WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY ON THE FLY? KINDA
By: Topher Gentry
I used to not want to shoot weddings. For one, has anybody ever watched (or girlfriends/wives made you watch..) Bridezilla? That sets a pretty crazy expectation all on its own. That and you know.. The whole chance of messing up the "most important day of our lives" part.. I never wanted to willingly subject myself to that pressure!
A few years back I was lucky enough to be gently pushed into having to photograph a wedding. It was for a somebody I grew up with. Their photographer bailed 3 days before the wedding and the couple had nowhere to turn. Hence why I say "gently pushed". I ended up working something like 11 hours at the wedding because the whole wedding was on the fly. I shot any and everything I could for as long as I could. Who knew that would end up being the best way for me to ever get involved in photographing weddings. Not only was it just an all around killer experience.. it prepared me for every wedding I photographed after that. Well almost all of them...
Fast forward to this past Father's Day. My first ever Father's Day to be exact. Funny enough, the bride to be for the story I am about to tell is the sister, of the groom from that first wedding I mentioned! I should've known! Haha :) Just to be clear, I am giving Sylvia a hard time because I know she is going to read this. - Back to it -Sylvia had been referred by her brother and hired me a few months prior to her wedding. She asked that I shoot for 3 hours to get the before, during and after photos. She didn't want anything crazy. Just some nice candid photos of her special day. I of course obliged and said we would set up details closer to the date.
I won't bore you with the back and forth conversations. I will just say this.. I didn't know where I was meeting her until I was already driving. That is how the day started. I did end up getting an address in time and showed up 15 minutes early. It is a good thing I did too because, I never got her room number and she wasn't answering my calls when I got to the hotel. I cased the whole place 3 times before haggling with the front desk for info. Mind you, this whole time I am under the impression that she is getting married at the hotel. Wrong.
When I finally do get to Sylvia's room. She looks at me straight away and says, "Sooo, I am running 30 minutes late and my dress isn't even here yet".
No need to freak out yet, right?
The dress is with her husband at her aunts house that lives 6 minutes away. All good. Let me just go over there, photograph Brian getting ready and take a few photos of the dress and then meet everybody at the church. Flawless plan.. It sounded like it. It even felt like it until I got to her aunts house and it was a smidge hotter than the surface of the sun with no A/C. Brian was a true gentleman and got ready for the sake of photos despite the blistering heat. (The photo on the right there, that is in fact a folded up paper towel to wipe up the sweat off his brow. #BTS #HOTAF)
You know how when you have a crap ton of hands in the pot, everything gets sloshed around? Well, that was already going on as it was but once the pressure started hitting everybody that they were running super late... The pot started to tip over.
Somehow the planned changed right in front of me and we were heading back to the hotel and I was who was driving the dress there. I just rolled with it. Mainly because I knew I could blast the A/C in my car for 6 minutes. Even as we got to the hotel, the plans were in constantly evolving. This is all with about 30 minutes until the wedding starts and we are 19 minutes from the venue. You don't have to be a mathematician to figure that one out.
While Sylvia is getting ready, it seems like her whole family is calling her and her brother, one right after another. It was a constant flow of phone calls. The one that really shook the day up was when somebody said the Minister is going to leave. This was with about 6 minutes until showtime. Now, in your mind just insert a crazy sped up montage of people running around, getting ready and driving to the church. Regardless of what you imagined.. it was not far off.
I left before them by about 5 minutes and thank goodness I did because they pretty much jumped out of the car and started walking down the isle. The groomsmen were literally tucking in there shirts while walking up to the doors. The best part in all this... The reception is another 10 miles away and they are running late to that as well. Insert sped up montage here as well..
By the time everybody is at the reception, I had about 25 minutes left to take as many photos as I could. Even though it wasn't my doing; Normally I would have stayed a little later to make up for the calamity without charging extra. It is the right thing to do. However, like I mentioned earlier this was my first fathers day ever and my wife and kid were expecting me. Brian and Sylvia were extremely understanding and with the day as crazy as it was.. They were super happy. They were so gracious and I really couldn't have asked for better clients. I wrapped the shoot up with some quick family photos, cake and decoration photos and shots from their first dance. What I didn't photograph was the giant sigh of relief while walking to my car. I felt really good about what I captured.
At the end of the day.. It is my job as a photographer to be on my toes and ready for anything. I am proud with what I came away with. Especially considering how the day went. The most important part is Brian and Sylvia are happy with the result. I am so honored that they allowed me to be the one to document their history. It was an absolute privilege. Luckily for me.. I have some time until they renew their vows :P