How Being a Bride Made Me a Better Wedding Photographer
If you’ve been following along, you may have noticed my name change + that I was absent for about 10 days in October. On October 14, 2016, John + I got married! Then, we spent a week in Walt Disney World honeymooning during Epcot’s annual food + wine festival. It was a fabulous break from reality, and now I’m back to talk about how being a bride makes me a better wedding photographer.
My Wedding Wasn’t Perfect
Now, I preach a lot of talk along this topic. No wedding is perfect, and the thing that matters is that at the end of the day you get to marry the love of your life and start a marriage/family/life together. No matter what else goes wrong, that’s the point + that always happens. Nearly every wedding I’ve shot has been running behind, and some had family drama or breakouts or other “disasters,” and I’ve always reminded my brides and potential clients throughout the whole planning process to keep their focus on the big picture – getting married – and not get bogged down by the hiccups along the way.
I thought I had planned the perfect timeline, and all morning we had been ahead of schedule for hair + makeup. I had one bridesmaid bring some breakfast foods, another brought plenty of water for us all, and my brother delivered lunch. I wasn’t nervous, everything was going fabulously, and I was well fed + hydrated (most brides forget to eat!).
But suddenly, when I zipped up the dress, I felt sooo sick. Dizzy, nauseous, couldn’t stand in one position for too long – of course, right before the bulk of the photos. I had done everything I could to avoid this feeling. I didn’t want to be one of those brides that forgets to eat and then passes out. I wasn’t even nervous about the wedding! I was so mad. All I wanted to do was go take pictures with my groom, but I couldn’t stand up for long. My beautiful, cathedral veil that I had been dying to wear was pulling on my head and making the dizziness worse, so I ended up not wearing it at all.
Later, I would find out that I couldn’t have prevented the dizziness at all. John and I were both pretty sick for the first few days of the honeymoon. And, when I took off the bra and changed into my reception dress (which did not have a tight bodice), I was much more comfortable and was still able to dance the night away!
If I had been the photographer, I would have been urging the bride to take care of herself and not worry about how on schedule we were or how many portraits we had time for. And my photographer (Lisa Mims, who was amazing by the way! more on her later…) told me to take my time, and my mother lied to me about what time it was when I asked (I think we only ended up being 15 minutes or so late?).
But, at the moment, before the ceremony when I was wondering if I was even going to be able to stand up long enough to get married, I was SO disappointed. Nothing anyone could have said would have made that better. I now know the horrible feeling of a wedding day not going your way. But. What I also know is that it’s so temporary. It is just a spec in a sea of memories I have about my wedding day. It’s minor background story that leads up to John and I having an intimate, seated ceremony where John’s sisters read me his vows (since my poor groom had lost his voice) while I held his hands and he looked back into my eyes – something we wouldn’t have shared if he would’ve been reading from a paper. Every accidental issue added to the story of our wedding, and I wouldn’t change it.
My First Look
I also have been preaching first looks to my brides this year. It’s a moment to share with your groom before your wedding, which serves two purposes. First, is that it’s private. A wedding day is like a show – you won’t get privacy and conversation together the rest of the day. It’s going to fly by and your memories of it may even be blurred (I literally don’t remember the vows or words to the songs, just that it was all happy and amazing). It’s also a way to optimize your timeline to get great portraits without rushing or holding up your guests before dinner.
I NEEDED that first look. When I started feeling ill, I couldn’t wait to get down there and see John. I needed to tell him how frustrated I was. I needed to lean on my friend. Bridesmaids, vendors, moms, etc are great, but they don’t know me like he does, and there was no one else I wanted to talk to. The relief was amazing. When I look back at those photos, I see us laughing and joking and him holding me sweetly. You would never know I wasn’t feeling well. (In fact, I’d say that of the whole gallery. Fabulous job by Lisa!) When it was just John and I, I felt happy and excited and okay for a while. I don’t think I would have been able to calm my nerves enough to start walking down that aisle if I hadn’t have seen him first. I highly, highly recommend the first look. (About half my brides this year didn’t do a first look, and their weddings were just as lovely. If they were incredibly nervous, it didn’t show!)
We Scrapped The List!
I had been list-crazy in my wedding planning. I had a spreadsheet of photo combinations. I knew who I wanted in what photos and when. I had covered every relationship, and thought I needed all those photos. But, we scrapped the list. I was too dizzy to stand there for portrait after portrait.
The two best decisions of my wedding were having a coordinator and hiring Lisa Mims. Kellie Minter of Allure Weddings – our wedding coordinator – kept in touch with all the vendors, decorated for us, got the groomsmen to be ready on time, got us water and ice when we needed it, paid our vendors at the end of the day, directed family and friends to the right place – did just about everything that would have stressed me out that day. I was completely taken care of.
And Lisa. Oh my. She got my spreadsheet-crazy emails and responded enthusiastically. On the big day, she came with her printed list ready to get all the shots I requested. When we scrapped the list (literally in the middle of portraits – her assistant was calling people’s names and I was saying “let’s skip these”), she went with the flow. In the moment, I was still frustrated with myself for not being well enough to get these photos done – thinking this is the only time for a while that we’ll all be together and get this opportunity. But, we got the important ones, and what means more to me now are the pictures of my friends and family all together at the reception. While I may not have had everyone stand together and pose for a picture, I still got all the photos from my list. It just didn’t look the way I planned 🙂
I will never look at reception photography the same way again. I had never been a bride, so I just didn’t know how much those photos could mean to someone. The first dance, cake cutting, and parental dances are all photos you expect to turn out. But Lisa delivered a gallery full of meaningful pictures of our guests. I told her that I wish she could view them all from my perspective – knowing the people and their stories and what they mean to us and each other. The photos of my brother and his girlfriend dancing, and of grandma holding the youngest of the great-grand babies. My college friends all huddled around me, and John’s two best friends with their wives/fiances celebrating with us. I always thought the middle of the reception was the most dull part of the night as a wedding photographer, but looking back at my wedding photos, those are the ones I will cherish most. This whole experience has inspired me to be a better story-teller and not take routine parts of the job for granted. I am so glad we hired Lisa, and I just love looking over our photos.
I want to end by posting one image. When I think about the wedding photos that mean a lot to me, I think of this one. To my family, it means something a little extra – especially this year. But, it is just a fabulous shot of John’s parents enjoying the very end of our reception. How funny – that my favorite photo from my whole wedding isn’t even of me or John at all. I would never have expected that.