Picture this – you have 25lbs of gear strapped to your back, it’s about 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity, and you’re wearing your best dress clothes. Dress. Clothes. You know, pants that were NOT MADE TO SWEAT IN, shoes that are comfortable for SITTING AT A DESK, and a shirt that after about 20 minutes in the heat looks like a rumpled and used napkin. Weddings are a formal event, some more formal than others, and as a professional you have to look the part. Golly though, is it hard to find clothes that are both fashionable and functional for a job that is as physically demanding as a wedding photographer’s!
There are several different thoughts and opinions on what vendors should wear to a wedding. After photographing weddings professionally for the past 7 years, I thought I’d throw my two cents into the discussion. Some say to “dress as if you were a guest,” and if you’re a male this is great advise and makes a lot of sense. If it’s a formal wedding wear a suit and tie, if it’s casual outdoor affair wear dress slacks and a collared shirt. However, if you’re a female “dress as if you were a guest” is terrible advise. I don’t know about you, but whereas a pair of cute stilettos and a flattering v-neck dress sound like a perfect choice to wear as a wedding guest, I’d loathe the day I wore that to photograph a wedding.
On the opposite end of that spectrum however, I also don’t believe it’s appropriate or professional to show up to a formal event wearing casual attire. It may be comfortable and functional to show up in a pair of khaki’s and polo shirt, but it makes you stand out like a sore thumb when you’re dressed much more casually than everyone else. We’ve all heard the saying “dress to impress,” and I think that is very true in this instance. All of the guests at a wedding could be potential clients or referrals for you, so it’s important to make sure you’re projecting a professional image.
So where is the line between formal and function?
Here are a few recommendations that I have:
- Invest in Quality Footwear. Even in the best shoes, your feet are going to hurt after you’ve been standing and running around for 10-12 hours straight. When it comes to shoes, function and comfort beats fashion EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Make sure they’re shoes with backs that you’re not going to slip out of, can move easily, and are supportive. Your feet will thank you the next day! My favorite and go-to shoes are Allbirds Black Runners (both for men and women) – I love them! I’ve also heard great things about Tieks ballet flats and Dansko’s.
- Dress to Impress. You are your brand! You are advertising your brand. Dress to represent your brand! Don’t be afraid to show your sense of style and personal flair. If you want to wear all black, wear all black. If you want to wear a cute and functional dress and bright jewelry, wear that!
- Don’t Stand Out Too Much. As a caveat to our number 2 statement, do dress to impress but do not dress to stand out. There’s a difference between looking good and being the person everyone is looking at. The attention should be on the couple getting married, and if you’re wearing hot pink it may be a bit distracting. Black, Navy, Gray, Beige, and other neutral colors work really well! If you’re a lady, it’s also considered bad form to wear white or the same color as the bridesmaids’ dresses. Be sure to speak with your client either during their consultation, or through your communication leading up to their wedding, to know these details ahead of time.
- Dress For The Event. A formal black tie wedding on the East Coast will require different attire than low-key wedding at a ranch in Montana. There are also some instances when the couple may have religious or cultural requirements in regards to attire, don’t hesitate to ask them for details on what is appropriate.
- Function, Function, Function, then Fashion. There’s no delicate way I can think to say this, but the only valleys and mountains wedding guest want to see is the venue’s scenery. As a wedding photographer you will be constantly moving, bending, squatting, kneeling, etc. Make sure you’re covered. Gentleman, if you need a belt please wear a belt. Ladies, leave the low cut tops for date nights and when you’re a wedding guest. Dresses are often comfortable, not too warm, and a good formal choice to photograph weddings, however it’s easiest to move around in them if they have a higher neckline and are knee length. My go-to favorite is Virginia Dare Dress Co’s Emma Dress but all of their dresses work well! (virginiadaredresses.com/)
I hope these recommendations are helpful to you, because believe me I know, when it comes to finding comfort, fashion, and function, the struggle is real! If you’re a wedding photographer, what do you wear? Are there any brands in particular that you love?
About the author: Mary Brunst, a portrait, wedding and editorial photographer, considers herself to be a smile-loving, adventurous soul. She is a go-getter, big dreamer, and a messy perfectionist. Photography for her is a way to focus on what is good and to cherish some of life’s happiest moments. Mary loves getting to document life as it happens, creating images that reflect real life in a genuine and uncontrived way. She strives to create images that radiate authenticity and reflect the true personalities of those she is photographing. She is a 2010 Graduate of RMSP’s Career Training Program and worked as a Summer Intensive teaching assistant in 2011. Mary finds sharing her passion for photography with others both fun and rewarding. She currently resides in Westminster, Maryland. Her work has been featured on The Knot, Grey Likes Weddings, United with Love, Mountainside Bride, Charm City Wed, Bayside Bride and other wedding blogs & publications.