More and more couples are choosing to celebrate their wedding day with a destination trip with family and friends, but how does one make that happen? I recently asked Philadelphia wedding photographer Joe Craig to share some photos from a recent destination wedding and to give us his thoughts on what makes a wedding weekend so special, and how to make it work for you!
Joe, tell us a bit about Becky and Penn’s wedding. This was such a great weekend – Becky and Penn are a super fun couple and they planned lots of activities over the course of the weekend. It was rustic and charming and really tailored to making everyone feel involved. The whole weekend was set along Pocono Lake, in the Appalachian Mountains of north eastern Pennsylvania. It sounds far out there, but it’s only 90 minutes from New York City and Philadelphia. What is central to the whole tale is that most of the guests will often spend the summer months at the lake, where they have cottages that have been in the family for generations, which is how Becky and Penn met! Their story starts when they were kids, playing in the woods and swimming in the waters of the same lake where they would later hold their wedding ceremony.
What excites you about non-traditional weddings like this? This wedding wasn’t just about tying the knot, it was more like a family reunion. For example, there were two really personal (and hilarious) slideshows, one was projected on a sheet after sunset at the rehearsal BBQ. The wedding day started off with a late morning softball game – everyone playing or cheering the others on, and the whole time I felt like I was at summer camp. It was great! Everyone was included, the approach was very personal and completely authentic, not at all cookie cutter.
So when shooting weddings like this, that are really personal, how do you create a sense of intimacy or freedom for the guests to be themselves as you photograph? I feel it’s important that I don’t interrupt the guest or disrupt the flow of things. I don’t make the day to be about me. Over the years I’ve found that the calmer and more present I am, the more open I am to whatever the situation is, the more people are willing to be themselves. I simply respond accordingly and always with compassion – A stressed bride doesn’t need more stress from me. I ask myself “How can I best serve this situation?” Most of the time that means photographing, but sometimes that means leaving the room, sometimes that means grabbing a box of tissues, or holding a door open for the 102 year old grandma. It is this openness to help and genuine care for the guests that makes it easier for them to feel comfortable while I photograph. I’m not there as a vendor, I am there as a friend.
What is different about shooting a wedding like this? Only Becky and Penn could have had this wedding. The place, the people, and the story were so connected to them, specifically, which made it unique. I wholeheartedly encourage couples to incorporate their place, their people, and their story into their wedding day to make it special. Don’t be afraid to have fun with it.
Any tips for couples who might want to have a weekend wedding adventure and want a photographer to photograph it? Yes- you should do it! It’s easy to feel the pressure of tradition and I’m not saying that you need to spit in the eye of a traditional wedding. But it’s okay to craft an event that’s different from what your parents had or even what your friends did. Make it specific and meaningful to you! Think visually and make it fun – if you want to have a late night campfire, think about having tiki torches for a little extra ambient light. Plan events that your guests can be involved in. Sure, sitting by the pool is fun – but going on a kayaking adventure to the bio-bay in Puerto Rico can make the weekend that much more memorable. If you take the time and effort to plan it out and keep your guests in mind, you can really make your wedding unique to you and unforgettable for your guests. Oh, and totally consider hiring your photographer for any extra events or day after shoots. I typically only shoot one wedding each weekend because of travel so I’m open to coming to the day before and/or after and these are great opportunities to capture awesome moments on a boat, on the beach or more casual portraits of you and your guests just kickin’ back and having great fun.
Thanks so much, Joe, for sharing your tips for planning a destination wedding and your lovely photos of Becky and Penn’s wedding weekend!