The stuff they don't tell you...

wreck one

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Oct 29, 2007
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Ok, so last night I did my first official paid wedding. I got lots of great shot's and followed almost all of the advice that I've read about on here, but I do have a few questions that you guys might be able to help me with.

1) The meal...

So, maybe you cover this in the contract or just assume. But during the meal there is a very long lull in activity. Of course you can get the photos of people talking and sharing laughing etc, but do you just grab a plate and go for it, or ask politely? Do you even ask at all? I was faced with this decision and decided to take a breather and rest for a bit and the bride told me that they had already counted me as a "guest" and I should make myself a plate. So how do you handle this?

2) Downtime...

So let's say that you are not offered a meal and there is some downtime. What do you do with that time. Review pictures? Call a friend?
Do you even have any downtime?

3) Business cards....

At a function like this, would you have your cards out and ready for whoever wants them or just keep them in your pocket until someone asks?

4) Payment....

So we go a retainer of course when we met the B&G the first time. But at what point do you ask for the remainder? Should you ask at all and just wait until they bring it up?

5) How late do you stay?

I stayed until things fizzled out. This was a smaller wedding so it didn't last too long, but longer than I truthfully had cared for. I didn't want to be rude and just leave, but there honestly were no more pics of the guests I could take.

6) The bartender...

He hooked me up for free last night and I wasn't sure if that was appropriate. I wasn't drinking to get drunk but he asked me what I wanted and I told him. It was during a small break anyway. Also should you share some champagne at the toast or be at the ready? This could also be asked about the cake. Do you have some? Only if offered? Decline?

7) When kids go bad....

When the kids inevitably start to cry, do you take advantage and snap a little or not? I chose to take pictures just in case.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.
When i first started weddings, 15 year ago, I just rolled with the day and stayed the night and if they offered me food i took it!

After a few weddings I got smart....over the years, i got even smarter and constantly tweak my contract.

Food...i write it into my contract that if i am hired for the reception, you feed me....dont have to feed me with your family, but feed me. Most of the time i get seated with the people who no one else wants to sit with...LOL....however, sometimes i am seated right with the family, which is so weird...but they want me to stay in th eaction!

I do take my time to eat, as usally when the meal is going on, nothing else is going on! However, I have camera beside me and jump up whenever necessary.

downtime??? what is that at a wedding...LOL

business cards...absolutely hand them out! I hand out cards, usually after dinner when everyone is waiting for the dance to start and tell them that the wedding pics will be ready for review on my website in 4 weeks! I know other togs that make up a little stand up card for the tables that has their info and web address/album passwords for guest to take home and they put an engagement pic of the couple on it! They put about 5-6 of these cards per table....i think i will be adopting that next year. And yes, do tell your couple that you will be doing that....they will not mind, they will love it, but i would still tell them.

payment.....that should all be in your contract. I take 1/3 down, non refundable under all circumstances, 1/3 1 month before the wedding, non refundable, and balance including travel fees & taxes due when pictures are ready/picked up. I usually have proofs ready in 4 weeeks.

How long to stay? In the early years i stayed till the garter toss was done....but heck, that can be wheneer....again, make sure its in a contract and do what YOU want! My reception coverage goes till first dances or 10pm, whichever comes first. I will stay for a riduculous price per hour after that..but it is all written in the contract! are professional hired. People often try to ply me with drinks, as i'm a pretty likeable person and also keep everyone having a good time, but I just say, no thanks, if they press it, i just say, I dotn drink. I even do this when i shoot for friends, as there are plenty of other people there who are not my friends and do not know my relationship with the couple and might think its crazy that the photographer is drinking and very unprofessional. oh, and please dont dance either!

kids...yes, take their pics! LOL good and bad!

there are a miriad of other things that go along with being a wedding have to manage huge groups of people, you have to satisfy different tastes & mom wants a million pics with all her family, bride and groom do not want need to be the bad guy and tell her you are done with that! LOL you have to manage the morons around you with cameras who all want your shot and you have to get them out of there, politely but get them out! As the voice of experience at weddings, you will be asked which side does the bouttenaire go on...and can you put it on. I go prepared with kleenex, bandaids, tampons, needles & thread and LOTS of safety pins because you will be asked for that stuff and they will remember that you saved the day!

I hope you had sure to post some pics!
1) The meal...

I agree, this should be in your contract. I would assume they assume they'll feed you (at the one wedding I was at, they fed the guy who turned on the lights in the church), but there's no harm in putting it in your contract.

2) Downtime...

There shouldn't be downtime at a wedding except possibly when you're waiting for the bride and groom to get from the ceremony to the reception. If you have other downtime, you should be taking pictures.

3) Business cards....

I think as long as it's done tactfully and you're not spraying hundreds of cards throughout the reception like confetti, then go for it. But be careful of seeming like you're a pusher.

4) Payment....

This should be BIG AND BOLD in your contract, the exact particulars of payment.

5) How late do you stay?

This should also be in your contract. You could have different options, like just pre-ceremony pics, ceremony, reception to meal, first dance, or 'til a set time. But ducking out before the family wants you to will yield bad feelings all around, so you need to put it in writing before-hand.

6) The bartender...

As the poster said above, you're a paid professional at this event and should not be drinking alcoholic beverages, even if someone says it's "okay." If the bartender offers you a soda, then fine, but booze puts it at a different level.

7) When kids go bad....

You're there to photograph, so photograph everything. That way you won't be in a position where they ask, "How come you didn't get such-and-such?"

Keep in mind I've never done a wedding in a paid capacity, but this is what makes sense to me.
wreck one: This is intended as a gallery for your images rather than a discussion forum. If you don't mind, I'll move this thread across to a forum that's intended more for this type of discussion.
Below is how we handle it:

1) The meal...

It's in the contract. When we talk about the contract, I tell them straight out-It's a long day for me. I am human, and I get hungry. I also contractually obligate them to give me the same exact meal that they are having. I'm not going to put in a good 12 hour workday with a crappy cold sandwich and a stale cookie.
They are warned that if they deviate from this part of the contract, I will take a one hour break off premises.

2) Downtime...

There is two of us, so we take the occassional break. However, I go outside, or in the bathroom. They will never see one of us sitting....ever.

3) Business cards....

I keep them in my pocket and at the ready.

4) Payment....

Payment is due two weeks beforehand. If they miss the deadline, they get a friendly e-mail reminder. If still no payment by the date of the wedding, I shoot the wedding anyways.
However I let them know that I will not begin processing until payment has been received and cleared.

5) How late do you stay?

I show up when they show up, and I leave when they leave.

6) The bartender...

I am often offered a drink. I never accept from anyone except the bride and groom. Even then, I tell them that I will have a drink with them sometime during the last hour only.

7) When kids go bad....

If it happens I'll shoot it. It's part of what happened. Often, the bride and groom have a good chuckle about it later.

Hope that helps!
not getting a meal sucks if you've been there for the better part of the day - it's in the contract

during downtime i get what i call interstitial shots - decorations, inanimate objects, etc.

i'll put brochures somewhere appropriate at the reception and maybe ceremony

payment is due before the wedding day - not paid, not bothering with it - you could work that whole day for nothing - again, in the contract

we have packages by the time - 1 hour to 10 hours

just soda and shoot it all
To Chris of Arabia: Thanks for moving it for me..

I felt as if I should shoot something during downtime. So I shot flowers/cake/building.etc. But like with any other job, after about 3 or 4 hours, I needed a break.

I will steer clear from alcohol. But what about the toast? champagne? no? (I sound like an alcoholic but I rarely drink).

So maybe I should also include some of this in my contract to make it sound like I'm doing them a favor? Tell them that payment is due before the wedding so the bride/groom/parents can focus and not cut checks on the big day.

Also, some of you say you have no downtime, but this was a small wedding. also served with a 4 course meal (not including cake). It took a very long time.
Well when the toast is happening... you shouldn't have time to have that kinda of glass in your hand lol (only your lens glass).

You should be taking pictures. I never drink at the event. The only time I allowed employees to drink was at a Stanley Cup event where they were invited to drink out of the stanley cup... even then it was just a gulp.
I've only done a couple weddings, but I had the same questions about when to leave. One wedding in particular went on for hours and I didn't want to leave before I had everything photographed. I finally just approached the groom and asked if there was anything else he wanted pictures of before I left, but it was an awkward situation. If I do any more weddings I will have to make sure and discuss this with the B&G or put it in a contract as many have suggested.

As far as drinking at weddings, I heard about one situation where some of the photographs didn't turn out as well as expected and the photographer was accused of being drunk, even though he said he only had one drink. I agree with the others that it's better to just leave it alone while being paid to do a job.
I have time limits written into the contract depending on the job needs. There is a clear arrival time and end time figured out months before that day... they can change times but they have so many predetermined amount of hours to work with.

When I'm leaving... I approach either the bride or the groom and say that my time is about up and ask them if they need any more pictures. That simple... if they need me to stay 30 minutes to several hours then they pay over time.
3) Business cards....
I started printing off special business cards that on 1 side have, "To View Alica & Bradley's Wedding Photographs please visit www."mystudiowebsite/weddingproofs".
I also put a date & password (if the couples asks for one)
On the back side I have my normal business card info.

I set these cards out (always with the couples names facing up) at the guest table when people sign the guest book. During the reception, I personally hand out the remaining cards to guests, saying, "Hey don't forget to keep this handy to view the wedding photos." Usually, after handing 5 out everyone else is walking up to me asking for them.
Not only does this give them my info, but it is giving them a great reason to get them to my website.
1) The meal...
This is a very important thing to have well defined in your contract. Personally if the B+G refuse to feed me after working a 4-6 hour day with them already I hope nothing happens when I step out and go to Mc.. Ta.. Bur... O.k. I don't eat fast-food but I will step out and get a bite but honestly I have never in the 5-7 years I have been shooting weddings had a B+G refuse to feed me and if I am have not eaten during mealtime like if I plan to eat later or whatever I will invariably have someone usually the B+G come up to me and ask me if I have eaten and if I have not insist that I get something.

2) Downtime...
Again, I will alwaya eat something but I always make it quick and usually try to eat very quickly after or even while the wedding party and family are eating because there is alot you can shoot during this time that you may not have time to get later. I repeat though if you are doing this wedding independently you need to make sure this is spelled out clearly ahead of time. It might seem like a minor thing but as I said before a wedding is a loong day other than the wedding party you will be there longer than anyone else you cannot do this without getting something in you stomach.

3) Business cards....
Both... depending on the venue. It might seem a little tacky at some higher-class venues but most places you go you can slip some of them somewhere in plain view so people that might be a little shy about coming up to you can find it. You might try the DJ table or sometimes places where the guest register is you can descreetly place some cards. If you have a gallerey online for people to view/purcahse yor images all the rules go out the window you need to get as many cards as you can out there for people to find your images. I think some peole might be upset if this was available an they did not know about it because you did not get a card in there hand. This is another thing that needs to be well defimed in the contract and explained to the B+G before the wedding so they are not surprised one day when they go to show their pictures t someone and tey tell them they already saw them online.

4) Payment....
Tha should be well defined in your contract and as most things go this varies from wedding to wedding depending on what you want and what whoever is paying will agree to. One thing I would watch out for though is asking too much up front especially if you are independent and small-time (no offense meant I am small time) this might sound good but asking too much up front may put you in a situation where you spend all the money months or up to a year before the wedding and end up in the end getting just enough to cover your expenses.

5) How late do you stay?
Again this depends on the specific wedding and should be well defined in your contract. You should also price your wedding accordingly because as we all know things can go very late and when you are not there to party it can get real tedious real quick if there is nothing to shoot and no defined time for you to go home. If you do have a defined time you should go to the B+G about 45mins. to an hour before you intend to leave and just tell them you will be leaving soon and ask them if there is anything they want you to shoot before you leave. I know this might be a little bit of heresey for some of the more potojournalistic shooters but I think it is a nice courtosety. Lastly on this part NEVER under any circummstances should you "just leave" I don't know if this is what you did but you should never walk out without letting the B+G know you are leaving and asking them again if they want anything else from you.

6) The bartender...
Again this depends on the venue and the family. Most weddings have open bars and honestly, for me by the time I get to the reception I need a beer or something just to smooth things off. Weddings are (as you know) extremely stressful. I would not get loaded but as with eating it all depends on the venue.

7) When kids go bad....
This you should just play by ear. It might be a touchy situation shooting someones kid in the middle of some serious fit but most people might laugh it off but always be descreet. Really though I am not sure I would want pictures of mu kid in mid tantrum.
We had to pay our photographer before the wedding. It sounded weired to us at the time. But it makes more sense since I have come to this forum. I suggest getting paid ahead of time so that you never work for free. Oh and I never drink at any job.
always get fed. Sit down and enjoy the'll feel better if you're gonna be there a while.

Usually they will assume they're feeding you...but you shoudl make sure they know.

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