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With our youngest daughter’s Temple wedding just a few weeks away, we’ve observed and learned that parents can’t be too careful in “planning with the end in mind” of how you want the day to play out, especially regarding the photos and how the events of the day flow. This is a day that cannot be deleted and re-done, like a computer document. When it’s over, it’s over. Period. Those photos (or lack of them) and memories last a lifetime.
In fact, the wedding photos are the only lasting physical evidence of this very special day. All the effort and expense of the wedding gown, special attire, flowers and décor are gone the minute the bride and groom leave and the party ends. They are captured and remain solely in the photos and scrapbooks to treasure forevermore. They portray the love of not just the couple, but the love of the parents and extended family and friends who have played a part in the lives of the bride and groom. Surely this once-in-a lifetime collection of people and photographs deserves extra special planning. No regrets on this one, please!
Where to begin? Decide! Spend some time talking to family and friends and looking at their scrapbooks. Then, with kind, clear, written communication with first the photographer, next family members on both sides before this special day, provide instructions on what to do and what to expect. Allow enough advance time for questions and adjustments. This kind of thoughtful, respectful communication can be the launch of many good times for everyone. It invites the Spirit and a sense of direction. Miscommunication, haphazard communication or none at all can create disharmony and feelings that may be difficult to move past. Timely, courteous written emails or notes help everyone avoid the embarrassment, confusion, and hurt feelings that accompany simply by not being informed. Adults and children thrive with knowing what’s going on ahead of time!
While this seems more than obvious, it’s amazing how often wedding photos can be a major disappointment and a very stressful element to an otherwise beautifully special day. I’ve collected some stories from friends and family here with ten lessons we plan to apply for our daughter’s upcoming wedding. They’ll help not only the couple relax and enjoy the day, but assist all the new members of both families to get off to a happy start.
The Missing Photographer: Yes, indeed. No photographer at the Temple. After countless phone calls and texts, with the bride and groom all dressed and professionally coifed and waiting at the steps of the Temple for their special photo shoot at the perfect time of the day with the late afternoon sun just right, the bride’s mom finally started snapping away with her little digital camera. The photographer never did show up.
The good news was that these were the “creative” bridal photos and it was two days before the actual wedding. More good news: another photographer had been hired for the big wedding day. So there were plenty of photos, but due to extenuating circumstances, there was never another opportunity for the fun late-afternoon photos in the flower gardens at the Temple grounds that the bride had dreamed of. (The photographer did call the next morning, apologized profusely for forgetting and refunded her high-priced specialty fee. The bride would have much preferred the photos over the refund, I assure you.)
Lesson 1: Check, check and triple-check that your photographer’s calendar is trust-worthy and that you have all contact information. If possible, allow for a back-up date for these creative bridal photos to cover weather or other emergencies.
The Amateur Photographer and The Misplaced Camera: An avid amateur photographer had offered her services at an Open House to the bride as a wedding gift. Against her better judgment, the bride agreed in order to not hurt her co-worker’s feelings. After a very special afternoon with many “this-day-only” unique photos of friends, family and roommates who had gathered from near and far for the event, the photographer left her camera bag on the roof of her car as she was leaving. You guessed it. As she drove off, the camera bag fell off the car. The camera was broken. The priceless photos were no longer available for developing. Not only were the photos gone, but the embarrassment over the event and lost photos forever changed the friendship between the bride and her co-worker friend.
Lesson 2: Always hire a pro and have back-up photos of special group photos. The most important feelings on this day are those of the families, the bride and the groom. Amateur photographers may be encouraged to participate as back-up photographers or assistants, but not solely responsible for this important event.
All Fluff: A friend shared that after hours of shooting photos with hundreds of fun and fancy boutique style photos, it seemed impossible that any special groups or shots could possibly be missing. After looking through them all, they realized that there were no pictures of the bride and groom together. There were plenty of the bride in her dress, with bridesmaids, flower girls, preparing at a pretty vanity, etc. and the groom doing cute stuff with the groomsmen and a darling little ring bearer. There were boatloads of the entire party, but not any classic bride and groom photograph of the couple alone!
The photographer had no choice but to photoshop the couple together.
Another friend shared that her two daughters had been exceptionally close with one as the maid of honor for her sister. When they went through the photos, there was not a single photo of these two devoted sisters together on the wedding day. There were plenty of all the bridesmaids and the bridal party doing silly, creative things with props and poses, but none of just the two sisters to frame and cherish, nor any to adequately photoshop the two of them together. It was as disappointing for the parents as it was for the two sisters, not to mention that they’d paid top dollar for this photographer.
As I shared this story with another friend, she had more to add, saying “The young photographers of today may be clever, even brilliant artists, but they forget that this is a day to document the events, as well as to create photos that look like a magazine layout and advertising. They need to think of themselves as journalists as well as artists.”
Lesson 3: Make a list, even if it seems silly, of all the official photos you want:
“Groom with Groom’s parents. Bride and Groom with Groom’s parents. Bride with her Maid Of Honor. Bride with her Mother and Grandmother,” etc.
If your photographer or your young bride and groom scoff (and think it’s unnecessary) quietly prepare and present a printed list with a space to check off each photo with a firm statement that you want and expect each of those photos to be taken, no matter how old-fashioned they seem. And remind them that you’re paying their fee.
Speaking with all kindness, young brides and grooms may not realize the importance of these classic poses and how they will matter and be treasured later in life. It’s within the parents’ appropriate expectations to openly talk about these groupings and to make sure these photos are arranged for and taken. Once again, it’s probably the parents who are paying the photographer and A-OK to be firm about this well ahead of the wedding date with a written list. Don’t leave this important conversation with the photographer to a young bride and groom or surprise the photographer with requests or lists on the day of the wedding.
Blinding Sun and No Schedule: A friend told me of a very frustrating wedding day for their family. The bride and groom came out of the temple about 11:00 a.m. on a hot summer day to the happy, waiting crowd. The late morning sun was blinding as the photographer arranged everyone on the wide Temple stairs with the sun directly in everyone’s eyes. It was impossible to keep eyes open for the photos, so everyone squinted, and briefly opened their eyes when the photographer shouted “NOW!” The children, who’d been waiting outside the Temple for hours in their fancy outfits, were hot and tired and very anxious to be done. Everyone felt the same and the photographer worked as quickly as she could just to get everyone out of the sun. There were no other photos taken at the temple as they headed off for the luncheon.
The early afternoon was spent with a fun wedding luncheon. The hired photographer, though present, did not take any photos of this special event provided by the groom’s family, which the groom’s family was surprised and sad about when the event was over. After the lunch, the photographer took the bridal party to a scenic park for more “boutique” style creative photos while the families prepared for the evening wedding reception.
The groom’s family had assumed that the family photos with parents, siblings, grandparents etc. would be taken before the evening reception started. But when they arrived, they were told that the photos taken on the Temple steps in the sun were the only photos that had been scheduled for them. They were told that if they wanted these family photos, they could gather in the parking lot if time permitted after the receiving line had been completed. By the time there was finally a break in the receiving line, the sun had set, the family groups were busy partying and difficult to gather. The children and grandparents were exhausted and not enthused about photos.
Lesson 4: Check out the lighting on where you’ll be taking your large group photos ahead of time. If you know it will probably be difficult lighting, you’ll be prepared to compensate with more small group photos later in the day, inside, or at a different place on the Temple grounds.
Lesson 5: Make sure everyone knows what the photographer is assigned to cover. Will he travel with the group for the day and capture the special meal or other events? Or should other photography be arranged?
Lesson 6: Give everyone a schedule for when and where family photos will be taken, and make sure, once again, that family groupings have been arranged for.
Mixed Attire: Another friend’s temple wedding included family members that were not Church members and who would not be attending the Temple sealing. They knew they were to wait outside in the Temple visiting area, but had not been told what to wear to the Temple. Some arrived in their fancy formal outfits for the reception, others wore suits and dresses. Everyone took it in stride, but there was some embarrassment over it all with some feeling overdressed and others feeling underdressed. There were feelings and conversations of frustration from simply not knowing what to expect or do.
Lesson 7: Decide on what everyone is to wear for the Temple pictures and inform everyone. Are the mothers supposed to wear their evening gowns? Dads in tuxes? Or what they’ve worn to the Temple?
You get the picture!
Who? What? Where? When? Whew! Another family we know had a late morning Temple wedding. Several young nieces and nephews who were to be included for the day’s activities had been left with friends close to the Temple for the sealing, where the baby could nap. As everyone came out of the temple, no one was sure when or where the small group family photos would be taken. Some were sure that the children could be brought later to the reception for those photos later in the day, but after some debate the young mother, a sibling, felt strongly that she should hurry and get her children. She was nervous leaving to pick them up that she herself may miss out on the photos on the Temple steps. The groom’s mother was even more nervous about them all getting back. But that young mom was right. She got back in the nick of time with her darling children. All of the official family photos were indeed taken on the Temple steps. They turned out beautifully, but if she had not followed her prompting, her children would be missing entirely from those special photos. That would have been so sad and upsetting for everyone not just then, but in the lifetime that these photos live.
Lesson 8: This is another case in point for a written agenda of the day to share with family members and all involved members of the bridal party. Send it by email beforehand and have printed copies to share on the wedding day. Don’t assume everyone will “know” your plan. They won’t.
The Case of the Missing Bride and Groom: It’s not unusual to wait for what seems like hours after the group Temple photos for the bride and groom to arrive for a special meal. Everyone knows they’re busy with their photographer while everyone waits and waits and waits. This is an especially difficult time for children. Sometimes the meal is eventually launched without the bride and groom, but a hungry crowd with an anti-climactic entrance of the couple is not the experience or memory anyone willingly chooses.
Lesson 9: While it is a once-in-a-lifetime event at the Temple, whenever possible schedule the creative photos before or after the wedding day so the bride and groom can be with their guests and enjoy the meal after, if one is scheduled. Or provide enough of a time gap between the group photos and the lunch to allow the photographer and the bridal couple to have adequate time for their photo shoot. Another alternative is to provide soft drinks and appetizers at the luncheon to nibble on while waiting for the bride and groom.
Weather Changes: Our family will never forget a Temple wedding at the end of March. It should have been a nice Spring day, and indeed, the entire week before the wedding had been very warm and pleasant. Instead, it felt like the coldest day of the year. The photos outside were miserable for everyone as no one was prepared for the dropping temperatures that day. The bride was freezing, with chattering teeth, in a borrowed sweater, while the rest of us huddled as close to each other as possible as the wind whipped our hair.
Lesson 10: Have a back-up plan for Temple photos ahead of time. Scope the temple grounds out carefully for a Visitors Center or an area that is shielded from the wind and the elements.
In contrast to these stories, I, of course, have attended many lovely events that went off without a hitch. Our LDS members and friends are great planners! One stands out in particular that is worth sharing.
Many years ago, I attended the reception for the daughter of a well-established, prominent and very large LDS family in our Stake. They were known for their administrative talents. As we arrived at the reception that evening, it was clear that we were all in for a memorable evening at a lovely location with many fun details to make it special. I happened to pick up a piece of paper that had been left in a side room, and there, on one page, was a simple outline in a table/chart form of the schedule for the day. It must have been left there by a family member as there was the complete itinerary for family members. It listed expected arrival and departure times to and from the homes to the Temple, as well as for the luncheon and the evening reception. The Temple and all other addresses were listed including phone numbers, photography times and locations for the photos, meal times, who was to be in each car for transportation and clothing changes. There was no doubt as to where anyone was supposed to be throughout the day. Clearly everyone in the family had received this piece of paper.
I suddenly knew why this event was so much fun: the planning had taken place well ahead of time. Ever family member knew what to do, what to wear, where to be, and could step back to enjoy themselves and their guests followed suit! I’m still remembering the magic of that evening.
With a prayer in my heart that I’ll be able to apply these important lessons for our own upcoming wedding, I hope they’ll be helpful for you and your next family Temple wedding too.
Carolyn Allen has been sharing health and lifestyle articles for Meridian magazine for ten years. She is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success, One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life. She has been providing mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success both online since 1999, having presented for Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups while living in the Washington, DC area. She and her husband, Bob, are the parents of five children and grandparentsto a growing number of darling grandchildren. They are now happy empty-nesters in Jackson, Tennessee, close to Memphis, where they center their online business for an amazing herbal detox and reflexology power socks.