Formal Wedding Photography: 4. After the Ceremony

The photography after the ceremony can be a logistical nightmare. It is imperative that you be ready for what is about to happen.

After the ceremony, a convoy will depart the church, led by the happy couple's vehicle and followed by overenthusiastic guests who set out to violate noise bylaws in as many neighborhoods as time will permit. If you have done your job, this convoy will ultimately arrive at the photo destination reasonably on time, and with everybody you need. Photo locations for weddings are like tour bus destinations. Groups will be arriving simultaneously, with each photographer wanting his wedding party in front of the best photo backgrounds. By the time your party arrives, have your background selected. If you have an assistant (lucky you), have them collect the party and guests, and bring them to you.

Anchor your groups! Place the bride and groom where the center of the groups will be, and clear enough room for the largest group. Make sure your equipment cases are reserving your shooting position. Guests with camera phones, SureShots etc are going to congregate pushing one another and trying to get shots of what you are doing. They are all in a rush to take their photo before they lose the posed group. They will also all be talking at once to the people you have in front of your camera, and if you do not get control of the guests at this point, your group shots will suck!

Before you pose the bride and groom, ask "Is there anyone with cameras who would like to take pictures here?" When the group of guests is assembled, explain to them that time is limited, but if everything can be managed efficiently, you can make sure that everyone has an opportunity to get a photo. The rules are simple:

  1. "Everyone stand back, give me room while I arrange the group, and remain quiet while I do my photography."
  2. "I will then have anyone who wants a photograph come forward so they can get their shot."
  3. "Then everyone step back and let me arrange the next group."

If you have someone who is crowding you, just look through the camera at the group, take a step back and run into them, then apologize "I didn't realize you were so close. Could you please step back and give me a little more room? I want to do this quickly so you and everyone else has a chance to get pictures." You are doing them a favour in return for their co-operation. (Remember when you call them forward to take photos, do not leave your shooting position, and remain standing. You do not stage-manage their shots, only your own, and make sure that they have to shoot from the side. )

Then pose the bride and groom, and get a full length shot. Ask them to remain while you arrange the groups. Have the best man and maid of honour collecting the next group while you are posing each. Groups will run like:

  • Bride and groom alone,
  • Couple with bride's parents,
  • Couple with bride's family,
  • Couple with groom's parents,
  • Couple with groom's family,
  • Couple with special guests,
  • Couple with special friends, and finally
  • Couple with full bridal party

As you finish with each group, thank them and send them on to the reception. The logic here is to reduce the number of people you have to manage as quickly as possible. With any luck, all of the cameras will also go to the reception and leave you in peace to do the real photography with the bridal party.

Change your background. You are working with less people, and they will appreciate variety. If possible, none of these group should be in a line. Arrange the bride and groom differently for each shot, and surround them wih a pleasing arrangement of the members of the bridal party. Work first with the entire bridal party, then the bride's maids, then the groom's men, and finally the best man and the maid of honour. Send them on to the reception, and have the maid of honour collect any guests that are left. "Let's give them some privacy and a moment to relax before the reception....."

At this point you have to give the bride and groom a moment to relax and to relate to each other. Take the pressure off them. "Just take a few minutes, and a few deep breaths. No pressure. We will then do a few relaxed shots, without the madding crowds."