When the Groom Says No...
Wedding photography can be extremely intense and stressful for any photographer. It requires the ability to adapt to situations immediately and to be creative, and sometimes it means working with tough personalities. But what happens when everything suddenly comes to a screeching halt at a wedding?
Author's Note: Names and locations will be held confidential for the purposes of protecting identities for this posting.
A wedding is an event that is a high point in the life of anyone's life. It's such a personal, exciting, and life-changing moment. The bride is dressed and prepped to be perfect. Every little detail needs to be immaculate; the food, the decorations, the shoes, etc. Rightfully so—it is her wedding, and nothing should go awry during this special moment.
This wedding, I believed, would be the standard routine, no different than the others I'd shot. I traveled to the bride's house, photographed the dressing of the bride, the shoes, portraits of the bride, looking out the east window, family portraits, etc. Much of this was shot outside at the magic hour, on a rooftop on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The images were gorgeous and I thought to myself, "This is perhaps going to be the best wedding I've ever photographed."
And the images would've looked great in my portfolio.
"Look over here, arch your face that way, hold it, beautiful! One more. Perfect." Those are the typical phrases that come out of my mouth during the pre-wedding shoot.
Then the trek to the wedding venue began.
The rest of the day was standard procedure; shoot photos of the venue and the bride exiting the limo, go back and forth between the bride's and groom's quarters, photos of the rings, some candid moments, etc. Then the bride walked down the aisle, and what came next is something no wedding photographer dreams of or wishes upon any client.
"I do." she says.
My telephoto lens was aimed at the bride's face for the next part. I always like to include a photo of the expression of the bride's face as the groom says, "I do."
In the life of a photographer, the world moves by at 1/1000th of a second at F/1.4. This had to be the longest thousandth of a second I've ever experienced, as the groom paused.
"No. No...I can't. I'm sorry." He said.
No expression I ever shoot will compare to the shock on the bride's face—It is burned into my brain forever. As the wedding turned into chaos, the viewfinder left my eye and I put the camera down, as the movie "Runaway Bride" suddenly popped into my head—with the obvious switch of genders.
So what do you do in a situation like this? Do you keep shooting? Do you stop taking pictures? At that moment, I stopped taking photos. Ethically and professionally, in my opinion, this is the best decision any wedding photographer can make.
No wedding photographer ever wishes for events like this to happen at a wedding for obvious reasons, and they most likely think that it will never happen to them. But it can. Some of the photos from that magic hour session are the best I've ever shot, but they will never see the light of day.
When I talked to photographers and others about this, they were all in shock. Most never heard of this happening. Has this ever happened to you at a wedding? How did you, as a photographer, react? Let us know your insights in the comments below.