Being a wedding vendor 101 – How to dress

     It is my personal belief that if you are marketing yourself as a professional, then you should know how to conduct yourself as a professional. One of the main parts of being professional is presentation and like it or not, that does include your dress attire and overall appearance. I do have a few pet peeves and (aside from vendors that drink at the weddings, but that is for another topic) one of the biggest for me is seeing vendors dressed inappropriately at weddings. This is not something that I run into very often, but when I do, I always think it cannot get any worse. But it always does.

     I worked a wedding a few months ago with a photographer/ videographer (hired by the bride against my recommendation) wearing old khaki shorts and a polo shirt with tennis shoes to shoot a wedding in the St. Louis Cathedral. If this isn’t shocking to you, please turn your misalette to the section that specifies wearing shorts in a Catholic church is completely disrespectful! Regardless of whether or not you are in a church, you are still at someone’s wedding. A day that they spent a lot of money on, including your fee, and you could not give them better than cut-off kakis and a polo shirt? You’re not a pool boy at the local country club. You are a “professional” wedding photographer/ videographer for goodness sake.

     As if that were not bad enough, just a month ago, I had a bride tell me that she wanted to bring in a photographer from out of town to shoot her wedding. It was someone that she knew from high school that is now a “professional” photographer (and after meeting her, I use that term loosely.) I had checked out her website and got clearance from the venue so we were good to go. On the day of the wedding, however, not only did she show up late (which is not the point of this) but she also showed up wearing black Nike umbro running shorts, a black tank top and white tennis shoes with reflectors on them. Why do I mention the reflectors, because that’s what showed up in every picture that the guests or other vendors tried to take when she was in the frame. That’s one way to prevent guests from being able to shoot while you are trying to do your job.

     I realize this school of thought, dictating appropriate dress codes, may sound “old school” to some of you. I’d be willing to bet that those of you who think this is “old school” are those of you who are just starting out in this business (just like these vendors) that thought shooting weddings would be easy money because you get to go to a party every weekend. If this stereotype does not apply to you, please accept my apology. However, I am pretty sure the “good ole boys” who have been in this business since film was the primary way to shoot a wedding, won’t find it offensive that I think it is unprofessional to wear shorts on any job, much less in a church.

      I do have to say that the only times I’ve ever seen this as an issue, the vendors have all been from out of town, even if that means Baton Rouge, and they have all been new to the business. Again, if you are a newer vendor from out of town and this does not apply to you, congratulate yourself and keep up the good work. If this does apply to you, please know your market and know what is acceptable and not acceptable in each situation. What might be appropriate for a casual, picnic wedding at a country farm may not be appropriate for a Black Tie wedding in New Orleans.

I do realize that a lot of this can be subject to each person’s opinion. I also understand that some people may feel it is shallow to judge someone for the way they dress, but I believe that is something lazy people crutch onto so that they do not have to brush their hair in the morning. When brides ask me to keep anyone out of their reception wearing jeans, or dressed outside of the dress code, they listed on the invitation, what am I supposed to do when the photographer shows up wearing something barely suitable for a picnic in the park? In this situation, you might have the best product out there, but if you want a job where you can dress down every day, then perhaps you should be a landscape photographer.

Do not get me wrong, no one says you have to show up wearing 6 inch stiletto heels like I do – I admit, it’s a bit aggressive. But again, create a uniform that consists of simple black pants and maybe a black dress shirt, or something of that nature. Black rubber-soled shoes, ballet slippers, boots… all of these things are acceptable. Here are some things that are not:

1. Shorts of any kind                                                                                                               2. Flip flops (in most cases) – but at the end of the night, if they are given out as a favor from the bride, join in the fun!                                                                                                   3. Tank tops – even when worn with a skirt. Sleeveless shirts are very different than tank tops… learn the difference.                                                                                                    4. Jeans                                                                                                                                  5. A baseball cap

Please understand that what you wear to a meeting and how you present yourself upon an interview with these brides and grooms is totally different and completely up to you to be relaxed and “easy going.” But when you walk into a wedding, you should know that these girls ask their guests to uphold a certain dress code. It’s the least we can do as vendors to blend in and not be so pompous to believe we are above the wishes of our clients. No one says you have to wear a tuxedo just because the invitation says black tie, but learn how to blend in and have some respect for the clients you work for and the events you are capturing. After all, we are walking into a day that has been in the mind of most of these brides since they were young girls. What we wear should not be what they remember most from their wedding day, unless it is a fabulous pair of Manolos!


4 thoughts on “Being a wedding vendor 101 – How to dress

  1. Can I hire you as my personal shopping assistant? I have been wearing suits to shoot all of my weddings for years now. Lately I have seen so many others (and heard about them) wearing far less. I don’t want to show up in cargo shorts and a Big Johnson t-shirt, but I would like to be as comfortable as possible. Not to mention rocking a second line in July while wearing a long sleeve shirt and tie is definitely no fun 😉

    • Of course, Chad Dyle!!! I definitely understand the heat in New Orleans and being in a full suit is a little rough. It might not be necessary for you guys to wear a jacket and/ or tie for all weddings. I think dress pants, dress shoes and a dress shirt are sometimes just enough. And a tie is always a nice touch, but not always necessary! Let’s go shopping!!

  2. I photograph weddings of at all levels. For me, it would be totally unacceptable to wear anything less than what the guests are required to wear. Black or brown suit (with a tie) is proper. If a tuxedo is required, I also have that. It’s a simple rule….I don’t dress up more than groom or less than the guests. I’m comfortable with that and it works for me.

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