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You just received an email asking you to shoot a wedding. Now what? Here are eleven questions you should ask engaged couples before you shoot their wedding.
All images via Shutterstock
Talking to an engaged couple is the most important step for planning a wedding shoot. By asking a few simple questions, you’ll be able to pull so much information you’ll need for the day of the shoot. The couple won’t know how many cameras or crew members you’ll need, but by asking these eleven questions — you can figure all that out on your own.
When I first receive a wedding inquiry, I immediately reply with a congratulatory message to the couple and attach a copy of my wedding packet. The packet includes a brief bio on myself, the wedding packages I offer (including the starting price), and a request for more information.
This packet is incredibly helpful for many reasons. The couple gets to know me a bit and the services I offer. Plus, it gives them a glance at the cost of their wedding video. By requesting their contact information — you are including a call-to-action. If a couple is serious about hiring you, they will immediately respond with their contact information. Also by responding, you know that they agree to your pricing plans. By being straightforward with cost, I am able to target my intended clientele.
Once we get past this step, I move forward with additional questions — which can be done face-to-face or in email.
1. Who is getting married?/When and where is the wedding?
It should be obvious, but the first details you need to ask are who, when, and where. This will be the base of a quote and contract. You need to have the full names of the couple, the location of their ceremony, the location of the reception, the wedding date, and the start time. Be sure you don’t have any conflicts that day.
If you’ll be filming before the ceremony as well, you’ll need to know where hair and makeup will be done, what the groomsmen will be up to, or any other places you may need to film that day. Not only do you need locations to know where you will be, but you need to calculate the cost of travel. If there are two videographers, will you use one car — or will the two of you be split up during the day requiring two cars? These are all details you need to figure out well before the shoot.
Also, by knowing the start time — you will know the position of the sun. This will tell you how much available light you will have if you’re shooting outdoors. This is a simple question that will give you a lot of answers.
2. Do you want a custom quote or package deal?/Do you have a set budget?
I am very straight forward with my pricing. There is nothing worse than dragging things out between multiple emails. To simplify the process, I offer different packages — each with their own starting cost. From there you will just need to add things like the cost of travel, parking, additional shooters, or rental gear.
While discussing the cost, also ask about their preferred method of payment. Do they want lump sum payments, or will you offer a payment plan? Be sure to clarify the due dates, and impose late fees if necessary.
3. What type of coverage do you want?
This will tie into the package they choose. Does the couple just want the ceremony and reception filmed, or do they want you to shoot all day? Will they want to follow the bride in the morning to capture hair and makeup, or do they also want to film the groom hanging out with the groomsmen? The type of coverage directly ties into the overall cost. This isn’t a one person shoot if you have to film the bride and groom at the same time at different locations. The more they want filmed, the larger the crew you will need.
As a rule of thumb, I never shoot without at least one other person. It’s helpful to have someone not only capture the footage you can’t, but they can also set up and breakdown tripods and gear for the ceremony and reception.
4. What type of edit do you want?
If a couple has contacted you, hopefully they’ve already seen some of your work. Be sure to ask if they have, and ask which wedding videos of yours they liked the most. If you don’t have many edits under your belt, ask if they prefer a traditional straightforward and chronological wedding video, or if they want a modern cinematic storytelling edit.
5. What kind of music do you like?
Get a feel for the couple by asking about the music they like. Don’t settle for — “everything.” By knowing the music genres they like, you can start looking for music for the edit. If you can’t get a good answer, be sure to pay attention to the type of music everyone enjoys at the reception. Is this a rustic country wedding or an all-night dance party?
You can then license tracks when you start editing. I usually build a playlist of favorites on music sites like PremiumBeat and Shutterstock Music. When I get into editing, I will download watermarked demo versions to make sure I have the right feel for the edit. I also tend to use at least one slower song for the ceremony and a faster song for the reception. It helps the edit flow nicely.
Once you have the edit locked in, make sure you license your tracks. If you get a copyright takedown on a wedding video, good luck explaining to the couple why their wedding video was pulled from the internet. You will not only look forward to them wanting a refund, but also any fines for copyright infringement. It’s not worth it! Trust me. Just license tracks from anywhere, and make sure you have the rights to use the songs.
If you are interested in checking out some PremiumBeat tracks, you can listen to some Classical and Modern royalty free playlists.
6. Are their any planned special moments outside of the ceremony?
For all-day shoots, you will want to know as much of the schedule as possible in advance. That way you can prepare your wedding gear accordingly. Is the couple going to have a first look? If so, will it be indoors or outdoors? Maybe the bridal party will all have a morning tea or breakfast they want captured. Groomsmen may take off for a round of golf or lounge around the pool. You need to find out what they want covered, so you’ll know when and where to have cameras ready.
This also applies to the reception. You’ll want to know if there are any big choreographed dances or any fun things planned for guests. I’ve seen everything from funny sketches and dances, surprise bands, Marine saber arches, to a family friend hand rolling cigars for guests.
7. Do you have any special items you want captured?
Will the bride have something old, new, borrowed, and blue? Will the groom be wearing his father’s cufflinks? Making sure to capture all the little sentimental things will make the couple love the final video so much more. Be sure to ask if they have any special decorations on the tables or in the entryway. I’ve had a couple use their grandma’s china plates to serve dinner. While on this topic, be sure to capture all the traditional items too. Wedding rings, jewelry, the veil, shoes. All things worth shooting.
8. Do you have any other vendors booked?
Once you work in the wedding industry long enough, you’re going to see a lot of familiar faces. It’s not uncommon to work with the same photographer or DJ. The only time that’s a problem is if the two of you don’t work well together. I’m always most interested in knowing if the couple will have a DJ or band.
If it’s a DJ I have worked with in the past, and one I trust, I know that I have a reliable source for audio. Having a great relationship with a DJ can be a real timesaver. It’s so much easier to plug straight into their soundboard or speakers. If it’s a DJ I don’t know, or one I don’t trust, then I know I have to focus on capturing all the audio on my own. Be sure to always have some type of audio setup going yourself. It’ll help when syncing, and it will serve as a backup if necessary.
9. Do any venues need a signed waiver or Certificate of Insurance?
Every church, chapel, synagogue, and venue has their own set of rules. Some require videographers to stay out of certain locations, others have a much more lenient policy. Many big churches ask you to sign a waiver, agreeing to their own church polices. Most often they will require you to use natural lighting, banning any video lights. Other rules are more focused on common sense, like not standing on furniture or pews.
Many venues that solely host weddings will have strict rules — mostly because they’ve seen everything happen. If there is a rule, that rule was created for a reason. Some venues also require videographers to provide a Certificate of Insurance — or COI. This is a document issued by your insurance company proving that you have insurance. The venue may ask for a COI that certifies that you are responsible for any damage done while on the property.
10. Is there an exit or getaway planned?
After the reception, does the couple have a grand exit? You will want to know what time the exit should take place — this will help you decide if you need to set up lights or not. You’ll also want to know some smaller details like if the guests are tossing anything or holding sparklers. Are they driving off in a car, horse and carriage, just walking away? Knowing this will help you keep an eye out for the getaway vehicle. If the couple isn’t leaving yet, you can run out and get a few shots of the car before they leave.
11. Do you have any questions for me?
Finally, as you wrap up your meeting with the couple, ask if they have any questions or concerns regarding your services. Lay everything out as clearly as possible, so they know exactly what they are getting from you.
Sometimes they may ask for special requests. I once had a bride who wanted to have input into the music. I handled that as delicately as I could. I don’t hand over creative control of my edits (they did come to me for my work) but I do allow input. I sent her a playlist of tracks. – Did you know you can make playlists on PremiumBeat and then email them? – I didn’t let her pick the exact songs, but I did allow her to get rid of any she didn’t like. (She wound up loving the video.)
In the end, the video is for the couple. Do your best to please them, and you’ll find yourself having success in the future. I can’t tell you how many times one wedding turned into four because of referrals.
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