It’s wedding season!
(If Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson popped into your head when you read that, high fives all around). A long time ago, I mentioned in one of my articles that I send out a fairly lengthy questionnaire to every bride before her wedding day just to get to know her. Some of you asked me to share it and since it’s hidden on a hard drive in storage somewhere – yes, these were before the days of the cloud – I figured I’d share 10 of the most important questions on the questionnaire so that you can craft your own. Communication makes everything go smoother and the more you communicate with your clients, the better you know how to serve them. These ten things you should know (in no particular order) before you photograph any wedding to keep those lines of communication open.
1. Family Details & Dynamics
In this day and age, it’s more than likely your clients will have step parents, and step siblings, and with that will come estranged family members. On the first page of my pre-wedding client questionnaire, I have them list out their immediate family members as well as a space that asks them if there is anything I should know in terms of family members that would prefer not to be photographed together, family issues that might affect portraits, etc. I’d rather walk in and know what’s happening instead of assuming everyone gets along and is one big happy family.
I also use this to make my wedding photography timeline, listing specific names of who should be where and at what time.
2. Names of all in the Wedding Party
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve lost my ability to remember anything…names particularly. If I meet a group of people, I won’t remember anyone’s names, but if I have a list of all the people in the wedding party, it helps. I will, at least, memorize the names of the Best Man and Maid of Honor and then as many of the bridesmaids and groomsmen as possible. Plus, I’ll already have seen some of the names which, in theory, should help them stick in my memory.
3. Phone Numbers of Day Of Contact People
Aside from the wedding planner (if they have one), who are the main contact people the day of the wedding? Usually, it’s the Maid of Honor, Best Man, the bride’s mother or a sibling. A bride and groom may not have their phones handy throughout the day, and there may be a need to get a hold of someone besides the planner. Keep these numbers handy; you never know when you might need them.
4. A List of All The Vendors
On the last page of the questionnaire, I ask for a list of vendors from the florist to the DJ to the person who made the invitations. I’ll send the people I’ll be working with directly an email introduction and I’ll also include the wedding photography timeline. It’s always nice to work with friendly vendors, and I find that just a quick introduction paves the way for a great wedding day working relationship.
This list also makes it easy for me to send images after the wedding and have a list of people I can refer to in the future (and hopefully they will return the favor).
5. Photography Expectations
A few years ago, BrideBoxPro asked 50 brides what they wished their wedding photographers would’ve done better (see that article here), besides communication, many of the brides said they wished their wedding photographers would’ve taken specific pictures of this or that, or this group of people or those floral arrangements. Some said they wished that the photographer took more pictures of the reception or more romantics or more family pictures, etc.
Well, we photographers are not mind readers, and neither are your clients, so talk to them! Ask them what they want. In this video, Pye said that his studio has all their clients make mood boards. A mood board is a great idea to get the MOOD your client is going for; it’s typically not a shot list; your client is just showing you some of the things they like. They aren’t expecting you to recreate every photo (well, most of them aren’t).
If your client sends you a shot list, don’t bristle. Read it over, do what you can to please your client WHILE using your style and creativity to make all parties happy. In my questionnaire, I give my clients a list of words to describe themselves, the feel they want for their wedding, the experience they want their guests to have, the feel they want their images to have. If they send a shot list, I always thank them and tell them that I’ll try my best to get as many of those images that I can within the timeframe of the day. Then I do that while melding my style within their requests as best I can.
Get on the same page as your client about what they want and what they expect from their images and from you.
6. Their Story
Every couple has a love story, and I haven’t met one couple who didn’t want to share how they met each other, how they fell in love and how he proposed. It’s a connection to them, another way for them to become more than clients, to become your fans. Get to know them and who they are; the more personable you are, the better your relationship with them will be and maybe when their friends get married, they will think of how great you and pass your name along
Plus, the added bonus of knowing their story is to be able to personalize their blog post. It makes the feature much more interesting to blog visitors and meaningful to the couple.
7. List of People (aside from immediate family) To Be Photographed With
Her best friend’s sister from college; his best friend’s grandmother who was like a second mother; their college roommates who set them up on a blind date…these are the people that are important, but not obvious to you.
During the hustle and bustle of a wedding day, the bride may not remember that she wanted a picture with all her sorority sisters, so ask her before the big day. My questionnaire asks them to list any VIPs that may not be in the wedding party or on the list of family that they want to make sure they have photos with. Once I get that list, I add it as a note on the timeline which I carry around with me the day of the wedding. I’ve been known to track down the bride toward the end of the night and remind her that she wanted a photo of her and her third cousin’s family. (She was very happy I remembered for her).
8. Venue Restrictions
Each venue is different, and many have restrictions on how close you can be to the stage or if you are allowed to use flash, etc. When you get to the venue on a wedding day, typically the person in charge at the venue will inform you, but I like to know beforehand.
For example, at one wedding, a bride sent me an image she loved where the wedding photographer got a fisheye view of the couple and all their guests during the ceremony. The church they got married in did not allow the photographers past a certain row during the ceremony. Because I knew of the restriction beforehand, we were able to coordinate with the officiant to have everyone stay seated after the bride and groom’s recessional, so we could come back and create the shot after the ceremony. The bride got her shot, and we didn’t break any of the venue’s rules.
Last month, Brides.com published an article where a wedding planner suggested that brides and grooms could save some money by not feeding their wedding photographer. Whatever side you fall on, you need to communicate with your clients your expectations on food – whether you expect to be fed or not.
I give my clients the option of feeding us (if the wedding is over a certain number of hours) or giving us a dinner break where we leave to get food.
10. Other Expectations
Make sure you ask your clients if they have anything else they think you should know. Leave it open ended and be open to what their wants and expectations are. Remember, an open line of communication with ample time before the wedding is the key to happy clients.
If you want to learn more about wedding photography, our new wedding workshop is finally here (and wouldn’t you know, chapter one is called: Communication, Planning and Happy Clients). Click here for more info!
What are some things you ask your clients before the wedding? Comment below and share your tips!