By Melissa Hesse
Getting engaged is one of the most exciting times in a person’s life, and wedding planning at times can be extremely fun and other times completely exhausting. There are some things that you need to know when you start planning in order to make sure your day is as perfect as you imagine. Being in the wedding industry as a photographer, and as a lesbian who has recently been married, I have seen all aspects of what it takes to plan a queer wedding, and what it takes to photograph one as well. Here are some tips for you and your partner as you plan:
- Choose the Right Vendors
Choosing your vendors is an obvious start, but an important one as well. With queer weddings being a recent shift in the wedding industry a lot of vendors are still working out their business layout to fit our needs. Finding vendors that support queer weddings will make you feel comfortable working with them throughout your planning process. If it is important to you and your partner, be sure to address proper titles and pronouns to use with your vendor. Do you both prefer “groom,” “bride,” “partner?” Also think about the members of the wedding party, “Bridesmaids?” “Groomsmen?” “Bridesmen?” or simply “Wedding Party.” My wife and I experienced a little trouble with this with one of our vendors who kept addressing members of our wedding party who were wearing suits as “groomsmen” when clearly there was no groom and one of those members was female. These types of situations can be uncomfortable to confront as it is disrespectful for you and your partner’s needs. Just be sure your vendors are aware, and practice your preferred titles and pronouns.
- Hire a True Professional
As tempting as it may be to hire a friend or relative who does photography on the side, and as affordable as it would be to hire them, one of the top regrets that most couples have is not allowing more in their wedding budget to hire a professional photographer. Your wedding photos are the lasting impression of what that day was like and you only have one shot. This might be the last time all of your family and greatest friends are going to be all together, and you want to make sure that is captured in the best way possible. I recommend choosing a photographer that offers a second shooter for your wedding day. Most photographers will offer a second shooter in their packages. Your wedding day will fly by, and many important moments will be happening. Though it may be a little extra on your budget you will be pleased by having that extra coverage of what one photographer can’t do on their own.
- Thoroughly Inspect Your Photographer’s Work
Asking to view a complete wedding from your photographer’s previous work is a smart way to assure you hire the right person. This will give you an idea of what coverage your wedding photographer is getting and delivering to their clients. Make sure they meet the look and aesthetic you are expecting with your photos and your wedding as a whole. An extra tip: Pay attention to the way they use light and handle indoor settings, which can show their strengths and weaknesses.
- Be Comfortable
Your photographer is going to be with you throughout all aspects of the day, you must be able to let your guard down in front of the camera and being comfortable with your photographer is the only way to achieve that. It’s helpful to have your engagement session with your potential photographer to see if you will feel comfortable around them. If they made you feel comfortable it is likely they will make your guests feel comfortable as well.
- Carefully Structure Your Timeline
Have a consultation with your wedding photographer to go over the timeline of your wedding day. Make sure it is realistic to the amount of hours in the package you get from your photographer. The flow of your wedding photos shouldn’t feel rushed. Give your photographer enough time to photograph your wedding party, family, and most importantly you and your partner.
- Have a Detailed Shot List
Family formals can be chaotic when you are gathering large groups so having a list of the important members of your family is helpful for your photographer to reference. If you have any specialty photos that are important to you as a couple they should be listed out for your photographer. You don’t want to regret not having important items or moments not photographed.
- Address Non-Supportive Guest(s)
Some couples may find the need to invite a non-supportive family member(s), which can be difficult to work with on your wedding day. If there is a need to include them in your wedding photos, be sure to communicate that with your photographer and any other vendors that might need to handle the situation gracefully.
- Make Your Own Traditions
The wedding industry has been trained to meet heteronormative roles and standards. This may mean that many photographers, even subconsciously, might assign roles on who appears to be more masculine or more feminine, especially when they are posing you for photographs. If this problem arises for you, feel free to position yourselves in a way that best represents the dynamics of your relationship rather than more traditional practices. As we see queer weddings become more prominent, traditions are changing and it is a beautiful opportunity to start your own. You are given an empty canvas to create a wedding that will be meaningful to you and your partner. Be sure to integrate your own traditions that are meaningful to you as a couple. What are your hobbies, where did you meet, what brings you two together? These questions can spark ideas on how to express your love story through your wedding photos.
We are living in a very exciting time where we all recently earned the right to get married throughout the entire country. We are seeing many couples, young and old, getting engaged and planning the day they’ve been dreaming about and weren’t certain would ever come. This, of course, comes with many advantages and some disadvantages that will slowly fade away. Soon all “gay weddings” will just be considered weddings. Soon not only brides will be getting all the attention, but each partner will have an equal voice and focus for the monumental celebration. I’m thrilled to be living and working in a time that I am able to focus my work around the rights we have gained. It’s such a joy to capture the unique bliss of every couple and is especially potent with the equality we all can share which has brought a new feel and energy to all weddings, straight, gay, or queer. Love is love, and I cannot wait to document as many relationships as I possibly can.
Melissa Hesse is photographer for Rivets and Roses, a Minneapolis-based wedding photography studio. For more information, go to www.rivetsandroses.com.