If you've been recruited to do the video honors at a friend's wedding, or if you're thinking of getting into the business, this article will provide the know-how of a seasoned event video professional to get you started on the right track.
Summer is in the air, flowers are in bloom, songbirds are returning to the skies, and here come the brides!
Perhaps you're a new camcorder owner who's just been volunteered to tape a friend's upcoming nuptials. Or maybe you're a dedicated prosumer interested in earning some extra cash as a weekend warrior in the wedding game. Regardless of why you're considering shooting your first wedding, one thing is certain - This handy wedding video planner will provide you with everything you need to know to start getting ready for the big day.
Make no mistake; doing a good job of videotaping a wedding ceremony is a challenging task. After all, unlike many other types of videography, if a critical shot is missed during the wedding ceremony, calling for a retake is usually out of the question.
So first and foremost, the beginning wedding videographer needs dependable gear. Here's what you'll need:
Basic Equipment Checklist
- Camcorder (tested & checked)
- AC Adapter for camcorder
- Lens cleaning tissues
- Primary battery for camcorder (charged)
- Backup batteries for camcorder (charged)
- Battery Charger
- Color Monitor
- Wireless transmitter with
- Lavaliere microphone
- Spare batteries for wireless transmitter
- Wireless microphone receiver
- Spare batteries for wireless receiver
- Handheld microphone for interviews
- On-camera light
- Spare batteries for on-camera light
- Spare bulb for on-camera light
- Extension cords
- Spare tape
- Pen for labeling tapes
- Gaffer's tape
Actually hooking up and recording a few minutes of footage the night before you shoot will give you confidence that everything will be in good working condition when it really counts. If possible, make arrangements to attend the rehearsal. This will give you an opportunity to test your gear in the place you'll be shooting, before the day of the big event.
Today, most weddings have a wedding coordinator to help organize the elements of the ceremony and/or reception. The smart videographer is careful to make an ally of this person. Similarly, gaining the cooperation of church personnel or the minister can be critical to your success. Expect the church to have restrictions about camera placement near the altar, and where (or even whether) they allow supplemental lighting. A respectful, professional demeanor when dealing with others can help them see you as a part of the team.
The Big Day
After setting up your equipment at the church, the first order of business is getting your establishing shots. These shots will set the scene for the wedding ceremony. Here are some to include:
- Exterior shots of the church or hall
- A marquee or sign with the wedding information posted
- Guests arriving and entering the building
- Wide shot of the auditorium as people enter and take their seats
Cutaways are incredibly important if you'll be editing your footage. They can function as a kind of video scotch tape. That's because a jump cut often occurs when you edit between two scenes that share the same camera angle. Using a cutaway to another scene between the two similar shots smoothes out the flow of the video. Here are some ideas:
- Stained glass windows
- Flower arrangements
- Faces of people in attendance
Pick a Spot
- Select a shooting location before the crowd begins to arrive.
- Choose a tripod-friendly position at the front of the chapel.
- Set up on the side opposite the bride so you can see her face when the couple turns to face one another.
- Cover electrical cords with throw rugs or tape them to the floor to prevent tripping.
Pre-Ceremony Shot List
- Establishing shot of church
- Sign or marquee announcing the wedding
- Various cutaway shots: Architecture, statuary, stained glass, etc.
- Arrivals signing guest book
- Backstage bride & bridesmaids
- Backstage groom & groomsmen
- Three or four minutes of ceremonial music to use later for background
- Grandparents being seated
- Groom's parents being seated
- Bride's mom being seated
A wedding is a ritual affair. The rituals are different from culture to culture and religion to religion, but they all have highlights. Here are some common highlights a good wedding video must include:
- The symbolic lighting of the "unity" candle
- The couple's reciting their formal wedding vows
- The exchange of rings
- The pronouncement by the minister that the couple is now husband and wife
- The kiss
- Groom's arrival at altar
- Bridesmaids and Groomsmen
- Bride's procession
- Dad "giving away" bride
- Opening prayer
- Ceremony coverage
- Music performances
- Presentation of bride & groom
- Departure for the reception
Covering the Bride
From the moment the music fanfare heralds the appearance of the bride she is the central focus of everything that happens. By tradition, and by virtually universal acknowledgement, this is her day. Her entrance will typically be accompanied by the standing of the entire audience. Here are some tips for covering the entrance:
- Go handheld and move to the center of the aisle to get a good shot.
- Start with a "full length" wide shot showing off her gown.
- As she gets closer, frame a two shot of the bride and her escort (traditionally, her father).
- Step aside so that she can comfortably pass, but don't stop shooting! As she passes you'll want to turn and follow her with your camera to reveal the details of her wedding gown.
- Don't stop the camera and return to your tripod position until after the question is asked, "Who gives this bride..." and the father makes his exit.
Get the guests
The reception is your chance to make sure you have good coverage of wedding party and guests. Many videographers make it a point to visit each and every table, to give the couple a record of those who attended.
On arrival, the savvy videographer will immediately look for cutaway shots such as:
- The table settings
- Brightly-wrapped wedding presents
- The cake
- Goblets that will hold the wedding toast
- Exterior establishing shots
- Room decor
- Wedding Cake
- Arrival of wedding party
- Arrival of Bride & Groom
- Reception line
- Best Man's Toast
- Maid/Matron of honor speech.
- Bride & Groom's first dance.
- Bride/Father - Groom/Mother Dance
- General dancing/party footage
- All reception guests at tables
- Cutting of Wedding Cake
- Tossing of Bride's Bouquet, Garter
- Departure of Couple
- Interviews with well wishers
Eric Cosh, owner of Paradigm Video Productions in Scottsdale, AZ. - a veteran of hundreds of wedding videos and the source of many of the insider tips in this story, puts the entire wedding videography process in a wonderful perspective: "Try to think of the wedding tape as something that's going to be around forever," he suggests. "In many cases, your videotape will be the only way future generations will experience what their ancestors looked and sounded like."
That's why wedding work can be so fulfilling. You're making a video that has the potential to be treasured for generations to come. Learn to capture the human drama and you'll be well on your way to becoming a good wedding videographer.