8 Wedding Photographers on Horror Stories and Lessons Learned

July 23, 2018

By Libby Peterson

Photo © Tara Lilly Photography

Photo © Oscar Castro Photo

Based in: Veracruz, Mexico
Destination: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

At this wedding, the couple paid for a tour to take portraits in the desert. We had planned to shoot for 45 minutes, however the surprise when we arrived was that the guide told us we only had 5 minutes because the night was falling very fast. I could not believe it, to travel so far for only 5 minutes!

I immediately felt my adrenaline pumping and started taking photos as fast as I could, keeping calm and reassuring the couple—of course, inside I was dying of fear. It was the fastest session of my life! I was trying my best to take advantage of the location and the incredible light, and in the end, I was awarded with a spectacular evening and the opportunity to take unique photos.

We must never lose our calm, and it’s even more important to pass that on to the couple. Always trust your instinct and let yourself be carried away by what you know how to do.

Photo © Cheka Photography

Based in: Mombasa, Kenya
Destination: Narok County, Kenya

A few minutes after landing at the Ol Kiombo airstrip in the Masai Mara, we were driving to our lodge and spotted five healthy-looking lionesses relaxing and catching some shade under a lone tree. A great sign of things to come for this trip, I thought.

As that thought passed through my mind, I noticed our expert guide panicking and talking excitably over the radio in Maa (the Masai language). “Olgatuny, olgatuny!” he cried as beads of sweat formed quickly on his brows. Were they there from the hot humid weather? “Pareet, we have a problem,” he told me. “This is the tree that Noelia and Ruben are going to get married under in 2 hours.” My response: “Oh. Oh shit!

I called two armed rangers to keep a close watch on the lionesses while I went and took the bridal prep shots back at the lodge. I asked for an update one hour later, but it wasn’t good news; the lionesses were still there.

Plan B was to find another lone tree, which, surprisingly, was harder than you can imagine. But our fortune turned in the next 15 minutes, when I received a phone call from the ranger that the lionesses were attracted by a herd of buffalo and moved a short distance away—only 200 meters. That was enough for the wedding to go on as planned! Nature at its best.

Photo © Jacki Bruniquel

Based in: Durban, South Africa
Destination: Clarens, South Africa

Drew is a romantic who loves fairy tales, unicorns, sunbeams and ponies. He and his husband, Brian, decided to get married at Old Mill Drift, a beautiful farm on a winding river surrounded by orange mountains where you’ll find a small herd of wild ponies, forests glades and a bubbling spring. They were meant to get married next to a stream under a canopy of trees with sparkling yellow leaves, but nature had other plans; it bucketed down just before the ceremony was meant to start and then promptly cleared up as the ceremony was moved indoors.

Because I knew Drew was so desperately sad that they didn’t get their forest ceremony, I suggested that we go to the clearing so that they could say their vows to each other in that space. I saw the light and knew that if we lit a fire, beautiful light beams would appear with enough smoke. These would totally vibe with his love of fantasy and fairy tales. This was my attempt to make something beautiful for him that would make up for the disappointment.

The ground was soaking so we couldn’t use any kindle or twigs to light the said fire—so we burned up my camera manual!

Photo © Illuism

Based in: Hong Kong, China
Destinations: Prague and Český Krumlov, Czech Republic, and Hallstatt, Austria

This pre-wedding shoot had a really tight schedule—three European cities in three days—and due to this couple’s limited holidays, we could only shoot in November. We knew it would be cold in Europe in November so we did a lot of research and preparation, but the actual weather was far more terrible than we expected.

Prague was cold, windy and rainy. That morning, it was 35 °F. This was especially shocking to people who live in the subtropics. The rainfall added insult to injury; we needed to take extra care of the equipment and wardrobe. But we had to carry on—it was our only day in Prague—so we first checked different weather reports to confirm that the rainfall would stop in the afternoon. Then we gave up our original plan.

We went to a nice restaurant to take a rest and did some casual shooting. Meanwhile, the worst of the weather blew over and we re-planned the route for that afternoon, calculating the time and distance to shoot in the couple’s favorite spot: Střelecký Island. Thank God the weather reports were accurate. We nabbed the period after the rain stopped and before the sun was down.

To remedy the shooting time we lost, we decided to add a night shooting session for the couple, remodeling some of the props we planned to use in the other two cities to make a glowing, heart-shaped ring for them to hold together.

Photo © Rosenvald Photography

Based in: Tartu, Estonia
Destination: Lossiküla, Latvia

On a beautiful summer day, I was to shoot a wedding ceremony held in Latvia near the border of Estonia, where I am based, so we took a car to drive to the venue. We decided to make a stop at a nice canola field to take some photos of the couple. All was fine until it started to rain. Heavy rain.

Usually, this is the moment when couples hide in the car or under an umbrella. But Ilona and Aleksei were different.

They were running through the field in the downpour, enjoying their day; they really didn’t care about getting wet, so I knew I had to do my best to capture that feeling. It became an incredible photo session.

We arrived completely drenched to the wedding party, but we had a lot of unforgettable photos, joy in our hearts and a soaked camera that had a short circuit. Luckily, both the camera dried off and worked fine in a few days. I finished the wedding with my backup DSLR.

A lot can go wrong, especially with all of the traveling on a destination wedding, and I think it is wise to plan and prepare ahead, but this story reminded me of how important it is to embrace the unexpected, because these memories will last forever.

Based in: Knoxville, Tennessee
Destination: Lake Placid, New York

After booking a wedding in Lake Placid, New York, the mother of the bride suggested flying into Burlington, Vermont, as it was the closest airport. She also warned that I would have to take a ferry across Lake Champlain to get to Lake Placid.

Our flight was slightly delayed, making us land around 10 p.m. in Burlington. We got our rental car and asked for the nearest ferry. What we didn’t know was that not all of the ferries run 24 hours a day, so when we drove into the wilderness of Vermont to our first ferry, we found it was closed until morning. Frustrated, I found a 24-hour ferry on my phone, but then realized I had about 20 percent battery. I plugged my charger into the rental car’s battery charger, and it didn’t work. We stopped at a gas station and bought another charger; it still didn’t work! The fuse in the rental car was blown, and we had no way to charge our phones to help navigate us.

So, we did the old-fashioned thing and bought a map. We found our ferry and had one of the most gorgeous moonlit ferry rides across Lake Champlain. Finally, we checked into our hotel in Lake Placid around 2 a.m. Fortunately, I only had rehearsal the next day and could rest.

Upon arriving at the rehearsal, however, I was terrified to find the ceiling of the ceremony tent draped with Queen Anne’s Lace, a flower that I am severely allergic to! Fortunately, I was able to self-medicate my way through the wedding and only received a few small breakouts afterwards.

Despite all of my personal drama, the bride and groom and their families were some of the nicest people I’ve ever worked with and their wedding remains one of my all-time favorites. I’ve been itching (pun intended) to go back to Lake Placid ever since.

Photo © Jere Satamo photography

Based in: Turku, Finland
Destination: Tuscany, Italy

Tuscany is, you know, the dream destination for most photographers. The couple had told me that their actual wedding day would be on a Wednesday, so I booked my trip to be in Tuscany on Tuesday evening.

A few days before the trip, the couple told me their plans had changed and their wedding ceremony would be on Tuesday. Interesting indeed, especially because I had a post-wedding portrait shoot on Monday in Finland, and that couple was going on their honeymoon so the session couldn’t be postponed. I started the search for new flights and found one combination from two different airlines, one from Turku to Stockholm and the second from Stockholm to Rome. From Rome, I would rent a car and start my 3-hour drive to Tuscany.

I exited the terminal in Stockholm to get my luggage, check in again and drop off my bags. Then I noticed that my flight to Rome was delayed by 40 minutes. I was originally supposed to land in Rome at 11:30 p.m., and the rental car companies were closing at midnight. With a 40-minute delay, I’d get there at 1:10 a.m. No rental car.

Luckily—and I mean really luckily—the flight had a huge tail wind and the aircraft caught back those 40 minutes. But when we got to Rome, unloading the luggage was delayed and we were told the bags would be available at 1:15 a.m. I asked airport personnel if I could first pick up my rental car and then my bags—no, it wasn’t possible.

So, bags or car? The cameras were with me in my backpack, I thought, so maybe the car. I started walking to customs and then saw my bag come out of the conveyer! “Run, Jere, run,” I said to myself, and even though I had looked at the airport map beforehand, finding the rental company was not straightforward. But I made it—at 11:56 p.m.

Finally, I got to the Tuscan wedding venue at 3:30 a.m., ready to shoot some early getting readies.

Photo © Tara Lilly Photography

Based in: Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
Destination: Lake Ontario, Canada

We have photographed weddings in twelve different countries, but one of the best stories comes from our own backyard.

Jenny and Kevin planned their wedding day on the shores of Lake Ontario in Prince Edward County. The weather forecasted a hot, clear, sunny day. With only 30 guests in attendance, they rolled the dice on not having a rain backup for their ceremony or cocktail hour at Jenny’s family cottage.

But by late afternoon, the chairs and blankets planned for the lakeside ceremony were rained on for a third time, so the couple invited all of their guests to grab a drink and join them on the porch. Having everyone gather casually made the ceremony feel much more intimate and suited their day perfectly. Shortly after, the skies opened up with a loud crack of thunder, and everyone huddled on the porch to enjoy cocktails during the downpour.

The rain passed and we drove out to the perfect location for sunset portraits, only to see a massive storm cloud rolling toward us across a field. With the late evening light against the dark ominous clouds, we decided to go for it and take a few portraits before the inevitable rain. We quickly parked the car and had less than 5 minutes before the wind stopped and everything became eerily calm.

As Kevin gave Jenny one last twirl, a fork of lightning struck off to my left. It was so quick that I wasn’t even sure if I got the shot. We all started running as fast as we could, our hearts racing, and we burst out laughing as the rain started to pour down onto the roof of the car.

Photo © Iskra Photography

Jane Iskra
Based in: Iceland
Destination: Iceland

JP and Katie decided to elope in one of the most beautiful countries in the world called Iceland. Of course, they knew that due to its location, the weather and climate can be so harsh and changeable, but none of us were expecting such a weather we faced on that day. Especially, when you know that it was in the middle of May, which usually has some rain and at worst thing, a strong wind. But not this time! This year, May felt like December—very strong and icy wind, snow and hard hailstorms flying almost horizontally.

We as photographers always prepare for anything. This is the main key. We made hot tea and coffee for the couple and us and took it with us, which helped a lot during the shoot. We have a pool of various places to shoot at in case of bad weather. We knew how to escape hailstorms and make awesome shots. On this day, when we saw the storm approaching us, we just tried to make the best photos and show this dramatic weather, and then when the storm came, we just moved to a small canyon—around a 15-minute drive from the first place—that had no wind because of its formation. And at last, when the storm came there too, we saw the way the snow and ice was just falling down from the skies with no wind, and it was even more beautiful and added some dynamics to the frame.

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