After 11 years of photographing weddings, I've become the kind of photographer who's present during the wedding day and the planning process, providing assistance and wedding planning advice including wedding guests tips they can share.
Being so involved in the planning process, I've become sensible and aware of the biggest pains my clients experience during the planning process. An unnecessarily tough one, but also unavoidable, is the wedding guest drama. So, in hopes of making it easier for my future brides and grooms, here's a blog post for those of you you have been invited to an upcoming wedding. Here's how to be a better wedding guest.
Welcome to #WeddingWednesday
Hello! #WeddingWednesday is a space created for education and exchange of ideas on topics related to Puerto Rico, best places to propose, wedding photography, and weddings in Puerto Rico. Here you'll find a very broad range of information on stuff I think will help you plan a better wedding in Puerto Rico, and have proper expectations for it.
RSVP... and stick to it!
Couples really need your RSVP, and yes, by that deadline. No one is above confirming their presence at an event, mainly because most times, the arrangements are made by professional wedding vendors who have no idea who's "obviously" going. After you confirm or decline your attendance, please stick to it, and if you can't make it to the event, then RSVP again. Most couples will have to pay for the dinner plates and the seating arrangements, even if the guest ghosts at the last minute.
Do not bring additional guests than invited.
After being the photographer of over 300 weddings, I can say this as a general rule: the moment with most conflict for the couple during their wedding planning is the guest list. It's very challenging having to narrow down a guest list and leaving people out of it just because they can't afford it, or their venue has space restrictions. The invites are intentionally specific: if they don't mention additional guests or kids, don't bring them. There will be no seating arrangements, and they might even not be able to eat. Most certainly, the couple has another 20 people asking for an additional seat, and that number adds up pretty quickly. Don't add to that stress.
Additional advice for single people attending a wedding: if you're seeing someone who's not a committed relationship, wedding etiquette says you probably won't get an invite for them. Additionally, weddings are a great place to meet people, so feeling the pressure of finding someone to bring might be awkward for the two of you.
This one affects me on an emotional level. I think I may have written about this before. One of the saddest moments during weddings is when I see a bride walking down the aisle, looking to make eye contact with their wedding guests, but they're waving their cell phones, blocking her view of their faces.
Technology is beautiful; we have cameras that fit in our pockets. How amazing is that? Research shows capturing memories of special moments actually increases our enjoyment. So while I don't necessarily advocate for unplugged weddings (they sure do make my life easier), I do support for being present. People get immersed in their devices often, forgetting they're living a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enjoy and celebrate with their loved ones.
Also, on the topic of pictures, do not interrupt emotional moments for a photo! For a candid wedding photographer like me, it is a major buzzkill when a guest interrupts a beautiful, touching moment to recreate it for their camera, or for a camera-aware portrait, making everyone feel awkward and suddenly, the moment's gone.
Stay in the designated place during critical moments.
There is so many logistical thought that goes into the layout of a wedding day. If you aren't in the wedding party, chances are you can sit back and relax and let the wedding team do their job.
In the ceremony, we want to have space for parents and wedding party to perform on crucial moments, photo and video need clear aisles and no people hovering around the altar to not spoil the portraits the couple paid so much for.
During cocktail hour, the photo and video team need clear spaces, so no people are walking behind the couple, but the catering and decor team need an empty so they can give the finishing touches. During dinner, the catering team needs to move in and out with ease to clear the tables or serve food. And speaking about food.
Let the newlyweds eat
As a foodie, and knowing how fantastic wedding caterers are in Puerto Rico, this one is sad for me: most couples are never able to finish their meal. There's a particular window for dinnertime, and it's crafted so that everyone eats quickly, at the same time, and then the party starts, and everyone can go back to mingling.
However, there's always a guest (or ten) that will use that time to hang by the sweetheart table to chit chat. The couple is obviously excited to see everyone there, so they will postpone eating until the meal gets cold, or the window closes. Please, let the couple eat. They were taking portraits during cocktail hour, and because of all the stress, most of them have a very light breakfast (or skip it entirely).
Understand the stress the couple is in
Drama is unavoidable in an event where hundreds of people come together and bring in their interpersonal dynamics. However, sometimes, what might be hot gossip on a regular day can be stressful for a couple handling a lot of details and emotions.
Also, use the appropriate channels for handling issues that arise on the wedding day. For example, a wedding planner or the maid of honor could help the couple by solving problems or making last-minute decisions on things that might cause unnecessary stress on the bride(s) and groom(s).
Know your limits
For those of you who consume alcohol, I'm sure you're aware of the kind of drunk you are. For example, I get sleepy. But I've seen people react to all sorts of ways to inebriation. ALL SORTS OF WAYS. And I get it, most of us don't have the luxury of living a life with frequent open bars. But, really, pace yourself with the alcohol, especially if it's hot outside, and take care of yourself so we can all enjoy the party. The last thing you want is passing out and waking up in an ambulance. Quite a bummer.
I write this hoping it helps future couples and their wedding guests enhance their wedding enjoyment. Weddings are probably the most expensive and planned days a person can experience during their lifetime, and as guests, we owe it to them not making it about ourselves and helping them start off a new chapter of their lives with the best day ever!