Celebrity Wedding Logistics: The Ins and Outs of Photographing Notable Nuptials

by Jacqueline Tobin and Jessica Gordon

April 14, 2014

When ‘N Sync founding member Chris Kirkpatrick tied the knot with longtime girlfriend Karly Skladany this past November at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel near Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, Marc Anthony and Tony Ryan—who together make up Marc Anthony Photography out of Cleveland, Ohio—were the designated shooters for the special day. “It was our first celebrity wedding,” explains an excited Marc, who has photographed mostly high-society nuptials over the past ten years. He adds that he and Tony take on only about 20 weddings a year so that they can go after high-end clientele and build personal relationships with them (see “Perfect Chaos,” Rangefinder March 2013) .

Wedding planner Brenda Kucinski of Socially Artistic Events, whom Marc and Tony had worked with in the past on socialite shoots, fought for the duo to shoot this particular wedding. “She was really the one who suggested us for the shoot,” says Tony, “the main reason being [other than her already being familiar with their work] that, while the client’s management team was really pushing to hire famous fashion and art photographers, the planner kept saying that the couple really needed to have someone present who knew how to shoot weddings unobtrusively while still producing gorgeous imagery.”

Landing the Job
Of course, the wedding planner could only push so far for a specific photographer; at the end of the day, the decision was still up to the bride and groom. What really impressed the bride, says Marc and Tony, was their website. “At the time when Brenda arranged a conference call with us, we had no idea who the bride or groom was, it was a big mystery. The bride asked what our approach to weddings was, how we do things, etc. She wanted a good feel for our personalities, and said that she really liked the feel of the work on our site,” explains Tony, who, along with Marc, are known for bridal party tableaus that bring out each member’s unique personality. “Karly said she liked that we are able to capture key moments from the day, but are also able keep things light and fun at times.” She also liked the fact that the shooting duo was accustomed to working with very large bridal parties; hers totaled 18.

Not only did the work on the website speak volumes for the duo, the fact that the photographers’ personalities aligned so well with the wedding couple was also a plus. “[The bride] was concerned with potential hires being starstruck because there were going to be a lot of celebrities at the wedding; she just wanted us to be ourselves, to be relaxed and interact with everyone like we would anyone else,” Marc explains. To help further that along, the pair was invited to the rehearsal dinner to mix and mingle, and get to know everyone ahead of time.

Shot Lists
No matter the style of photography a client requests and the amount of freedom a photographer or a photography team is given, shot lists are inevitable, even partial ones. In this case, Marc and Tony had to shoot not only what Karly and Chris wanted, but they also had to keep in mind the type of images that would later be fed to media outlets (most of the selected images ran in HELLO! and People, as well as on People.com).

“One thing we prepped the couple for was that to tell the whole story, we really wanted to have male getting ready shots,” says Tony. “Chris totally agreed,” especially since—as the groom told People magazine in an exclusive once the photos were released—“we were getting ready together in the bathroom, and we laughed that the bathroom was bigger than some of our dressing rooms. We joked and laughed a lot; it really was like how things used to be.” For Marc and Tony, capturing those types of moments and feelings, of friends and band mates reunited was key to capturing the day successfully.

“When I was doing Chris’s pictures, Justin [Timberlake] went into the bathroom off the main room to groom his hair and stuff and he was singing to himself,” says Marc. “Just like he probably would at home.”

Adds Tony: “Out of respect to Chris, we treated him as we would any other groom and put the spotlight on him, and then we did a series of just him with the other four members of the band and got some interesting shots of them around a pool table, getting ready and also horsing around outside. They were already used to being in front of cameras, so we were able to get some great shots that highlighted the natural rapport between them.”

Challenges to Overcome
Security, says Marc, was extremely tight, leaving the pair as the only two people who had a camera; even cell phones were banned from the premises. “It was nice for us because it gave us an exclusive that no one else had,” adds Tony. A security team was also present as they were shooting the ceremony but the pair was already comfortable with everyone at that point. Marc was the primary shooter, using the Nikon D800 as his camera of choice. Tony, whose background is more as a creative director, helped set up the shots, worked with the posing and kept track of the shot list to free up Marc up to be really creative. “I also did some second shooting during the ceremony, things like capturing the bride coming down aisle, shooting reverse angles and unique scenes while Marc was up front getting the vows recorded,” he says.

In terms of rights and licensing, Marc says they had to negotiate a contract that worked for everyone. The contracts are sealed with confidentiality clauses, so they can’t get into details, but they did work with the couple and their legal team to handle what shows up in the media and that it depicts the couple and their families and friends in the right light. “We have ownership of the images with the couple,” Tony adds. “Anytime people want to order prints or photos, we have to get approval from Chris and Karly.”

Final Thoughts
"Being published in a magazine like People ups our credibility and our exposure,” says Marc. “This wedding went so smoothly and everyone was so nice and normal. We would love to do more celebrity nuptials.”

One thing to keep in mind, though, says Marc, is privacy and discretion. “These types of people have such public lives, so trust is key. If you’re on social media sharing photos of your session and talking about client experiences, it scares them off. We released to the media only the images they permitted us to release. And we couldn’t even tell our own families we were shooting their wedding. All our families knew was that we were going to Florida to shoot a wedding!”

—Jacqueline Tobin

Other Notable Nuptials

Kelly Clarkson and Brandon Blackstock

Photo © Koby & Terilyn Brown/Archetype Studio, Inc.

October 20, 2013
Location: Blackberry Farms in Tennessee
Photographers: Koby & Terilyn Brown/Archetype Studio, Inc.

“For this shot, we used an on-camera flash pointed up with white card for catchlights, and a Lasolite Tri-grip white reflector for soft fill. It was shot with a Canon 5D Mark III, 50mm f/1.2L at ISO 2001/125 sec f/2.5. Our biggest goal is to be a positive impact on the wedding day, not an interference. Our previous engagement shoot with the couple in England made the wedding day very comfortable, especially during such a private event.”
—Koby and Terilyn Brown

Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky

Photo © Genevieve de Manio Photography 

July 31, 2010
Location: Rhinebeck, New York
Photographer: Genevieve de Manio

“The task of being sworn to secrecy about any details regarding the wedding was the biggest challenge of this wedding. Only a few images were released, and other than that, everything else has to remain private. It was an honor to be asked to record this historical event; every part of it was special.”
—Genevieve de Manio

Lake Bell and Scott Campbell

Photo © Margot Landen Photography

June 1, 2013
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Photographer: Margot Landen

“I will never forget that beam of light that surrounded Lake and her father as they walked down the aisle. The doors swung open and the sunset poured in behind them, creating this glow that any photographer would dream of capturing. I could sense the reaction throughout the chapel. It was an honor to have had the best seat in the house.”
—Margot Landen

—Jessica Gordon

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