Lovesome Photography
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Handling Difficult Family Members on Wedding Day

Let’s be real. Weddings can be beyond challenging. There are enough things to worry about as a photographer (timelines always running behind, crummy lighting conditions, weather issues, creativity blocks) without having to worry about family members throwing yet another wrench into you plan A, B, C, D, or even plan E. Yet, throw wrenches they do!

The sister bridesmaid that says “Oooh! I saw this cute photo on Pinterest where all the girls lined up in their robes. Oh we have to do that!” “Yeah!” cheer the other bridesmaids in the room. “That would be SO cute!” chimes in the bride. Well, sister dear, thank you OH so much for starting this storm. Half of the bridesmaids are missing, we’re 20 minutes behind on timeline already, and it will take at least another 15 before we track everyone down. By that time, your sister, the bride, will supposed to have been in her gown and on her way to her first look with her partner and when she’s late for that (which will happen) I’m going to be blamed as the photographer who monopolized the timeline and didn’t have time to get all of the photos the bride carefully planned out and discussed with me beforehand that were important to her. So no, that’s a terrible idea. Let’s NOT do that.

As much as my inner self is screaming just those sentiments, my outer self has to remain cool, calm, and collected. If I appear instantly negative, I’m not going to look like a team player and I’m not going to be approachable, and any of those bridesmaids are not going to open up in front of the camera for me. So, what I have to do is get enthusiastic with them. “Oh I’ve seen things like that before! Tell you what, let’s finish up getting everyone ready, help me collect everyone who is needed for the photo in one room, and if there’s still time for the bride to make it to her first look on time, let’s do it! But we don’t want her to miss out on that special time with her fiance!” Speaking to everyone as team members shows that you do have goodwill toward everyone and you hear their enthusiasm. Which makes them all the more receptive to the gentle push back I give them by reminding them about more important things in the day. Nine times out of ten, photos like these will never happen. The run out of time, they can’t find everyone at once, someone is having a makeup emergency and refuses to be photographed. But what they remember is that it was just circumstantial issues that caused it to not happen, not a cranky photographer that refused it.

Sometimes we get the overzealous mom, dad, aunt, or uncle who decides that it is their sole purpose in life to direct the family formal photos. You’ve gotten all the family on the list in one spot (which is like herding cats) and you start cranking through the list when all of a sudden they begin to hijack the flow, “Oh can I just get one with Aunt Sue, too? Oh and we have to get one of just the Jones family! Oh there are our friends from Florida! We have to add them in!”

My inner self says “No! Not only is there no time, the bride specifically told me she didn’t want to spend more than 10 minutes on these photos and had a very simple list. It’s her day not yours, so take your one photo and go get a cocktail!” My outer self realizes that this person is just excited. They love their family and their friends and they just want to commemorate this fun time. I get it. Most families and friends don’t get together often enough so these times are precious. That’s a big part of why I photograph weddings after all! But that doesn’t mean that the couple whose day it is should have their wishes ignored. Instead, I’ll smile at them and say something to the effect of “I’d love to take those photos for you later on in the reception. Right now, the couple has given me a carefully selected list and I want to make sure I meet their wishes before adding any extras on. Look for me or my assistant later on and we’ll be happy to get any other photos you’d like!”

Techniques like this work nearly every time. While these requests and demands drive us nuts, we have to remember that at the core of it all, most of them come from a place of just wanting the best for the couple being celebrated that day. Which is the same thing that I want. Although I may have a different opinion, ultimately, I just want to make the couple happy. It’s not worth resisting difficult people, you have to move with them and make it work for you. Do you have other techniques you use and find beneficial? Comment below! I’d love to hear them!

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