HOW TO PLAN A PHOTOGENIC WEDDING: PART III: HOW TO BE A STELLAR WEDDING GUEST
At this point in my career I have planned or helped plan a dozen weddings, and have been the pinch wedding coordinator at another dozen or more. No, this is not included in my list of services, but as the photographer I often have the best view of the wedding as a whole… especially on the wedding day. If someone is missing their flowers or an important family member has gone MIA, I’m usually the first to notice.
This year a common theme I’ve noticed at every wedding I’ve been to, is the importance of the guests.
Let me give you some perspective, especially if you haven’t planned a wedding in the last decade.
Weddings have become a melting pot of cultural traditions, pinterest ideas and quirks special to the couple. People spend hours of their lives… and sometimes years, planning what they expect will be the best and biggest party they ever throw. Couples spend tons of money and time and energy.
Fast forward to a few months before the wedding. You receive an invitation. Women are excited to have an excuse to dress up and attend a party. Men… well they get excited if there’s an open bar, normally.
You look at your calendar, decide if you can rsvp, and respond to the invitation. Now the day of the wedding rolls around, and you just haven’t had a great day, or you really want to catch up on a tv show or Netflix series. So, you decide not to go.
Please don’t think I’m climbing up on a soapbox here, because I’m as guilty as anyone. My introverted nature but love of big events has put me in this position countless times. I RSVP, and then my introverted nature intervenes hours before the wedding and I convince myself I shouldn’t go for one reason or another.
I submit to you that this is incredibly selfish.
We can assume that the bride and groom invited people they love, people they sincerely want to celebrate with. But I didn’t go because I was afraid I’d get stuck at the singles table, or I forgot to eat lunch and don’t feel well, or I’d rather go country dancing.
What I didn’t think about on those occasions, was the effort that went into the wedding. The money that a new couple probably could use for something else, but they’ve chosen to throw a great party so I could come rejoice in their union with them.
And now I feel like a horrible friend for an RSVP that I didn’t honor.
I get that things happen. your car breaks down, your kids are sick, your husband had the worst day at work and you need to stay home to comfort him. But I urge you to really weigh weather or not ‘I’m tired’ is a valid excuse for essentially dishonoring the invitation that was extended to you.
So you make it to the wedding. And if you are like 80% of the population under 45, you will spend over half of your time on your phone.
This is frustrating for everyone involved in a wedding. The bride is trying to get her cousins to pay attention to the photographer so they can get through family photos and get to the reception. The photographer misses the golden shot during the first kiss because an aunt stepped right into her shot with her DSLR complete with built-in flash. The flower girl is camera shy and freaks out on her way to the altar because every guest on the Isle is shoving their phone in her face to get a photo. The groomsmen have all gotten intoxicated before the ceremony and look like overripe tomatoes. I’m not making this up… I’ve personally witnesses these and many more situations.
Say you’re a conscientious guest, and you leave your phone in your purse… but you’re the aunt of the groom and you continually wander off during family photos, or you let your kids run wild during the reception and they trip the bride’s father during his dance with his baby girl or cause a scene in the middle of a toast. Again… all things that I’ve witnessed.
I’ll stop beating around the bush: this day isn’t about you. it’s not about me. It’s about the bride and groom, and if every guest would remember to arrive on time (or early, heaven forbid), then things could start on time. If all family members would just pay attention and follow instructions, family pictures would take half the time and you could get back to the reception sooner. If all members of the wedding party could refrain from becoming intoxocated, there would be a fewer ashamed brides too embarrassed to introduce their friends.
There is a disaster at every wedding. Some are small, but some become horrible memories for the couple. If we would all just remember to be respectful and to honor the bride and groom, there wouldn’t be half as many wedding disasters.
And yes, show up! I basically cancelled my wedding because I’d photographed so many this year where half the guests who RSVP’d didn’t show. And I’m really glad I did, but pretty depressed that this is the predictable trend. Pretend every invitation is for your sibling’s wedding, and let’s try to make special events special again.
P.S. – Sit close to the altar and the isle. If there are 100 people at a wedding, but everyone sits as close to the back as they can, it looks like 2 dozen people showed up in the photos because empty chairs are front and center. Nobody is going to call on you to answer a question, this is not a classroom. Sit close to the action, please!!!