Photographing Through the Wedding Chaos

August 11, 2019
Wedding Photography of Busy Getting Ready Scene | Image of the groom enjoying himself as the bride, her bridesmaids, and her mom try to get her bustled for the cocktail hour

Photo by: JD Land, Pennsylvania, United States

A wedding is not just the culmination of a couple’s commitment. It’s also the final product of much planning and preparation. Yet despite the best-laid plans, your big day won’t necessarily get a free pass from Murphy’s Law. Some chaos is almost inevitable at some point along the way. Luckily, when you hire a wedding photojournalist, you have someone on hand who is an expert in capturing those moments as memorable visual stories that you’ll enjoy for years to come.

Some of our own WPJA members have shared their experiences with us, discussing how they were affected by this inevitable chaos and how they made it work for them to capture fantastic photos while fighting against, or sometimes working with, those hectic moments.


Nobody knows better than a wedding photojournalist that wedding days can almost seem to breed disorder. At the same time, it’s possible that no one could be better prepared to deal with the unexpected.

Picture of a young girl swinging in a tree amongst guests enjoying cocktail hour.

Photo by: Megan Hannah, Vermont, United States

For one thing, they’ve been behind the scenes at many other weddings prior to yours. Wedding photojournalists aren’t as intimidated by the hustle and bustle and know how to blend into the surroundings to document the unique moments of the day. In fact, the chaos may improve their chances of taking that great photo in the first place.

 The room is full of chaos with people getting themselves ready for the ceremony in this award-winning image

Photo by: Kai Xiao, China

Our members suggest that prior experience in photographing weddings means the wedding photojournalist knows how to keep calm. Wedding days have a tendency to create a bit of anxiety, so it’s a big help if the wedding photographer is able to remain calm and provide support. If the wedding party is running late, for example, it works better for everyone to work within a new timeframe than to add to the stress.

Wedding photography of chaos and preparation time

Photo by: Huy Nguyen, Vietnam

WPJA members agreed that being a calming presence is important, saying that one of the goals of the wedding photojournalist is to make sure that the photographer and photographs are at least two things that the couple does not need to worry about on their wedding day. It’s a good idea to get a feel for the atmosphere of the wedding, and while it’s sometimes appropriate to engage in conversation with guests, it’s important to know when to slip away into the background and simply capture the scene with a longer lens if there is a more private moment occurring.

Bridesmaids and a little boy watch as the bride gets her makeup done in a busy room in this black and white photo

Photo by: Peng Zhang, China

Furthermore, by keeping a lower profile, the wedding photojournalist does not risk simply adding to the chaos. Capture what needs to be captured, but try to do so while drawing as little attention to yourself as possible. Our members have suggested using some restraint while shooting the ceremony so as not to disrupt it, but recommend taking a lot of shots during the reception, using both wide and long lenses, as the reception is a more relaxed environment where the photographer can move through the crowd more easily without being noticed.


Wedding reportage photographers want to tell the story of your wedding day in a way that you’ll enjoy for years to come. Sometimes, the images they capture will even fill you in on what you missed—you know, while you were busy getting married.

Wedding photo of bride getting ready with sister and bridesmaids

Photo by: Pasquale Minniti, Reggio Calabria, Italy

WPJA award-winning members have observed that often the bride and groom are so busy during the wedding that it’s impossible for them to catch everything that’s going on around them. Oftentimes wedding photojournalists will note that there are some photos that the couple didn’t even realize were taken or moments that were captured that the couple had missed out on until they saw the photo. Even little details like a chaotic arrangement of makeup and beauty products lining the rim of a bathroom sink left in the wake of the bridal party after they had finished preparing for the ceremony can make for an unexpected and delightful surprise for the couple when viewing their wedding photos later on.

Wedding Photographer captured this image of the driver of the ceremonial car has a flat tire right before the couple needs to leave - Stressful moments wedding photography

Photo by: Yves Schepers, Antwerpen, Belgium

What seems like a potential disaster on the day will often turn into the story you tell over and over, and an experienced wedding photojournalist will know how to capture the tell-tale chaotic mood of your day, should it surface. For instance, if the ceremony venue is not ready as early as anticipated and the groom’s party is suddenly left without anywhere to get ready, forced instead to get dressed on the lawn, you will end up with a memorable photo that has a good story behind it. The groomsmen and the couple will all remember that chaotic moment when everyone realized that they had no choice but to either strip down outside or miss the wedding.

A little girl and her mother run out of the Town Hall in this wedding photo

Photo by: Simon Leclercq, Vlaams Brabant, Belgium

Again, the unique and varied experiences of wedding photojournalists are often an asset in taking advantage of a sudden, and brief, opportunity to turn chaos into substance. Our members are experienced photographers who have seen just about everything, and they have concurred that, surprisingly enough, weddings are some of the more tame and predictable events to cover; their skills, oftentimes in multiple facets of photography, allow them to capture these quick, chaotic moments as soon as they happen.


Sometimes, the chaos of the wedding day comes together in ways that no one can fully anticipate, which is, after all, part of the excitement. A brief panic just seconds before the ceremony as several guests surround the bride and all scramble to help her with her necklace can make for an active and memorable photo. In moments like these, our members have said, a bit skill, as well as luck, are necessary. With a moment occurring so fast, they cannot necessarily wait for the perfect arrangement of hands around the necklace, for instance. However, the ability to anticipate that something might happen and get into the best position to capture it will go a long way towards capturing these brief, chaotic moments.

Guests applaud the bride in this getting ready image composed by a documentary-style wedding photographer.

Photo by: Toni Miranda, Alicante, Spain

Our members have listed many, perhaps even more chaotic, moments that they were able to capture to create a memorable image. There have been many instances, for example, of pastors not arriving on time and couples being thrown into a panic. Perhaps on top of that, the pastor isn’t reachable by phone and chaos ensues, with a late arrival forcing the pastor to improvise the ceremony. In the end, though, things do tend to work out, and now the wedding photojournalist has a plethora of unique images to remind a couple of all the hectic but memorable moments that made their wedding day truly theirs.

A man checks his watch before the ceremony in Checy in this black and white wedding photo

Photo by: Henri Deroche, France