An experienced and effective wedding officiant works as a team with all the other wedding professionals, and during the wedding ceremony itself the unspoken partnership between the officiant and the wedding photographer is crucial. The wedding officiant leads the celebration in the moment while the photographer captures those moments to be documented forever.
In my previous article about working with other wedding professionals, I mentioned that the relationship between the officiant and the many other wedding professionals is a collaborative experience that takes real team effort. This article focuses on the integral connection between the officiant and the photographer, and how we officiants can best support the photographers while each of us simultaneously perform our responsibilities. Help make their photos amazing by doing the following during the ceremony:
1. Smile When You Are Celebrating
"This photo capturing pure joy is still up on the couple’s wall."
[Photo by Jeannie Mutrais]
I have a resting serious face, so this task gives me the most exercise. You will be the centered background for a lot of the ceremony photos, so be sure your body language and facial expression matches the celebration of the day. There are of course solemn moments during a ceremony, but there are plenty of moments when the couple will enjoy seeing a joyous officiant standing between them, so remember to have fun and enjoy those moments!
2. Help Stage the Ring Exchange
A perfectly practiced ring exchange
[Photo by Tammy Horton]
When the couple puts their rings on each others’ hands, make sure they know to tilt their hands at a forty-five degree angle toward the community (the term I like to use instead of “guests”) so the photographer can get the best, most clear shot possible of the ring exchange.
If you have a rehearsal, definitely have them practice this then; if not, be sure that your last check-in with the couple before the ceremony includes this valuable piece of information (so it is fresh in their minds). Photographers so appreciate the thoughtfulness of an officiant who thinks to ask this of the couple ahead of time. But when the couple exchange rings, do not forget to…
3. Get Out of the Way!
"Look closely and you can see me land after I literally jumped out of the way."
[Photo by Maria Villano]
The way I give this advice is: any time the couple exchanges something, get out of the way! Those exchanges are (in traditional order): Vows, Rings, and The Kiss. An officiant is not needed in the background of the photos capturing these moments, so when the couples are proclaiming their vows, exchanging their rings, and sharing their first kiss as a married couple, step off to the side so that the photographer can get a shot of just the two of them sharing these moments.
Often, the officiant needs to provide prompting for the vows or the wording during the ring exchange; in those common cases, I step just off to the side of whichever member of the couple I am prompting, so they can still hear me without their photographer capturing me in the shot. Photographers LOVE when you do this, and the couple will not realize it in the moment but will love these beautiful photos for the rest of their lives!
4. Credit, Don’t Edit
"One of my all-time favorite photos of me with a couple, which I try to never alter."
[Photo by Maria Villano]
Ninety-eight percent of all wedding photographers you work with will let you use their photos for your own social media promotion (with the couple’s permission, of course). We officiants benefit from this because wedding photographers are our best source for visual content of us doing our jobs. The least we can do in return is to properly share their work.
Always, always, always properly cite the photographer, including their website or preferred web link when you can. Give credit where credit is due! Never, ever, ever, mess with their art by adding a filter or cropping the photo to really change the original shot. It is understandable that some cropping has to happen as you use different social media formats (most commonly and regrettably for Instagram) but do not intentionally change the photographer’s work - they are the experts, so let their choices and hard work speak for themselves.
"The first Wedding Photographer I ever worked with: our own!"
[Photo by the Photobooth staff of Paul K. Benjamin]
Following and executing these tips takes a lot of practice, and trial and error. I still see photos of my serious face, or my not being completely out of the way for a ring exchange. Trying to follow all the choreography of making a great photo is difficult while you are also celebrating a wedding to the best of your abilities. Keep in mind, though, that you are a key component to many of those great photos, and doing your best to help the photographer do theirs is just another way you can thoughtfully and successfully help your couples have the most memorable weddings for which they could ever hope!
This article was written for American Weddings by guest contributor Matt McMurphy.
Matt is a professional wedding officiant living in the northern Bay Area of California who creates and leads wedding ceremonies personalized for the couple that help everyone recognize, declare, and celebrate the love that is between the couple and ever-present in our world.
In addition to performing beautiful wedding ceremonies for every couple, Matt offers coaching in writing and presenting wedding vows and toasts, so that couples and their loved ones are confident and prepared for the big day. He also offers a NEW service coaching first-time officiants in crafting wedding scripts and delivering the best ceremonies for the families or friends who have chosen them for the honor.