As wedding season is well and truly at its peak I’m sure you’ve been to a wedding this summer. Or if you haven’t you are more than likely to be heading to one in the not too distant future.
Wedding season traditionally began in April and kept going strong until mid-September. However this has now changed with weddings taking place on every day of the week (yes including Mondays) and throughout the year. Making the most of every season this glorious United Kingdom has to offer.
When you are invited to a wedding as a guest although you won’t have jobs to do as the wedding party will have, you will still have to observe some rules of etiquette. Don’t be that guest that everyone talks about for all the wrong reasons!
To be invited to a wedding is a huge honour. And if you accept the invitation be prepared to fall in line with the couple’s plans for their big day. It is their day after all!
Based on real life feedback I’ve had from Brides and Grooms and my own experiences, here are some essential top tips on how to be the best wedding guest at the next wedding you attend…
When you receive an invitation to a wedding RSVP. And do it promptly. If you don’t want to go then politely decline. If you think you may have something else coming in for that date that you’d prefer to go to; then politely decline. The Bride and Groom will have a huge amount of logistical things to work out in a world they don’t inhabit every day! Its hard work and it pushes you to the edge sometimes. Seating plans need to be organised, timings need to be confirmed and most importantly stress levels need to be kept to a minimum!
And if there isn’t a ‘plus one’ on your invitation or your children aren’t invited then don’t turn up with them on the day. RSVP and be delighted to attend as per the invitation or don’t go. Its very simple.
General etiquette seems to have gone out of the window over the past decade. When I was first attending weddings it was drilled into me by my parents that you arrive 30 minutes BEFORE the ceremony start time at the very latest. You are inside the Church or in the wedding ceremony room and seated 15 minutes BEFORE the ceremony starts as a minimum.
I see guests skidding in with moments to spare or even as the Bride arrives. Lets be clear on this; the Bride 99% of the time will not want anyone outside to see her before she makes her entrance.
If you are late and the Bride is outside the church then take a step back and wait. Wait until she is walking up the aisle and then sneak in the back of the Church/ceremony room a good 10 metres behind.
If you arrive after the Bride has made her entrance then do the right thing and wait outside. Wait until they come back out. Don’t interrupt the ceremony.
No jeans! I kid you not.
There are rules when it comes to wedding outfits and its important to observe them. The couple will be looking to their guests to dress up and look the part. It all adds to the magical tone of the day.
Most brides have been dreaming about their special day so why would you want to spoil that for them?
Don’t wear white. Cream, pale pink, pale grey, pale blue are all OK but not white. Even if you’re rocking a fabulous tan.
If you are going to a wedding that has its roots in a different culture also check what you should be wearing colour wise. For example never wear red to an Indian wedding as this is for the Bride.
If there is a dress code; stick to it. This may have been put in place for religious or cultural reasons or it may just be the particular aesthetic the happy couple want, but whatever the reason you need to stick to it.
To be invited to a wedding is a huge honour. And if you accept the invitation then be prepared to fall in line with the couple’s plans for their big day. It is their day after all. And of course if you don’t want to do it then don’t go (see RSVP above).
A gift list takes time and energy (and arguments) to put together. I remember my Husband and I creating our gift list at John Lewis. So many people had asked us about where we were registering and then only a handful bought from the list. What was that all about?
Gift lists these days can take many forms from a contribution to the honeymoon, a charity of their choice, a single big item like a piece of art, or it may be a traditional list of household items. Whatever the couple have chosen, just run with it or decline the invitation.
I love photographing weddings and they are a huge part of my life as a result. The relationships I build with my Clients are incredibly special. Built on mutual understanding and trust. They are ongoing way after the wedding has been and gone.
Weddings bring out the very best and the very worst in people. I have lost count of the number of times I have had to console a bride and calm a groom down because a guest has behaved like a disrespectful jerk.
Weddings are enormous fun. They bring together big groups of old friends. When the champagne starts to flow, don’t forget where you are. This is not the time for a row with your other half and for goodness sake if you do row don’t bring the bride and groom into it. On my wedding day a now ex friend had an almighty row with her husband and he stormed off. I lost a good chunk of time on my own wedding day calming her down, drying her tears, and organising a cab to get her back to her hotel. Selfish doesn’t come close.
There will also be older members of the bride and groom’s families in attendance. Even at low key weddings a considerable amount of money will have been spent. So rein in any madcap ‘fun’ pranks and ideas. Respect the day.
Embrace the traditions of the Bride and Groom and their families if you are encouraged to do so.
If you are at a Greek wedding then dance! Charlotte and I danced at a recent Greek wedding – we loved it and we were the photographers! The fun was infectious!
If you attend a Hindu wedding then ladies try a sari or a lehenga. Gents wear a sherwani rather than a traditional suit.
If you go to a Chinese wedding give your gift of money in a red envelope.
Throw confetti! The number of weddings I have photographed where the number of guests trying to photograph the confetti shot rather than actually getting involved and throwing the confetti to create this magical moment for the couple (which of course the team and I capture perfectly) is getting embarrassing.
There are many many more. Enjoy the day and embrace whatever it throws at you!
Weddings work best when everyone is friendly, happy to chat to people they’ve never met before, and are ready to mingle.
Take yourself out of your comfort zone and chat to people. You know you will always have the bride and groom in common so there is no reason not to chat.
If you’ve been seated next to someone you’d rather not sit next to then stick it out. Do not change the seating plan even if its extremely tempting!
Even if you’re not feeling it do try and radiate happiness and delight for the couple.
The bride and groom might well be feeling the pressure of their big day so do tell them that you’re having the best time!
If you don’t like the venue, bride’s dress, food, other guests… it’s best to keep it to yourself.
For the record; the family below were genuinely having THE BEST TIME EVER!
A few years ago this wasn’t even a thing. My Clients now have to have a ‘social media policy’. Its bonkers. Many of them opt for an ‘unplugged wedding’. This is where they ask for no phones, filming or photographs to be taken. And if this upsets people then take a step back and remember that this has been put in place for a reason.
They want you with them and present. Enjoying the day with them. Not looking at it through a phone.
If you happen to be at a wedding where no guidance has been issued then follow these guidelines:
The things I see and hear as a photographer! Here’s a few funnies and a little insider peak into what my Team and I come up against all the time at weddings…
A few years ago at a wedding one of the guests (the neighbour of the Bride’s parents) was running around photographing everything in sight.
After the ceremony he sauntered up to me and made a wise crack about my kit and how it was far superior to his (as you would expect!) and how it was “hard work this wedding photography lark”. I gently asked him why he was running around taking a million photographs and not just enjoying the day. He told me that he thought I might forget something! Well… it was all I could do not to laugh out loud. If he knew who I was and had bothered to look at my website and the reviews he would know that this wouldn’t be the case.
The Bride and Groom mentioned about half an hour later that the same chap had told them he would be providing them with a CD of their images the following day. They asked for advice on what to say to him as they didn’t want to look at them as they wanted their first memories to be the images I had taken and curated into their Wedding Story for them. You have to question the neighbour’s motive. What was he trying to achieve? Needless to say the images he took weren’t great!
‘Uncle Bob’ is a widely used term in the photography industry as a discrete way to call out a guest who thinks he or she is the unofficial wedding photographer! Its usually a guest with a good camera who is disappointed not to have been asked to photograph the wedding. They always get in the way. They always copy what we do. And again… if you are an ‘Uncle Bob’ please question your motive.
Years ago I photographed the wedding of an old school friend and his gorgeous wife. The Bride’s uncle had been behind me all day trying to copy everything I did that day except for when I had taken the couple off for their portraits. The Uncle (just like the neighbour above) had given the Bride and Groom a CD the following day and of course they had, had a look. They were excited to see their day as would anyone be.
The result was that when they saw their professional images for the first time they had seen a really crappy version already. This Uncle had stolen their magical time when they saw their wedding photographs for the first time. Again you have to look at his motive. Why did he do that? Why would he want to spoil this magical part of the journey for the couple? So that he got his two minutes of plaudits? #selfish
I’ve now lost count of the times I’ve very politely had to gently ask guests to please go away whilst I am taking the bride and groom’s portrait shots. These are critical images for their wedding day and although I appreciate that I make it seem effortless in reality these have taken a lot of preparation.
I’ve scouted the location. I’ve set up lighting/ensured they are in a particular spot to make the most of the light. I’ve coaxed them into position and pose to ensure a breathtaking magical image.
Someone then comes over because they just want to ‘say hello quickly’ to the couple. And then takes a snap over my shoulder with their iPhone or says to me ‘oh I’m just going to take a quick snap’. This happens every single time without fail. Said ‘snap’ immediately gets put up on social media with a caption along the lines of ‘Look at this amazing photograph I’ve taken; plaudits for my creative genius please…’.
Did you pose the couple? No.
Did you scout out the location? No.
Did you ensure the lighting was perfect? No.
Did you creative the overall look and tone of the image based on the above? No.
In other industries this is called plagiarism. The equivalent would be me walking into your office and looking over your shoulder at the concluding slide of a presentation you’d been working on for months. And then walking straight into your boss’s office and saying “hey look what I’ve thought of/created/provided a solution for…”.
The same applies to the smart phone photographer. Firstly don’t bring an iPad to a wedding. It looks like you’re holding up a baking tray when you’re taking photographs!
Keep your phones away when the bride is walking up the aisle. The same for when the bride and groom are walking back down the aisle. They want to see your faces not rectangles of phones. You will also wreck the professional photographs. And before you ask; photographers are photographers. Not retouchers. So no, we won’t be spending hours retouching out you and your mobile phone as you stand firmly planted in the aisle blocking a beautiful key image. We will leave you in the image so that the couple can see what you did! Harsh? Yes. Fair? Absolutely. Just don’t do it! Smart phone images of this scene will not be properly exposed and are rarely in focus. So what’s the point? And are smart phone wedding photographs ever printed or looked at after the day has passed. 99% of the time no. So please think before you go for that shot.
If you are a professional photographer and you go to a wedding just sit back and enjoy it. I leave my pro cameras at home. I’m there as a guest and I intend to be present as a guest and bloody well enjoy the day with the couple. I will probably have a small camera with me in my handbag but to be honest that tends to be used by my Husband who likes to take the odd photograph. Its in my bag because he refuses point blank to carry a man bag!
I photographed a wedding last year where the bride and groom had pro photographers within their guests. They brought their pro cameras with them plus an array of lenses which they carried around and photographed all day. The Bride and Groom had warned me that this couple had been put out as they had asked me and my team to photograph their wedding day. Every photographer has their own style. Just because you are friends with the Bride and Groom it doesn’t mean that they like your photography style and that’s OK. They do however like you and want you to be there and enjoy the day with them.
Again what was their motive? The Bride and Groom had asked them not to bring their camera kit but they still did. Its so disappointing.
Being a wedding photographer is really challenging work. So respect what the professional wedding photographer is doing and respect their craft and their relationship with the bride and groom.
If you’re a keen amateur photographer or even a fellow professional photographer at a wedding by all means take a few photographs but think long and hard about when you give those photographs to the couple and what your motive for doing so is.
And if you see us at a wedding come and chat to us. We love a geek out with a fellow photographer! I met a fellow pro photographer at a wedding last year and we’ve become firm friends. Supporting other photographers and the photography industry as a whole is so important.
But most of all be in the moment. A memory is worth a hundred badly taken photographs.
I have no idea who took this photograph but its wonderful!