5 Tips for Working Well with the Wedding Photographer (Part 1)

It takes a small army of wedding planners, coordinators, caterers, florists, and designers to pull off most weddings these days. As wedding officiants, will we always be working with planners or designers at every wedding? Probably not. But we’ll almost always be working with a wedding photographer.

In another post, I sketched out 4 tips for working well with the wedding planner. But plenty of weddings I’ve officiated didn’t actually have a planner. On the other hand, I’ve never officiated a wedding that didn’t have a wedding photographer. The wedding photographer is the professional vendor we’ll see most often.

She has a very important job to do for the couple. And so do we. How can we wedding officiants and wedding photographers make sure we don’t step on each other’s toes or cramp each other’s style?

I asked four prominent Toronto wedding photographers how we officiants can do better. The results are in: there are 5 things we can do to work well with the wedding photographer so we can both produce the best result for our couple.

1. Discuss requests and expectations with the wedding photographer ahead of time

Wedding officiants and wedding photographers have really scarred each other in our history of working together. If either an officiant or a photographer has been doing their job for a long-ish time, chances are she has at least one horror story about the other.

An officiant friend once told me about a photographer who climbed up and stood on the chancel table in the cathedral to get the shot. It absolutely scandalized the couple and their family and friends. Oops.

A photographer friend once told me of an officiant who insisted that the photographers stand with their backs against the wall and get no closer to the couple. If they did, he would call them out. (They did, and he did. Loudly.) Yikes.

Officiants and photographers have experienced or heard the worst of working with each other. How can we do better?

Toronto photographer TJ Tindale says it plainly: “Really, I would say the one thing officiants can do to make our job easier is have a conversation with us just before the ceremony.”

So what should we talk about?

First of all, we need to have a chat about our requests and expectations.

I’ve gotten upset at photographers when they’ve moved my mic stand without telling me before the ceremony, or even hissed at me to step out of the way while the bride is coming down the aisle (an unusual and unreasonable request, I feel). So now, I usually ask them, “Are you going to need to move the mic stand? Because right now, it’s all set up and adjusted. I’d rather you didn’t.” or “Will you need me to stand aside during the processional at all? I’d rather not when the bride is on her way.” As I’ve said before, let’s not give up our ceremony non-negotiables. But let’s not be jerks about it either.

I have a few non-negotiables; maybe yours are different. To avoid harsh feelings and unpleasant surprises with the wedding photographer, let’s talk over those requests and expectations – what we’d appreciate the photographer do or not do – ahead of time.

But we officiants are not the only ones with requests and expectations. We need to keep in mind it’s a two-way street; the photographers have things they need from us, too.

So a helpful question we can ask the photographer in this conversation is, “Now, do you need anything from me?”

Photographer Scarlet O’Neill of Scarlet O’Neill | Photography would love for officiants to remember that “not all photographers are the same; we all shoot differently and have different approaches, too. A lot of us prefer to be really candid and sometimes officiants just assume we are invasive, so they limit what we can do because they’ve had bad experiences. I think chatting with them and hearing their approach and being a team with them is the best we can all do for the couple.”

At the end of the day, we’re all working for the couple getting married. So let’s get our mutual requests and expectations on the table with a quick chat before the ceremony.

Which leads to the most important thing a wedding photographer wants to know about the ceremony itself.

2. Give the wedding photographer a rundown of our Order of Ceremony

Okay; we’re on the same page about requests and expectations. The other thing the wedding photographer would appreciate is a general sense of our Order of Ceremony – what’s happening when?

TJ Tindale says, “Create a game plan so photographers know when key moments are about to happen. It can be a quick conversation that kills any surprises!”

Surprises for the guests and couple in the ceremony can be great! Surprises for the officiant and photographer are totally unwelcome.

There’s no need to go into excruciating detail here. The photographer has to get back to work! So I typically just say something like, “First we’ll do the processional, then I’ll tell the couple’s story and say a few words for about 8 minutes, then they’ll exchange vows, then rings, then kiss, and everyone will cheer. Then we’ll sign and we’ll come back; I’ll present them for the first time, and everyone will cheer again. Then recessional, aaaaand done.”

When the photographer knows the order of the ceremony, she won’t miss that all-important shot. We just can’t re-enact that magic moment. If it’s missed, it’s missed. Again, since we’re all working for the couple, we can pull together to make sure that doesn’t happen.

If you didn’t catch it above, I like to highlight for the photographer when the “cheers” will happen, and I script the ceremony very intentionally to maximize the number of times everyone will cheer. (At least twice.)

While many wedding ceremonies follow a very similar format, one thing that varies from officiant to officiant is when the kiss occurs. Some officiants put it before the signing of the registry; some put if after the signing. I’m firmly for putting the kiss before the signing.

Wherever you decide to put it, Anastasia of Olive Photography emphasizes that the kiss is a hugely important moment in the ceremony, and the photographer wants to catch just perfectly: “Let us know if the kiss will be before or after the signing of the registry so we know when to be ready for it.”

So give the photographer a quick rundown, and give them a sense of when the couple are gonna kiss and when guests are gonna cheer. Those moments are magic, and we want to help our photographer-colleagues be ready for them.

So we’ve spelled out 2 things that our quick pre-ceremony chat with the wedding photographer needs to cover: mutual requests and expectations, and the order of our ceremony.

In Part 2, we’ll cover 3 more ways we can help the photographer: some instructions we can give the couple in the rehearsal, important things to keep in mind about pacing, and getting out of the way when the couple kiss… or not.