Don't forget to
check out our WebCams area for some really nice
cams. Two of our favorites: The "Hollywood
Sign" Cam and the Grand Canyon Cam.
Photographers are an Untapped Resource
for Selecting a Wedding Destination
By Kathryn Gabriel Loving, 100 Best U.S. Wedding
Great getaway weddings often begin in
the imagination, whether you envision rolling turquoise waves against
stark-white beaches, snow-packed ski runs accessible only by gondola, or
waving palms on a remote island. If wedding planning is inspired by the
visual senses, then doesn’t it make sense to consult a photographer
local to the area you’re considering?
The number of wedding locations in the
United States is infinite. The Web hosts thousands of venues all
competing for a piece of the growing destination wedding industry, but
it isn’t reliable as a sole source. Some Web sites misrepresent their
venue, and not all venues are appropriate for your particular wedding
dream. Moreover, even the most coveted places can give lousy service.
Hacienda Doña Andreas de Santa Fe, New Mexico
Photographers were one resource I used
when researching my book, 100 Best U.S. Wedding Destinations. Eager to
fill wedding albums with images that showcase the couple as well as
their talent, photographers can recommend the best locations for
background and lighting.
They will be able to report on pesky
telephone wires and other unsightly obstacles that may not be shown on a
property’s Web site. They’ll know of some of the less celebrated,
intimate, and because photographers usually cover a wedding from start
to finish, they will have observed the professionalism of the location’s
staff and other vendors.
As a wedding photographer myself, I am
often contacted by couples searching for the ideal place in New Mexico.
One of the more unusual requests came from a woman who had seen a photo
on my Web site of a bride and groom kissing in front of an adobe wall
that framed miles and miles of wide open space. I was able to give her
several choices fitting that description.
Likewise, when researching the book,
most of the photographers I contacted were more than willing to name
their favorite spots, such as little known settings in the Red Rock
Country around Sedona, AZ, or exclusive hotels in and around Santa
Barbara, CA (all of which are described in the book).
All too frequently, however,
photographers are hired last, long after it’s too late to make location
changes. One couple scheduled their intimate ceremony in a tiny,
picturesque chapel late one December evening. Since they were marrying
without guests, they wanted both still and video photography to show
friends and family. Both the videographer and I tried to convince the
couple to reschedule the ceremony earlier in the day when the landscape,
the historical architecture, the falling snow, and sunset would enhance
the pictures, but their chapel and minister had already been booked. The
only light source was candlelight, and so the artificial light on the
still and video cameras competed with one another with less than perfect
Wedding photographers are usually
familiar with most of the popular venues in their area and have shot
under various and challenging lighting conditions at all hours of the
day. They will know when the optimal time is to begin a ceremony at a
particular location, a time when the light turns a pond to golden glass
or turns stained glass radiant. I recently shot a wedding in a dark
chapel, and I prepared for what I thought would be a lack of ambient
light to illuminate the colorful floor-to-ceiling mural behind the
altar. To my surprise, the sun poured through the clearstory window over
the altar and lit the row of flower vases on the altar’s mantel just as
the bride walked down the aisle. I’ve since been able to advise couples
of the timing for this stunning effect.
Rather than direct you to the ideal
venue, be aware that a few photographers will recommend those venues
with which they have a symbiotic business arrangement – and that isn’t
always a bad thing. It is also worth mentioning here that some venues
will offer all-inclusive packages that include photography. In these
cases, the photo packages often include just a few prints, while the
remainder of the images shot on that day can be obtained for more money,
and sometimes a lot of money. Be sure to get all photography agreements
in writing, and be on the look-out for hidden prices.
Besides photographers, try
cross-checking venues with other local vendors such as wedding
officiants, florists, and caterers. Search for bulletin board comments
on travel and wedding planning Web sites, then contact the staff at a
site you like to gauge their level of service. While researching my
book, if a venue was unresponsive to our e-mails or phone calls or had
received more than a few scathing reviews in chat rooms, the venue got
dropped from the list. (By the way, the groom does just as much of the
planning for a long-distance wedding as the bride, if not more.)
A successful wedding destination
contain these key components:
1. Picturesque (for the wedding
album), romantic, historical, spiritual, or quirky, great ceremony
and/or reception sites.
2. Oriented toward the wedding market with prices and packages for
all group sizes.
3. A range of food and lodging accommodations on the same property
or in the area.
4. Plenty of wedding vendors in the area.
5. A range of affordability.
6. Accessible for the handicapped and elderly.
7. Easy marriage license requirements. (Marriage laws vary from
state to state and are becoming more relaxed to accommodate
8. Great vacation spot for guests, with plenty of activities other
than The Wedding.
9. A staff coordinator that can assistance with long-distance
10. Reputation for excellent service, with high recommendations from
vendors and former nuptial clients.
The most important aspect of any
wedding, of course, is the couple’s ceremonial vows and what will make
that special event enjoyable and memorable. As one wedding officiant I
work with once said, “This is not a photo shoot…we’re doing a thing
here.” With the money and expectations invested, however, planning for
beautiful pictures is worthwhile. Don’t hesitate to ask your
photographer. They leap at the chance to use their experience and
creativity to please their customers and enhance their own portfolios.