Why should you choose a celebrant for your wedding?
We would love to share with you the interview we have done last month. A wedding is always an unbreakable chain of work and the collaboration between the vendors is crucial. One of the most important is between celebrant and photographers to be able to achieve the best result. Let’s see our interview !
Here the link for the Celebrants web site
A successful wedding ceremony requires photographers and celebrants, as well as all the other professionals, to work together as a team.
Interview with DESTINATION WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS Max and Sofia,
Light and Dreams Studio
Q: In your view, what is the most important moment in a wedding ceremony?
A: The first kiss! We truly appreciate celebrant-led ceremonies because celebrants prepare the ground with a Love Story and guide the couple in writing their vows. When celebrants announce “You may now kiss the bride!” or “I now pronounce you husband and wife!” the photographers need to get a clear view of the couple. At that point, it is wonderful when the celebrant takes a step to the side and leaves the couple on their own.
It’s a bit like when actors in the theatre are lit up by a spotlight that follows them on stage. When we isolate the couple, we ‘shed light’ on them. And we photographers focus on taking pictures of them on their own, isolated from the rest of the ceremony, in the foreground. It’s easy to imagine how if something, or someone, ends up in the middle of the picture, that vital shot is irreparably compromised.
Q: What is the rule for the best possible collaboration between photographers and celebrants?
A: First of all, we want to specify that our studio also offers videography, so most of the time there are four of us: two photographers and two videographers. Space is always going to be limited. We should never be the protagonists or invade the scene; we need to be discreet.
Celebrants focus on the whole ceremony, but there are moments of the ceremony that are vital for us photographers: the bride’s entrance, the couple’s vows, the ring exchange, and the first kiss. The best thing is if, before the ceremony begins, the celebrant talks to the photographers. Even when the celebrant provides a cue sheet, which we appreciate very much, it is still better to talk.
Q: How do you experience the presence of celebrants at the ceremony?
A: As photographers, the fact that there is a celebrant guiding the ceremony is a huge relief! Having someone to conduct the ceremony, to handle unforeseen events and hiccups, keeps everything calm and allows us to concentrate on our work. In some weddings, without a celebrant, it is not clear what is going to happen, and we ourselves, as well as the other professionals orbiting around the bride and groom, end up having to pick up loose ends that should not be our responsibility.
In this sense, the celebrant, the person who directs and conducts the whole ceremony, is like a pinpoint, a reference point. That’s why it’s best to speak before the ceremony starts. I’ll give you an example: have you ever had a ceremony where you could only hear the cicadas? Or the water running in the fountains? Imagine the terrible sound on the video! It is essential before starting the ceremony to have a soundcheck, balance the audio levels, ‘block’ the positions of those who will be ‘on stage’. In short, we all need to make sure that everything works, that the celebrant is comfortable, that the bride and groom are comfortable, that we photographers can produce all the material we need, but above all that no unforeseen events occur. If each of the professionals involved keeps their work in an airtight compartment and does not communicate with the others, it is quite likely that things will not work out as we hope!
It is good for the celebrant and photographers to talk to each other first, but they should also talk to the wedding planners, the florists, the musicians. In short, only a team that works together to solve problems, where there is mutual respect for one another’s work, will be able to do a great job and give the couple the perfect experience.
Q: In short, a team effort?
A: Yes, there should be an unbroken chain that works perfectly. Another consideration is that almost all brides are so agitated and excited that they do not see what is happening around them. At least for the first ten minutes of the ceremony they don’t even know where they are.
As they walk down the ‘aisle’, it is as if they are walking into a kind of black tunnel of anxiety and they can’t wait to get out in order to reach the focus as soon as possible. Some can’t breathe, some are sweating, others don’t realise who they are with.
And often, after the ceremony, they tell us: “Thank goodness you filmed and photographed my entrance, because I don’t remember a thing!”
So having an excellent product, where the celebrant’s words are captured perfectly, the couple is clearly visible, the music is at the right volume, the flowers are beautifully arranged without getting in anyone’s way, in short, where everything is in harmony, is important for all of us professionals.
Q: How can we celebrants prepare a cue sheet for you as photographers that is not too cumbersome or with too many details? What is an ideal cue sheet in your view?
A: A cue sheet is important, but it is more important to talk. We need to know when the ceremony starts, when it ends, who gives the signals to the bride and groom to do what they have to do, at what point the music starts, where the symbolic moment will take place and who will be involved, etc. These are all elements that we need to be clear about so that we know how the ceremony will unfold.
Of course, the schedule sent by the celebrant should be respected, so it is good to make sure before the ceremony that everything will go as planned.
Beware of those who work with quantity over quality! These types of professionals will often not follow the cue sheet. They improvise everything!
So, before the ceremony, remind the photographers that you have sent them a cue sheet, ask them if they have read it, point out the highlights, the salient themes, and the visually important moments, as well as the start and end points of the ceremony.
Q: What is the ideal ceremony for you?
A: For each of us professionals there is an ideal ceremony: for us photographers, paradoxically, it would be one where the celebrant is never in their field of vision; for celebrants, it would be one where there are no photographers, no one behind them, no one interrupting them for a perfect shot or asking them to repeat an action.
But we all realise that this is not possible. The only solution is to talk to one another and respect one another, given also the difficult conditions we work in: the scorching sun, humidity, small spaces, delays, last-minute or hastily-considered changes…
Knowing what the highlights of the ceremony will be—at what point, for example, the handfasting ribbons will fly in the air, or if the final remarks contain an unusual phrase— is very important for us photographers.
Sometimes, it’s useful to know the key words that announce various moments in the ceremony, so we know that at that moment the bride will cry, or some of the relatives will stand up, or the rings in the ring-warming ritual will start being passed along a ribbon or from hand to hand.
Q: Collaboration is crucial, then?
A: Yes, absolutely. A celebrant who is sensitive enough to realize that they should step aside so as to leave an open field for the photographers in the most significant moments we have indicated is doing us and the bride and groom a service; as is a photographer who knows how to be discreet and yet take a good shot without asking the celebrant to move. When there is harmony between professionals—photographers, celebrants, videographers, florists, planners, etc.— the results are celarly visible and are nearly always excellent.
Q: You spoke earlier about quality and quantity, what did you mean by that?
A: Yes, this is very important. During the wedding season, our studio only accepts a limited number of weddings, because on the day of the ceremony we want to be completely focused and devoted to the couple on their special day. We start studying the ceremony long before the date, we do site inspections, we analyse the venue, the time of day, the light. Every detail is important and if you take on too many weddings, the quality of your work will necessarily be less exacting.
Q: How do you deal with suppliers?
A: We always strive to take dedicated photos for the various suppliers: a photo for a florist is not the same as a photo for a celebrant, and vice versa, and none of these are good for the bride and groom. We think it is nice to arrange a certain number of shots for the celebrant, the florist, the planner, the caterer, etc. We think it’s a good idea that everyone who works for that wedding, who contributes to making that wedding a success, has some satisfaction, which contributes to the overall harmony of the event.
Q: Intrusive photographers, large teams: does it make sense to ask the bride and groom first if they prefer a hyper-photographed ceremony, with photographers doing acrobatics to capture every second, every tear, or rather a more intimate, more delicate ceremony?
A: Doing this, in our opinion, is very difficult. When we work with the whole team and there are four of us, we use zoom lenses from a distance so as not to be intrusive. A wedding with a celebrant is much more personalised than a church wedding, it is more involving and more personal, so we try to be as unobtrusive as possible. It is true that we can get in the way, and ideally everyone should always be polite, but sometimes there are technical problems that force photographers to work in confined spaces or against the clock, and this can cause stress.
Q: What happens if the bride and groom choose two different photography studios for a wedding ceremony?
A: In that case there can be problems. For instance, there can be a war of positions: first row, second row, etc. Of course this is not ideal for the celebrant, because if there are several photographers and videographers who have to fight for their pictures and clips, the space of action is reduced and he or she is sidelined.
Q: Are there moments in a wedding ceremony when it would be better not to take any pictures at all?
A: Yes, absolutely, sometimes even at the cost of missing an emotional or meaningful shot. There are moments when it is better to put the cameras down to let the bride and groom express themselves. We should always try to capture an emotional moment, but it is not necessary, for example, to go in for close-up at all costs. Of course we photographers are very interested in a shot of the bride or groom crying; it could even win us an award, but we are obliged respect this unique emotion, which will never be repeated. So, we say no to any kind of protagonism! And this obviously also applies to celebrants. The day belongs to the bride and groom, not to us.
Q: As you rightly say, the formula: ‘Don’t take over the show; the protagonists are the bride and groom’ also applies to celebrants. Celebrants should be present, with their words, with their voice, they should skilfully modulate the couple’s emotions, but, at the same time, they should be almost invisible. Nevertheless, we need photos, and so there is another question we must ask: why are photographers so reluctant to give us photos? Why does it take so long to deliver the pictures? Why is it so hard for us to get shots of us as celebrants?
A: We undertake to deliver within four months of the ceremony. And we deliver to everyone who asks for them, to everyone who worked for that event, as well as the bride and groom of course! We suggest that you ask the photographer before the ceremony when they will deliver the photos to the bride and groom. As mentioned, it is crucial for us that everyone we have worked with has the photos, but not all photographers provide these. Obviously there is a difference between the photos where the celebrant is either next to or between the bride and groom, and the photos of the celebrant that we take especially for them. The latter belong to the celebrant, of course, while for the others, it is good practice to ask the bride and groom for permission.
Q: In fact, many of us celebrants include a clause in our contracts with the couple where we ask for a number of shots after the ceremony. But let us ask you another question: is there a code of practice for photographers? Is the methodology you apply in your work shared by other photographers?
A: We cannot speak for our colleagues, but we can tell you how we have developed this methodology. Over the years we have realised that for a professional, a good photo can make the difference between getting commissions and not commissions. A wedding ceremony is deemed a success not only when the photographers take beautiful pictures, but when everyone and everything works smoothly, because the bride is happy, the groom laughs, they are both at ease, and the professionals are focused and relaxed at the same time.
However, there is no photographer’s code! Of course, we know that there are colleagues who deliver photos more than a year after the ceremony. This is not our case, we believe that six months should be the maximum. Of course there are studios that send photographers to several ceremonies, or perhaps do three weddings in one day. In that situation of course the photos and work pile up and long delays are par for the course.
Q: Maybe it would be good to have a code of conduct for photographers! But in the meantime let’s ask you one last question: what do you think is the ideal position for the bride and groom during the ceremony?
A: We like the bride and groom to stand thoughout the ceremony! Especially in outdoor celebrant-led ceremonies. Sitting with your back to the guests, as if you were at the altar in church, is definitely the worst possible position. The ideal position is to have the celebrant at one side of the focus, the bride and groom in a reverse shot, facing the celebrant, or even better facing the guests. In short, ideally, the celebrant and the couple should form a semicircle in front of the guests.
This positioning is nicer for the bride and groom who are always filmed from the front; it is nicer for the guests who can see their faces and their expressions the whole time; it is nicer for the celebrant who can alternate his gaze between the couple and the guests; it is perfect for the photographers who have a full view, not obstructed by shoulders, etc. and they will not have to walk around, so they will not be disturbing the ceremony. It is not always easy to convince the couple, however! Maybe the bride wants to show off her mega veil, or the groom is scared he will burst into tears if he looks at his mother, but if you as celebrants manage to convince them it will definitely be the best possible solution.
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