Top 6 Wedding Moment-Killers: What they are and how to prevent them

First, let's start here:

What the heck is a Wedding Moment-Killer?

Definition: When authentic and unscripted moments happen, but circumstances end up stopping the moment and authenticity turns into a staged production of "emotion."

I'm not going to lie: I've had this kicking around in my brain for quite some time. As a photographer who is focused on authenticity and emotion, I want to get the real stuff on camera. Ya know, the stuff that makes you FEEL what it was like for years to come. I mean, you know what it looked like, right? And don't worry, we'll get the epic sunset shots. But photos that make you feel the way you felt really retain their value over the years.

In 2019, I'm trying more and more to anticipate the moment and to look for real connection and emotion. But when these things below happen, I find that weddings become more orchestrated, assembly-line events and less moment-filled and authentic moments that reflect the couple.

So I enlisted the help of my friends via Instagram, my buddies over at Fearless Photographers, and my other industry friends, and with their insights, I compiled this list.


Top 6 Wedding Moment-Killers

6. CELL PHONES DURING THE CEREMONY

No surprise that I'm saying this, right? You've heard it before. Cell phones kill moments. I've watched parents experience their children's wedding through a cell phone when the real moment was happening 5 feet in front of them.

Put down the phone. Be present. The bride and groom are paying good money to their photographer and videographers to capture the moments for you.

Preventability: 99%. Just have an unplugged ceremony! But be aware that there will be one or two guests that likely won't follow instructions.

bride walking down aisle at olowalu plantation house bride and groom just married at Olowalu Plantation House

 

5. WHEN FAMILY MEMBERS FOLLOW THE COUPLE DURING PORTRAITS

Weird, right? But it happens more than you'd think! I've photographed more than one wedding where the family members or, one time, the father of the bride, followed us from spot to spot.

Any moments that happen during the portrait session are, unfortunately, killed if the bride and groom have an audience!

So tell your family member that they should just enjoy cocktail hour and you'll be back shortly!

Preventability: 90%. If you have a wedding coordinator or an assertive bridesmaid, have them stand guard.

bride and groom backlit with sunset candid maui wedding photographers sunset portraits at ponomakena sanctuary

4. THE FIRST LOOK

Yup, I'm going to say it. First looks are moment-killers. I think most brides and grooms expect that it will be this huge build-up to seeing one another. It's this moment where you see one another for the first time and it's beautiful and intimate and emotion-filled.

99% of the time there is no big emotional moment. Not even close.

What really happens during first looks? The bride taps the groom. He looks at her. They hug. Then there's an awkward silence. The couple turns to the photographer and videographer and says "Now What?" And then we get some portraits. And they're...OK. He's not wearing his wedding band yet and they're not technically married. If there was a sound effect, lots of time it would sound like "womp womp."

Now, are there some times when I think a first look is a good idea? Yes. If the bride or the groom are very private people and don't want to share that moment with their friends and family - then yes; a first look can be a good idea. If the bride and groom are uncomfortable crying in front of people, a first look is a good idea.

But for the majority of my clients, I've found that first looks end up relatively anti-climactic.

Preventability: 100%. It's your choice!

first look at olowalu plantation house

3. STRICT TIMELINES

I've addressed this in my wedding packages post - where I am set on a half-day or full day packages - but strict timelines are moment-killers.

If we are jamming in a million things into your timeline, there is no space for reflection or emotion. You're literally bouncing from one thing to another without any time for quiet moments.

It's a moment-killer because we literally don't even have time for moments to exist.

Preventability: I'm going to give this 75%. Getting more photographic coverage of your day will help you slow down and take it easy. Don't jam everything into just a few hours! You'll never, ever regret having more photography.

best man adjusting his bowtiebride getting ready at Steeple House Kapaluadogs seeing their bride for first timebridesmaids in red dressescandid shot of groom laughing with best man

2. VIDEOGRAPHERS THAT MAKE YOU DO THE SAME ACTION 10 TIMES OVER

Let me preface this by saying I'm not here to vilify videographers!!! I LOVE working with the right teams of videographers! I even talk about their value in my post about if I could re-do my wedding, what I'd do differently.

Ok - disclaimer over. And I'm probably exaggerating when I say ten times over. But really it's closer to 3-4 times. What does this mean?

This means that they'll have you put your shoes on in a specific spot, three times over. They'll interrupt real moments so that way you can do it again in the right light, three times over. They'll make you read your card from your groom aloud, more than once.

It's not just videographers though. Other vendors sometimes do this too (yes! Even photographers!!). But you see what I'm getting at? When vendors, videographers or otherwise, step into real moments, they KILL the moment.

Again, I want to be clear: I'm NOT saying that you shouldn't have a videographer!!! But you absolutely should ask your videographer how they work on the day of. Ask them if they're going to be documenting or directing - because there's a huge difference.

My favorite Maui videographers who document instead of direct are as follows: Ohana Films, Sunlit Films, No Ka Oi Media, Areca Film Co., and Driftwood Films stand behind these companies 100% and know that my clients are going to have kickass wedding films that document the day instead of directing a vision that doesn't match the moment.

For example...

To illustrate, here's a story from a friend of mine, Photography By Brea, about a coordinator who killed a moment:

"This is something that happens ALL THE TIME. Sometimes it’s well-intended bridesmaids, groomsmen or family members, sometimes it’s other vendors. In this case, it was a planner. The reality of the situation is that people don’t realize what they’re doing until it’s brought to their attention.

The bride was giving gifts to her mom and her mother in law. You can watch the reaction unfold through the photos. Mom opens her gift and it’s a mug that says “I can’t keep calm, I’m the mother of the bride” - she sees it and she just lets out this HUGE self-aware belly laugh. She had been super nervous in the weeks leading up to the wedding, trying to make sure every single detail was just right for her daughter’s special day. It was a really sweet moment where she shook all of that off and just laughed at herself saying out loud “I can’t keep calm! I AM the mother of the bride!” and it was so cute.

I wanted to move to get her laughing with her daughter in the frame as well, but as I was moving to do so, over my shoulder the planner said “Can you turn the mug so Brea can get a photo of it?” and immediately mom softened her smile, straightened up and turned the mug to the camera.

Moment over.

There was no hug between them, no opportunity for me to get a photo of them laughing together. This series of photos from start to finish lasted no more than 10 seconds because of that moment killer. From the first photo of mom looking at the mug to the last one of her laughing, 4 seconds had elapsed. A couple of things about this particular instance… One: They know what the mug says. They have the mug. They will always have the mug. The more important thing at that time was the real human moment happening. Two: I can always get that photo of the mug unobscured by mom’s thumb later once the moment is over and they’ve moved on.

In this particular case, the planner was a friend of mine and I was able to pull her aside and give her feedback on the spot. As soon as I brought it up to her she goes “oh my gosh, you’re right, as soon as I said something the moment ended”. It was an AWESOME learning experience and has given her the opportunity to think about the headspace she wants to create for her clients. After all, a wedding day isn’t a photo shoot - it’s your once-in-a-lifetime wedding day. It’s not about your vendors, it’s about your friends and family. And the more present you are with them, and the less we’re taking charge - the better :)"

Preventability: 50%. Talk with your vendors. Talk with your videographers. Know how they work and their values before you hire them!

1. "DON'T CRY! YOU'LL RUIN YOUR MAKEUP!" 

Stop it. Stop it right now. Not the bride crying - but YOU! The person telling them to stop being emotional. A wedding day is one that is laced with emotion. The right makeup artists know what they're doing. They're using bullet-proof mascara so if you cry, you won't look like a hot mess, promise.

So baby, let those tears flow. Let yourself feel the emotion of the day to its full extent. Feel every inch of joy, love, sadness - any emotion that comes your way.

The makeup will be fine; I promise.

Preventability: 50%. Because there will always be that one bridesmaid/aunt/sister who will say something. But it's always worth saying something aloud to your close friends and family that hey - you may get emotional from time to time and that's OK!

bride wiping tears walking down the aislebride and groom hugging after ceremonybride wiping tears at beach ceremony


I write this article in hopes of helping couples have a more authentic and emotion-filled wedding day.

When moments happen; embrace them.

Between my colleagues and I, we have seen a lot over the years. We've seen emotion-filled days that were so full of love that we thought our hearts were going to explode.

But we've also seen a lot of moments stopped dead in their tracks because of the reasons listed above.

I hope this has been helpful! Happy wedding planning and remember: I'm on your team!


Do you want someone to document your wedding with authenticity and with reverence to moments? I'm your gal.

Let's chat about your big day!

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