BIG BUSINESS


WEDDINGS ARE BIG BUSINESS

It is a multi-billion dollar industry and it’s players and shooters are composed of all types of people; Some with integrity and some without; Some with the latest and greatest new gear and some with old gear; Some with experience and a following, some with one name or notch on the belt and that was a relative.  Many have plans for the long run and building a solid business, and some with the weekend extra cash in mind and survival. 

A good portion have increased their knowledge and proficiency base through training seminars and apprenticeship and a few just made it through Popular Photography devoting much of their time to the equipment ads. 

I once answered a blog post that someone had asked “Heavens! What on earth did those poor wedding couples do for thousands of years before the invention of all these rules, customs, traditions, electronic music and photography? 

I replied, It was far simpler in the old days. “They enjoyed themselves… roasted a pig or a cow, swapped a few head of cattle, fed everybody, and stayed married for the rest of their lives till death did them part (they didn't live as long) and in some cultures never re-married. 

Then it became a business. Photographers, musicians, hall owners, dress designers, witch doctors, planners, consultants, advisors, relatives, and the clergy put their two cents in one at a time… total of $1.68 and ruined things... 

In the first scenario the loser was the pig or the cow. In the second scenario, the loser is the bride and groom, everybody else makes out.  So we’ll look at it from the Photography standpoint, the other parts of the WEDDING are complex enough to warrant their own website and we call it part two.  The most important part of the equation is not what you think, it’s what you know. Lets see what a Wedding really is... 


PSYCHOLOGY OF A WEDDING
Weddings are truly special events. They are literally the changing of one’s relationships. The new structure is cemented by vows and promises of love and devotion. This not only involves the participants, known as the Bridal Party, but all the members of the two families are now bonded (sometimes only temporarily and with really cheap glue) by matrimonial conduct and a little love, lots of sex, quick kids and a divorce when something new comes along.

If you have been asked to shoot a wedding....consider first a few steps to ascertain you know what you are doing.  So figure out how you got there.  Something usually starts with the Brides side. She asks you.  No one in their right mind offers such responsibility with no gain unless they are nuts. And it is usually accepted by someone who hopes to gain experience or the thrill of being important, or thinks very highly of their own skills. 

Ask yourself. “ Why Me”, What divine providence placed you in the center of the universe for this couple taking the vows? Was it your relationship with the newlyweds to be, or did they approach you because of your photographic prowess or knowledge? Is it a case of economics?  “Why me” is always a good question. You might be asking yourself that later. Thank them for thinking of you in their hour of need, it’s not your hour of need. This should be a clue and bells should be going off.  If you didn’t understand this paragraph, please look up the expression “you have been had”. So we have to understand where you stand in this equation. Dry land or up to your ears in water…hot water. 

If you go ahead with shooting a Wedding, read and consider all of the following. It is an overview of a situation you are about to participate in and explains some of the consequence. I have seen beginners simply doing a friend a favor create a situation they could of easily avoided. Since I teach this game, make that a lot of situations I have seen that should of been avoided. It wasn’t that the photographer wasn’t talented and could with the program mode today get images but he wasn’t up to the situation and was easily overwhelmed. 


PROS HAVE TO HANDLE UNIQUE SITUATIONS
You learn from experience. I interviewed one of the top names in the business and asked him what it was like, the first few jobs. He said “it’s one of the few times in my life, I was sweating, had a dry throat and an upset stomach all at the same time”. Then I got really nervous when I got out of my car and walked into the Church. 

I know that feeling. I have seen the good, a baby born of the sister of the Bride beginning the big move at the reception, it was a girl less than two hours later, a tad preemie but healthy. And “the look”, the beam in a woman’s eye on that special day when dreams are fulfilled and plans have come to fruition. It’s an emotional kick in the butt, a great ride for the Bride... when all six horses are in rhythm…but...

The DARK side of the force, like the trauma in Star Wars, can appear from nowhere.  There have been heart attacks; several Grooms or the Bride passed out cold or inebriated.  It's more common than you think. Emotions run high and it effects people different ways. Brides emotionally shot and numb minutes before show time, and all of a sudden wake up and go bonkers.  And the no shows. Those hurt.

Once, the professional drunk father (years of practice as an active alcoholic) of the bride passed out cold in the aisle. The Priest who knew him all too well (and his problem) let him lay there till the end of the ceremony. You don’t interrupt this Priests ceremony. He knew his flock.  

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 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 after it was all over.

I managed to do the formals, then I finished the wedding in 35MM. The Bride whom I had known well told me she has never spoken to her father since that day. It seems that chronic alcoholism was a family issue. That’s sad. He went to the grave never knowing how much he hurt his daughter. It's sad but abuse tends to show at these occasions due to stress.  


THE REALLY UGLY 
Occurs when something goes awry and the Brides eyes form slits and some reptilian creature is born. Hence I wrote what is called today, Bridezilla.  My article, a long, long time ago was originally called the “Devil Wore Black”  almost thirty years ago. I wrote it for the many amateurs who thought wedding photography is easy. It’s just that some of us make it look easy. But we never leave the house without TUMS or ROLAIDS. Here are some of the legal tips from the Photographer’s Standpoint.


RULES OF ENGAGEMENT and SOME POINTS OF LIGHT

Make it as clear as a bell, you are their Photographer and the BRIDE is the sole boss at the Wedding, regardless of who is writing the check. Her wishes are the ones that count. 


The latest legal contracts and agreements for weddings stresses and reinforces that during the time and at the venues of the wedding, I am the sole professional Photographer there. 

Thus, this reduces legalities to only two people if it comes to that. You and the Bride, other parties are listened to, but don’t count. Learn this point well and spell it out in WRITING. That’s the only thing that counts and wins in COURT.

It’s a two way street and as long as I have NO interference, I have NO objections to the other folks shooting pictures. This is a happy compromise, for all parties. To tell them no one else can take pictures are foolish and in some cases can cost you the job. 

The giving part is you will make sure the guests get pictures if they work with you. Explain it from a standpoint of cooperation, not one of starting a conflagration or bushfire you have to put out later.

You are the insurance agent, not the town bully. Photographers are starting to charge by time rather than exposures because all weddings drag as adjustments are made and “going over” is part of the game. At no time lose control of what has to be done.

You were hired to do the job and not to have to run interference with Uncle Herbert. Especially after Herbert has had a few. Uncles sometimes do this. That’s because Uncles are fathers too. And it’s the Mothers that planned this shindig.
 

The key is you are the one who is responsible and that should be clear to the Bride that you are the only and official photographer for the occasion. It is not meant as a power play, it is meant to protect the Bride’s interest. Things happen quickly at Weddings especially today with all the booze, coke, meth, some grass and most good photographers can handle this ever changing situation.
 
You prefer that everyone with cameras please respond to you as to when they can take their pictures as in the case with most weddings there is a schedule to adhere to. This will make things easier especially when a wedding is running behind schedule as almost everyone for me has in past forty years.. Brides are expected to be late and it is well within their rights. Trust me.