Dealing With Less Than Cooperative/Absent Guests

There is a critical piece of CYA that I incorporate into my wedding contracts that I never thought I would need but got the idea from reading about other photographer’s experiences. The responsibility of capturing important people in the formal photos and ensuring they are present to be in the photo. In one of my previous posts I discussed the possibility of having to deal with less than cooperative guests. I wanted to expand on that and more specifically narrow that down to the formal wedding photos and the guests that are included in them.

Formal wedding photos can be a frantic situation for a new or shy photographer. Generally you have a very limited window to get a very large number of people set up in several different poses with people who all want to move onto the party all while trying not to sweat to death and maintain your professionalism. The most important thing to do is maintain an element of control. You are the paid photographer, you are in charge. Yes, Aunt Sally may want to get a quick shot but unfortunately, you are on a schedule and that schedule doesn’t allow for Aunt Sally to hold the show up. On top of that you realize that Grandma and Grandpa decided that they wanted to high tail it to the reception. What to do now?

I prepare for these scenarios long before I ever get to the event. As a matter of fact I prepare for them the day the client signs the contract. I have in my contract a clause that reads as follows:

” The parties agree to cheerful cooperation and communication for the best possible result within the definition of this assignment. PHOTOGRAPHER is not responsible if key individuals fail to appear or cooperate during photography sessions or for missed images due to details not revealed to PHOTOGRAPHER. PHOTOGRAPHER recommends that CLIENT designate an “event guide” to point out important individuals for informal or candid photographs. “

So what does all this mean? Basically what I am informing my client is that in the event that Grandma and Grandpa decide to skip out early and not be a part of the formal photographs I cannot be held responsible. But to prevent that, the couple should designate a representative who will ensure that all of the guests that the couple wishes to have in the formal photographs remain at the shoot location until their assistance is no longer needed. I am very careful to go over this detail with my clients and stress to them the importance of informing their friends and family who they want to have in their formal photos to please remain at the location until they are dismissed.

This isn’t the only time I remind my clients of this information. It may be well over a year prior to the event that they sign the contract and may have forgotten all of my preparation speeches, so what to do? To prevent this lapse in memory I always schedule a meeting with my clients two weeks prior to their event date to go over last minute details. One of the most important details that I ask them to prepare for is the Formal Photography Guest List. I have my client’s think of all the people that they want in their formal photographs and prepare a list for me and their designated representative so that I may have this to refer to during the wedding. I also remind them to reach out to these guests to make them aware that their presence is requested in the photos to ensure that they don’t leave suddenly.

In the event that Grandma and Grandpa do skip out, sometimes there’s nothing that you can do. We simply inform the bride and groom of the situation and move on from there. Setting their expectation beforehand though can greatly reduce the stress on both the wedding couple and you as their professional photographer.

Until next time, Happy Shooting!


My name is Robert Hillis and I operate Memories of Your Lifetime Photography. I specialize in wedding and portrait photography in San Antonio, TX. I am an artist at heart and I love to “Paint with my Lens”! I’ve been shooting professionally for about 5 years but I’ve been doing it for fun forever! I truly love what I do and I think that shows through in my photos.

I like to tell my clients that because a wedding is truly a once in a lifetime event, what I offer them will stand the tests of time. Of all of the things that you buy for your wedding, what I offer will outlast them all. The food gets eaten, the cake goes away, the tuxedo is returned and the limo is a distant memory. The dress may stay in the closet out of view for years to come but my images, my photos, will outlast you, your kids, their kids and even their kids kids. I’m not just taking photos, I’m preserving your family history. I am capturing the Memories Of Your Lifetime!

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