Wedding Videography Tips and Trends

Expert tips for getting the modern, memorable video you want.
Stephanie Emma Pfeffer
by Stephanie Emma Pfeffer

We've all been there—propped up on pillows at a best friend's house, forced to endure her wedding video yet again. Too bad it looks more like a cheesy cut of The Wedding Singer than a sentimental snippet of one of her happiest days. As your event approaches, you start to wonder if this is the only option available for matrimonial movies. Good news: It's not! Here's how to keep your video looking fun and fresh.

Check out Their Equipment

The first question that you'll need to ask any potential videographers is what kind of camera they have, says Michelle Chevatewa of Mike Staff Productions in Detroit. In order to get the best viewing, the videographers should shoot in high-definition video with an aspect ratio of 16:9 (referred to as "16 by 9"). Older formats, such as 4:3 video, could wind up looking outdated when played on new HD TVs that most people have now (and let's face it, nearly everyone will have one soon). Also, ask the videographers about how much light they'll have to add. They should only use flattering, low-light levels; otherwise, guests will be squinting whenever they're near, and the end result will have an '80s bar mitzvah-tape look. They should also bring along lapel microphones so your sweet-as-pie little sister's maid of honor toast and your tends-to-mumble groom's vows come out crystal-clear. The mics are tiny and discreet so they won't ruin your photos, unlike the giant boom microphones of yesteryear.

Repeat: Less Is More

An inexperienced videographer will throw everything they know—and don't know—into your wedding video, which usually results in overshadowing the events of the day. "You don't want your video to seem overproduced," says Renzo Zanelli of Magic Flute Videos in New York City. Special effects can be distracting if done incorrectly, so be sure that slow motion, cross-dissolve, fade-ins and fade-outs are used sparingly and logically when you watch the videographer's demo DVD. You want the events of your wedding day to stand out in your video. All those extra effects can really downplay the highlights you will want to be able to watch over and over again for years to come!

Take Cues From Real Films

A good rule of thumb: If you wouldn't see an effect in a Hollywood movie, it has no place in your wedding video either. "A sophisticated video looks like a feature film with smooth shots, no jarring transitions and definitely no animated hearts or stars," says Zanelli. Our personal vote for the cheesiest effect: literally adding extra sparkle to your dress, teeth or flowers. Watch videos the videographer has edited. If, while viewing their samples, you have to question why they added a certain effect at a certain moment, take that as a sign they don't know how to use effects to optimize your video. If, on the other hand, you don't recall seeing any effects but the video still felt whole, that videographer may have mastered the art of subtlety—something that cheesy videographers seriously lack.

Keep It Short but Sweet

The length of your video is often based on that of your ceremony, but the final cut shouldn't make you wish for 'til death do you part. A good film editor will cut a longer ceremony for easy viewing; a bad one will include each and every second, from the officiant clearing his throat to your bridesmaid adjusting her necklace, no matter how excruciating it is to watch. (Your videographer should give you the raw footage to keep on a separate DVD, just in case you do get a kick out of watching your mother-in-law sneeze over and over.) It's hard to imagine someone cutting any bit out of your inevitably intense and emotional ceremony, but talented editors know which parts are totally necessary and which ones won't be missed. Picky brides, however, should ask beforehand about whether it'll be possible to make changes to the video once it's edited, says Zanelli.

Let It Be

So what should be included in the final version? You'll want to have a record of the highlights of the day, but only as they unfolded naturally. "A corny videographer will force moments to happen by directing, whereas an expert lets them develop on their own," says Chevatewa. For instance, when your father sees you in your gown for the first time, the moment shouldn't be "produced" by a cameraperson instructing dear old Dad to smile. Instead, they should let the two of you have your moment and merely capture it. But don't boss your videographer around, asking them to film certain things. Chances are, they know better than you, and the shots will look as forced as they would if you had dictated every single one.

Tune In

Your video should feature your music. Though it's tempting to allow your videographer to choose the soundtrack, you may end up with the same Luther Vandross ballad that's been used for every wedding they've shot in the last 20 years. Does "Here and Now" represent your relationship? Pick songs that are meaningful to the two of you: the music from your first dance, a tune that was popular when you first started dating, something you boogie down to in the living room together (when you don't have visitors, of course!). Ask that the footage be edited according to musical cues. A crescendo (a gradual increase in volume) should indicate a significant moment, such as when the bride and groom kiss for the first time as a married couple. Be careful with this, though: Music shouldn't drown out the officiant or any of the speeches at the reception. The sound should be a seamless addition to the overall cinematic production. You should hardly notice it.

Act Accordingly

Good news: You have a lot of control over how your video turns out. And no, it doesn't involve sitting side by side with the videographer in the editing room. The number one way to avoid a cheesy video? "Don't do cheesy things," says Chevatewa. Examples: Don't give out silly hats or oversized sunglasses, start a kick line or, we beg you, do anything with your new husband on the dance floor that's better suited for the honeymoon suite. Stick to those guidelines and there's even better news: Your guests will likely follow your lead. No, you can't control everything they do, but if you're on your best behavior, most of them will be too, and the one creepy uncle who's not can get edited out. Don't worry—one chorus of glass dings to get you two to kiss won't transform a lovely video into a dreadful one. Two or more might, so you may just want to remind your videographer to remove those in the final cut.

Speak Up

Unfortunately, not every move you make will be totally your decision. "I feel bad for the couple who's forced into contrived behavior, like when the groom is told to dip and spin the bride until she's dizzy," says Chevatewa. Since your videographer is utterly powerless against this stuff, chat with your DJ or bandleader about the sophisticated wedding you're hoping for and offer specific examples of the kinds of things they should avoid. If they don't happen, your videographer can't capture them, and you'll never have to relive those embarrassing moments in the future. If your videographer is the one who's putting you into compromising positions, tell them, "No way!" (politely, of course). Cheesy videographers are notorious for instructing couples to wave good-bye to the camera and skip away together gleefully...before they've even cut the cake. Faking an exit from your reception when it's only 8:30 isn't going to seem real—and when you look back, you'll remember that it wasn't.

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