Superheroes, Dinosaurs, and Clouds

As many of you know, besides being a writer, I’m also a professional wedding photographer.  Last month, I had the pleasure of photographing Iron Man’s wedding.  Yes, really.  Actually, superhero weddings are becoming increasingly popular.  Last year, I was around to photograph Captain America’s wedding.  However, Iron Man’s wedding was quite unique.

First of all, the groom, Andrew, and the bride, Katie, love video games.  So their cake topper was none other than characters from a Zelda game.

Secondly, the groom and all his groomsmen were various superheroes.  And of course, the ring bearer was Hulk.

The bride, though she did not possess superpowers, looked stunning.

In the past year or so, a popular wedding pose has been for the wedding party to be running from a T-rex.

However, this couple is also really into Star Wars, so they wanted to be running from some AT-ATs which were introduced in The Empire Strikes Back and also appeared in Return of the Jedi.

Finally, something happened at this wedding that I’ve actually not seen before at a wedding:  The reception hall caught on fire!  Actually, I’m exaggerating.  People were dancing when suddenly my sister Michelle and I smelled smoke.  We looked up and saw smoke coming off a table.  Apparently someone bumped the table, and a napkin fell onto a tea light candle.  We ran toward it, and Michelle poured a glass of water on it.  Mostly just the napkin and a bit of the tablecloth were burned, and no one else but the bride even noticed.  Sadly, we didn’t get a photo, but there really wasn’t much to see.  However, it did make for an interesting story:  “There was a fire at my wedding!”

A lot of people don’t like to spend money on wedding photographers. They don’t understand that owning a good camera is only a fraction of a photographer’s job.  Posing, lighting, and post-production work are also a large part of what we do.  For example, this couple got married on a hazy day with a white sky.  The overcast when this happens gives people a blue-grey pallor.  But thanks to me, they now have a blue sky and puffy clouds, and years from now when they look at their wedding photos, they’ll only remember how good they looked and what a beautiful, sunny day it was.

BEFORE & AFTER my magic. 🙂

I’m not knocking people who don’t use professional photographers.  But I am saying that I feel honored to have been present at the weddings I’ve shot.  It feels great to help people capture a day with photos that they’ll one day show their grandchildren.

Let’s talk:  When’s the last time you had a professional photograph taken of yourself?  (Your driver’s license photo doesn’t count!)  If you were getting married in the next few weeks, would you wear superhero garb? Would you want a dinosaur chasing your bridal party? Have you ever been to a wedding where a fire started? 

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It’s a Nice Day for a White Wedding (And I Don’t Mean the Song by Billy Idol)

Well, we’re drawing a close to the month as well as to our truth-is-stranger-than-fiction series.  I hope you’ve found my anecdotes humorous and entertaining.  This week, I’ve been sharing true stories of weddings that were just unbelievable.

My sister Michelle and I were contracted to shoot the wedding of a professional baseball player and his fiancé.  Because of the groom’s public persona as well as the nature of the wedding-gone-wrong, I’ll simply refer to the couple as Alex W. and Kristin Z.

More than anything, Kristin wanted her wedding photos at a certain park.  However on the day of her wedding, the park was closed to the public because the TV show Bridezillas was being filmed there.  (Little did the producer know that we had the real Bridezilla!)  That very same day, here in Central Florida, it snowed!  (Yes, really!)  We don’t get snow here very often at all (maybe once a decade), but when we do, as you might imagine, people tend to freak out and don’t know how to drive.

So, Michelle and I went to the church to photograph the groom and groomsmen.  But they weren’t ready on time, and it took them nearly another hour before they were dressed.  After we got the men out of the way, we had to drive to the hotel to photograph the bride and bridesmaids nearly 30 minutes away.  However, because of the snow and the bad drivers, it took us nearly an hour to get there.

By then, we were late, but it didn’t matter because the bride wasn’t ready anyway.  The hairdresser had spent so much time on the bridesmaids and flower girls and had saved the bride for last, so we couldn’t even take any photos of the bride alone while the girls finished getting ready.  Worse yet, when the hairdresser realized she was running long, she threw the bride’s hair up in what can only be described as a cotton candy machine disaster.  The bride, who was not otherwise unattractive, looked hideous.

After all that, we got only a couple of photos of the bride before we all had to rush back to the church where the ceremony started almost two hours late.  Afterwards, we attempted to do family shots, but half of the families were outside smoking and couldn’t be bothered to come in when we called them.  Then we went to make up some of the missing bridal party photos by taking them all outside and doing some fun photos at the church.

Kristin was very unhappy because it was snowing outside, and her girls were freezing in their strapless dresses.  She was also displeased because the outside of the church was not aesthetically pleasing, and she just wanted her photos in the park.

After we left the church, we all made our way to the reception which was across the street from the hotel.  But the same bad drivers made it take much too long for the drive.  On the way, the car containing the groomsmen got a flat tire and had to stop, which of course postponed the start of the reception.  By the time the whole bridal party was there, the guests were already leaving because the reception venue didn’t have heat, and it was freezing inside.

Worse yet, the caterers ran out of food, and guests were grumbling.  Loudly.  The deejay had to change his timeline drastically because everyone kept leaving, and the bride had to chase down elderly guests who were stealing the centerpieces that were rented.  When we took the photos of the groom removing the garter, there was a pantyliner stuck to the bottom of the bride’s shoe!  To add to the disaster, the elevator in the venue broke, and elderly guests had to walk down snow covered cement steps outside in the cold.

We had a photo backdrop station set up where we attempted to get Alex and Kristin for some romantic photos, but because of the chaos, they didn’t make it over until after they did all their dancing.  Then she was unhappy because by then, she was sweaty, and her hair looked even worse.

We felt bad that this poor bride had a rough time of her dream day, but what happened after the honeymoon was incredible.  She attempted to sue us because she claimed her photos were bad!  The fact was, the photos were very good, but they very accurately depicted a less-than-desirable wedding day.  She associated her bad memories with the photography (as if us capturing those moments actually made them happen that way).  Of course the lawyer that first agreed to represent her took one look at the photos and told her she had no case.  (Besides the nasty emails we received from her during this process, she blabbed everything to her deejay who also happened to be a friend of ours.)  So, she then wrote us a letter and said we no longer had to worry about hearing from her and that she’d be praying for our souls because we were certainly demons who were destined to burn in hell!  (Yes, really!)

The really funny thing was, about three months later, we got a call to do a maternity session.  During the session, the mama-to-be told us that Kristin Z. referred her to us after we took her “amazing wedding photos.”

Have you ever been to a wedding that went wrong?  If you read about this in a book would you find it believable, or would it seem more like a comedy of errors?

 (NONE of the photos below are from the wedding described above.  However, I was the photographer for each of these shots.)

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(*Please note that 99% of the weddings we shoot are wonderful, and we enjoy them very much.  But the rare, bizarre ones like this do tend to stick out like a sore thumb.)

Return to Mayberry

This month we’ve been discussing how often truth is stranger than fiction.  This week, I’m sharing unbelievable yet true stories of weddings I’ve photographed.

My sister Michelle and I were photographing a wedding once for the daughter of a pastor.  It was in a tiny town which was quite comparable to Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show.  However, when we got to the address that was on the contract, there was a small church administrative office with a postage stamp sized yard.  We knew that couldn’t be the place, and that the mom (who filled out the contract) must’ve accidentally put her church’s administrative mailing address rather than the actual wedding location.

Of course, we tried to use our cellphones to call the bride and get a correct address, but being such a small town, there was no reception.  So we drove around until we found the local police station.  However when we went to go inside and ask for directions, the door was locked, and there was a sign on the door that said “Closed Today For Wedding.”  (Yes, really!)

We drove around aimlessly a bit looking for the church.  (Luckily, we left in time to get there very early in case of bad traffic.)  When we still couldn’t find it, we went to a convenience store to ask for directions.  The cashier said, “Oh, y’all must be going to Brittany’s wedding.”  (And of course, we were.)  So she pointed us in the right direction.

We found the church, then since we had an extra couple of hours to kill, we went to a diner.  The waitress apparently overheard us talking about the wedding and said, “Oh, are y’all going to be at Brittany’s wedding?”  We chuckled.

When we got to the wedding, outside the church was the largest tent I’ve ever seen!  It was about the size of a city block!  When the pastor told us that everyone in town knew her and would be there, she wasn’t kidding.

We got out of the car and walked over to the outdoor reception area to check on everything, and that’s when we noticed that there was a baseball bat propped against each of the seventy-five tables.  We assumed they were planning a massive softball game or something of the sort, so we were shocked when someone came to tell us that the bats were in fact to use after it got dark when the wild boars came out of the woods!  (Yes, really!)

Well, when we finally got to photograph the groom and his groomsmen, we were surprised when the (one and only) sheriff was actually the best man!  No wonder the police station was closed.  And then when we photographed the bride and bridesmaids, two of the girls were none other than the clerk from the convenience store and the diner waitress!

The wedding was beautiful, and I have no doubt that indeed the entire town actually did show up at the ceremony.  Furthermore, yes, more than a dozen wild boars did come out of the woods that night when they smelled the food, but we were relieved that the boys that chased them away didn’t actually strike them with bats.

So tell me, have you ever been in a town so small that everyone literally knows everyone?  Have you ever encountered wild boars at a wedding reception?

 (NONE of the photos below are from the wedding described above.  However, I was the photographer for each of these shots.)blog2 (1)

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He Spit What Where?

This month, I’ve been discussing how truth is stranger than fiction (TSF).  This week, I’m going to be talking about the most unlikely events you might ever imagine that happened at at weddings.  I don’t just mean stuff like you might see on the TV show Bridezillas (although I’m here to tell you those are not far from the truth in some cases).  As many of you know, I’ve been a professional photographer for several years.  So needless to say, I’ve photographed more weddings each year that most people attend in a lifetime.

At any rate, my TSF story today is about the very first wedding I shot professionally that was for a complete stranger and not as a referral of a friend or family member.  At that point, I’d shot weddings for strangers for my BFF’s studio for several years, but this one was all mine (and my sister’s – we’re business partners in photography).

Normally, I like to meet the bride and groom in person and have them sign the contract when they’re here.  Then I like to take them on an engagement session so that I can get to know them, and they can get to know my poses, style, etc., which will make things flow smoothly and quickly on their wedding day.  But this first wedding was not that simple.  The bride and groom lived several hours away but were getting married here in the groom’s parents’ yard.  I’d talked to the bride several times on the phone and explained things thoroughly, and I asked several questions until I felt that she understood what I’d be doing and I understood what she wanted.  Unfortunately, that was not to be so.

The day of the wedding, the bride, who we’ll call Mandy, wasn’t ready on time.  No big deal as brides seldom are.  We started shooting the groom and groomsmen.  The groom, who we’ll call Tom, didn’t want to spit out his wad of chewing tobacco to take his photos.  I begged and pleaded, but he was unyielding.  Finally, I said, “Come on, Tom.  Mandy wants great photos of you, and she won’t be happy if I can’t get any.”  (His lip and cheek were literally bulging with tobacco not to mention the nasty brown flecks on his teeth when he smiled!)  So, finally deciding to be compliant, he spit the tobacco out… right on me!  Yes, really!  (Don’t worry; his groomsmen yelled at him.)

Though it didn’t seem possible, the day got worse.  While I wanted to cry and leave, I didn’t.  After we shot the guys, we went back in the house, and Mandy still wasn’t ready.  So while we waited, Tom’s grandma asked us to help hang decorations.  We were younger then and not as comfortable telling someone that we weren’t hired to do that.  So we helped.  My sister Michelle followed Grandma to the porch, and was instructed to stand on a stool and hang something.  But when Michelle opened the stool, she sliced open her hand and blood started gushing everywhere!  Worse yet, Grandma then started yelling at her not to mess up the floor or table!

We then had to photograph Mandy and the bridesmaids (who seemed oblivious to the fact that I had a big, smelly tobacco spit stain on my shirt).  Except not one of the bridesmaids wanted to be photographed.  At all!  No matter what fun poses we instructed, whenever one of us would raise our camera, the girls would hold their hands up in front of their faces!  It was like we were trying to capture a group of participants in the witness protection program!  So literally every single photo of the girls that was not just the bride alone was ruined because Mandy’s friends were too selfish to think that she might want to commemorate her special day with photos.

By now, we really wanted to leave, and the ceremony hadn’t even started.  Fast forward an hour or so, and the backyard ceremony was underway.  However, so was the rain.  We specifically asked Mandy beforehand if she’d made provisions in case of rain, and she assured us that she had a tent.  But the tent was not a tent.  It was an open canopy which wasn’t even large enough to accommodate the entire wedding party, much less anyone else!  It’s not that I was afraid of getting wet. (In fact, I’d have welcomed a shower to wash the tobacco spit off me!)  I know I’m not sugar and I won’t melt.  But you can’t get thousands of dollars’ worth of photography equipment wet or you’ll have nothing more than a glorified paperweight.  Furthermore, with raindrops falling in front of and landing on the lens, the pictures will look horrific.  So Michelle put away her camera then stood over me with an umbrella while I captured the rest of the ceremony.  The Grandma made it very clear that she didn’t want guests inside her home, so people started to leave shortly thereafter.

But Florida being Florida, if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.  So we waited, and the rain stopped.  It was time for the formal family photos.  However, Tom’s mother didn’t like Mandy, so she refused to come outside.  (She watched the entire ceremony from a window inside.)  Needless to say, however, when the couple got their photos back, they complained very loudly that in our incompetence we failed to capture a single photo of Tom’s mother.

Immediately after the ceremony, Mandy’s father ran like his bed was on fire inside the house and changed into a Hawaiian shirt, cutoff jeans, and flip-flops.  So as I bet you’ve already guessed, that was what he wore in the family photos as well as in the father-daughter dance.  Well, you probably aren’t surprised by now that we were blamed for that as well.

All this on top of the fact that Tom kept loudly referring to us as “those F-ing photographers” (and various other expletives that I’ll restrain myself from repeating).  Luckily, this horrible day was not a bad omen of what our studio would be, but about once every two years, we do run into a wacko who we just can’t wait to be rid of.

So tell me, have you ever known anyone who was so blatantly rude to their wedding vendors?  

(NONE of the photos below are from the wedding described above.  However, I was the photographer for each of these beautiful weddings.)

(*Please note that 99% of the weddings we shoot are wonderful, and we enjoy them very much.  But the rare, bizarre ones like the one I described above do tend to stick out like a sore thumb.)