look, but the benefits are immense, and BONUS more grooms tear up during private first looks!!” I continued to explain  “I’ve observed, and deleted, sooo many images of the Groom as his bride walks in, when all eyes are on her gliding in, he’s repeatedly glancing away…I assume to try to stifle the emotion with so many spectators, instead of letting go and just taking in his bride like we all want him to.  Those are the images I delete FIRST…no Bride wants to see those! Plus when it’s just the two of you, and I’m hidden, you only see each other…no one else to make “obligatory” eye contact with as you pass them down the aisle…and THEN…MY favorite moment…you actually get to hug!  You’re not stifled to only getting to hold hands for a few brief moments before the big kiss and then you’re whisked off to immediate picture frenzy with no time to just HOLD each other…to literally just breathe each other in.”

Groom looking at his Bride to Be:  *I wish I could’ve cloned this fella lovers!  He was truly thinking ahead and using past weddings as a guide…which is RARE for a Groom LOL!!*  ” I would love to just be able to hold you for a few minutes with no one close by. I thought about that in ______’s wedding when they didn’t get any alone time until they got in the car we saran wrapped *he chuckled a sly chuckle*, and I don’t want to just hold your hand for a few minutes the first time I get to see you.”

We chit chatted a few minutes more, they oooo-ed and ahhhhh-ed over my samples, were so excited, nudging each other, putting their bridal party into the pictures they saw, and imagining what their’s would look like…then I was ready for the close…asked them which Collection they wanted to book.

Bride: “I believe we’re settled on…”

Mother of Bride cuts in ” We need to talk about that a bit more actually. We’ll call you tomorrow to let you know what we decide on. Thank you for your time.” and the two mothers rise slowly, glaring at their respective “children” in that “you better be right behind us” stare that only mothers know how to give, and exited.

Years dealing with Momzillas as a planner taught me how to spot them a mile away…and this wedding would have had TWO! I knew at that moment who was controlling this show, and I wanted no part of a Momzilla controlled wedding. Weddings are meant to be fun and beautiful affairs full of smiles, happy tears, and laughter…as embarrassed as this sweet couple was over just a MEETING with a potential vendor I had peace about not taking it. 

The Bride and Groom profusely apologized for their mothers’ actions and “rude interruptions”, to which I reassure them I didn’t take it as such, only that I don’t cater to the parents, no matter who’s paying, but to the actual Bride and Groom and their wishes for THEIR day! They thanked me, assured me they’d be contacting me to book “tomorrow”, and graciously departed the coffee shop.

Now, I may catch flack for that, but trust me I’ve been to, in, and worked enough weddings the last 20 something years that I can recall, to know that the most miserable brides and grooms are the ones who let their parents have total dominion over their day.  Ideas are GREAT, help is WONDERFUL, tight fisted dominion…not so much. Too often you’ll hear them tossing around talk of “vow renewals” in a few years so they can “finally have the day WE wanted!”

In the end the couple emailed me to express their “agony” over not being “allowed” to use me for their big day because the mothers simply wouldn’t pay for me, and sadly they weren’t able to afford the wedding without them….and I was OK with that! Extremely remorseful for the couple, but I was ok!  They lamented both mothers were “adamant” on not budging from a 30 minute after ceremony max for pictures, and NO First Look.  This was NOT a BJP Wedding. 

Why? “That’s business…MONEY LOST!”

Truthfully it’s only money.  Over the years I’ve FINALLY absorbed, and put into practice, all the advice that I’ve paid for, asked for, read, to “Pick your battles, i.e. your clients, carefully, and only work with the ones who FIT your business to the letter.”

I’ve learned too through my studying of God’s word that “luck” has NO place in a wedding…there’s no such thing!  It’s either blessed and ordained by God, or it’s not.  No amount of ritual, ceremony, pomp, tradition, etc… will carry through a bride and groom that’s not already doing great without it!  Harsh? But it’s true.

I’ve sacrificed my standards, and prices, for gigs, for money, in the past (floral, planning, even photography) annnnnd…drum rolllllll…….I was MISERABLE! I had to partake, design, coordinate, MEDIATE, and CAPTURE miserable people…and make it appear wonderful…never again.  

The past few years of full time professional photography only selecting the clients that truly want and FIT BJP have been THE most wonderful years of my life…and THE BEST WEDDINGS!!! 

So, to all the Brides and your fellas out there, if at all possible, stick to your guns and have YOUR day…YOUR way!  Pick vendors who match your personalities and style.  And above all be willing to bend, but don’t break.  

Know that the pictures (and video) are literally the ONLY thing you’ll have when it’s all over, and when we tell you we need a “good three hours” to capture that “Pinterest Inspired” wedding of your dreams, it’s not because we want to torture you (we’ll usually wind up with only 2-2.5 hours due to normal wedding day delays anyway) it’s because we know what you won’t remember until you see the images…and THAT’S why we’re there…THAT’S why we “shoot a million pictures”…so you can remember the day when you can’t remember the day….and that takes time! 

Remember: You only get ONE shot (pun intended 😉 ) so do it your way…and to offer some planning advice prepare for at least 3 hours minimum for hitting all portraits before, or 3 hours total for images before and after ceremony, on your big day just for photography! It’ll make your photographer happy too 😉 

Also, if you, your family, and bridal party crew want to get to the reception in record time, a first look is the best, most intimately sweet, way to do that. If you’re game, and have the reception time, for an hour or a little more, if your bridal party and families are large, then by all means go traditional…just remember that those “natural light” “golden sunset” Pinterest poses you’re in LOOOVE with don’t happen in the dark 😉  Plan and schedule your ceremony accordingly, and consult your photographer for the best ceremony time for after portraits.

To all the photographers and vendors out there: I encourage you to find your ideal clients…only work with the couples who FIT you…your style, your beliefs, your prices, but most of all your personality…and stick with them. They’ll love you more for it, and you’ll love your job so much more for it!

Happy Wedding Planning lovers! Now, enjoy a few of my all time favorite images of Grooms seeing their gals for the first time…

That First Look...
That First Look…
That HUG!  It's what dreams are made of!
That HUG! It’s what dreams are made of!  See more here.
And we LIVE for that "She's MINE" smile ;)
And we LIVE for that “She’s MINE” smile 😉  See more here.
If you give her a twirl we'll all love you forever!
If you give her a twirl we’ll all love you forever!
THIS….  See more here.
Easily the wedding I shed the most tears at! Can you see FEEL happy they are!?
Easily the wedding I shed the most tears at! Can you see FEEL happy they are!?  See more here.
The GRIN says it allll...even if the auto-dim glasses did hide his tears ;)
The GRIN says it allll…even if the auto-dim glasses did hide his tears 😉 See more here.


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