The wedding industry has a dirty secret: many of the beautiful wedding images you see online and even in print may not be from actual weddings. Many wedding photos come from an editorial photo shoot, also called wedding styled shoots. At a wedding styled shoot, vendors come together to showcase their talents, the latest design trends, and new products/services.
What are wedding styled shoots?
Essentially, a fake wedding is planned: there’s usually models (posing as a bride and groom), rentals, flowers, hair & makeup, a photographer and videographer, an invitation suite and reception signage and lighting. Those are the basics: some shoots are simpler and involve fewer vendors, some shoots are more complex and involve larger vendor teams.
Are wedding styled shoots a waste?
To some, wedding styled shoots are a waste of time and product, but to others, it’s a marketing tool. Vendors use styled shoots as an opportunity to showcase new products and services, inspire couples and quite frankly, it’s an opportunity to flex our creative muscle without boundaries. At past styled shoots, we’ve been fortunate enough to be able to donate the florals to local hospice organizations, just as we do with every wedding we plan.
Does Contagious Events participate in styled shoots?
As a general rule, we only participate in one styled shoot per year. When we plan a styled shoot, we create the concept and design plan, secure the venue and assemble a stellar team of vendors who are inspired by our vision. From there, we work with each vendor to make sure we’re showcasing their talents and whatever they’d like to highlight in the shoot. Our approach to styled shoots is the same as our approach to weddings: we are a part of a team and we want each vendor to shine.
We have a love/hate relationship with styled shoots. For us, styled shoots are a tool to meet and connect with new vendors, use new inventory from our rental catalogue so we can become more familiar with the logistics related to it (transport, set up, etc.) and introduce new ideas and visions to the wedding world.
Sometimes, vendors use styled shoots in misleading ways. Some vendors do not disclose that photos are from styled shoots. Other vendors rely on styled shoots to populate all images in their portfolio – and while they’re a great way to showcase design ideas and visions, it’s not a great way to showcase abilities as a wedding professional. You see, at a styled shoot, there’s much less pressure: typically there’s only a handful of tables to set, the timeline is a little more flexible and for planners, it’s much easier to orchestrate vendors when you don’t have to worry about guest arrival, making sure the wedding party has everything they need and putting out any possible fires that may come up. Simply put: virtually anybody can style a table with enough time; a true event professional has the ability to walk into a reception space and set 150+ place settings within the hour while verifying place cards are property set and the scene is picture perfect from all angles – not just the one the camera’s pointed in.
Styled shoots sometimes lead to unrealistic expectations. Very often, we have the difficult job of telling a couple that the inspiration images they show us are unrealistic in terms of budget – many styled shoots use the most expensive rentals across the board, from chairs to linens and place settings. Some styled shoots show table settings that could cost over $1,000 – and that’s without the meal!
How to tell if photos are from a wedding styled shoot
Thankfully, most vendors will refer to photo albums from styled shoots as either “inspiration” or calling them styled shoots, so that’s the most obvious way to identify them. But unfortunately, that’s not always the case, so there are some other things to look for: images that don’t show a crowd of guests anywhere in the album is usually a sign of a styled shoot. If you see a lot of photos of vendors setting up, or a lot of “behind the scenes” style images prior to the wedding, that might be a sign of a styled shoot as well – after all, shouldn’t the photographers be with the couple as they get ready?! One note on this though: sometimes, planners hire a separate photographer to take detailed photos during the setup process, so this last tip is not necessarily a tell-all sign of a styled shoot. The best way to tell: ask the vendor!
If you’re a wedding vendor in the Boston area and you’re interested in working with Contagious Events on our next styled shoot, please click here.
Photo by Studio Nouveau from our 2018 styled shoot at the SoWa Power Station in Boston. Video by New England Creative. Florals by Flou(-e)r. Bridal Attire by Ceremony Boston. Hair by Rena Santopietro, Makeup by Catie Bane. Rentals from Party Rental LTD. Groom’s attire by Hive & Colony, Lighting by DesignLight.