As a photographer, I’m occasionally asked what my least favourite aspect of a wedding is and for the past few months, my answer is always: The Guests.
In South Africa, I think it’s more common than not to invite a whole heap of people to partake in your wedding festivities, with the ‘typical’ wedding easily hosting around 120 people. That’s a lot of people. And with numbers like those, it’s quite possible that a few of those in attendance will be entitled assholes. (Good friends and family, sure, but assholes nonetheless.)
Guests, from now on I’ll be addressing you directly. The most important thing that you could possibly need to know, that will hopefully make you less of an entitled asshole (even if just for one day), is that: this day is not about you. Did you read that correctly? I’ll say it once more for the guests in the back, THIS DAY IS NOT ABOUT YOU. Sure, your name may have been professionally calligraphed in rose-gold ink onto a botanically themed place card, BUT the day is actually about those two friends/family members of yours that are getting married. No, they do not owe you an open bar. They do not owe you a plus one. They do not owe you a seat next to that hot guy/girl, or a seat as far away from so-and-so because you’re ‘not currently on speaking terms’. They do not owe you around-the-clock entertainment. They do not owe you anything. They have invited you because they (hopefully) deem your relationship important and wish to celebrate an exciting and joyous milestone in their lives. So as long as you remember that your entitled self is not the sun around which this day orbits, then you’re already more than halfway there. That’s the most important point to take away from this post, but let’s address a few specifics anyway.
The wedding day hasn’t even begun and already some of your asshole tendencies are creepin’ on in. There is an RSVP date for a reason. Be a helpful person and let the couple know if you’ll be attending their wedding before the requested date; it makes all the admin (of which there is more than enough to go around) so much easier if they don’t have to run after every guest that isn’t capable of basic human manners. It will take less than two minutes. Just do it. Set a reminder if you’re worried you might forget. This is such an easy one!
So the wedding day arrives and you’re running a bit late for the ceremony. Oops! Allow me to share these words by Greg Savage, “You are not running late, you are rude and selfish.” (If ‘running late’ is an excuse you find yourself making often, go and read his article after this one; you need it.) So many times I see guests sheepishly (or sometimes quite unapologetically) trotting in mere seconds before the bride walks down the aisle, not cool guys. Sure, there are sometimes circumstances or emergencies beyond your control, but let’s be honest, those times are certainly in the minority. Most often it’s just because you simply have poor time management skills (how have you survived up to this point?). Maybe you’re lazy, or you’re a rude ‘drol’ on purpose, or maybe you’re just completely oblivious to the world around you. Whatever your reason, it’s not that hard to remedy! If you know it takes you longer to do certain things, start doing them earlier! If you know you have a habit of arriving late, leave home earlier! I’m certain if you put in an infinitesimal amount of effort, you’ll be surprised at how much less time you waste in general (other people’s as well as your own.) You’re a grown-up. Be better.
Unplugged Weddings (or at least ceremonies)
That’s a trendy term and I’m fairly sure you’ve come across it before, possibly on a lovely chalkboard, propped outside a ceremony location. Maybe you chose to ignore it? Sometimes a couple wishes that their guests be fully present at their ceremonies, not hiding behind their phone (or God-forbid; iPad) screens. Personally, I feel this is just as rude as being late. If the couple specifically asked that phones be put away while they get married, DO IT! Actually being present and celebrating the day as it happens is way more rewarding and important than sharing blurry, VSCO-Cam filtered, cell phone pictures of the bride walking down the aisle to your 178 Instagram followers. If you really want to share images, wait until the official photographer releases their images and share away! I know they’ll appreciate the credit and exposure, and your friends will appreciate being able to look into your actual, human eyes from up at the altar.
(This one isn’t as crucial, but I’m mentioning it anyway.) Ladies, you know it’s a faux pas to wear a white dress to a wedding, especially when the bride plans on wearing one. Unless the invitations specifically state that you’re allowed to wear white, don’t be that girl (or Tannie. You’d be surprised how many tannies think it’s okay to wear white to weddings. Just stop, you’ve had your moment, it’s someone else’s turn.).
Guys, please just never ever wear a jean, okay?
I’m writing this one specifically as an exasperated photographer. There are few things that make me grind my teeth or wish for a swift death more than dealing with guests in an attempt to take formal group shots of whatever size (this applies to family photos too). PSA: I AM NOT DOING THIS FOR MY BENEFIT. The couple requested these photos, I am taking these photos to make them happy. So please, look at the camera when I ask you to. Don’t try to hide behind each other so that I have to single you out in front of everyone as if you are a naughty school child. Don’t sneak off when you know you have to be present for certain pictures, or pretend you don’t hear when you are summoned for said pictures. Don’t pull silly faces (or do the horrendously outdated ‘bunny ears’ to the person next to you) so that photos need to be retaken. You are wasting a lot of people’s time when you do these things. Be where you are needed, look at the camera and smile. It’s not that hard, and if you cooperate it will be over so much quicker; win-win.
The infamous ‘Peanut Gallery’
If you have ever been to an Afrikaans wedding, you’ve probably encountered this before. This obscure phenomenon that takes place when a groom makes his way to the microphone for his speech. It starts with the deafening scraping of chairs as a bunch of young gents (clad in their collective uniform of beige chinos and button-ups from Old Khaki) make their way forward, ready to harass, heckle and embarrass their ‘friend’ while he is trying to talk. This circus show may include the stealing of the groom’s speech, throwing him with things, spraying him with things, occasionally breaking things, shouting obscenities and lewd comments, making a noise, spinning plates on the floor, and constant interrupting to prevent him from being able to successfully finish his speech. Honestly, this is just one of those things that I exceptionally dislike about the Afrikaans-culture (among others). To me, this is the epitome of ‘making someone else’s thing about yourself’. It makes me cringe and, quite frankly, ashamed of all those ‘boys’ participating (Who raised you?!). So guys, can we please just let go of this ridiculous and utterly stupid tradition already? Just stay in your assigned seat, sit quietly and listen to your friend say his thank-yous, talk to his bride/his family, or whatever the hell else he wants to say, in whatever order he wants to say it, and stop making this moment about you, or how “funny”/inappropriate/rude/noisy you can be. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of other ways for you to prove to people that you’re an unmannered buffoon.
Treatment of Vendors
Guests, I’m appalled that I have to bring up basic manners once again, but please stop being rude to the wedding vendors that the couple has hired for their big day. The vendors are not there to work for you. They don’t report to you. Please don’t boss them around because you think you know how to do their job better. Please don’t interrupt/distract them while they are trying to do their work. If they ask you to do something, they most likely have a very good reason, so please don’t sass them or ignore them, just do as you’re told. Please don’t poke/pinch/snap your fingers at them when you want their attention. If they are standing in front of you obscuring your view, I assure you it’s not on purpose; it might be because that’s where they need to stand, take a moment to fully assess the situation instead of just shoving them out of your way. A please and thank-you goes a long way. I shouldn’t need to remind you to treat humans with respect.
If there are any points in this article that deeply offend you, it might be because you are a part of the problem and now you simply don’t know how to deal with your sudden self-awareness and guilt. It will be okay, you’ll get over it. Hopefully, you’ve learned something for the next time.
TL;DR: don’t be a dick.