No wedding coordinator = photographer is the wedding coordinator

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by fuccisphotos, May 24, 2010.

  1. So at the wedding I did this weekend, they didn't have a wedding coordinator. The facilities coordinator was there, but by no means was he the wedding planner or coordinator. Basically, I found myself in the role of wedding coordinator as well. I'll give just a few of the details below, but have you ever been put in this spot? How far did you go with it? You don't want to seem pushy, but at the same time, you want to get good photos and make sure everything goes off without a hitch. How would you handle this type of situation? How do you keep from seeming overly controlling?
    • They barely had a timeline at all. They knew when the ceremony was to start, and had planned for the cocktail hour to be about an hour, and that's where the timeline ended.
    • It had been pouring rain outside, so the ceremony was inside. I realized after that the lighting in the ballroom where they had the wedding instead was on a dimmer set, so it could have been much brighter. But at the time I didn't think to ask them to make it brighter in there, so it was darker in there than in most dark churches.
    • While I got set up for the group formals, I asked the facilities coordinator to take the flowers they had put on the seats outside and put them on every 4 feet or so on the staircase where we were doing the shots to gussy them up. After about 15 minutes of fumbling with one he came over and told me it wasn't possible to put it on with the little pipecleaner fasteners. I said, um, there are 2 foot long ribbons, we can use those to tie them on the staircase. He still couldn't get them in a very good spot, so finally I just went up there and did it myself, in about a minute. I should have known at this point what was to come...
    • The DJ asked me to give the cue as to when they were walking in for their entrances. When the bridal party made their entrances for the reception they didn't know what they were supposed to do, all the guests were sitting, the DJ didn't tell people to stand up, so they didn't make their way around to the dance floor, and just walked in and walked over to their seats, so I wasn't in a good position to get a shot of them entering.
    • At this point, I figured I'd need to kinda take things into my own hands. So I asked the facilities director if he could bring up the lights. I watched what he did from a distance, because he put it up only the tiniest amount. After about 5 minutes, I went over there and brought the lights up a lot more so that I'd at least have some ambient light to work with. I asked the bride if that setting was ok, and she said YES now we can see our FOOD!
    • The ceremony ended at 5:25. I was only contracted to be there until 9:30pm. At around 8:45 I finally figured I needed to prod them about cutting the cake. That started at about 9:05pm.
    • When they had the cake cutting going on, they had left the cake sitting in the middle of a table that was the same size as the tables seating 8-10 people, and no forks for the bride and groom to eat the cake with. Knowing that the bride leaning over candles to cut a cake about 4 feet away from her was a recipe for disaster (and bad photos!). To remedy this situation, I found myself working with the groom to move the cake closer to them. I called out to the facilities people to bring forks. They went off looking for them, and came back about 10 minutes later with them. By that time, it was too late. When the forks didn't come promptly and they had already cut the cake, the Bride and Groom were just looking around, being like what do we do now??? So I suggested just sweetly feeding each other the cake with their hands.
     
  2. Yep, it's kinda part of the job. You're coming in with a LOT more wedding experience than most people, and you did all the right things. You wouldn't be blamed, more than likely, for things that went wrong, but I wouldn't want to be at that photo presentation either, had you not intervened! I'm sure they are or will be grateful.
     
  3. What a nightmare!
    I've shot weddings that didn't have a "pro" coordinator running the show, but at least somebody was in charge. I always ask well in advance of the wedding day who is going to be running the show. If the answer was, "Well, we're just going to wing it," it would worry me.
     
  4. William, in the situation of "wing[ing] it", would you have still accepted the job, with the possibility to direct in non-photographer role?
     
  5. "William, in the situation of "wing[ing] it", would you have still accepted the job, with the possibility to direct in non-photographer role?"
    Hmm. Yes, probably. I mean, most of my clients are on a tight budget. If the bride simply said that they're going to "wing it", it would worry me, as I said, but it wouldn't necessarily cause me to walk away from the gig.
    However, I'm grateful for this thread, because it's made me think about what I would do. I think I would talk to the bride about this a bit. I would tell the bride that somebody is going to need to take charge, because there is a schedule to keep, and problems inevitably arise and somebody other than her (or me) needs to be able to solve them before anybody else notices.
    I also think that it would simply be useful to me to know in advance that the event was going to be free form. However, I would not want to accept the job of being coordinator. Sounds like Vail Fucci (the OP) stepped up and did what needed to be done, and I bet in the same circumstances I might actually have done the same thing. But I would not accept the job in advance for sure, because then you'd be setting yourself up to get the blame for a whole new set of screw-ups.
     
  6. We hardly ever have proper wedding co-ordinators where I live in the UK, normally someone at the reception venue sets out rough times, but I find a lot of the time people look to me to help work out the timings. I always meet the couple a month or so before the wedding to go through their timings and make suggestions. It normally works out ok in the end as I've had evperience with wedding so can make suggestions to help them out.
     
  7. In the UK the idea of having a co-ordinator for a wedding is very strange - they just happen!
    I don't do wedding photography but I do play in a band which sometimes plays at weddings. Usually the mother of the bride has already decided what will happen when and has a written running order accurate to the nearest minute. Usually you can add two hours to her timings!
     
  8. Forks... ?????
     
  9. Brian, are you saying
    Forks... ?????​
    Because you can't believe they didn't have the forks out? or
    Forks... ?????​
    Because who needs forks for cake? ;)
     
  10. Yes, who needs forks to eat wedding cake. Pics of bride/groom feeding each other by hand are so cliche, but so nice and sweet... until they get started with the cake-smash-in-the-face routine. I HATE that just as much as I hate the concept of "trash the dress".
    I was amused at your comment because I don't think I've ever seen brides/grooms use a fork to eat their wedding cake. It does make the table look better, though!
     
  11. I went through this enough times early on in my career that I always ask the bride and groom who the coordinator is, and if there is none, I just assume the responsibility. It's up to me to provide the shots, so if no one else is making sure those moments are happening and on time, I'm not as likely to provide an excellent product for them. It's in your best interests as the photographer to take that responsibility on, or delegate it. I frequently find that DJs actually enjoy having this emcee sort of job, especially since they have the microphone and people are used to looking to them for guidance. But in a pinch, my operatic vocal instrument has come in handy a few times. Just keep it light and fun. : )
     
  12. It's very different for me.
    Firstly, I'm in the UK. Over here, the concept of a stage-managed, heavily produced wedding doesn't really exist. As Steve said, they tend to just happen.
    Secondly, I see my role as an interpreter and recorder of the wedding, not as an influencer. And certainly not as a co-ordinator. Most clients would consider it a poor use of my time and definitely not what I was hired for. I tend to get hired by clients specifically because they don't want their photographer to be highly visible, far less front and centre directing people.
    But I agree there are occasions when things might need a little more organisation. If that happens I just delegate it, usually by having a quiet word with the chief usher, or the catering manager, or the DJ. I just explain what needs to happen and let them get on with it. One minute of my time, rather than forty, and then I can get back to my real job ....
     
  13. Yep, been there, done that. We were photo'ing a out of town wedding & there was no rehersal, no wedding director. Bride tried to plan the ceremony, but it was sad. The groom/pastor was the last persons to enter, supposed to been first, candles were not lit. I told my wife/assistant that if that ever happens again, we would step in & direct the wedding. Did it several times & brides were very thankful. Hey, at one wedding the bride wanted this particular song sang. The singer was sick. My wife/assistant said she knows the song, listened to it once, when the time came, she walks up & sings it like she wrote it !!
     
  14. It is part of the photographer's job to help the day go smoothly, but from your version of events, it sounds like the DJ and the facilities coordinator weren't doing their jobs. I always touch base with the DJ if there is one, and they usually set up the wedding party, tell them when to walk out, announce them, get the guest to stand, and sort of run the show. For the cake cutting, if the facility was doing the cake, the manager should have been on top of that.
    Knowing that I will often be helping the wedding run smoothly, I try to go over a rough itinerary with the B&G before the wedding, so I have an order of events and I know when to expect what to happen. I've found this also helps them have a smoother wedding day.
     
  15. Sure, it is part of being a wedding photographer. From time to time, you need to step in, just to avert disaster, or at least make things more pleasant or efficient for the couple and guests. As with most things having to do with people, the extent of 'helping' depends on the people themselves and the circumstances, meaning you need to use your judgement. There is also the well known 'overbearing photographer' image to deal with too.
     
  16. Good story, Vail
    I try not to interfere much during a wedding, but here's what I do-
    Set a sechedule. A month before, ask the couple for a timeline. Most people make a timeline on their own, but once in a while, when you ask for one, it's the first time they've actually thought about it. Writing it down often helps them visualize the day's events and should help them run smoother.The sechedule doesn't have to be strict, but it's good to know what's going to happen and if not the time, the order of what's going to happen. Most important is to make sure they allow enough time to get ready and to try to add a few minutes here and there, at all parts of the day. I like to tell couples that it's good to have extra time to relax, that a relaxed day makes for better pictures.
    Introduce yourself to the dj & event space persons. It's important to coordinate and having a good working relationship with other wedding vendors is one of keys to getting more work. If you're really busy, at the least, send your assistant over with instructions. If you want the dance floor surrounded by guests during the first dance, the dj should be the one to announce it, not you.
    Sad about the flowers, cake & forks. It sounds like the venue dropped the ball or never had it to begin with. Nadine is right, sometimes you have to step in.
    Maybe you should raise your rates. The more money a couple spends on their day, the less likely you will have to do anything other than take pictures.
    I'd find a subtle way to remind the couple of all the work that you did and that it went above and beyond what you were there to do. They should be telling all their friends how great you are.
     
  17. My first ever wedding was in a park, beneath beautiful Hawaiian mountains. I got there and NOTHING was set up. No chairs, no altar, nothing. The groom arrived, and asked, "where do you think we should do this?" I got the chairs lined up, picked the background, and basically took over as coordinator from minute one. I'm there with much experience in all facets of wedding day work! =)
     
  18. This happened to me on my very first solo wedding.
    The bride and groom, while fairly prepared themselves, had no itenerary set for the bridal party.
    The groomsmen(including the best man (WITH THE RINGS!)) showed up 3 hours late for the photo session, and everything had to be crammed into a 20 minute session after the ceremony(as everyone was leaving for the reception hall, 30 miles away).
    The church locked its doors with the majority of my photo equipment inside (no warning!) during the 20 minute rush-shoot, so I had even less of my concentration on-hand to manage the tired and cranky 12 person party. No flashes meant golden-hour shooting, which also mean that light was a valuable commodity.
    Thankfully, I quickly became firm-handed with group, and got it all under control(or as best as could be expected), and everyone moved to the reception hall to get blitzed.
    The rest of the night was great, because I am friends with the DJ(who is very good) and we helped co-ordinate all of the events. He even killed his colored dj lights for the important shots!
     
  19. I do not know anything about photographing weddings. Yet, after reading the title, I have to honestly say, "What the @#$%^&* were they thinking?" Hey, the photographer records the event, not coordinates the event!
    Don't get too close to the news, brother! Get too close to the bridesmaids, instead!
    Isn't Bridezilla's Mom the default coordinator? Just asking. J.
     
  20. At a Wedding a few years ago, I was taking photos of the flower girls playing, and the florist asked me to help her pin boutonnieres on the Groomsmen. She said to everyone in ear shot, "The Photographer usually does this." I was like...."Really? I thought the Photographer usually takes pictures." :) Ok, I didn't say that, but I politely declined, explaining that I was hired to take photos of candid moments, precisely like the one I was in the middle of at the time.
    Stranger things have happened!
     
  21. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "It's very different for me."

    Me too. There always the Function Manager on hand at the Reception House or Hotel and sometimes a Wedding Reception Venue will provide an MC (at the couple's request) - or it is Protocol often for an MC to be appointed by the Couple (in addition to the Best Man and Matron of Honour). Also the Mother of the Bride almost always knows exactly what is going on and when and is the one who can organize it if it is not correct

    Wedding Coordinators are becoming more popular here now - for the higher-end weddings or those which wish to be seen as high end and in this latter case, the WC is more hindrance than help - but at the higher end Weddings (at a Professional Function Houses, Hotels or swanky Clubs (like "Country Clubs") the Functions Manager would ensure the timeline.

    Just commenting on this point which seemed to predicate the whole, problem
    "They barely had a timeline at all. They knew when the ceremony was to start, and had planned for the cocktail hour to be about an hour, and that's where the timeline ended."

    Do you meet with your Clients before the event? If so, do you not go over the timeline with them?

    WW
     
  22. Another quick note-I actually have it in my contract that the bride and groom should designate somebody to gather people up for group shots, and I explain to the B&G in the pre-wedding meeting that it is much better for somebody who knows everybody to be rounding them up than for me to be trying to fetch people I don't really know.
     
  23. Most of the weddings I shoot don't have a coordinator, and in general they go fine. A few weeks before the wedding we meet and work out a time line. It rarely takes more than an hour. At this time I also ask a lot of questions about how things are going to go. I see the same problems over and over again, so I point out things that they may be unaware of. I make suggestions, or have them ask for other vendors' input and let me know. I don't do any decorating, but I don't mind coaching folks on how to enter a room, set up the bouquet toss, adjust the lights, cut the cake, etc... I've learned to look for forks, knife, plate, napkins, and such before we start. If someone asks me to do something i don't want to I politely say "I'm sorry, I'm busy with the photography." I'm glad to help plan the day's schedule. It usually makes it easier for me. I think a good wedding coordinator is a great idea, but the most problematic weddings I've experienced had wedding coordinators.
     
  24. I only photograph weddings where there is a director/coordinator/planner etc. I've done a few without one and although I know enough to give some order to the process, I prefer to concentrate on taking pictures. At one wedding, which lacked a director, the bride's mother asked me which side the bride's family should sit on.
    A good director is a valuable asset, especially if it is a large wedding. I know several people that are good directors and I offer a discount if the bride uses one of the directors I recommend.
     
  25. "A good director is a valuable asset, especially if it is a large wedding. I know several people that are good directors and I offer a discount if the bride uses one of the directors I recommend."
    Great idea. Should have thought of that myself long time ago.
     
  26. I was amused at your comment because I don't think I've ever seen brides/grooms use a fork to eat their wedding cake. It does make the table look better, though!​
    Brian, this photo is from my own wedding, image by Sarah Merians Studios. Maybe we were the weird ones for using forks??? But the place I got married at gave it to us that way. We did tell them in advance that we weren't doing the face cake smash though.
    Moderator Note: Vail--unfortunately, I must remove your image since the rules here at photo.net are pretty clear--do not post any image which you haven't taken yourself. If this image exists somewhere else, you can provide a link. It is a wonderful image.
     
  27. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Before that image gets pulled down, I will take the opportunity to say you are a Striking Woman and an Elegant Bride . . . and that we used cake forks, also, at our Wedding - but our Cake only had three tiers . . . dare say this comment will go south too when the image goes – hope you get to read it first.

    WW
     
  28. William, I insist on meeting the clients beforehand. And if they can't meet, I require us to talk on the phone first at least. Since I have only recently entered the field of wedding photography, and my prices are still fairly low, the weddings I am booking are often planned only a few months in advance. The wedding prior to this one there was a wonderful wedding planner that booked me for the wedding in the first place and she was a dream to work with, so I suppose I was spoiled. When I meet with the clients I do ask them for a basic schedule and run through my shot list. At the time when I met with the bride, she said we don't know any of the times yet. I gave her a copy of the shot list saying "these are the types of photos people usually want to get, they highlight the main points of the wedding. You can use this to set a schedule." Since I am still working my day job, time got away from me and I didn't follow up with her to make sure they had set a schedule. That was my fault.
    As soon as I got to the facility I met with the facilities coordinator briefly to introduce myself, and briefly met with the DJ. At which point she asked me to give her the thumbs up at the door when the bride and groom were ready to go.
    I explain to the B&G in the pre-wedding meeting that it is much better for somebody who knows everybody to be rounding them up than for me to be trying to fetch people I don't really know​
    I explain that to them as well. It isn't in the contract though. I ask for the names of the family members they want in the photos and that I'll be interacting with a great deal, and the names of everyone in the bridal party. I put them on flash cards a few days before hand and memorize them. I ask that they give me proper pronunciations as well, and a basic descriptor if it is a big bridal party (i.e. brown hair, blonde hair, glasses, tall, short, etc) I mention during this meeting that I'll divvy up the formal shot list to the bridal party, and have them round up the people or to the ushers/wedding coordinator.
     
  29. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Vail,


    Yes I know your background I clearly remember a previous post and most of the answers, too.


    OK the picture gets clearer. As you move along you will command more that arrangements and details are more solid at the meeting – you might consider having a prep sheet you send the Prospects outlining what you will cover.

    After the meeting, it was the Client's job to supply the information which you requested.
    The wedding managment was out of your control and I think you did well to manage what you did and did not overstep the mark.

    It seems the Client's did not take full advantage of your Services, Talent and Time – you can advise and technically direct and suggest but then bottom line is you are not the School Ma'm to hold the strap over them, if they are recalcitrant.

    Client’s have responsibilities also.


    WW
     
  30. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    CORRECTION:

    "It seems the Client's did not take full advantage of your Services, Talent and Time – you can advise and technically direct and suggest but then bottom line is you are not the School Ma'm to hold the strap over them, if they are recalcitrant."

    This Paragraph was NOT intended for this thread.

    This paragraph was erroneously included by an accidental cut and paste from another script for which it was meant.

    There is no inference that in this thread, the Client's behaviour was unruly.

    I apologize that my mistake was not seen within the 10 minute edit time, and I further apologize for any concern caused by my error.

    The comment:
    “Client’s have responsibilities also”,
    is a standalone comment and refers ONLY to the fact that the Clients have responsibilities to manage or put in place a manager of the function.

    WW
     
  31. On my website I post three sample Timelines for brides to download and study.
    I ask, as part of the contract, for a Timeline and a Formals list prior to the wedding day. When you plan ahead and "help" encourage the bride and groom to plan ahead you are doing the work that should really not be done on the wedding day.
    On the wedding day: I want to be the photographer they hired and not a wedding coordinator. I want to take photographs of the good times and the clunky times. My wife will help "coordinate" if things get rough but, in general, the work should be done well ahead of time. A planned timeline, done in advance, is then given to the groom and groomsmen and all other wedding party persons who will need it.
    Plan Ahead so that you are doing "the job" you are hired to do as the person with the camera in your hands on the wedding day. (imo).
     
  32. I rarely have worked with coordinators. At the church Church people keep things on schedule because they want out it over as fast as possible so they can go home. At the reception let the DJ run things they are the emcee, and have a set location so are easy for all involved to find. They can plan with the banquet manager and let you know what's up.
     
  33. Oh, Thank God I'm not a wedding photographer!
     
  34. "I was amused at your comment because I don't think I've ever seen brides/grooms use a fork to eat their wedding cake."
    I'm very confused by this. How else would one eat cake?
     
  35. "Brian, this photo is from my own wedding, image by Sarah Merians Studios. Maybe we were the weird ones for using forks??? But the place I got married at gave it to us that way. We did tell them in advance that we weren't doing the face cake smash though."
    Vail, I don't think you are weird at all. That is a very sophisticated image! Thanks for sharing it with us.
    p.s. I agree with William W... you are a stiking woman, beautiful bride, and your husband is annoyingly handsome. I'd post a pic from my wedding showing how we fed each other cake by hand (also with a "no-smashing clause" in place), but you wouldn't be able to reciprocate with the 'handsome groom' comments so... :)
     
  36. There was no such thing as a wedding coordinator twenty years ago and people today don't seem capable of tying their shoes without some expert, someone holding their hand, cheering them on, telling then everything is going to be okay. What nonsense. I'm a photographer, not a coordinator, and neither should any other photographer be a coordinator. Let people do what they do for good or bad. It's their event, not yours or mine, especially for those who sell their work as 'photo-journalistic.' Keep true to that spirit, don't meddle and let the pictures telling the story of the day, even if it's a disastrous, 'non'-coordinated' affair.
     
  37. Moderator Note: Vail--unfortunately, I must remove your image since the rules here at photo.net are pretty clear--do not post any image which you haven't taken yourself. If this image exists somewhere else, you can provide a link. It is a wonderful image.​
    So very sorry about that Nadine. My mistake. Eventually I'll remember all the rules!
    To the others, thank you for the compliments. I'm a bit confused about the comment about the 3 tier cake though. Will, care to elaborate?
     
  38. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "but our Cake only had three tiers" was simple childish envy. Nothing deep and meaningful, no secret societies, no coded message . . .
    Your cake had four tiers, our cake had only three tiers, therefore you had a bigger cake than me.
    I like Wedding Cake. I like Christmas Cake, too.
    In fact there's not much (quality) food I don't like.
    I don't care that you might have a 1Series - that's only a tool - good food is an experience.

    WW
     
  39. Christmas cake?
     
  40. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    My comment about me liking Christmas Cake refers to this: http://www.photo.net/canon-eos-digital-camera-forum/00WUuQ (My Post May 23, 2010; 11:19 p.m.)
    There is a lot of testosterone and head bashing before the end of that thread.
    If you want a chuckle, grab a coffee; a piece of cake; your cake fork . . . and have a read.
    WW
     
  41. As a rule, I don't do weddings (Star Wars Cantina band anyone...;-))), but when I do:
    - I ALWAYS visit both the church AND the reception venue beforehand and speak both to the priest AND to the event coordinator. I ask everything, from lighting (sometimes I even ask them to demo the lighting for me), to floral arrangements, decorations, cake arrangements (where is it stored, how will it be rolled out, etc) and even examine their plates and stuff. And of course, I ask how are they thinking of timing the event.
    - Based on all this, I formulate a shots plan, test various lighting ideas (usually with the help of my assistant) and put this down on a rough draft event plan which I then use to discuss basic directions with the couple (as I don't like directing them on the day - I tend to shoot more in a photojournalistic style). It is at this stage that any gaps or "hadn't thought of it"s usually come up. The couple then have the chance to correct them or at least keep them at the back of their minds...;-)
    - Finally, my ONE condition for the coverage is that there is at least ONE person, usually someone who knows the couple VERY well, someone they trust and who has SOME authority to resolve minor issues for me. I try to befriend that person as much as possible and enlist his/her help in resolving any disturbances and minor problems which may arise (from uncle Bob and his brand new DSLR to little Mike who thinks climbing on my light stands to escape from little Katie is fuuuuun..)
     
  42. Vail -- I must say that as a photographer I've never been in this situation. As a DJ, (years ago), I have. It's kind of expected that the DJ has been to many more weddings than the bride and groom. On top of that, the DJ has a PA system so his voice will always be the loudest. If there is no DJ, the photographer is the next best choice to make sure everything gets done. I hate to say it, but if I was in your situation, I would have taken the reigns and directed the wedding like I was the coordinator. I wouldn't get paid for it, but I may get another gig because I took control, got the shots, and had the day go off without a hitch.
    On the other hand, if everything went wrong, I don't think the photographer would be the first blamed...after all I was only paid to take pictures.
    Just my 2 cents.
    RS
     
  43. I am seeing a lot more DIY weddings.
    The bride plans her special day by remembering what she SAW at other weddings and not by finding out how the event is put together.
    Amateur organization equals chaos.
     
  44. I am seeing a lot more DIY weddings.
    Yep, you'll be seeing even more as the economy stays bad.
    *
    The bride plans her special day by remembering what she SAW at other weddings and not by finding out how the event is put together. Amateur organization equals chaos.
    Oh, that seems a tad unfair. NO organization = chaos. If amateur means inexperienced, then the challenge of getting organized is certainly greater. But just as there are photographers who've never shot a wedding but go out and do a pretty good job their first time, so there are brides who do their homework and manage to get things to run pretty smoothly. I've shot do-it-yourself weddings that were really pretty well run. And I remember one wedding in Austin that had actually TWO wedding coordinators (supposedly, they were partners) and it was a mess.
    Will
     
  45. You are there to take photographs, that is plain truth, but in order to take them and since Weddings do have a timeline for things to happen, then you need sometimes to direct this moments to get the shot.
    Even if there is a Wedding Planner you need to communicate with this person and other vendors, like the DJ, to organize the timeline.
    You are the one that calls the SHOTS!
     
  46. Love that last line Jose.
     

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