Documenting the story of a same-sex wedding is really not that different from documenting the story of any wedding, at least from the perspective of a wedding photojournalist. In both, a photojournalist’s job is to capture the personalities, the emotions, the moments, the context and the details that work together to give viewers a sense of the love shared by the couple, their family and friends on that one special day.
So, how do I go about booking same-sex weddings?
1) Seek this business only if you are truly supportive. If you have any reservations about the right of gays and lesbians to make meaningful, legal and sacred commitments to each other, that uncertainty will likely show when you meet with couples.
2) Make it clear on your website that you’re open to photographing same-sex unions. Show photos of same-sex couples if you have them. (If not, ask your LGBT friends if you can take some couple’s portraits for your web site.) Write a blog post about your support of and desire to photograph same-sex weddings. Create a page or subpage under your info heading about your openness to documenting the ceremonies of LGBT couples.
3) Participate in a wedding show for those planning same-sex weddings. There are a variety of companies that produce shows targeting the LGBT community.
4) Participate in a local gay pride event. March in a parade, rent a booth, sponsor a party – whatever feels right for you!
OK, I’ve booked the wedding, so now what do I do?
1) Find out as much as you can about family dynamics before the wedding to avoid embarrassing moments on the wedding day. Many of you will already be pros at discreetly unearthing strained relationships within families. With LGBT couples, there is a greater likelihood that families will not be supportive of the marriage, so try to be aware of any tensions before you arrive.
2) Be sensitive to those family dynamics on the day of the wedding and in follow-up communications with the couple and family members.
What can I expect when taking photographs on the wedding day?
1) Same-sex couples may choose to not only see each other before the ceremony, but to get ready together, although this is certainly not the norm.
2) More often than in opposite-sex weddings, same-sex partners will choose to have bridesmen and groomswomen. This leads to an intermingling of wedding party members before the ceremony, which creates unique photo opportunities.
3) Same-sex ceremonies will often be traditional with a twist. These twists run the gamut from mothers or aunts giving away brides, to the inclusion of pagan rituals such as smudging or hand-fasting. But do not assume a non-traditional ceremony.
4) Be ready for the guests’ reaction when the brides or grooms are pronounced wife and wife or husband and husband. Instead of focusing on the parents alone, be ready to document the reaction of the crowd. Applause is a frequent response, especially in states where gay marriage has only recently been made legal.
5) At the reception, after the traditional father-daughter or mother-son dance (assuming parents are attending the wedding), you may have the opportunity to photograph a mother-daughter dance or a father-son dance. If only one family is supportive of the marriage and in attendance, then the father or mother may sometimes dance with their new son- or daughter-in-law. These can be some of the most tender moments you will ever experience at a wedding.
A gracious way to end the coverage.
When the wedding is over, be sure to thank the family members for supporting their son or daughter, and their son or daughter’s mate. If no family is there, thank the close friends for standing up when family would not.
Whether same-sex or opposite-sex, the primary goal of the wedding photographer is documentation of love. Love from family, love from friends, and love for one another.
About Cindy Brown
Cindy Brown is the owner and Chief Photographic Officer (CP3O) of C Brown Photo and Cindy and Sharon: Same-Sex Wedding Photographers. She is married (officially in Connecticut and unofficially in Georgia) to her business partner and second shooter Sharon McMahon.