Planning Great Wedding Photographs, Tip #1:
Do Something Fun With Your Guests

02 | 04 | 2009

I can’t begin to describe how much better your wedding photographs will be if you’re actually having a good time.  There are lots of ways to accomplish that—advance planning, stress management, being realistic with your itinerary—but the easiest? Plan to do something really fun!

When photographers Aaron Deemer and Mimi Kuo married in Beijing, they surprised their guests with a rickshaw ride from the temple where their ceremony was held to the opera hall where their wedding banquet awaited. My friend Sara Remington and I photographed the wedding together, and I think we both agree—it was one of the most exhilarating moments a girl could ever have behind a camera.

I, for one, was standing up backwards in a rickshaw, with three cameras on my neck, shouting out the two words I’d been taught in Chinese—“fast” and “slow”—to communicate with the rickshaw driver—and taking photographs in between bounces.  I came away with hilarious photographs of all the guests, who followed behind in 88 rickshaws, and photographs of some deceptively quiet moments with the bride and groom.

{click any photo to enlarge}


If a rickshaw ride isn’t possible at your venue (!), here are a just few of the limitless other fun ideas:

  1. Find a venue guests can explore a little on their own.  The Santa Barbara Zoo, for instance, offers guests train rides around the zoo … and also giraffe feeding. In San Francisco, there is always the cable car ride.
  2. swingdancers

  3. Hire professional dancers.  At one wedding I photographed, the mother of the bride brought in traditional Afghani dancers to make the dancing at the reception more lively (not necessary in their case, I would like to point out, but still totally wonderful).  At another wedding, the couple hired a belly dancer to entertain the guests during dinner.  And I always love it at Chinese weddings when I get to see (I mean photograph) a traditional lion dance.
  4. afghani-dancer1 afghani-dancer2

  5. Or hire a dance teacher. Like, I’d love to go to a wedding where the couple brings in a square dance or contra (line) dance teacher to teach all the guests how to dance.  It’s serious fun when you’re not in the fourth grade.
  6. Have a self-portrait station.  Like a photo booth without the booth.  Your guests—all your guests—will surprise you with their inner hams.  Believe me, it’s a side of them that neither you nor I (as the photographer) would otherwise see.
  7. photobooth-7 photobooth-6

  8. Have a fireworks display.  Or at least some sparklers … Everybody loves a spectacle.


I’d love to hear some other ideas, either things you’ve seen at weddings … or would like to.  We’re going to talk about doing something fun for your portraits in a future post.

photo credit: Gia Canali


6 Notes on “Planning Great Wedding Photographs, Tip #1:
Do Something Fun With Your Guests

  1. jessie

    Yes, my fave is setting off some sky lanterns with your guests. They are Japanese Biodegradable paper lanterns that float into the sky as you ignite them. A totally rad spectacle and safer alternative to sparklers (have a few scars to prove it) and good for the bride who can’t afford an entire fireworks display 🙂

  2. Shar

    Any tips on how to set up the self portrait station? What is the best way to hang up fabric, especially in a venue that doesn’t allow stapling/taping/tacking things to their walls?

  3. Gia Post author

    Hmm … What about two coat racks? Vintage would be cute! Setting up outside or with abundant natural light will help lots. Most people do receptions in the evening, so lighting is very, very tricky for a diy photo booth situation.

  4. Gia Post author

    Thanks, Melissa. Yes, we set up that backdrop. The couple was having a black-and-white wedding, and as soon as I found out, I knew we needed to find a fabric backdrop to match. I was picturing vintage style with a bold floral pattern. It turned out that the bride chose this fabric for one of her table linens, so we just rented an extra one for the photo booth. It worked out pretty perfectly.

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