Saturday, September 21, 2013

Dear Wedding Photographers

I'm finally doing it. Posting this. I wrote this a while ago (could be last year, could have been years ago). The dude in the viral video above has forced me. He handled it extremely poorly (he could have quietly asked, or, as I try to do, spoke with the couple and photo-/videographers before the action). But I totally understand his sentiment.

When I first wrote what's below, I couldn't post it for various reasons, mostly due to the timing. I've returned to it now and then since I wrote it, but also avoided posting it as to not ruffle the feathers of any of my many talented photographer friends (is it just me or do there seem to be SO MANY out there?). But...perhaps this will be useful to some of my incredible photographer friends...or perhaps they'll just get ticked at me.  I won't be surprised if there is much disagreement over this. Like most important things in life, American culture has taught the couple (particularly usually the bride) that it's all about them. It's not. And it's not about the officiant either (it's why we wear a stole...and a robe...). A wedding ceremony is about the Church's permission for two to have one another. Call me old-fashioned.

I mainly post it to get us thinking about the sacramentalness of marriage in relation to the priority of the moment over capturing it.


I've been involved in my share of weddings: from ring bearer to groomsman to best man to groom and from witness to pianist to officiant, I've watched and participated in a dozens of weddings from a variety of perspectives. I understand the beautiful privilege it is to stand with the couple. It's beautiful.

But when it comes to the shebang that goes into weddings, I pretty much despise most of the whole industry, and as much as I hate it, we must deal with it, for that is what it is: an industry. I love the ceremony...the 25 minutes to an hour that is the sanctity of marriage that is an institution of the Body of Christ.  From my perspective, in most cases, this is the focus: a ceremony of the Body of Christ.  It is nothing less and is impossibly anything more.

I pound this home in the sessions that I have with prospective couples in the months prior to a wedding ceremony. The intention is that every wedding ceremony a bride and groom participates in will be the first, last, and only one for as long as they are both alive.  Take those vows as seriously as Christ has taken you. Do all that you can to remember: remember those vows, remember the songs, remember the candles or sand jars or whatever other symbol we agree upon.  By all means, hire a photographer. But please: hire one who can agree to the following advice from wedding officiants.


Dear Wedding Photographers:

Congratulations on getting to be but one part of an engaged couple's incredible day! While we're but the officiants and for most of the day take a back seat to your role, we have some suggestions for you during the ceremony.

You have an abundance of time prior to and after the ceremony. By all means, take pictures during the ceremony, but in that hour, you are pretty far down the list of priorities.  Just because you get paid far more than anyone else there does not mean that you're on top of the list in determining what goes on, despite what the industry and trade shows may have taught you. There are a dozen or so people ahead of you during that hour.  Don't get us wrong: your job is very important. Just not so important that you are in charge during that time.

We don't wait or slow down something in the ceremony to suit your ability to take pictures.  You should neither be seen nor heard. You are there to capture and thus maintain memories...not create them. This is not a press event, so you don't have the credentials to jump in front of grandma or the mother of the bride just to get your shot. If you must have a certain perspective or you miss it, then re-create it afterward. During the ceremony, "the moment" is more important than anything. Despite your incredible ability (and opportunity!) to immortalize the moment, the moment is more important than your hope of doing so.  So please: don't jump in front of the situation.

I don't think there's anything above that's not doable.  We've seen some great wedding photographers that have the ability to do all of the above and still come out with incredible shots and glimpses of the actual ceremony.  Go for it: use multiple cameras, remotes, whatever (as long as they're mostly inconspicuous). Get an assistant or two.

But please, by all means, let the ceremony be what it is supposed to be first and foremost: the sacred and sanctified moments of the joining of two to be one before God and God's people.

Grace and Peace,

Wedding Officiants