None of these photos are remarkable.
None of them are going to win me any awards or a million 'likes' on Facebook, but I love them. I love them for their candor and how they capture the essence of the location which was sentimental to her... it was the backyard she grew up playing in. They capture the feeling of celebration and togetherness and community. I love them because even the pictures not of the couple say so much about the couple. Which brings me to my larger point here about rehearsal/welcome party coverage. If you're on the fence about rehearsal dinner/welcome party coverage, JUST DO IT. Seriously. Stay with me here, this one's a bit long-winded....
So I only recently started getting inquiries for these & initially thought they'd be a bit of a bore... people eating salad and standing around chatting? Riveting. But as it turns out, they're actually *so* great. Here's why:
1. Focus on your key players
Everyone you've invited to your wedding is obviously important to you. But let's face it, we all know there's a few fillers on the fringes. That one cousin that you wouldn't mind if their invite "got lost in the mail", a few plus-ones that you don't know, etc.
Those that you invite to your welcome dinner though? Those are what I call the 'key players' in your wedding. It's your squad... Your BFF and your mom's BFF who you grew up thinking of as a second mom. Your niece that you spoil any chance you get and your crazy animated aunt that you've always shared a kindred spirit with. They're who I focus on at your wedding (news flash: it's near impossible to capture a charming candid of literally every single person at your wedding when you invite 200+ people) and this is a great way for your photographer to learn who your key players really are.
2. Authentic candids
Simply put, there's none of that wedding-day stiffness from guests at welcome dinners, so those delicious happy candids are naturally in abundance. Truth: on wedding days, people are on their best behavior (at first, at least... cough cough drunk groomsmen). Sometimes it feels a little stiff... basically, they're waiting on you to set the tone for how formal or informal this thing is going to be. So I typically have to wait for your guests to catch a buzz & relax a little to snag those charming laughing photos. Otherwise, it's people standing around stiff-backed and presidential, and I'm fairly certain that's not how you want to remember your big day. At your rehearsal dinner or welcome party however, people are much more relaxed and thus more themselves which = natural, happy candids.
3. For the love of hugs!
And those first HUGE hugs from friends & fam you haven't seen in forever? Those eyes-closed, ear-to-ear grin, arms wrapped all the way around you twice hugs? Yeah, I absolutely LOVE those. And they can't be duplicated or posed, they just happen naturally when someone sees you for the first time in a long time, and that happens at your welcome dinner, not at the actual wedding day. Sure, they'll hug you again on your wedding day, but it's a little more reserved.. afterall you are all dolled up to the tens and god forbid someone smear your makeup or mess up that do with their overwhelming love hug.
4. Give your photographer a fuller perspective of who you are
There's no better way for your photographer to get to know you on a deeper level than to hear your friends & fam spill their love guts for you during speeches. Sure, maybe we've gotten together for an engagement session, we had a grand ol' time and things are officially not awkward anymore, but hearing what your friends and family have to say about you during speeches is truly eye opening. And when we know who you are, we can better document you authentically.
For example, I recently shot a rehearsal dinner for a couple that I hadn't yet had the chance to meet. Until the day of their rehearsal, I could not have pointed them out in a line up, but she sounded nice enough over email I supposed. I get there and meet the couple. I think to myself 'damn she's *really* pretty (...and I hope that doesn't mean she's high maintenance), he seems a little reserved so he may take some warming up to, and this all looks really expensive.'
Flash forward two hours and several speeches later and I had a much clearer picture of who they were both as individuals and as a unit. I learned that she was known for her loyalty, unapologetic tell-it-like-it-is candor and ridiculous laugh (seriously, just thinking about it makes me smile). And him? He's not reserved at all. According to his friends' speeches, he's one of the most genuine friends a guy could ask for, someone who would not only listen when you need an ear, but would seek you out in times of need, even if just to sit with you in silence. From the speeches, I also learned that the groom's brother had recently passed away, so I knew to keep an eye out for emotional moments the following day during family formals. Pretty important information for your photographer to be aware of, I'd say.
I guess what I'm getting at here is that the better your photographer truly understand who you are as a couple, the better we can document you as your most authentic self. And what better way to do that than to be right there in the middle of it with you, the entire experience of your wedding, not just the day of.
5. Because, why the hell not?
While it isn't quite the Event that your wedding will be, your welcome dinner likely wasn't thrown together willy nilly either. You've carefully considered who to invite and, picked out that perfect space, menu and custom cocktails, so why not document that stuff too?
Okay, now that my best efforts at convincing are done, meet Anna & David. I actually missed out on shooting their wedding so it's kind of ironic that I would tie this whole spiel in with a couple who's wedding I didn't even cover, but whatever. They were in good hands the following day with my buddy Paul Rowland Photography and I was off to document a wedding of my own. With so many guests coming in from over seas ('oy mates!), Anna was so excited for her friends to see where she grew up, and she wanted tribute to all the TLC her mom had put into the ambiance. She also wanted a strong focus on the natural interactions of the night, and if you haven't noticed by now, photojournalism is kind of the beat that I march to, so I was totally on board.
Hope this post was informative, signing off now. Enjoy!
Congrats, Anna & David!