How to Shoot a Traditional Cultural Wedding

How to Shoot a Traditional Cultural Wedding


Photography for American Wedding ceremonies can be generally characterized in categories of preparations, ceremony, and reception. With most weddings fitting this order, the more weddings you shoot, the easier it is to anticipate your shots and mentally visualize how you will create them.

There is another market for Wedding Photography that is often overlooked: Traditional Cultural weddings.


Cultural weddings require additional time and research by the photographer to make the most of the wedding day and not miss any important details. Here are some suggestions for preparing and shooting a Cultural Wedding.

1. Be detail oriented: Cultural weddings are often spread out over several days. The families spend a great deal of time, money, and energy to make the wedding memorable for everyone involved. Be pro-active to watch for important little details that characterize the culture and cause the ceremony to stand out.

2. Create a timeline: Sit down with the Bride and ask her to walk through every detail of the wedding day – particularly the ceremony. Take detailed notes and ask as many questions as possible. How long does the ceremony last? What is the role of each family member? What is the significance of the ceremony traditions? The purpose of this timeline is not necessarily to be a memorized and rigid game-plan, but it will be helpful when capturing those moments that you would have otherwise ignorantly overlooked.

3. Research other Photographers: There is a Proverb that states “there is nothing new under the sun”. This is especially true in artistic circles. If you have never shot a Cultural Wedding before, research other photographers who have. This is not to give you permission to “copy” their work. Rather, these visuals will help solidify what the cultural experience may be.

4. Ask for help: On the wedding day, make friends with one of the attendants and ask them if they would point out to you any additional details or shots that would be important to capture. A little humility may go a long way in a successful capture.

5. Focus.Focus. Focus: Be prepared for anything that may come your way. Watch. Observe. Do not let down your guard. Creating a beautiful photographic experience for everyone involved in a cultural wedding will assist you in breaking into this new market.

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Christina N Dickson is a visionary artist and philanthropist in Portland Oregon. Her work includes wedding photography and leadership with

Some Older Comments

  • Dewan Demmer August 28, 2013 06:41 pm

    I think the 1st point should be :
    Read-up up and learn more about the cultural wedding and its traditions ... Being focused on detail is very important, but knowing what details will be important give you a good start.
    There are so many different cultures and each with its own traditions, to assume it will be similar to another type of wedding will mean details are missed.

  • Dare July 23, 2011 04:22 am

    This is informative. Thank you for sharing this idea.

  • Marry me January 12, 2011 04:19 pm

    I think photography is the most important thing of any wedding ceremony, if you doesn't hire a good professional photographer then you miss your unforgettable moments lifetime....

  • Cultural Wedding Orlando September 22, 2010 04:32 am

    I had no idea that shooting a cultural wedding was so much different than shooting a traditional American wedding. While I'm not a photographer myself, I'm sure I can use these tips whenever have a camera in my hand.

  • nigeria wedding photographer December 11, 2009 04:47 pm

    Being a wedding photographer based in Nigeria, i get to shoot a lot of Nigerian traditional weddings, the country is extremely rich in culture with a few hundred tribes all with unique cultures.
    One of the first things i do when i get to a new wedding is to meet who ever is planning the event and get them to give me a brief run down of what to expect.It also pays to be in the flow of things, you need to focus, else you miss the crucial shots

  • Wedding Planner Dubai November 8, 2009 07:15 pm

    very useful. Tradistional marriages are very colorful. Specially here in Dubai, Tradiotional Arab marriages are really classy. Your tips will help me to have better pics.

  • vizcara November 4, 2009 06:32 pm

    I am so glad I do not waste my time or energy shooting this underpaid and insanely long wedding ceremonies. That often have way to much going on to deal with let alone to many captains trying to drive the ship on that day..... did 1 wedding and one Vietnamese wedding and that cured me from dealing with those clients. Having Brides father force the band or musicians and DJ eat "Domino's" pizza during the Reception in front of everyone else that was eating at the nice restaurant was tacky enough to make any hired help never book one of those weddings again.

  • Cathy October 23, 2009 10:25 pm

    Great tips, I follow these rules myself at every wedding. A traditional Polish wedding is unique from a garden wedding. If there is a detail in any wedding I just shoot it, later with photoshop it may come in handy for composite photos. Some weddings have stronger culture than others, but in the end, a great wedding photographer never looses focus-- with their attention to details and events. and their camera.

  • RP October 21, 2009 04:52 am

    This is soooo true...I had a mixed Japanese-eastern European wedding, only the fact that I have been to a Japanese wedding and knew what to expect saved me from being completely incompetent. Another Japanese wedding I attended went smooth since it was a) more westernized; b) I was more prepared.

    Anyhow, have a Cambodian one to see in January, as a guest, but will certainly snap a few photos, that'll be interesting...

  • Rob October 21, 2009 01:38 am

    I think most of the points are already covered.
    Flickr and other photosite are often a pretty good place to research the different wedding. not forgetting infromation sites such as wikipedia, although do rememeber that wedding are not always text book in their routine.
    Going along with friends( i was fortunate enough to have wife from the culture photographed) to watch a wedding will help you feel comfortable and be able to predict what happens next. You will get some attention from the guests as you will obviously stand out, but most ( including the bride,groom and family) will be flattered that you take an interest in their culture.

    Oh and try not to get in the way of the official photographer and guest , after all they are there for a reason as well :)

    my attempt at friends wedding

  • Iris October 20, 2009 11:03 pm

    Very cool. Maybe one day I will have the opportunity to shoot a cultural wedding...or even a regular wedding. Thank you for sharing your insights.

  • DaveW October 20, 2009 04:47 pm

    OMG poor piggy!!!

  • Imran October 20, 2009 01:07 pm

    I might be wrong but in America, and most western countries, the only traditional weddings you get to see are those from the Chinese or Indian communities.

    However, living in the east, in a multi-cultural society like here in Singapore, you get to experience not just the western style of wedding but also Chinese, Indian/Hindu, Arab/Muslim, Malay/Muslim, Indian/Muslim etc.

    Some of the weddings that I'm lucky enough to cover can be found in my Flickr photostream:

    (a) Malay/Muslim Wedding:
    (b) Inter-racial Wedding between a Chinese and a Malay/Muslim:
    (c) Indian/Muslim Wedding:

  • Robin Ryan October 20, 2009 02:04 am

    Oooh, cool article. Wish it had more photos.

    The only one I ever shot was one that I stumbled across in Korea... here's what I got from it:

  • Eric Mesa October 20, 2009 01:47 am

    Top photo reminds me of my wedding. My wife is viet.

    I'd also add a tip. If you have a friend who is of that culture, see if you can attend a wedding to see what they do. It's easy to photograph American weddings because you've seen it a million times yourself or in movies. You won't be caught by surprise by the father giving the daughter away or anything like that. So you may need to experience one of these weddings before you try to photograph them.