When you hire a WPJA member to document your wedding, you will most likely obtain original, dynamic photos that capture the story of the day. Often this story contains many intimate moments that might appear insignificant to an outsider. But to you, they have tremendous meaning; and the ability to always bring you right back to the people, the place, and the emotion of that day.
Obviously, the emotional aspect of a wedding isn’t just about the love between the bride and groom. Family plays an important part in many weddings, and grandparents and older relatives bring a deeper meaning to the ceremony and festivities. Photographs of your grandparents and other family and friends from older generations can celebrate the bonds of your heritage that you cherish as you prepare for the future. A good wedding photojournalist recognizes this special connection.
A wedding photojournalist’s goal is to guarantee that you remember the day vividly for years to come. To make sure they don’t miss a moment with anyone special, particularly older relatives who may be present for only part of the event, many couples like to do a bit of reconnaissance beforehand.
“As a wedding photojournalist, getting as much information as possible before a wedding is essential,” says Mary Gardella-Hester, a wedding photographer from Maryland, USA. “This is when the client tells me who's important and why. More likely than not, I will hear about grandparents and how important it is that I capture them during the event—so going into the shoot I know I need to focus on certain people. This gives me the opportunity to look for great moments.”
This is exactly what happened when Gardella-Hester snapped the photo that became an award winner in a recent WPJA Summer contest. “The elder woman in the photograph is the bride's grandmother. She is very loved and someone quite special in that family, especially to the grandchildren.”
Gardella-Hester knew that a picture with the bride and her grandmother would be special, and was delighted when an opportunity presented itself. “Even though she was quite fragile, the grandmother made a point to get on the dance floor with the younger folks,” she says. “I saw what was happening and I stayed with the situation until this image unfolded before my eyes. I'm glad I was in the right place at the right time.”
The goal, of course, is to depict a memory that will live on. “I would like to think that someday someone will be browsing through their album with their grandkids,” says Nicole Young, a wedding photographer from New York, USA says. “They’ll spot a particular photograph that will strike up a memory or funny story about a relative that is no longer with them, and share the story with the younger generation. Sometimes it takes seeing an image to bring back a moment that we had completely forgotten about.”
With elder relatives, having all the information also makes it easier to take into account any special considerations.
“I will usually ask beforehand to see if there are any wedding party members, family, friends etc. that may need special attention,” says Sean Meyers, a wedding photographer from North Carolina, USA. This knowledge helps him to plan ahead and be present in locations that are more accessible for the elderly or wheel chair bound guests.
The intimacy of taking time out for older relatives can lead to some special moments. “One thing I have found more of my brides doing lately is inviting grandparents up to their rooms or homes while they are getting ready,” says Young. “It gives them a chance to have a few quiet moments together without all the noise and distractions that will be present later. The older family member can then get a close-up look at the dress, the rings, the details of the day.”
A similar opportunity presented itself to Meyers when he shot his WPJA award-winning photo. “I was keeping an eye on the bride as she was being congratulated after the ceremony and noticed her elderly great-grandmother patiently waiting for a hug,” he remembers. “Moments like this are often important, so I was next to them both to capture that moment. They started comparing rings,” and Meyers, noticing the contrast in their hands, jumped on it. “I knew it would be a good image.”
Your wedding day is not just about what’s next, but sharing with your new partner where you’ve been in your life. Older generations are often a sign of the joy that lies ahead.
“I often take mental notes of grandparents and where they are during the day,” says Meyers. “They provide excellent opportunities to capture those moments between the happy bride and equally happy grandma and grandpa. Documenting the contrast between the couple’s new ‘beginning’ and the grandparents’ ‘developed’ partnership makes for interesting photographs. Grandparents are a critical part of the day's storytelling and are well worth keeping an eye on.”
This is exactly what Young found when she took the photograph that would go on to place in another recent WPJA contest. “The bride was simply waiting around and walked up and sat next to her grandmother. She was showing her the bouquet and other little things that were special to her. It was a quiet and simple moment.”
Although she knew it would be a beautiful photo, Young also respected the intimacy of the exchange. “I tried very hard to capture the image without them knowing I was there or interrupting them. I’d rather have someone remember that moment with their grandmother and not capture it, than for them to remember me stepping in. In a perfect world I would capture it without them even knowing I was there.”
Perhaps Mary Gardella-Hester puts it best: “It warms my heart to see such affection for our elders. They are so important to our family history and they help shape our future generations. How can I not document that?”
—by Heather Bowlan for the Wedding Photojournalist Association