How to have a fun and stress-free wedding day

r: A manifesto about what wedding vendors should be. 

I've never worked with a bridezilla. Most of the credit for this goes to the smart, kind, low-drama people I've been lucky enough to have as clients for the last several years. I'd be lying if I denied the fact that a certain personal philosophy of cooperativeness didn't play into it.

Me blending in at a wedding on Lake Michigan 2009 when I still had red hair.

Me blending in at a wedding on Lake Michigan 2009 when I still had red hair.

I'm fortunate to have had to put up with a lot of crap in my day. I'm the oldest of four kids, I have a relentlessly energetic six year old daughter, I've been married for seven years, and before photography I worked at Starbucks, and in retail, bartending, and restaurant management. All of these things (when done successfully) require three things: Patience, Intuition, and Selflessness. These same things apply to working weddings.

Patience is so crucial because weddings never adhere strictly to the schedule we set. I don't care how organized you are, there's always a clueless groomsman or uncle who can't be found at picture time There's always an unexpected delay of some delivery person. There's always a forgotten but crucial item back at the house or hotel room. There's always some out-of-town guest who gets lost on the way. We as vendors MUST anticipate this and be happy to roll with it. Any other attitude and we're just making the day harder on our clients. For me, if we have to move the photos back thirty minutes to wait for grandma to get back from the store, and the formal shots get moved to after the ceremony so what? I'll account for how the light might have changed in that time and pose accordingly. Once I worked with a couple who dreamed of shots in front of the mansion they had rented right at sunset. Unfortunately this was also when their formal dinner was planned. We got all the other photos they wanted before dinner, and then I calculated the exact moment that the sunset would be ideal. We snuck them out of the reception, shot the photos, and they were back to dinner in less than 10 minutes. None of this was planned, but being patient and flexible and thinking on my feet got the couple the exact shot they wanted without having to drastically alter their day. 

In front of the mansion, right at sunset.

In front of the mansion, right at sunset.

Intuition is a must when working with new people all the time. Some couples want to be directed and posed while others want to be silently followed and forget there's a photographer there. I'm always adapting my style to fit what will make my clients the most comfortable. It would be so easy to make clients unbelievably uncomfortable, what, with spending all day by their side, photographing them getting dressed, crying, kissing, seeing every person in the world who is important to them, making the biggest commitment of their lives. I'm constantly looking for cues for when to take charge, when to back off, when to show you a shot on my viewfinder to reassure you that you're looking stunning, when to check in about shots we planned on when we met before the wedding. It is my goal to be completely thorough capturing the memories you're making without ever inserting myself into those memories.

Selflessness is the most difficult quality, and probably the most important. It never escapes my notice that the whole day is about my client. I never leave a wedding (even when the time is up) without checking in with the bride to make sure I've captured everything she wants. I meet with every bride before the wedding to listen to what exactly she wants to get out of her wedding pictures (and I take notes). If I am your photographer, you can expect me to follow you on facebook and Pinterest to learn more about who you are and what you like. I want your photos to be stunning and perfectly executed, even if you just got the idea moments before we shot the photo. I'm kind and polite to all your wedding guests, even the ones with big cameras trying to "help" me do my job. I honestly get the most satisfaction from a client's happiness--rather than from a certain all-too-common arrogance about artistic ability.  

I find it really cliche when people say photography is their "passion." I think that kind of enthusiasm can be an aasset to them personally, but if I were shopping for a photographer, I would be much more interested in photography being their "finely-honed-skill" and to see that service and friendliness and making people look their absolute best is their passion.

I have worked with plenty of wedding professionals who were patient and intuitive and selfless, but I've also worked with plenty who view weddings as the highest price they can charge for the shortest amount of time. You, our clients, are not a commodity, you are amazing people with amazing stories who deserve to be treated with consideration. If I had to describe what makes me different than other photographers, of course I have a certain style of images, but I think this is the key difference: I genuinely like and care for the people I am lucky enough to photograph, and that shows through in my flexible, client-focused style. 

Just as we vendors have all heard the story of the "bridezilla," we know you've all heard the story of the "vendorzilla" no one needs that on their wedding day. 

If you want the most fun, and the least stress and drama on your wedding day, look for the vendors who actually care about you. After all, you're stuck with them all day.