I feel after the number of weddings I've photographed lately, I'm becoming somewhat of an expert on appropriate wedding behavior. I've actually photographed many more weddings than I've ever attended as a guest my entire life.
I had a blast at weddings when I was a kid. There was a time when every wedding was a major social event for the whole community. There were usually more than a thousand guests, it lasted all day with a big long ceremony (and a big long train on the dress) with a barbecue dinner, a dance with a live band, and keg after keg of Lone Star beer. As a kid I ran around the venue with the other kids -- who we'd never met before and would probably never meet again but they were our best friends for that night only. We'd sneak behind the stage and get into trouble or find secret rooms at the venue with things like pianos and chalk boards. The cool kids were the kids who were "in the wedding" and if the bride spoke to any of us it was like we'd reached celebrity status.
Today there are fewer big community events in weddings, but they can still get pretty big. Usually they run around 100-300 guests and the venues are much more elegant than the old church school gymnasiums that used to host them. Wedding behavior has changed as well including the old tradition that you had to stay until the bride and groom left or you'd be thought quite rude. I've noticed many of the older guests still hold onto that tradition and often look pretty miserable hanging around until midnight while the younger generations party on the dance floor.
I know I'm not Miss Manners, but I thought it might be helpful to spread the work a little about some modern wedding etiquette that I feel needs mentioning. Are you ready? Here we go!
Rule of Modern Weddings #1: If you RSVP that you're going to be there. Please be there! Nothing is more frustrating for a bride than empty tables and food that she has to pay for that nobody (meaning you) is eating. There are no refunds for no-shows. If you don't want to go or think you won't be able to, just decline the invite.
Rule of Modern Weddings #2: Leave the bride alone before the wedding unless you're invited into the bridal room. She's stressed enough without every relative and friend she's ever known poking their head into the dressing room to ask "are you nervous?" Hold your congratulations until later.
Rule of Modern Weddings #3: Let the photographer do her job. Can I hear an Amen?! I need to let the world in on a little secret: I've already been paid. That's right. I've already cashed the check and probably spent the money on groceries by the time the wedding rolls around so you're not saving the happy couple any money by jumping in front of me to steal my shot of the bouquet toss or shooting over my shoulder during the formal portraits. A lot of people think "Oh, I'll get this shot or take these photos and give them to the couple as a gift from me so they won't have to pay the photographer for them." No such luck, Uncle Bob. You're actually doing them no favors. They want me front and center taking those shots because, as I've mentioned, they've already paid for them. They've probably looked through lots of photography websites and interviewed several photographers looking for just the right person to capture just the right images from their day. Thanks a lot, Uncle Bob.
Rule of Modern Weddings #4: You know there's always going to be formal photo time after the ceremony. That's just the way it is 99% of the time. So when the ceremony is over, unless you're part of the family that's supposed to stay for pictures, just leave to the reception. Just go. There will be time to congratulate the couple later. Seriously, go.
Rule of Modern Weddings #5: Put the cell phone away for a little while. Please. I'm not just talking about the annoying ring tone that always goes off during the ceremony. Although that's pretty bad too. I'm talking about the texting, and the games, and the texting that goes on hour after hour during a wedding celebration. I can't tell you how many times I've circled the room looking for shots of happy guests interacting with each other only to find table after table after table of guests with their heads down, their fingers working out their feverish text messages. Do you really need to share with your BFF another random tidbit from your day? "OMG, I just totally burped." Put down the phone and get to Number 6 and....
Rule of Modern Weddings #6: Just dance! Get off your rear, and hit the dance floor. When the bride and groom and father of the bride and mother of the groom have finished their dances, the floor is open. Please use it. This is one reason why children are so wonderful. They aren't shy about dancing. Do you really want to be out-danced by a 7-year-old? Show us your moves!
Rule of Modern Weddings #7: If you do dance (and drink), don't wear a short miniskirt. When you go low, low, low, low, low -- it shows! You can share your underwear to the world in another venue on another day. Not a wedding, please.
Rule of Modern Weddings #8: If you do drink and get obnoxious, leave the vendors alone. Don't try to take the camera from the photographer, don't try to hijack the DJ or tell the band to loan you their guitars so you can "show them how it's done." Don't ask the bartender to clock out early so you can handle it from there. And as good a driver as you think you are, please don't try to take the keys from the limo driver. And please oh please, don't drive your own car either.
Weddings are fun. They can be good clean fun, or good raunchy fun. It's all good. I look forward to hundreds more!
Lisa On Location Photography