Will your female photographer be safe at your wedding?

On International Women’s Day, I felt this was worth talking about more than anything else a wedding blog could cover. It’s a message we need to absorb, share and repeat again and again. Because the answer is very often no. Wedding photographers aren’t safe at weddings. Shockingly often, female, trans and non binary wedding photographers are bullied, harassed, threatened and assaulted.

Let me put it another way: MOST female wedding photographers have experienced intimidating and frightening behavior from wedding guests. Wedding photography is a level playing field these days with as many women behind the camera as men. And yet female photographers suffer belittling insults and abuse when they’re at work at weddings. Many – far too many – have been assaulted. Which should be a red flag to every couple to stop, and think that Yes, that could be our wedding – so what should we do to protect our female suppliers, especially photographers, on the day.

Wedding guests face each other holding sparklers at night

Photo by Elisabeth Arnold on Unsplash

You might doubt what I’m saying, if you haven’t already heard this from the women photographers who’ve been threatened and abused. So here’s the proof:

In January Caroline Goosey posted on her instagram, “as a female photographer I know that I and many of my colleagues in the industry have felt intimidated by abusive and sexist actions and language used by some guests at some weddings” – please read her post.

In January 2022, Kim Williams published an article called “Things men did to me at weddings in 2021”. It’s hard reading, but as Kim mentions incidents at around 80% of weddings, it’s a must-read.

Having a job which means being around groups of drunk men on a regular basis shouldn’t mean a woman isn’t safe. But too often, it does. Kim was once grabbed by the neck on a wedding dance floor. And now put yourself in Kim’s shoes as a wedding photographer. If this happens, who do you turn to? Who do you tell? It’s very hard to approach the bride and groom on their ‘best day ever’ with something like this. And the pressure to ‘be professional’ and shrug it off is real. And that’s wrong.

An article on PetaPixel has even more alarming stories of photographers’ experiences of being humiliated and targeted at weddings. From the ‘come to my room and take a photo of my genitals’ comments to being grabbed and bullied on the day, the story photographers tell really do break my heart.

The one message that comes across loud and clear is that we need to be talking about this.

And if you’ve read this far, thank you. Now take the conversation to your partner, to your parents, and to your friends. Because (assuming most people reading this article are brides) this is an issue for men at weddings. And the real life experiences photographers have talked about involving fathers and uncles of their clients, engaged best men, and the closest friends of the groom.

Let me say one thing: people get very drunk at weddings. That is NEVER an excuse. Maybe you know someone who’ll get “a bit layy” after a few drinks. Perhaps the lads “like a bit of banter”.

If any of this is cast in the direction of your suppliers who are doing their jobs, it is absolutely NOT ok. And YOU need to make sure it won’t happen: and if it does, sort it.

So what can couples do about this?

Bring it up as a conversation with your suppliers, even before they do. Be a strong ally, let them know you’re aware this is an issue and that you’re on it. Ask them what you can do.

Caroline asks that couples and vendors make this a normal part of conversation. All suppliers should have a clause in their contracts stipulating that they will leave if subjected to abusive or threatening behavior or harassment. And if you’re not 100% behind this argument, please ask yourself why.

She also asks venues to invest in security. Not necessarily a bouncer, but someone to watch over things and be aware of any troublemakers and incidents, who can step in when someone needs help.

Kim suggests designating someone to be a ‘safe space’ on a wedding day, someone a supplier can go to if in need. This is a brilliant idea – and I’m sure you can think of the perfect person for the role.

Her suggestions for wedding suppliers are great: she also calls for contractual agreements on harassment, and asks other wedding suppliers to look out for each other. Especially strong is her suggestion for male wedding suppliers working alongside female/trans/non binary suppliers to introduce themselves as someone who will look out for them.

In collaboration with Kim and Caroline, Hitched created a poster you can display at your wedding (in the loos, by the bar, anywhere it will be seen) saying This is a safe space – so anyone who feels unsafe at your wedding can seek support .

Wedding venues

If you haven’t already booked your wedding venue, please bear this in mind when you’re on venue visits.

  • Does your venue have trusted security?
  • Is the car park well lit and close to the main areas?
  • Are they aware of the dangers female wedding photographers and other suppliers face, and do they have a policy?

As a woman, a little thing I can do is to talk about this on English Wedding to help raise awareness, and to talk directly to you as a bride- or groom-to-be, so you can carry on the conversation with your partner and families.

But this issue is a men’s issue.

And the problem with the wedding media is that most people reading, watching and listening are women.

I’m asking you to talk to someone about this. If there’s a wedding in your future, let it be one of those rare occasions where no one is harassed by drunk male guests. You can make a big difference just by sharing some of these stories.

Thank you.

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