A VERY BIZARRE BUSINESS


ENCOUNTERS
It can be bizarre at times, there will be lots more on this subject, including relationships with mother-in-law’s, ex-husbands and wives which sometimes explode at weddings. Rule one is at a wedding there are no rules, anything can happen.

But briefly a few points of light. Just a short sample of what we will discuss and to show you how fast you can get in trouble. Just ask Captain Piccard, just when things were going well, he had a bit too much of that Romulan Wine and almost drove Federation Starship 1701 into an asteroid belt.  

The problem is with new guys is that they don’t have a learning curve for disaster so they don’t see the hurricane, tornado, heat seeking missiles coming.  The most common is rambunctious behavior by the groom’s friends and invited guests who think a wedding is a good place to act like the stern end of a donkey.
 

BOOZE CONSUMPTION  -  Prenuptial booze consumption, “methamphetamine, crack, designer drugs and weed” go a long way in disrupting things. Out of control wilding.  More common than one thinks.   One problem rare but I have seen it twice is when some of the participants and even members of a band or Disk Jockey got too involved with the Wedding party.   Possibly edged on by some of the bridesmaids with incredible cleavage  who found the groomsmen boring.  Emotions run high and stupid things get said, accelerated by liquid refreshments and the 1959 Chateau LeFart Cabernet suddenly turns into a Whiskey Shot contest. 

OVERCONFIDENCE  -  And the biggest problem the new shooter faces might just be overconfidence.  They are so hyped up with their newfound toys and minor successes that technology affords that they have nothing to fall back on.  Then they get to a church with NO FLASH RULES, or a room with low glass reflective chandeliers and they fall apart. Lots of bad picture and a deep feeling of failure.

When I learned to shoot weddings, I went out with a pro for almost four months, four different pros to observe, grasp and learn to gain something from each of them.  They each had a style and other than the required shooting for the albums did things differently.  But more important was learning the signs when things were about to get crazy.

MY POINT  -  Again, the newcomer hasn’t had a disaster yet to learn from. For some reason, they will be persistent and think they can pull it off.  And cameras are notorious for shutters failing, batteries coming apart; strobes failing or have runaway problems.  Even the pro stuff.  It’s happened to me several times and I am a nut about preparation.  But one cannot prepare for the unknown.

Trained as a pilot my backups are on standby and ready to go.  But the killer is usually when someone has a lack of experience and how to react when things do go bad out of their environment.  Stepping into an elaborate wedding problem is like a snow bunny or intermediate  skier tackling the run called K2 at Hunter Mountain, New York State years ago. 

Like a jerk and maybe too much Glug (a concoction served in New England of Apple cider, booze and served warm) in me, I skied it once well, kinda, I got off the lift, took it easy, I snowplowed, fell head over heels and a magnificent crash after going airborne south of a deep pop up mogul.  

Knowing it was just too much for my skill level, I reverted to two feet and walked in some places, decided those rocks and trees could kill me and never went back , taking the intermediate trails instead.  

New England skiing is ice skiing and not on those beautiful cascades out west, K2 was above my skill level.  It was a learning process and I did not want to commit suicide.  In 1998 both Sonny Bono and Michael Kennedy both found trees in their way and died.  In a collision between a tree and a human the tree usually comes out ahead.

 

INSTRUCTION, and TRADITIONS, CUSTOMS, LUNACY!  -  For the new photographer learning about weddings read as much as you can, and it couldn’t be easier than going to the web.   Look under Wedding planning, wedding photographers, and wedding murders and strange events that took place.  

Another source of Wedding consulting stems from the bloggers who habit a group like www.etiquettehell.com more like a conglomeration of Dear Abby enthusiasts but usually they hit the nail on the head when it concerns human and in-human behavior.

Many traditions, customs, and other acts appearing to be totally irrelevant bordering stupidity to you are very important and critical for the impression the Bride wants to make on her day.   This is a huge and emotional time with extensive preparation and tasking for anyone to bear. Sometimes in the woods, the Bears or Jaguars are no problem; it’s the Diamondback Rattlesnake or Black Mamba you should look out for.  More later. 

Brides spend sometimes a few hundred dollars on their day getting everything perfect and in some cases, lots of time in preparation.  I have a friend who has videoed 100's of weddings and wrote a piece entitled the Seven Signs of Marital Disasters. 

THE MOST COMMON SEVENTH SIGN  -  One of his pet signs is the celebration of the sharing of cake.  I can tell you, the groom picked the wrong time to act like a kid.He thought it was cool, she didn't.  Nothing more needs to be said.   

This was not staged and the shots speak for themselves. She advised him not to do this and he did. He got more than he bargained for.   And less for longer than he thought.   He thought it was cool, she didn't.  Nothing more needs to be said.

This was not staged and the shots speak for themselves. She advised him not to do this and he did. He got more than he bargained for. And less for longer than he thought.

Too often, with a frequency that will amaze you I hope to share with you intimate little happenings that made some Weddings stand out from others.  I have been privileged to have seen much of it, and heard it all from people who spent years in the industry. 


MMA MARRIAGE  -  have witnessed wedding attendees punching each other out over a bridesmaid who they were both enamored with due to the cleavage on her bridal party dress.  Bridal party dresses have more pushup than a Marine Corps drill Sargent.  Some weddings have all the ingredients of a two-step dance hall on Friday night.  People in costume, drinking, having a cause, jealousy and ass-grabbing.  Boys will be boys and booze brings out the best in them.


BABIES AND CLOCKS  -  Babies and excitement tend to merge and one Bridesmaid barely made it to the hospital when the I do’s timed perfectly to the babies’ internal clock.  It was 5.8 pounds of joy less than an hour and 40 minutes after they arrived, he arrived, close, too close. Maybe the excitement made things happen.  I have witnessed the beauty of spontaneous birth and it quite a unique experience, all eight pups did well.


THE WORST  - nearly tripped over the father of the Bride passed out drunk, flattened on the main aisle floor of a Catholic Church and the Bishop, a close friend of the family, never skipped a beat, even blessing the drunk as he laid snoring on the floor.      

Holy water over Glen Livet, the drunk, at least he had good taste.  His daughter didn’t think so.  At that point, several folks tried to help me carry him out of the way. He got a little violent with all those hands on him, took a swing caught me a good one and ripped the front sync socket clear off a Mamiya C330 twin lens. 

I made a trigger from a paperclip for the synch.  I did the formals with an open shutter and a paper clip.  I had a toasted finger even with a bandaid over it, after it was all over.  I managed to do the formals, then I finished the wedding in 35MM. 

The tragedy - The Bride whom I had known well told me she has never spoken to her father since that day.  It seems alcohol was a family problem and she had sworn to the family if this second marriage for her, after getting rid of her first drunk husband and found a good man to care for her and two kids was interfered with, that would be the last straw.

It seems that chronic alcoholism won, and that’s sad. She never spoke to her family again.  He went to the grave never knowing how much he hurt his daughter.  It’s abuse sometimes tends to show at these occasions due to stress.  


THE BEST - NICE FOLKS  -  At another occasion you get a chance to do a couple like this and it makes it all worthwhile.  These are nice folks and it was a great personal and friendly wedding.    Love was in the air at this one.

Couple years back Black and White was the rage, today its Photoshop, with gimmicks and over-saturation. Years later I met them and they are very happy.

This is what it is all about, it’s one day in the beginning of a lifetime spent together. The day should represent all that is good. Expressions are everything  and the process is secondary,  the eyes even in a Black and White tell the whole story...


FAITHLESS  -  One of the most bizarre wedding stories, years ago, true since it happened to a good friend, stems from being an actual case of the Bride thanking the Best Man above and beyond the call of duty for one Brides last fling (bang-bang).  She was thanking him in a reclined way. 

About a half hour before the ceremony in the back seat of a car in the parking lot.   They got caught by the other photographer.  

I guess she thought it was all right since she wasn't married yet.  In some places this would be construed as twelve-gauge news.  In some country’s her head would have been used in a polo tournament.  

The groom announced her adventure in front of family and friends at the event with great admonition and the Wedding was cancelled, the reception became a party since it was paid for, but the marriage never took place.  Had this been occurred within my circle of friends, in a few days the Wedding would have been followed by two funerals. 

My friend married someone else and he is very lucky to have a nice family with a wonderful wife and a beautiful, intelligent daughter.  Sometimes things work out in strange ways.


WEST MEETS EAST  -  One must be flexible and look for the answer not the problem.   What I call differential weddings can invoke race, ethnicity, and religious beliefs.   And again this is something you need to clarify way in advance because it sometimes gets nasty.  Yes, it’s really stupid when people drag their garbage to a wedding but it happens.

For some it never happens but they didn’t cover due 450 plus another fifty what I called casual weddings like I have.  Similar to the Farmers commercial on TV for insurance , I think I have seen it all but tomorrow is another day.

Back in the city of New York, my call sheet said a Catholic Wedding in Queens.  It didn't mention the fact it was a mixed ethnic and religious wedding of Eastern Russian Orthodox ( aka twenty other sub churches)  Vs. the Vatican Catholic persuasion. Close enough you might think, not really.  In some scenarios, not acceptable, but the common denominator was the slight swelling in the Brides belly.  I had this one figured out, except for the attitude of some of the participants.

I got told I would be swimming with fish’s or stuffed into kielbasa if I took pictures of the other side, by either side.  Judging by the bulges in their suits, I think, well I know the Goodfellows were not into Kielbasa, maybe, spicy Italian sausage.

I handled it by bringing in from my car two extra Twin-lens cameras and  ten more rolls of film and bulbs, shot it as two weddings, and as a young Wedding shooter got paid double on that deal.  I will teach you to hold your own in this unique industry. You Improvise, you adapt, and you execute... before you become the executed...


TRAGEDY  -  Another Wedding turned into a very tragic occasion, they took a delayed honeymoon and when I called to deliver the album I was informed the groom had been killed on their honeymoon in a cave diving accident in Florida’s Blue Cave area.  

What a beautiful couple, really nice people and both worked for the same company thus the delayed Honeymoon because of scheduling conflicts.  He had been woking on getting certified for cave diving which is required training to go into certain areas here. 

Unfortunately, it became an insurance war, between families and the Bride and went on for a long time. Many certified cave rescue divers spent three days searching before he was located.   I had been paid up front and a reminder that things happen, you never know and cannot predict things.  That’s why I have policies, and stick with them.   At least what I turned over might have helped, I don’t know.  The word sad doesn’t cover it.

THEN YOU MUST TAKE COMMAND AND CONTROL