Wedding Receptions: Things to Watch Out For
Always be careful about mixing family and friendship with business. If you have engaged a friend or relative to take pictures, make sure there is clear agreement on what is being provided free, and what you have to pay for. Offer to buy extra film to make sure all the photos you want are taken. Make sure the rights to the material are in your name. And if you are paying for the services, even heavily discounted, get the same kind of vendor contract you are signing with everyone else.
If you are on a tight budget, and the reception is decidedly on the informal side, you could spring for an experienced pro for the ceremony, then go the amateur route for the reception.
Photographers are just about the easiest vendors to find. Besides the yellow pages and referrals from friends, family photo studios of department stores may either have wedding packages themselves, or their subcontracted photographer might be available. Finally, try contacting newspaper society page photographers of your newspaper; they can either suggest themselves, or other professionals.
Your first step in speaking with a potential photographer is to view sample photos or videotapes of previous wedding work. In addition to judging the quality of work, you will be able to get ideas of which shots a professional takes – bring a pad to take notes -- or, after reading this checklist, which shots this one might have missed.
“Must have” photos at a reception include (it is less important for the photographer to get dancing shots if there is also a videographer):
• The bride and groom’s arrival, and the receiving line
• The newlyweds’ first dance, and those of other couples “invited” to the floor
• Candid shots throughout the affair, of the newlyweds and their parents
• The speakers and toasters, and the bride and groom drinking together (arms interlocked is customary after toasting each other)
• The bride and groom cutting the cake and feeding each other the first slices
• The bouquet toss
• The departing newlyweds
When viewing videotape, observe whether the camera work is sure, focused and steady (not jerky), all the important moments are captured, the sound is clear and the color accurate. Pay attention to style – documentary “storytelling” vs. less structured – and pick your own personal preference.
Once you have narrowed down the field to a short list of finalist photographers/videographers, here are the questions you want to ask:
• Can you call and speak with satisfied customers?
• How long has the person been a professional? How many receptions has the person done?
• Is there insurance that covers product replacement, or another sort of guarantee of satisfaction?
• What kind of cameras and equipment (including film and tape) will be used?
• How many cameras will be used? How many staff people will be there?
• Will anyone else besides the principal photographer be shooting? If so, which shots?
• If the reception is at night, do you have everything you need to shoot (especially critical if the reception is at night)?
• How many (wireless) microphones will there be? Is there backup equipment?
• What is the total fee, and how is it calculated?
• Is there a minimum payment? Overtime charges?
• Is there a payment plan? How much is required up front?
• Are there package deals?
• How much will prints of the proofs cost? (This can cause sticker shock!)
• Who will own the copyright? (Don’t expect a professional photographer to relinquish it. Just remember that you may not legally make reprints, and your local developer will not do it for you.)
• Is there an extra fee for getting the photos on a CD? Stored on videotape?
Most photographers will have a standard contract for you to sign, Try to compare contracts like you do albums, and get some advice before committing yourselves. Perhaps as in no other vendor area, technology has made a tremendous difference in digital media, which is the direction photography and videography are headed. This gives you more options, including ones that can lower your cost.
You can conceivably find a photographer who will shoot the whole event on a digital camera. This not only eliminates film expenses, but enables you to share your photos with others over the Internet, to order an inexpensive but digitally perfect hardcover album, to print out only the photos you want, etc.
If your video is shot digitally, there is quite user-friendly PC software that will enable you (or a friend, or a niece or nephew) to edit the product into its final version on your home computer.
If you are having trouble finding traditional wedding photographers willing to work in digital media, here are some places you can turn to, directly or to obtain recommendations:
• A television station (features editor, cameramen)
• The film department of a nearby college or university
• Your local access cable station
• The technology editor of your local newspaper
• The communication arts department of a technical college
Keep in mind that the rule regarding splitting duties still holds true: you can hire an experienced wedding photographer for the ceremony, then hand out one or two digital cameras (their cost is dropping daily, and new ones can even be bought on eBay) to amateur but not unskilled photographers to take reception photos in accordance with a list of instructions you have prepared beforehand.
Getting Others Into the Act
Nothing enlivens a wedding reception more than encouraging the public participation of close friends and family. This is done by:
• Inviting them for special dances, to the applause of the other guests
• Accepting their gracious speeches and toasts
• Involving them in the bouquet toss (and garter toss – see Appendix Two)
• Appreciating other creative gestures, such as love songs sung or poems (either classical-romantic or original-humorous) recited aloud in your honor (engineered well in advance, of course).