Photographing Intimate Moments with Parents at the Wedding

August 11, 2019
Wedding Photography of Parents - ceremony image showing the handover by the father of the bride to the groom

Photo by: Annie Kheffache, Dublin, Ireland

In the 1950 classic film Father of the Bride, George, played by Spenser Tracy, watches his daughter Annie, played by Elizabeth Taylor, take her wedding vows and says to himself, “I realized at that moment that I was never going to come home again and see Annie at the top of the stairs. Never going to see her again at our breakfast table in her nightgown and socks...Annie was all grown up and leaving us, and something inside began to hurt.”

The scene may be fiction, but the emotion behind it is real. Throughout the wedding day, parents and their children walk a delicate line between past and future. Letting go is never easy, but it can make for dramatic photographs full of heart. Through experience and instinct, wedding photojournalists capture tender moments many bridal couples typically don’t see, giving them windows into the hearts of the people they love.

LETTING GO

As our WPJA member photographers have mentioned, at some point during the wedding day the parents are suddenly hit with the realization that their children are grown up and beginning lives of their own. Sometimes this moment occurs after the father walks the bride down the aisle, sometimes during the parents’ dance, and oftentimes it’s immediately after the ceremony. Either way, these moments are full of different, raw emotions and make for wonderful photos.

The father and bride first look. Emotional moments with parents captured by a good wedding photographer.

Photo by: Lori-Anne Crewe, Ontario, Canada

Some of our members say that it’s important to keep an eye out for when these emotional moments might hit, perhaps keeping a close watch on the bride’s father as he and the bride reach the end of the aisle. This way, when those emotions do arise, the wedding photojournalist is able to capture a moment that is candid, but that they are both prepared for and invisible from.

Wedding photography of the father of the bride with his son in law.

Photo by: Leonard Walpot, Utrecht, Netherlands

The element of this seeming invisibility on the wedding photographer’s part is key since being unobtrusive is the aim of wedding photojournalism. Therefore, it is important to give the couple and the guests their space when necessary all while being prepared to step up and get the picture.

Wedding Photography Moments with Parents. Photo capturing the Dad dancing with his daughter. Parents getting emotional at the wedding.

Photo by: Miguel Gonzalez, Pennsylvania, United States

IN THE MOMENT

Some of our members say that they take a more spiritual approach to capturing intimate moments between the betrothed and their parents, noting that they are very aware of their own presence in someone else’s space, but that they are only acting as a vessel. The wedding photojournalist is existing in the moment and is in touch with everything that is going on, but at the same time, they are a quiet, somewhat removed observer of the couple’s day. Our members say that this is a very privileged position, being able to share this space with the couple. Therefore, when you do have to get those closeups during particularly delicate moments, it’s important to remain respectful and be as quick as possible.

Wedding Photography of Parents - First dance bride with her father

Photo by: Isabelle Hattink, Zuid Holland, Netherlands

Award-winning WPJA members have spoken about their own experiences photographing such sensitive moments, recalling fathers who seemed to be showing no emotion all day and then suddenly broke during the reception, or during their first dance with their daughter. It’s important to stay on the lookout for these moments, as a guest who has been particularly guarded all day may suddenly surprise you when they reveal their raw emotions, and you don’t want to miss out on capturing that change. If you exist in the moment and use a bit of empathy, these opportune photos are less likely to elude you, as being able to understand the people you are photographing will enable you to be in the right place at the right time.

Wedding Day Photography with the Parents. Image of Bride's Mom & Dad removing her veil while the Groom looks on.

Photo by: JD Land, New Jersey, United States

The experience of family and friends crying tears of joy for the people they love and care about is moving and can happen at any time. Even, perhaps, during more formal moments when people are typically expected to keep their emotions reined in, such as during the signing of the ketubah, the marriage contract used in Jewish weddings. Displays of tears and emotion during these unexpected moments are particularly touching and often reveal what parents and family members are thinking, or the realization they’re being hit with; that their child is grown up now.

Photography of emotion between father and bride during wedding ceremony

Photo by: Sybil Rondeau, France

Empathy during a wedding is a critical component of taking intimate photographs, according to our members, who say that oftentimes the weddings they photograph make them think of the day their own children will grow up and get married, allowing them to consider what it must be like for the mothers and fathers of the bride and groom to see their children on that day.

BECOMING INVISIBLE

Some of our members have noticed that during these particularly emotional moments, the photographer is able to really slip away from the family’s minds, making them an almost invisible observer. It is almost as if the gravity of realizing what this wedding means for the family and their child causes them to forget that the photographer is even there, allowing the wedding photojournalist to capture their emotions without being too intrusive or making the family feel self-conscious, allowing for some really beautiful and touching pictures.

Parents Wedding Photography | The bride, gives her mom's hand a squeeze as she recesses from the ceremony with her new husband.

Photo by: Megan Hannah, Vermont, United States

Capturing intimate family photographs is most effective when everyone becomes comfortable around the photographer; when they forget he or she is there. As our members note, this forgetting can take a lot of time as the family’s trust builds up, which requires patience on the photographer’s part. However, if the photographer is patient and spends some time getting to know the guests, they will eventually feel more and more comfortable and rest easy in the knowledge that the photographer is a professional. At that point, the guests can let go and forget about the photographer’s presence, which is wonderful for a wedding photojournalist who will be looking to capture candid moments when the guests were unaware that they were even being photographed.

Wedding photo of parents showing the Dad's Emotion with his daughter, the bride as she pins his flower on his coat

Photo by: Giuseppe De Angelis, Latina, Italy

To remain invisible, however, our members suggest that it’s equally important to know when to stop taking pictures. An emotional moment can occur within a few seconds, and then it’s over, so while it’s a good idea to try to capture that moment with a few snaps, continuing beyond that will only bring the photographer out of their built-up invisibility, making the guests feel self-conscious and spoiling the mood.

Wedding Photography of Father Daughter - Getting emotional during dance

Photo by: Vasilis Maneas, Greece

Throughout a wedding day, a close connection between wedding photojournalists, bridal couples and wedding parties makes beautiful, intimate photographs possible. Our members have asserted that what’s most important in being able to capture beautiful photos is not how picture-perfect the couple and the wedding décor are. Instead, the best photos are those that have come from building up a relationship with the couple so that their emotions and love for one another come through. This love and caring is passed among all the family and guests, allowing for a positive emotional intensity. It is this outpouring of emotion that makes the day beautiful and will make the job of the wedding photojournalist much easier.