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One of the most terrifying things in wedding photography is a bridezilla. You’ve likely read the stories of photographer’s careers being ruined by an impossible to please bride. Of course, this is a worst case scenario and fears become heightened by the bridezillas you see on TV.
“I think of photography like therapy.” – Harry Gruyaert
But it’s normal for photographers to encounter some level of bridezilla behavior. The question is how to deal with it.
I’ve learned from photographers like Joe McNally, Zack Arias, and Jasmine Star that it’s our job as photographers to make great photos – no matter what.
So if you’re faced with a bridezilla (or any overwhelming person) at any point in your career you simply need to know how to handle them. Here are 3 ways you can do that.
“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.” – Ansel Adams
Even the most difficult situations become easier to deal with when you understand what’s going on.
The truth is, most bridezillas never actually wanted to become bridezillas. So why do some brides act like that? Major changes in your life come with stress. Marriage comes with one of the highest levels of stress. In addition to the stress, there is also decision fatigue, personal baggage, and pre-wedding depression.
Maybe the question should be why there aren’t more bridezillas!
They don’t start out as Bridezillas. Not long ago she was living a normal life as somebody’s girlfriend. Then in the blink of an eye, her entire life changed as she became engaged.
When you put a person in a dramatic situation, you find out how much they can take before they crumble under the pressure. Planning a wedding provides more than enough stress and drama to make a person blow up.
Everybody reaches a threshold of how much stress they can handle. And for a variety of personal reasons some brides reach that threshold on or before their wedding day.
Bridezillas are people like you and me who have discovered what it takes to make them break.
“When there are other limitations, I don’t let myself be a limitation.” – Fer Juaristi
There is more than enough time leading up to the wedding day to anticipate who might become a bridezilla.
You can almost guarantee that if a bride comes from a happy family and she handles stress well then she isn’t going to become a bridezilla. But if her life is filled with stress and chaos and she doesn’t handle it well, there is going to be trouble on her wedding day!
When I meet with a couple who is interested in having me as their wedding photographer, I ask questions that let me know what sort of temperament the couple has.
Ask about their vision for the wedding. Then ask what would ruin the wedding for them. I had great fun with a couple who insisted that even if a tornado came along and they had to move the wedding to a basement shelter, they still wouldn’t care because their family is what means everything to them. The dress, flowers, and the decor were all secondary.
Ask other questions like, “What simply must be perfect?” or “What is your biggest fear for the day?” and “What would totally ruin your wedding day?”
Ask how quickly her emotions change to the negative and what cheers her up most in life.
If a bride tells me that the most important thing to her is that she has a perfect Pinterest wedding, I know there could be trouble.
There are enough problems with the dress, flowers, and decor to drive anybody crazy. If the bride is anxious and disagreeable, to begin with, planing her perfect Pinterest wedding will drive her nuts. She’s a perfect candidate to become a bridezilla.
Being a wedding photographer means knowing how to work with people. So if you can’t handle the stress of working with a bridezilla, you should politely decline weddings when you think there is a good chance she’ll become one. Let her know you don’t think you’re the best photographer to help her have a perfect wedding.
“It is more important to click with people than to click the shutter.” – Alfred Eisenstaedt
If you understand the things that lead to bridezilla behavior, and you’re happy with the challenge of working with one then good for you! You could actually help her get through her wedding day without baring her teeth and lower her stress level.
The truth is, most bridezillas don’t enjoy being bridezillas. You can’t help the ones who enjoy it. But you can help the ones who are afraid of becoming a bridezilla.
If she’s open to having help, you can assist her in setting goals, seeing the big picture and embracing what is truly important about her wedding day.
Find out what’s bugging her the most and share stories about other couples who have dealt successfully with these things. That way you’re not just pushing your opinion on her, but sharing stories of real people who found a way not to crumble under pressure. You can even publish these stories on your wedding photography blog.
Help her see her goal and what is truly important to her. Help her pivot around obstacles, and there will be less of a chance of her crumbling under the pressure of her wedding day.
No matter what you do, be the one who helps, not somebody who makes it worse.
“If a photographer cares about the people before the lens and is compassionate, much is given. It is the photographer, not the camera, that is the instrument.” – Eve Arnold
No photographer wants to photograph a bridezilla. No bride wants to be a bridezilla.
You can surpass a bride’s expectations of you as a photographer by understanding her situation and being the most flexible, helpful, encouraging person on her wedding day.
All it takes is one good friend to be a calming presence amidst stress and anxiety to help a bride not turn into a bridezilla. This person could be you.