You're not supposed to have a family member shoot your wedding. Everyone knows this. There are a whole host of reasons for this, ranging from "the family should enjoy the wedding!" to "don't mix business with pleasure" to "how can you take the photos if you're IN them?" For just as many good reasons--mainly a sense of pride that no one could possibly do as good a job for my brother and sister-in-law as I could--I shot my brother's wedding despite all this.
I'm so glad Joel & Amanda wanted me to shoot their wedding, because I learned a TON about what it feels like to be on the inside. With most clients, I show up on the morning of the wedding, and I feel like I'm there with them for all of it. Being with my family for several days leading up to my brother's wedding proved to be extremely eye opening.
I go to a LOT of weddings. I've photographed TONS of weddings since I got started in 2009. We're talking about a wedding every two weeks these days. This is the first family wedding I've been to since I've been a professional, and I want to share with you some of the things I learned from this unique perspective:
1) By the time you get to the actual wedding day everyone is so TIRED. Also, a lot of the significant events have already happened. The family bonding (especially if you're lucky enough to bond like we do) takes place in the less formal moments. The most meaningful (to me) events of my brother's wedding week involved toasting a small group of close friends and family members gathered round my dad's backyard tool shed late at night, and the toasts at the rehearsal dinner.
2) It's about the people, not the stuff. This seems like it would go without saying, but in the wedding industry, we have a tendency to focus our social media and marketing on things that appeal to the masses, STUFF fills this void perfectly. The perfect gold-and-teal chevron striped table runner, peonies and ranunculus, paper straws*. I've seen them on every blog out there. Details are gorgeous, and they're important, and they tell a story about the couple's personalities, but what moves me, HANDS DOWN, is the photos of the interaction between people who matter to eachother. As a photographer, it's important to remember to shoot for the client, and not just for the port. In my brother's wedding, I had the distinct advantage of knowing who everyone was to everyone else, so these important moments were easy for me to observe and capture. In weddings since Joel's, I've paid special care to notice interactions around me and try to capture them even if I will never understand their significance.
3) Dancefloor photos--if you must get them, get them early in the night. I spent countless hours in the early years of my career fine-tuning my ability to get sharp, colorful, well lit photos of people dancing. (it's so hard to do well in low lighting. I carry around a large flash unit with a diffusion umbrella on it. I find it charming when guests attempt to take phone photos in the same conditions and eventually give up.) It's hilarious to capture anonymous wedding guests I've just met three drinks in and frozen mid chicken dance, or playing the air flute, or some other crazy move. The thing is, when I saw photos of people I loved looking a little bit ridiculous, I realized that these were far and away the least important and least meaningful photos of the whole day. The only dancefloor photos I liked of my friends and family were the ones of the first dances (father daughter, mother son, etc) and those taken within the first hour of the reception. The later hours owing their decrease in composure and aesthetic appeal to the wiles of the open bar, as is invariably to be expected. I expected the crescendo of alcohol consumption to result in funnier dance floor photos as time went on, this phenomenon has never failed to escape my notice at my previous weddings. What I did learn, was that the resulting photos didn't add to the story of the day.
Joel and Amanda's wedding week was truly amazing. Like...take me back RIGHT NOW amazing. We all keep talking about how incredible the whole thing was, and how we're so lucky to have the best family and friends, and family members who are more like friends, and friends who are more like family, in the entire world. There were many late nights spent bearing our souls, and bonding in the Ted Shed. A few people were even invited to sign the wall. You know who you are. We would have been welcoming Amanda into the family, but we all had counted her as a sister long before the wedding week.
Shout out to the people who made this thing happen: Amanda, Joel, Emme, Will, Hanna, Cindy, Ted, Salley, Linda, Mike, Zach, Katie, Alessi, Dave, Nick, Michael, Reed, Mikey, Clay, Miranda, Lyndsey, Lyndsey's adorable baby, Kaylee, Kelly, Chrissy, Donna, Talmadge, Dani, Colby, Emma, Brady, Garret, Monica, Zelda, The good people of 624 Kitchen and Catering, the City of Tulsa for being willing to block off a street downtown, The Mayo Hotel Staff, and the people who invariably slipped my mind while making this list.
Weddings (especially this one) are the absolute BEST and I'm so grateful to get to do what I do.
*A note about paper straws. WTF? You're putting them in liquid! They melt! Your drink now tastes like cardboard. Ew. Amanda did NOT use paper straws, btw.