It’s not about the room

liz-shane

It’s not about the room

Let’s talk about the wedding industry. It’s rife with rip off pricing and bad ideas designed to extract as much money as possible from naive, often first-time buyers for things like venue rentals, florists, photo and video suppliers, caterers, graphic designers, and professional organizers/wedding planners to list just the obvious ones.  Making a detailed plan for the day – your day – can become an obsession for some and paying attention to every detail from the room design to the angle the napkins are placed at can take what can be an emotionally charged day and turn it into a kind of perfect storm of stress. And that’s before getting that really awkward speech from the brother of a friend (don’t be this guy), or your weird out of towner uncle who’s tanked before the ceremony begins.

It’s enough to make a sane person wonder why they bother with it in the first place. Why not just run off and elope somewhere? Or just cohabitate without ever bothering with some kind of ceremony to mark the occasion of your love for each other?

Because despite the statistics on divorce rates your single friends are always handy with, and the surprising cost of flower arrangements, couples still want to call their loves ones to them and make a public announcement that they have found someone – and been found by someone – that they love and they want you to know it.

When that happens, and it does with remarkable regularity every spring, summer, fall and winter – the wedding industry descends, heart-handled knives drawn. Suddenly what is really simply about two people publicly sharing the end of the first chapter of a love story, becomes a production. You’re meeting with suppliers, comparing your choices to the countless others presented to you in look books and across zillions of Pinterest boards, and it’s all beginning to add up. By the time the date comes around, you’re easily spending $10k for an average wedding and far, far more for anything with the whiff of luxury to it. Excess, by definition, knows no bounds, but even the modest wedding can quickly blow its budget just for what seems necessary like a nice venue, good food, ample alcohol and decorations.

It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. And while there is a cost of having any kind of party, a wedding party winds up costing more because it’s not just any old party. As a photographer who’s photographed dozens of weddings, I’ve run through the gamut of weddings, from tiny little closed ceremonies in restaurants to full blown, multi-venue affairs with hundreds of guests.  What I’ve noticed, from a photographic point of view, is that what really matters – where I’ve done my best work and felt the strongest connection to the couple I’m working for – is not the room, and not the décor, and not the bar, and not the food, and not the kind of ceremony they choose, and not anything really that causes so much stress when you begin planning for your wedding. What really makes a difference is if the couple seem to really love each other, and are marrying each other because there is no one else they’d rather be with than that one right before them. That’s what lights up a face and floods a room with something that everyone there can sense and feel.

You can choose to have any kind of wedding you want that you can afford. Fly all your guests to a private island in Santorini (including your photographer;) or set up a few chairs around an old willow tree by a river. Do it your way, and spend as much or as little as you want to spend, but however you do it, remember that what matters is not how the day will unfold, but why you are doing it in the first place.

A few tips for making your destination wedding a success

Getting married here?

Getting married here?

Planning a destination wedding? Here are a few ideas to help you get the best wedding photos possible, regardless of the weather.

One of the best things about having  a destination wedding is that you have time to get a great set of photos using a variety of backdrops in natural settings and different lighting throughout your week or two at the resort.

  1. Take advantage of the early hours to get down to the beach and have a photo session with you and your beloved before the other tourists get down there and start filling up the horizon. Early mornings are also good in the tropics as the weather tends to be windier, so a bit cooler, and the sunlight will make you look spectacular. If you can, try to schedule this shoot on the second or third day of your trip so you’ve already got a good baseline tan to really capture the feeling of the beach wedding.
  2. Similarly, try to also schedule a shoot in the evening as the sun is setting. This “golden hour” is a photographer’s dream as the light waves from the sun are at their longest and most flattering, giving everyone a gorgeous glow. You might want to do the morning shoot mentioned above in your wedding clothes, and this sunset shoot in your informal beach wear to give your photos variety.
  3. Use the fun times as opportunities for candids and for your photographer to circulate amongst your guests and capture their best moods as well. While formal photos are critical in any wedding party, often the most memorable shots are those taken when you are your guests are enjoying yourselves and not worrying too much about the photography.

Having a destination wedding is a great way for you to have a turnkey wedding experience and get an early start on your honeymoon. You can gather all your friends and family in a comfortable resort, have all meals and plans easily taken care, and don’t have to worry about anyone driving home drunk.  Don’t forget that your wedding is YOUR wedding so enjoy it as much as possible and have fun with your photos using as much of the natural setting and architectural features of your resort as possible.

A gem of a church in Montreal – Église Saint-Charles

Église Saint-Charles

This fall, while shooting a wedding, I was surprised by the beauty of the St. Charles Parish (Église Saint-Charles). While I’ve covered weddings all over Montreal (and away from Montreal), I had never been inside this particular venue and I was truly awestruck. I do not follow any religion but am respectful of all, and I do have a fondness for old churches. Often when I am travelling I will find myself taking a little break sitting in a pew of some cathedral just to feel the silence and beauty of the space inside. It is not surprising that Quebec has many such beautiful churches, but I am still amazed at the detail and effort that goes into nearly every aspect of the interiors, even if they are a little worn and run down in places.

While the lighting is tricky as a wedding photographer I prefer to go with the natural ambient light in such large spaces to avoid that flattening flash lit face that shows nothing of the surroundings.  Sometimes this risks losing a bit of sharpness in exchange for a warmer image that, I think, more honestly captures the sense of place where the wedding is occurring.