A Letter to Wedding Vendors
(Dress Code Matters)
Update : Please Read
When this post was originally published, it sparked a tremendous amount of conversation about dress code issues in the wedding industry. Originally, I only addressed videographers because we work the closest with them on a regular basis, and how they dress in particular affects how our photography team is perceived by guests (and vice versa).
This is where my frustration originated, so that is why I focused on videographers in the article. To all of my videographer colleagues and peers out there, please know that I am genuinely sorry, and I believe that this approach was definitely a mistake. Photographers have a lot of improving to do in this area as well, and it was - quite honestly - hypocritical of me not to address them.
I deeply value healthy debate among differing viewpoints, and believe that discussions like this are critically important when it comes to improving the industry as a whole. This is not an issue with just videographers - this is a problem that occurs with all vendors. It was simply unjust of me to single out one profession, so I have edited this article to speak to all vendor types.
I can't thank everyone enough for speaking their mind - as you can see, your thoughts are not taken lightly! I would love to hear everyone's thoughts about wedding vendor dress code in general, and please forgive me for not approaching it this way to begin with.
I've struggled with how to write this post.
Many drafts have been written and deleted because one of my biggest strengths is also one of my biggest weaknesses - I have a need for harmony, and I tend to avoid topics that may be offensive, opinionated, or one-sided.
But after over-thinking it for much too long, I think that saying it straight might be the best method...
If you are a wedding professional that works in front of guests, please dress nicely at weddings.
Before I get too far, I must clarify that most of the vendors that we've worked with at weddings are wonderful, and we have few complaints about the way they dress or behave. This is not a global assault on wedding professionals - we have a long list of vendors that we recommend, and a part of our referral is knowing that they will dress appropriately for their particular job at the wedding.
However, there are a growing number of vendors out there that I would like to kindly ask (with all of my heart) that you please dress nicer at weddings.
What do I mean by 'dress nicer'?
If you're a vendor that is visible to the bride and groom or guests throughout a wedding day - such as a photographer, videographer, coordinator, or DJ - don't wear blue jeans, sweats, or T-shirts. Period.
Faded jeans, an untucked T-shirt, and worn out sneakers do not qualify. And I can't believe I have to say this, but please don't wear sweatpants. I'm shocked by how many visible vendors will wear yoga pants or baggy sweats to a black tie wedding in the name of comfort.
Photographers - you are not invisible at weddings when you are shooting.
We are going to be seen by every guest and every vendor during the ceremony and reception whether we try to hide ourselves or not, so please dress accordingly.
I'm definitely not asserting that every vendor should wear a three-piece suit to work a wedding. If you're a florist and only working behind the scenes, then you have much more freedom to be in casual clothes than a photographer or videographer. Hair and makeup artists should look nice so that they look appropriate in getting ready photos, but they don't need to be as dressed up as a coordinator.
I'm just asking that if you are generally seen by guests throughout the day that you up your game from blue jeans and T-shirts to a pair of slacks and a collared shirt.
In fact, the two vendor types that I can speak to the most are photographer and videographers since that is what I know best.
What do Jeff and I wear to weddings?
I'll admit that Jeff and I are really picky about dress code.
We definitely dress on the nicer side of the spectrum when it comes to casual Southern California.
This is because our ideal weddings are traditional, classic, and refined events that are usually on the conservative end of the dress code. It's not unusual for our couples to come from the east coast where they're accustomed to nicer dress.
So Jeff wears a black suit and a white colored shirt plus a bow tie to weddings in churches and ballrooms, and then he wears a grey suit with a colorful bow tie to garden or outdoor weddings.
I wear a business professional tailored black dress with a knee length skirt with my hair pulled back in a cute bun.
In no way am I asking photographers and videographers to dress this nice.
All of us shoot different types of weddings with different types of clientele.
I am asking, however, that you simply fit in with the dress code of the wedding - and to err on the nicer side of things.
Ask your couple what the attire will be for the wedding, and then make sure you fit the bill so you aren't over- or under-dressed.
What do I think is appropriate?
Tailored slacks, a tucked-in ironed collared shirt, and dress shoes are perfect for most male videographers and photographers, and business professional slacks, blouses, dresses (be modest), and flats are great for women.
Choose any color combo that you'd like based on your clientele and the weddings that you shoot (you certainly don't have to dress in all black for every type of wedding), but my personal advice is to err on professional, tasteful, and neutral.
Yes, you want to build a brand for yourself and you should show your personal style by adding some stylish personal touches (Jeff wears different bow ties and his favorite watches; I wear earrings and rings).
But in my experience, guests generally see you in a more positive light when you are committed to NOT being noticed.
(And I know that a lot of Southern California photographers will probably disagree with me on this one, but I don't think that dark skinny jeans or jeggings are appropriate - ever.)
Am I overreacting?
Am I getting my knickers in a twist over something that doesn't matter?
I've wondered that myself and that's why it's taken me so long to write this post. But it has become shockingly more common over the past year for our clients, fellow vendors, and even random guests to actually take the time to thank us for dressing so nicely and not showing up in casual dress like other photographers or videographers they have seen at weddings.
One of our grooms told us specifically that our outfits made him feel like their wedding was really special to us and not just another event we were working.
A bride said that we made her day feel elegant because her guests saw that they hired top-notch vendors.
I should also mention that it's become increasingly more common for couples to ask me during client meetings what we wear to weddings, so it's becoming a part of the decision making process, too.
This tells me that couples are noticing - more than ever - what we're wearing to weddings, and it's something they REALLY care about.
So again, this is not a global assault on wedding vendors as a whole, and many that Jeff and I work with are truly awesome (and we haven't always been perfect in our dress code manners, either).
But the way that we dress and present ourselves as a team is becoming even more important to our clients.
So if you're not thinking about the way you present yourself at weddings, then please start to consider your wardrobe.
PS My harmony alarms are going INSANE right now. If you could feel my sweaty palms after writing this...
What do you think?
What do you prefer to wear to weddings, or what do you wish others would wear to weddings?
Do you abide by a certain dress code?
I would love to hear everyone's thoughts in the comments or in our photographer-only Facebook group here!
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