To celebrate wedding season, allow me to lecture you about things to avoid on your big day.
I’m a wedding and lifestyle photographer with past lives as wedding stylist, event manager and restaurant function manager. I’ve seen every type of wedding and elopement, and every success and cock up. Please feel free to be deeply offended by the following advice, but you can’t tell me it’s not true.
The photos to follow are no indication of these brides making such heinous mistakes. They're just eye candy.
Avoid Overcrowding the Getting Ready Space
Eight bridesmaids. Hair stylist. Makeup artist. Mother of the bride. Her best friend. Wedding coordinator and sidekick. Neighbour who wants to see your dress. Chick who didn’t quite make bridesmaid but gets to hang before the ceremony. Sisters. Nieces and nephews in Spiderman t-shirts. Photographer. Videographer. Dad wants to drop in. Oh, he’s bringing Aunty Flo. Can she have her hair pinned up while she’s here? You get the picture. Leave your getting ready space as a sanctuary for yourself and your bridesmaids for as long as you possibly can. If Mum and Dad are having a first look, plan it and time it with your photographer. Make sure everyone else has somewhere to go while it happens, and don’t pander to extra visitors. It’s chaotic and unnecessary and you’ll see them all later.
Feed Your Hungry Guests
Do not blow your floral budget and steal from the food budget. Do. Not. The worst thing you can possibly do is have hungry, drunk guests, particularly if alcohol is on consumption, because they will drink their pain away and it will end up costing you more anyway. Cater like… it’s a wedding. People won’t notice your $7k of peonies, $5k bespoke arbour, $2k shoes or French champagne tower if you starve them, because hunger is primal. It will be all they think about. If guests have to drive through Maccas after your wedding out of need instead of want, that’s a problem.
Fire Bridesmaids Without a Sense of Duty
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve had to adjust a bridal train for photos, hold a bouquet or request water and champagne for the bride, I’d have… like seventy-five bucks. At least. Bridesmaids – that’s your goddam job! Your primary responsibility is the bride and making sure her needs are put before yours. Don’t disappear on her or get drunker than her before 10pm. Make sure you know how her dress works (you will have to bustle it for the dance, learn how). Make sure she’s not thirsty or hungry or crying about something her racist work colleague said. Make sure her kids are happy with snacks and iPads. Too many times I see bridesmaids acting like it’s a regular party and they are regular guests. Not cool.
Ban Amateur Photographers
I know that your cousin Jill has a drone and John’s brother’s Uncle’s Physiotherapist did a DSLR course last year, but you’ve hired a photographer (and possibly a second photographer) and that’s quite enough. It takes time to get in rhythm with the videographer and form a rapport with them, and once you’re in that synched zone, having old mate with his new Sony mirrorless step into the primary shooting spots is nothing less than infuriating. I have stepped on, elbowed and tripped over guests trying to shoot the first kiss or recessional. I ask politely once for them to lower their camera or move to the side, after that I just do my job and hope no one dies. Photographers walk backwards a lot. We need the space to reverse without causing injuries. A total camera and phone ban is ideal at the ceremony, and no one except the person you elect to pay should be doing anything except celebrating.
Similarly… Ban Wannabe Directors
This guy follows the bridal party around making suggestions for photos he thinks would be pretty. He has no concept of light, photography or aesthetics. He asks to have twelve photos with his own girlfriend. He arranges the groomsmen in cheesy shots with their sunglasses on. No one needs his help. He should go get a drink for us.
Leave Time To Party
A short speech is a good speech and it’s okay for people to silently chew while it happens. Main course service is fine to commence at one end of the room while entrée is being cleared at the other. Talk to your caterer about expediting the meal service so that dessert is wrapped up and digested by 9pm and everyone can hit the dancefloor. This is the best part of the day and sometimes it’s cut short to only an hour or so before the venue turns the lights on.
Realise Things Will Go Wrong
About three things. Sometimes four. One of them might be big, or seem big at the time but really the next day when you’re doing the post-mortem sitting by the resort pool in your robe and your wedding ring, it’s fairly insignificant. Know who your go-to people are. The MC and maid of honour, the best man, your dad. Have these people assigned to whatever problems arise and then put them out of your mind. Your cake might melt. Your cousin might get Covid. Your celebrant double booked. It happens. Short of a real catastrophe, none of these things have ever stopped a good wedding. So wipe your eyes, get delegating and go with it.
Taya Reid is a writer + photographer on Whadjuk Noongar Boodja