After the first wedding I ever filmed I promised myself I would never film another. It was far too much pressure. The one day in a girl's life she wants to be absolutely perfect and it's documentation was in my hands. You might say, well surely being paid to make a promo for an organisation is just as much pressure. It is a responsibility, but it does not hold the potential emotional bomb that a wedding does. Somehow though, I was persuaded into filming weddings again, first as a favour and later as a paid part of my freelance work. I realised that, actually, as long as you do your best and capture the day as well as possible, the couple, so far in my experience, are very happy with the result. I think the photographer has more pressure on them really these days.
I thought it would be a good idea to collate a few tips I have on preparing to film a wedding and what to be ready for.
Things to take with you
- Water, water, water. At someone's wedding, you are merely the videographer. You are not a guest and you should not be helping yourself to any food or drink. You also don't have time to grab a drink, so make sure you carry a small water bottle with you, in your camera case or at least have one in the car with your equipment. You need water. It's going to be a long day, usually in summer with very little rest time
- Drugs! No, not that kind. Paracetamol or whatever painkiller takes your fancy. I also like to take motillium and immodium with me in case of any dire straits! But painkillers are wonderful to have, especially if like me you tend to get terrible tension headaches after driving or from pre-shoot stress.
- Change of clothes. Always make sure you take a coat or a warm jumper as you may be outside filming fireworks at night for some events. At the same time, do have a cooler type of clothing packed in case the day brings a heatwave. You're not a guest so although it's nice to dress smartly, it's not the end of the world if you don't look the part later in the evening. They'll thank you when they see those amazing shots!
- Mini deodorant. Very important because it's surprising how much you sweat when lugging equipment and camera from hotel to ceremony to reception
- Snacks. I personally like nakd bars and Kelloggs Breakfast Bake Choc Chips because they are small and filling and quick to eat. Also pack a sandwich for lunch and unless you are absolutely sure you are being provided with an evening meal of some sort, pack something for dinner too. Often weddings take place miles away from anywhere and it is extremely unlikely that you can just drive to the nearest supermarket for a sandwich. It's horrible being hungry and carrying a camera around for hours on end.
- Laptop. You never know when you will need to backup footage. Some weddings have more stuff to film than others and unless you have more than enough cards, you may need to empty into the laptop and wipe the card to make sure you're capturing everything.
Before the day
- FIND OUT WHAT THEY WANT FROM YOU! You need to understand their expectations and let them know what you can (and can't) do. You will be so upset when you realise they wanted you to make 5 separate videos of the day AND a video booth if all you were expecting to do was one 3 minute video and the speeches. Be clear. Don't ask too much what they would like but state what you provide and then discuss what you could add to that to accommodate what they want. Also, give a timeframe otherwise you will be there until 2 a.m.
- Ask for an order of events. Try and get as much information from the bride and groom as possible. Ask for a wedding day plan so you know when you will be filming what. It's important to plan when to get the tripod out for the speeches and setup the sound equipment and it's even more important to know how much time you have to get to the church after filming the bride getting ready. Ask how far the place the bride is getting dressed is from the ceremony and how far the reception is. Try and ask all these things only once or twice because the couple are worrying and planning SO much already. Don't add extra stress.
- Watch wedding videos. Even if you have your own style, it's really good to watch other styles to get new ideas and be inspired.
- Google map the area. Figure out where everything is. Make sure you know what time you should leave and give yourself enough time to get lost.
- Plan your schedule. Decide whether you are staying the night or driving back. Plan accordingly. This really depends on how tired you get and whether you need to stay the night before driving home after a 10 hour filming day. Is it a long drive there? Is it worth going a night early? If not will you need a cool box for your sandwiches? All these things are simply to make you more comfortable so you can be your best on the day and feel really creative.
- Be clear on how much you charge and how long you will film for. You don't want to come across as one of those people who says one thing and does another so when estimating be as specific as possible about the time you will film, how much your charge for that time and how much you charge for editing. Don't lock yourself into too small an editing timeframe because if you say it will take a day and it takes two and you charge for two, it doesn't look great. The more specific you were at the start, the easier it is too explain what has added on cost. It also allows them to say yes or no to certain things and maybe they won't want you to edit that extra film of just the dancers...
On the day
Be prepared. Everything is planned but nothing will run as you thought it would in your head. Or it very rarely will. Ceremonies will run late, speeches will be early, cakes will be cut and you could easily miss the important moments if you're not paying attention. Keep making sure you know what's happening next. Try and tell yourself, "Right, I need the kiss, I need the cutting of the cake and the first dance..." Just know what you're getting and keep your eyes open for those moments.
Arrange to get there early to film the bride getting ready. This part of the day is my favourite and I always think is the most genuine and touching part of the video. It's where the bride is effectively, spending those last moments with her mother, father and siblings, before she leaves the family home to make her own new home. It shows all the nervousness and the candid family interactions. There is something so cinematic about a bride readying herself and putting on the dress. I can't quite describe why it is so moving, but it is.
Get close ups of decorations, fauna and flora. These make wonderful cutaways and can really elevate the look of the video.
Film people. Weddings are all about people. As much as we say the day is about the bride and groom, it's really about the friends and family and yes the couple are going to want to look back on their happy day and how beautiful they both looked, but they are also going to love seeing the faces of people they love who they may not have got to speak to during the day. I couldn't believe how many people I never got to even say hi to on our wedding day! The time where guests have drinks outside (weather providing) is the best time to snap guests and also while you wait for the bride to arrive at the ceremony.
Focus on the Bride and Groom. After all, it is their wedding and you want lots of great shots of them talking, kissing and laughing.
Make sure you get a good position during the ceremony. So often the minister or family like to tuck the videographer and photographer in a corner during the ceremony, and then expect us somehow to produce wonderful footage. Fight for your place. Explain the shot you want to get and that if they want that shot they must allow you to stand somewhere where you can get it. Maybe also invest in a longer lens. That way you can stand further back, get a good angle and not be in the way.