Typically I saw red flags when the bride or groom is super quiet. I mean silent and just watching.
One instance was a groom who barely said ten words to anyone during the ceremony or reception afterwards. The bride and her mother were extremely loud and excited the entire time. The bride needed everything to be “perfect”. I dropped off the photo bundle with them two weeks later and he was still quiet. She however complained about all of the pictures because the groom wasn’t “smiling enough”. She wanted a discount because I couldn’t make him look happy enough.
They got divorced about a year later. I know because I did his engagement photos with his new fiancée about four years after his first wedding. His engagement photos showed him much happier.
Red flags: when one person is critical of the other during the shoot but then posts the photos with the caption: "about to marry my best friend and my soul mate". Also, when they badly Photoshop themselves and their partners to appear 'better looking' than they actually are.
Green flags: a couple who can laugh together when doing awkward poses, when they're wiping sweat from their foreheads, and when something goes wrong in general.
To me the biggest sign is the cake cutting. Some people like to smear the cake everywhere as a joke, some people don't. Usually the couple is in sync about this. They know what the other would like and they don't smush cake on the others face if they wouldn't want that.
Sometimes one of them (usually the groom) will force cake all over the others face and embarrass and upset them. I've seen this happen a handful of times and all of those relationships that I have kept up with have ended in a divorce.
Red Flags - nerves are normal but when one of the pair start doubting whether they should go through with it waaay before the day, you know something isn’t quite right. Green Flags - they make decisions together and have each other’s backs especially when family can be pressuring.
You can tell somewhat based on how the couple treats each other on the wedding day. If they are respectful toward one another (and toward me) during a day full of stress then I think that’s a good indicator of being able to deal with other problems that may arise during a marriage.
I try to get to know both people beforehand, so I can work in their hobbies/unique traits into my product. A big red flag is when one person is clearly trying to change the other. I had one dude who loved poker, craft beer, cigars, hanging with his rowdy friends, video games, etc. I planned a cool shoot where I had all his friends in an old west saloon, and he sees his bride to be, etc... but she steps in and declares "oh, he won't be doing any of those things any more." Poor bastard just sat there in silence as I awkwardly had to plan them shopping for a Yorkie puppy instead. Half way through post production after the wedding, he called and said he was getting an annulment. I wanted to say "could have told ya so!" But I try to stay neutral.
Cake artist here. I had a couple come in for a tasting. Appointment was for 7 PM, but he was late. First half hour was just her. She told me they met at a stable where they both kept their horses. Those horses were going to be featured at the wedding as the bride and groom would ride them to the site (a beautiful farm venue.) She described in detail her self designed medieval gown, flower wreath in her hair, embroidered shoes like some from a museum: sounded lovely. She wanted a cake like a castle, which was a specialty of mine. The whole wedding would be over the top, but not in a cringy way.
Then he arrives. Barely says Hi to her, sits down and starts telling me about his wedding. He'll ride in dressed as a riverboat gambler with a frock coat, brocade vest, string tie, big hat, gold pocket watch, and STERLING SILVER SPURS! He's fine with the castle cake, but wants to incorporate the watch and a pair of mother of pearl handled pistols (picture given).
I had already decided that I was not going to work with them. NO way could I come up with a cake that would work for them. But they were there so I brought out the samples. For the next hour they carried on two entirely separate monologues. They didn't address each other (or me) and they didn't listen to each other (or me).
I made no attempt to book them that night, and when they called later in the week I told them their date had been taken. They were living in 2 incompatible and entirely self contained fantasies. I doubt they even made it to the wedding day.
I met the couple in a cafe to discuss their ideas and my services. The girl was very happy, she was very emotional and interested. The guy, however, was rolling his eyes and grunting at everything and I stop trying to get him involved in the conversation after he ignored me twice. It made the girl very uncomfortable and she was apologetic of his behavior. I don't know what happened to them, as they apparently chose to reschedule their wedding and didn't hire me in the end.
I declined shooting a wedding when the person who was going to hire me was the groom's mom. When I asked her to arrange a meeting with the couple, she said that they didn't want a wedding (meaning they wanted to elope), and it was her initiative to celebrate it. I tried to play "I want to hear bride's ideas" card, but she told me the bride has no ideas, she obeys the groom, and the groom obeys mom. So I'll only talk to the mom. So I declined, I hope the girl is fine - no one deserves a controlling MIL.
I was a guest and a photographer at my friend's wedding. The bridesmaid was wearing a short white dress and she was chirping about her side hustle modeling for photos and catalogues, how "her boyfriend saw her in so many wedding dresses he won't be surprised when she wears one to the wedding" and how "she caught 8 bouquets already, this will be her ninth". She talked a lot about wedding planning and stuff, but apparently there hadn't even been a formal proposal and her boyfriend, who was a guest as well, looked very annoyed and clearly wished he were somewhere else. Anyway, the bridesmaid started bugging me for photos of her and her boyfriend a week after the wedding, I told her several times that when I start editing the photos, I will do hers first, and by the time I sent her the photos, they were already broken up. She started dating someone else a month later and got married the next year.
I swear that all of the couples that have split up have smashed the cake in their SOs face. None of the nice cake couples have. Just my weird anecdotal experience. Maybe it’s a sign of respect for each other.
I don’t usually follow the marriage all that closely after the video is delivered, but usually you have a feeling as a neutral 3rd party about whether it’s going to last or not.
While I agree with most of the stuff mentioned here, I’ve found that the microcosm of how the couple feels about each other comes usually comes out during the cake cutting. If they’re drinking then they’ve usually had a few by that point and it’s a moment when everyone is watching you do something potentially awkward with your new SO. When I see a new bride or groom aggressively smush cake into the other’s face I usually feel like that’s a strong sign of an unbalanced relationship. Sometimes they’re both having fun with it and you can tell it’s cool, but most of the time you can tell that the person with cake on their face is either shocked or angry about it.
Again, I don’t have hard data to track results...but that’s the thing that usually informs my opinion about how it’s going to work out.
Had a couple fly us out to Iceland for their engagement shoot. Now the first couple of days were fine and everything looked okay, but in Iceland, some lodging options aren’t very luxurious. The groom chose to book what was essentially a tiny bunk house (the ones meant for those summer camps) and the bride lost it and complained the whole night.
Next morning things are pretty tense and our team continues the shoot as planned even though it is incredibly awkward. Most of our plans fall through because they start arguing.
In front of a beautiful, solitary glacier.
For two hours.
Our team can hear them yelling at each other half a mile away because there is literally no one else around for miles.
We finish up whatever we could of the last day of the shoot and awkwardly said our goodbyes. Later on I learn that they broke up a month before the wedding.
Red Flags: Constant apologizing for their other halves behavior/ attitude. Lack of input from one of them. Too much input from a family member(s). Anger, Inability to make a decision and stick with it. Over riding a once joint agreement of something. At one wedding I didn't actually meet the Groom till the day of. I just knew his name 'Joseph'
I didn’t need a sixth sense when I heard that on their honeymoon, the bride cheated on the groom, so the grooms parents didn’t want the photos OR the video I had shot. Instead they wanted me to sue her for the remainder of the money they owed me. I told them I was sorry but they signed the contract so they had to pay.
The bride was a total b*tch to him all day at the wedding. It was no surprise she did this. He was absolutely heartbroken.
And yes, they sent me a check for the remainder, and I still have all the photos, developed and collecting dust in a pile still in the lab bag I brought them home in. This was in 2003, and I can’t bring myself to throw them away.
The best part? The groom called me two years later to do his wedding photos and video because he was getting married again. I was all set to do it, and then the new fiancé pulled the plug. Turns out she didn’t want any memories of the first wedding being involved. So I was fired as soon as I was hired.
A friend of mine is a fairly successful engagement/marriage photographer, as well as a relationship blogger. She says she can tell how in love a couple is based on whether they pay attention to each other during the photos or her, the photographer. I guess it’s the contrast of sharing an experience together versus fretting over optics.
I’ve never heard her mention specific red flags, but she speaks very highly of couples who are willing to be silly and adventurous in their engagement shoots over those who are just taking the most glamorous/stream-lined portraits.
Red flag: The groom winking at both my assistant and I during the ceremony. He was not winking in the sense that he might have been tearing up or had something in his eye but there was a part in the ceremony where the couple sat down and he would lean his head back in his chair look past his soon to be wife and wink at me or look over his left shoulder and wink at my assistant. It was bizarre.
I am/was a wedding photographer: I think you can kind of tell if they are going to stay together forever based on how they handle all the little (and sometimes even big) problems a weddingday can bring.
There was one couple's story I love to tell. They are not your typical bride and groom, they had their wedding in a forest where you could also go climbing (sorry don't know what they are called) with a big wooden house and fireplace in front. All vegan food and a lot of friends with looots of dogs. Everything was perfect, except the special dress the bride had have made and painted didn't arrive in time for the ceremony and she was devastated. She was in her sweatpants and a mickey mouse tshirt at that time and her soon-to-be-husband took off his suit, put on a big white shirt, stood there in his boxershorts and just said "well, we have to go" (cause the ceremony-person had to leave an hour later) and she just laughed and went with it. I was in shock but other than it being strange to have hairy man-legs in my weddingphotos, taking the pictures was really fun and they were totally relaxed. I'm pretty sure they will be doing well.
Wedding band guitar player here. Drunken gorilla-sized groom physically attacked us when we cut off the music after already going over our contracted time an hour. Mother of the groom got into the mix and pulled him back. Bride was in tears. Best man pulled out a Bluetooth speaker and kept the party going. We did not get a 5 star review.
When you pay a wedding coordinator, you only pay for the things the coordinator orders/plans (flowers, catering, DJ) + coordinator fees. Anything else couples buy (dresses, gifts, suits, etc) are added. We estimated this to be a $500,000 wedding, easy. Dad paying for all of it. The bride was a total sweetheart when I met her. The groom seemed quiet, but was very easy going. Always nice to have a sober groom, and he didn't drink a drop during the day. Then the photographer/videographer left to take some venue shots. The bride began berating everyone, myself included, on how her perfect day had to be capped out because no one wanted to give her more. My clothes were trashy, the DJ's computer was a PC, the bar staff we're wearing red vests and she hates vests. Photographer came back and she was an angel again.
Wedding of a general and pediatric surgeon in the local hospital. Paid for their own beautiful and in-their-means wedding. The bride was seriously amazing. But, there was a mixup day if the wedding. The 200 chairs that we're supposed to be moved to the 3rd story of the historic building weren't taken upstairs. So my boss, the other assistant, and the 8 month pregnant venue coordinator start carrying chairs upstairs. 3 flights. It wasn't great. After the wedding, we had to do it again, but down. The father of the groom started helping us. We begged him to enjoy his son's day, but he responded that if it were his daughter doing this, he'd be furious. Groom comes by and tells his dad to stop helping the pregnant woman stack chairs. He looks at the monster that is his son and asked how he'd feel if it was his wife or sister who had to do this. Groom told his dad that maybe if we had applied ourselves a little more, we wouldn't have been taking out the trash at a successful couples wedding. Clearly he didn't know how much his wife was paying us.
My husband and I are wedding photographers. We’ve been pretty lucky so far and haven’t had too many crazies. We have stayed friends with a few of the couples and see them regularly.
The one couple we hope we never see again fought the entire wedding day. The couple barely looked at each other, it was so bad. Then we had to photoshop a smile onto the groom a couple of times so he at least looked happy in the ceremony of all things. To describe what he looked like, I would compare him to a Polish meat butcher with transitions lensed glasses. Totally brutal. I have no idea if they are together still but I would say not.
The couple argues in front of you. I've seen it happen. I've even seen a couple early in my first few shooting years (it happened a lot when I was starting out because I was going for cheap while entering the industry because of the lack of my experience, which means you get people who only go for cheap, which also means they're really cheap people) and I encountered a couple who met me to pick up the pictures and they looked like they just had a really big fight before meeting me.
The couple splurges super big time on the wedding and I enter their house and I see them actually living as simpletons or from very humble backgrounds. Knowing their professions also tell me that they're clearly not able to afford this wedding. I know immediately it's going to go downhill from here with the debt they're already carrying into their marriage. Goodluck to paying off the 100k wedding before even buying your house (house and car here in Singpaore is impossibly expensive, at least 100k for a car and between 500k-1m for a house go look it up)
Not a wedding photographer, but my parent’s wedding video is a tell-all story. At the cake cutting, my mom had specifically asked my dad not to put cake on her face (which is usually a tradition). Dad did it anyway, mom smacked him across the face, dad said “f**k this” and stormed out of the reception. They had a twenty year rocky marriage of lies and infidelity, and are finally officially divorced. They are much better off now. The cake cutting really seems to be a good rule of thumb for a relationship.
I used to be a photojournalist and shot the occasional wedding either as a wedding present to friends or for extra cash to buy more gear. None of my (very few) clients are divorced, somehow, but I did try to pick up some work hanging out in front of Toronto city hall the week after gay marriage was legalized in Canada. Just as my friend and I walked up, a couple came out in full '70s tuxedo and puffy wedding dress, yelling at each other while the groom tried desperately to get his ring off. A very angry looking older couple followed them out pushing a baby stroller and muttering something in a foreign language.
Joe and I figured they might last a week, at best.