Monday, June 13, 2011

The Terrible Truths of the Wedding Videographer

Summer is here and for me, that means one thing: Wedding season.  But unlike Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, I’m not on a mission to party up and bang bridesmaids.  My objective is to make some coin.  Sadly, the whole thing can be a soul-crushing experience.

Now don’t get me wrong.  For the most part, I love the career path I chose.  Working in (for lack of a better term) video production, I’m involved with a variety of wonderful projects: filming models, food shoots, luxury yachts.  But like most anything, you have to take the good with the bad.  Let’s talk about the bad: Weddings.

A still from my first gig
How did I ever get my self into this racket?  It’s draining work, both physically, mentally and spiritually.  If you know me, I pretty much hate everything unless it involves skateboarding, playing the drums or skateboarding while playing the drums.  Weddings?  You know damn well I don’t want to attend them, OK, now I’m going to them as a form of income? I’m already off on the wrong foot.  But why?  Answer: money. The sweet, sweet money.  I have bills to pay and a family to support.  If I could get by on shooting music videos for the Boardlords, I would.  Sadly, that is not the case.

The Big Day:  What we’re dealing with here is a service industry of many individuals working together to make the bride, groom and their parents happy.   Wedding planners, florists, DJ’s, photographers, wait staff and so on.  It’s long, hot days where you’ll be working as the “hired help”.  Generally I find you’ll be in the trenches with folks who have been doing this a long time.  They are jaded, negative, burnt out and it generally makes my day all the more miserable.

So I’ve put together a set of “terrible truths” for the aspiring wedding videographer.   You really sure you want to get into this line of work?  Well read on, or bail out now.  

1. Hurry Up and Wait: The bridal prep will always start early and the reception will always run late.  If they tell you to be there at 2, the bride will no doubt already be in her gown ready to go.  Ooops.  As for the reception, it’s a party.  People are drunk and they want to booze the night away.  If you’re supposed to be there until “the end”, brace yourself for tedium. The thing you have to realize is you are there to work.  As everyone gets progressively shitfaced, you will remain sober.  And bored. Over the course of 7 or 10 or 13 hours.  Those Excel spreadsheets the wedding planners put together?  Forget it.  Everything is  always running waaaaaayyyyyyy behind schedule due to one factor or another.

2. Wedding photographers:  They are your mortal enemy.  In theory, you should be working as a team, but it always seems like it’s some damn competition to them.  “Oh look, I did a better job than the video guy.  I win!”  With the exception of some very cool individuals (you know who you are) most wedding photographers I work with are dickheads.  They’re either totally pretentious or more lost in space than the Family Robinson. 

The scenario plays out the same every time:  It’s always like two girls from the City, they think I’m a jerkoff, they treat me like a second rate citizen and we get in each other’s way the whole day and night.  They're always smug and miserable.  Of course they're miserable, they're wedding photographers, for Christ's sake.  (Leave your messages of love in the "comments" section below) 

I remember this one British photographer dude was so full of himself and his “craft”.  Talking down to me like,  “I see you there with your tripod, that’s making me nervous.  I like to work loose and free, you’re just going to get in my way.”  OK, you arrogant twat.  Why don’t you stick your head up a dead bear’s asshole?  Lucky for him, I never remembered his name; otherwise I would have besmirched his reputation all over the Internet under the guise of "disgruntled brides".

3. I Corinthians 13:1-13: If it’s a Christian ceremony, someone WILL read this at the podium.  Let's come up with something new, people.

4. The Cocktail Hour: Sometimes you’ll be requested to get footage from the cocktail hour.  From my experience, people do not like to be filmed at this time.  You might as well poke them with dog doo-doo on a stick.  Now on the other hand, wait till the reception starts and they’re on the dance floor, totally loaded.  Then they’ll be camera-happy like you wouldn’t believe.

5. Lighting:  You know, every year the cameras that come out are getting better for low light situations.  But God-dammit, it also seems like every year the reception halls keep getting DARKER and DARKER!  You gotta give me something to work with…someone turn on a light!  And f*ck these kitschy weddings in a barn out in the middle of nowhere. It might as well be 1834, I can't see or film anything!

"But that's enough about me."
6. The toasts: Oh God, let them be quick.  Bless the dude who keeps his best man’s speech under 90 seconds.  Unfortunately, this is usually their "time to shine" with bad jokes, inside jokes, racist jokes (kidding) and long-winded stories.  Thankfully tape is cheap.  I found this great advice on a "wedding toast" website, "Begin, be brief, and be seated."  Also at this time I'd like to mention I cannot stand any "reunions" at weddings, like the college acapella group The Tone Arrangers or Whiffenpoofs or whatever else is going to force me to stay in the same area filming for a long period of time.

7.  The food:  I’m talking about what you eat, not the guests.  I’ve experienced it all: The dizzying highs and disgusting lows.  I’ve been treated like one of the guests where I was served a 3 course meal & wine when I wasn’t shooting.  I’ve also been sequestered to the pantry where I was served a roast beef sandwich.  If you are hiring a videographer, have some class.  It goes a long way.  

"Please remove our picture
from your stupid blog"
8. The wedding band:  Oh boy, where do we start?  Did you ever notice that every race, creed and color is represented in the wedding band?  It’s like a United Nations of assholes.  They folks are steeped in their own little subculture.  They don’t want to know you and you don’t want to know them.  But what the wedding band does know is all the best reception halls and wedding factories for getting fed.  And they won’t hesitate to talk about how they got a fine cut of Chateaubriand at last week's gig.  

BTW, with all the soundchecks and preparation, you’d think Bon Jovi himself was going to drop in to sing “Living On A Prayer”.  Dude, just plug in and play your Earth, Wind and Fire cover.  Get over yourselves.

9. The DJ: Unlike the band, the DJ’s are usually cool.  I don’t know, that’s just the way it is.  My advice is be nice to them.  They run the show and can tell you when all the key events are happening.  (Unlike the wedding planner-don’t ask her anything!)

10. The Song: This next one depresses me so much, I don’t know why: From here on out, you will absolutely, positively hear the song "I've Got a Feeling Tonight's Gonna Be a Good Night" at every reception you go to. Just know that going in.  It breaks my spirit every time I hear it.  When I have to film people dancing to Black Eyed Peas, I think I know what a prostitute feels like.  OK, it's not that bad.  But it's pretty bad.  

11. Other Notable Songs: You will hear “All the Single Ladies” if the bride throws the bouquet.  You will hear “How Sweet It Is” if the couple cuts the wedding cake.  Or “When I’m 64”.  Or possibly “Your Love Is Sweeter Than Chocolate” if the couple is more sensitive and artsy-fartsy.

"Is that a 5D?  Sweet!"

I could go on and on and on.  Yes, it’s the dictionary definition of a thankless job.  

So this summer when you’re home relaxing with your family on a Saturday night watching Amercia’s Most Wanted, remember me:  I’m the guy who's out videotaping drunk people dancing to Loveshack.

PS- If you work in the wedding industry and happened to stumble upon this blog, I have some humble advice for you:  Try and be nice to your fellow vendors.  It’s a long day and we’re all just trying to get through it.  Or you can just keep being a douchebag.  I’m taking notes, and maybe someday your crappy attitude will be fodder for my yet-to-be-released book.  Or movie!


  1. I would have to agree with everything you said, so point on.