Are you planning to hire a videographer or cinematographer for your wedding? It's time to start writing your own wedding vows and for your bridal party to prepare their wedding toasts.
Wedding Words spoke with wedding cinematographer, Scott Patterson, of Life's Highlights to hear his feedback on how couples can prepare to make their wedding videos more personalized and memorable. Spoiler alert: he loves custom wedding vows!
Tell us a bit about your wedding videography business. How did you get started? How would you describe your style?
Our business started back in 2009 after my wife and I were laid off from our jobs working for her parents in the construction industry. When this happened, I looked for a job for about a month before I decided to start this company. I thought about starting it a few years prior when I was in college, but became very intimidated after doing a business plan and realizing that I would probably need to generate $100,000 of yearly revenue to be a viable company.
For someone used to making $10 per hour, this seemed daunting and intimidating. So the idea was put away for another time. However, after being laid off in the midst of the recession, we decided to give it another try—this time with a new business plan: do whatever it takes to pay the bills!
So we bought a camera and started to advertise on Craigslist. It was not the most glamorous start to our business but we had an idea: people looking for wedding videographers on Craigslist don't have a lot of money to spend, and we don't have a lot of experience. Why don't we get together and both keep our expectations low?
The reason we went this route is that, from the beginning, we knew that our business would be fueled by word of mouth marketing from past clients. In order for those clients to share our name with others, our films had to exceed their expectations.
We looked for clients who had expectations slightly lower than the quality of films that we could produce. Since we know that expectations are often linked to how much someone is willing to spend, we thought Craigslist would be a good place to start. We probably booked three or four weddings from Craigslist and they were exactly what you would expect a Craigslist wedding to be.
However, we achieved our goal of having 100% happy clients, and then we started to advertise in other places with our sample films and positive reviews. While we don't advertise on Craigslist anymore, our focus has never changed: always exceed expectations!
As far as style goes, we have always called it cinematic journalism. Our goal when shooting a wedding is for the people in attendance not to feel us. Whenever possible, we shoot with long lenses so that we can be as far away from the action as possible while still having a tight vantage point. We know that people act differently when they see that a camera is filming, so we do our best to make them unaware of our presence.
What tips can you offer couples as they research wedding videographers?
Watch a bunch of wedding films online to determine what style you like. Then, reach out to cinematographers who employ this style.
On occasion, we will have clients who ask us to film their wedding and then proceed to send us films from other companies whose work they love but is nothing like ours. They ask if we can create a film similar to those examples.
The problem is, cinematography is an art. This question can be like asking an abstract artist to paint a renaissance style portrait—it’s not going to end well. Figure out the style that you love, and find a cinematographer with that style.
If you are on a budget, choose quality over quantity. Six hours with an outstanding cinematographer is more valuable than 10 hours with an average one.
Ask who will be filming your wedding. While many companies have one or two main shooters, other companies employ a bunch of random associates to shoot their weddings.
You are about to spend one of the most important days of your life with these people, so I would recommend finding out who exactly will be shooting your wedding, and check out samples of their work.
What's your stance on couples doing custom wedding vows versus traditional vows?
My wife and I got married 15 years ago. We have two big regrets from our wedding day. First we did not hire a cinematographer (I know, ironic!). Second, we did not write our own wedding vows.
When you share your wedding vows, it is the one moment in the day where you have everyone’s attention, and get to share with one another (and everyone else) how much you love each other.
Not only does this make your wedding ceremony more enjoyable to those in attendance but it also makes your wedding film that much more valuable 20, 30, 40 years from now.
Just think if your grandparents had a wedding film from 50 years ago that you were sitting down to watch. Would you be excited to watch them say their vows if they were just repeating traditional ones that their officiant read? Probably not.
However, if you knew they wrote personalized vows to one another, I imagine your excitement level would change.
Custom vows allow for your personalities to shine through while also providing a window through which we see what your relationship with one another is really like. Whether funny, sentimental, poetic or emotional—personalized vows gives everyone a glimpse into what makes your relationship unique. I can't stress this enough—do custom wedding vows!
Check out the below wedding video from Scott Patterson of Life's Highlights to witness beautiful unique wedding vows. If you're anything like me, you'll want to grab a tissue for these.
From a videographer perspective, what should couples do and not do when reading their own vows?
Do not read from your phone, or any other device. It looks terrible in films. It casts a blue light on your face and will look even worse 50 years from now.
Just watch a movie from 30 years ago and check out the technology. It's laughable. You don't want your grandkids to be distracted from what you were saying because they couldn’t stop laughing at what you were holding.
Do hand write your vows in a small keepsake book of some sort. This is one of those things that might seem like a small detail now but one day your vow booklet will be cherished by your children and grandchildren.
Also, keep the inside jokes to a minimum, or don’t mention any at all.
What advice would you offer the best man and maid of honor when it comes to making their toast?
· Write it down! I can't tell you how many terrible toasts I have listened to that started with the person saying, “I didn't write anything down so I'm just going to wing it.” Bad idea!
· Be succinct. You want what you say to be engaging and impactful. Nothing derails that quite like rambling.
· No inside jokes. They fall flat!
· Remember that you are not up there to talk about your relationship with the bride or groom, but rather to talk about the bride or groom and their relationship with the other.
· End your speech by creatively toasting the bride and groom, and the future of their relationship together.
Share this video from Life's Highlights with your maid of honor and best man! These wedding toasts are a great example for how to deliver a speech that honors the couple.
Should parents of the bride or groom speak at the reception?
In most cases, I think the parents of the bride, or at least one parent of the bride, should speak at the reception.
However, try not to make this a time where you thank each and every guest by name for coming.
A general thank you for those who are in attendance and those who made the evening happen is sufficient. Then a quick word about your daughter and her new husband is great.
In this video from Life's Highlights, the father of the bride speech is the perfect combination of humorous and sentimental.
What do you encourage couples to do to help make their wedding video more unique?
Let your personalities shine through throughout the day. When planning the day, and going over the different traditions, ask yourself: Am I doing this because I want to do this, or because this is what everybody does?
If it is the latter, rethink it. For instance, my wife, April, and I had a wedding cake and did the traditional cutting of the cake. The problem is, neither of us like cake! Personally, I wish dessert would have been a mini donut station, where those little warm sugary bites of heaven would have been made right there in front of us.
Remember that the things that are said throughout the wedding day often play a key role in your wedding film. So the vows, speeches, and officiant words are very important parts of the day. Make sure you invest time to make those moments great, and choose carefully when deciding who will be given the microphone.
(In addition to cinematography, Life's Highlights also offers wedding photography services. Photo cover credit: Life's Highlights.)