Recently I was asked to be a photographer's assistant at a wedding. Score!! Photography has long been a hobby of mine and I have dabbled in it enough to mostly know what I am doing. At this point I wouldn't expect someone to pay me to take care of the entire wedding, but I felt perfectly comfortable following around a professional and taking the candid shots. I had so much fun doing this!!
The hard part of the day for me was seeing a lot of the things that I would have done as a coordinator NOT GETTING DONE!! I had to keep repeating to myself, "You are getting paid to take pictures today, not fix the other stuff. Focus on the job you were hired to do and stop thinking about how much help you could have been." Instead, I mentally noted a few things to blog about later.
Let me first say, the wedding turned out to be a beautiful, touching event. At the end of the day, the bride and groom were happily married and everyone had a good time. It was a really fun group and they knew how to enjoy themselves.
Now the wedding planner in me gets to have her say.
We arrived early to look around because the photographer that I was working with had never shot at that venue before and it was located an hour away from us. Other than when the ceremony started, it looked like there was no set schedule for anything else. They kept asking the photographer when/ who should get dressed to be ready for pics. She wasn't the designated person in charge (no one was) so the wedding party wasn't listening to her. This made the photos go slower than they needed to, which threw everything behind (the imaginary) schedule. Guests were waiting outside of the doors while we finished up pics when they should have been entering to be seated.
Besides that, we had to keep prompting the couple to do that next thing we needed to take photos of, like cake cutting and the bouquet toss. These things need to be done in a timely manner, early enough so that any guests that aren't into partying late can enjoy the festivities and be on their way. If you don't plan them out, there is a really good chance you will forget to do them altogether. You might regret that after the fact.
No pre-decided photographs.
The photographer had to ask more than once for the bride and groom to give her their list of family shots that they wanted taken. I witnessed the groom stare at the sheet blankly for a minute, then pass it off to his mother who had to quiz him while he dressed. I can only assume there was a similar situation in the bride's dressing room. This led to incomplete lists once we started photographing, plus the bride's mother couldn't read the groom's mother's handwriting and missed calling a couple of names in group shots. Also, since this led so far into ceremony time, people setting up decorations and food kept wandering into the background of the shots. (It was an extremely windy day, preventing us from doing any photography outside until after the ceremony was over. Gotta preserve the girls' hairdos!!)
After the ceremony, the bride had one special shot she had found on Pinterest that she wanted, but didn't tell the photographer until that moment. The bride knew about it ahead of time because it involved a prop, but rather than have a chance to be prepared, the photographer had to figure out how to execute that shot while guests looked on (hungrily) waiting for the dinner to start. She's a rock star, so she figured it out quickly!! Still, it would have gone smoother with just a little heads up beforehand.
The ceremony and reception were to take place in the same room. Ceremony chairs started in the center of the room with reception tables to the left and right. During the receiving line, the tables were to be moved to the center. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this in theory, but if you are going to have this setup, everything visible needs to be decorated before anyone arrives. The ceremony chairs and aisle decorations were ready when guests sat down, but the centerpieces for all of the reception tables were bulked together in a pile on a couple of the tables, in full view of all of the guests. It looked like craft projects were being done while the event was taking place. It would have taken very little effort, looked much more put-together, and saved time later to have centerpieces already placed the way that they would be during the reception. The decor was short and simple, so the tables could have been moved into place with everything already set up.
The cake table was gigantic and only held a small cake in the center. The light-up words "I DO" were on the table to begin with, but since no one was overseeing the whole thing, a couple of family members moved them before everything got started. When the bride and groom went over to cut the cake, the bride had to ask for plates because they had not been set out. Also, while the marriage certificate was being signed at the head table, the bride stopped in the middle of signing to yell over at a family member that they were putting the wrong decorations on the head table.
When we left for the evening, I noticed a pile of wooden signs on the front porch. These signs were adorable and were meant to be directional pointers leading up to the venue. (It was kind of hard to find.) Some had the couple's names, my favorites were "Almost there" & "Excited Yet?" Apparently they ran out of time to put them up, or perhaps they were just forgotten about completely. They would have been such a sweet addition to the decor, and it's a shame that someone took the time to make them and they didn't get used.
One last thing that threw a kink in the works was a phone call interrupting a very special moment. Granted, this could happen even with a coordinator involved, but I try my very best to have anyone with wedding day questions to call me first, then as a very VERY last resort, I go to the bride or groom myself with the question if necessary. If your family or friends have your number and you are paying attention to your phone, these calls could still sneak by me. We were right in the middle of taking the pictures of the bride's mother helping her daughter get dressed when Mom answered her phone and walked away to give someone directions that had gotten lost. Mood-breaker!! It's wise to give everyone close to you the number of a designated cousin or friend that can field these questions for the day. They can let you know if it's an emergency.
So, there are some of the things that were setting off my OCD during the event. You may think a coordinator is an added expense that really isn't necessary, but these are only the tip of the iceberg of things that need to be managed. Even if you are a super organized person with lists upon lists, more than likely you haven't done this before. A coordinator does this a lot, and probably has seen or heard of almost every possible scenario of problems that could pop up. If it's new to them, they have the expertise to deal with it in a productive way. Plus, all of the time the coordinator can save you by knowing the answers to questions and keeping the entire process on time and on track can actually save you money in other areas. We really are worth it!!