There are only a few weeks to go before the big day and the final preparations are all falling into place nicely...however the bride and groom have a concern about the use of mobile phones and other cameras by their guests and are considering how to politely restrict usage. This thought is increasingly common amongst soon to be couples and the natural desire find a solution which does not ‘offend’ your nearest and dearest can quite understandably cause anxiety.

So here are some thoughts and tips to help you decide what is right for your day:

Guests are attending to see you. They have often traveled long distances, taken days off of work, bought new outfits, paid out for accommodation, taken time to find that perfect wedding gift, and become involved from the sidelines during the past eighteen months of planning. So why after all this emotional, financial and time investment would they want to observe the most magnificent and special elements of the day staring at the back of a mobile phone screen? Often it appears that there is almost a peer pressure to ‘get the phone out’ as one guest feels it is appropriate and then others all leap on the bandwagon. In reality they all miss the magic moments and simply end up with a shaky video showing the back of a distant mystery couple in a dark building. Without the need to poorly document the occasion your guests will have a far more pleasurable experience.

You have invited family members and other loved ones as you want them to share this very special day with you. Hours were spent agonizing over who should be on the guest list as these are the people who you will remember being at your wedding day for the rest of your life. Connecting with each and everyone of them at some stage during the day is important to you and may be just a few fleeting minutes, but that time taken for some well chosen words to be exchanged is wonderful. Certainly some of the most memorable elements of the day for the couple is when entering and exiting the ceremony and reception, however increasingly this once in a lifetime few precious minutes is marred by guest photography. When a bride and groom turn for the first time as a married couple to present themselves to their family and friends who have just been an audience to the service, the true wonder is for them to recognise those faces and soak up the special moment as smiles are exchanged, tears of joy are seen and mutual love is shared. Turning to see an array of phones, cameras (and increasingly huge ipads) instead of enjoying the warmth of human eye contact really does destroy the moment for many brides and grooms.

Mobile phones are certainly sophisticated and an amazing tool for both business and personal use. However they are generally woeful for image creation when compared to the £5000 camera and lens combo that your hired professional photographer is going to be skilfully pointing in your direction. If your hope is that there will be from your guests a suite of hundreds of amazing candid images which add to the story and feel of the day, and that somehow you will collate these into a journal to treasure, then it is likely that you will be sorely disappointed.

Good photography is challenging and a true art. Just because Uncle Dave has bought the top of the range camera in Argos in no way should you believe that a gorgeous visual treat is going to be the result  - in the same way that owning an expensive cooker will not make you a super chef like Gordon Ramsey.

Tipsy, well meaning guests make terrible photographers. There is unlikely to be another day in your life so meticulously planned; the investment has been substantial to ensure that all the main players look fabulous, the venue has cost the equivalent of four good holidays, and a whole team has spent days preparing every last detail - so why would you want all that effort reflected in any way that was not at least equal to the input? The thought that your second cousin will be showing the glory of ‘your day’ to their work colleagues on Monday morning on a 2” scratched mobile phone screen displaying a host of out of focus and badly composed imagery should be more than a little depressing.

Social media is fast, if not instantaneous. Smart phones mean that in many cases a bride has not even managed to travel from the church to the reception by the time dozens, if not hundreds, of poorly lit, out of focus, badly composed and unflattering images of her are splashed all over her social networks. Having no opportunity to vett what is distributed can feel extremely frustrating. 

Google never forgets. Anyone who has taken a selfie knows that 99% of the time you immediately hit delete and try again, most people continuiously take picture after picture before they are happy to commit this visual to the social media world! Self-editing is even more important on your wedding day. Imagine having dozens of mobile phone toting guests all snapping away - what are the odds of any of those photos making the cut for you? It is guaranteed that one well meaning relative thinks they have bagged the dream shot, but in your eyes (if you had seen it which you won’t) it makes you look ghastly - now imagine that they tag the image with your name fire it off to their social media that time it is too late because within milliseconds the image and the data has been gobbled up by the search engines, and for the next 100 years whenever anyone googles your name that horrid photo pops up to greet them and haunt you.

You have spent somewhere between 10 - 20% of your entire wedding budget hiring a professional photographer.  In return you are entitled to expect a collection of marvellous images to enjoy forever. Ask any professional wedding photographer if they achieve an improved result for the clients when shooting weddings where casual photography is restricted and the answer will be a unanimous “Yes”. It is not the guests fault that they get in the way at exactly the wrong moment, or that their flash (that they did not realise they had on) blows out the professionals image, or that the purity of the church aisle shot of the couple is destroyed as there are a dozen guests standing down the centre holding phones in the air, or that their red focusing beams cast a weird light over the bridal gown….things just work out that way because in the excitement of the moment guests do not see the surrounding scene whilst staring at the back of their phone. Your selected professional is there exclusively for you so giving them the best conditions to succeed makes a great deal of sense.

So what is the answer for our wedding? Should we just issue a blanket ban?

Whilst it might be popular for Hollywood A-listers to strip search their guests in the hunt for recording devices to avoid unauthorised images leaking on to the front of Hello magazine, it is probably not the ideal scenario for a usual English village wedding. As a general rule the best option is both personal to the couple and bespoke for their occasion; there is no one size fits all, however a little planning and thought prior to the event will ensure that no issues arise.

Top 5 ways to manage guest photography at a wedding:

TIP 1: Decide what you is your day! If you want a free for all approach with no guest restrictions then there is not much to do, however be aware you may still have to instruct your guests to observe the rules laid down by venues. Churches for example typically have preferences which your hired professional photographer will have been wise enough to gain advance knowledge of, however attendees will not know of and it could cause distress if there is an altercation between a guest and an official.

TIP 2: Find a wedding photographer who is happy to work with your requirements. Be sure that you specifically discuss your wishes and desires regarding guest photography prior to contracting a service.

TIP 3: Make a decision and stick to it. Once you know what you want then stand firm as there will undoubtedly be detractors who have their opinions. It is your day & they are your guests so they should be both willing & happy to comply with your instruction.

TIP 4: Communicate, communicate, communicate. If you get the opportunity to insert a small special note specifically regarding any photographic restrictions within the formal wedding invitation then that is excellent, however often this has been forgotten by the time the event arrives. Inform your best man and ushers that it is their task to give guests the correct guidance at arrival….and make sure they are confident enough to police the matter as the event proceeds. A few politely worded notices can help too.

TIP 5: Have a route of access to ‘official’ images so that both those attendees and your wider social circle can enjoy the photography. Usually there will be a weblink or online catalogue which is provided by the professional photographer - ensure you have a method to let all know how to access it.

I hope you found this useful. Please do leave your comments by replying below - I would love to hear your thoughts regarding your plans for guest photography or stories of events you have attended:)

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