A Picture Perfect Reception

your options to involve guests in memory capturing, and what you need to know about them

First of all, let me throw something out there. If the photography of your wedding is important, don’t just hire a professional for the ceremony and staged photos with the wedding party. Also have them around for the reception. I know your friends will have point-and-shoot cameras galore, but who wants to go through the trouble of coaching them beforehand, harassing them for the photos afterwards, sifting through all the crap, and editing what good ones they were able to get. With a pro, at least you’re guaranteed some quality coverage of the reception. Not just Uncle Lou’s photos, which he calls “an exhibition in smoky, darkness, red-eye, and blur.”

That said, the impulse of couples in the last few generations has been to also involve their guests in the memory-capturing. And that’s a more-than-understandable impulse. Here’s why: when a photographer comes up to you at the reception for a photo, you censor yourself a little. The same goes for “confessionals” with a videographer. When they ask, “What do you have to say to the new bride and groom?” don’t tell me you don’t feel at least a little awkward. Meanwhile, if it’s someone you know – be it a friend or family member – you get to be your unadulterated self for the couple’s future scrapbook. And isn’t that for the better?

Here’s a few avenues for you to explore, and the pros/cons of each.

Craploads of Disposable Cameras

In the 90s, this was the way to go. The happy couple would purchase approximately 3 Craploads of disposable cameras, and toss them on the reception tables. Why they were there from a guest’s perspective was never a question. And if it was, well, who cares? They’re gonna take it and use it anyways! And toss it in the big ole’ collection bag near the gifts table when they’re done, quickly rushing back to the dance floor for The Tootsie Roll. On the pro side of this exercise is the yield of photos. You were guaranteed approximately 2.5 Craploads of them. Also, guests appreciated the sentiment that you care about their taste in photography. On the con side is their taste in photography. With that many photos and a diverse group of guests, don’t expect lots of quality. And expect at least double that amount in “How does this thing work?” crotch shots. Other cons include the expense involved, the time involved, and the waste involved. Come on, people, we’re in a recession and the globe is warming.

A Tripod in the Corner

As the digital photography age progressed, people realized the opportunity to move away from the cost and effort of developed photos. So they set up a tripod with a camera for people to pose in front of. The variables in this setup are nearly endless. Early on you needed a professional to be there to simply press the button – because no matter how similar it is to film, guests would screw it up somehow. But the backdrop or props could be anything. Heck, some even put a cardboard cutout of the couple in there for people to pose with. In any case, one of the pros is the amount of control in the setting. This means less waste, as you know what to expect when you look at them. And, obviously, fewer exposures means less waste in developing them. The cons, however, are the fact that all the photos are so similar. In a book, it’s easy to get bored or lost among them. Also, there’s less of a sense of “creating” and more a sense of “awkwardly smiling while I blink.”

The “Old-School” Photo Booth

We’re in the hipster age, people. And that means all things “retro” are therefore cool. And since all trends are cyclical, expect the next big thing to be craploads of disposable Polaroids transferred into ViewMaster slides. But in the present, this option has been big for the last few years, and is a kind of blend of the two aforementioned options. A traditional film booth prints photos out right there, allowing guests to glue it in a book and write something next to it. And you get the negatives later. Otherwise you can have a digital one that just stores the photos until you collect them after. (Several photo/video services in our region have these booths as an option – see our listings to track some down.) On the pros side, you’ve got a controlled setting that allows them to have goofy fun (but not too much goofy fun). Plus they get to “create” by writing something – kind of like a guest book with visual aids. On the cons side, this can be a costly option. There’s also a limit to the number of people in each shot. This also runs the risk of giving too much control to your guests, making your guestbook something completely different. Like a place for weird in-jokes or inappropriate moonings.