Since every bride wants to be a star on her wedding day, it's no wonder that videotaping weddings has become so popular.
Video 5000, a nationwide franchise for videographers specializing in weddings, estimates that nearly a third of the 2 million couples tying the knot each year are having their "I do's" videotaped.
"Video complements still photography," says Chuck DeLaney, vice president of Video 5000. "It captures the elements of sound, motion and time in a way that still photography cannot. Video is not a replacement to wedding photography, but it makes a terrific combination."
But with professional videographers charging between $500 and aren't many brides tempted just to turn the job over to a relative with a camcorder?
"A professional does know what he's doing more so than an amateur," says wedding consultant Lynn Farrell, owner of Beautiful Beginnings. "But the [brides] don't know that until after it's over. So here comes Uncle Joe and says, 'Hey, don't worry about it, I'll videotape your wedding.' When it's done, it's done. You can't go back and do it again."
According to Mr. DeLaney, brides who have come of age in the MTV era demand a higher standard of quality than Uncle Joe can provide. The amateur-produced tapes of wedding antics that show up on the TV program "America's Funniest Home Videos," with their jerky camera movements and awkward pans, are a good example. Who wants their first kiss as husband and wife to be hopelessly out of focus?
"I see that stuff and I cringe," he says. "The visual quality that you see from the amateur camcorder is exactly what the bride-to-be should realize is not the standard of quality that you have to come to accept."
"People are becoming more and more sophisticated and television literate,particularly the people who are in their 20s who are accustomed to seeing music videos and everything else," adds Mr. DeLaney. "They would like to see more in the way of special effects."
Effects that are added to the video in post-production include split screens, dissolves and strobing, which gives a syncopated look to the movement. Montages of baby pictures, with the couple's favorite songs playing in the background, are also popular.
The bride and groom choose the effects they want by viewing a sample tape. "A videographer should be just like a florist," says Mr. DeLaney. "He should be able to have a variety of different kinds of effects, the same way a florist would have different kinds of flowers available. If somebody wants a nice arrangement but doesn't like carnations, you make it without carnations."
As taping grows in popularity, many photographers are beginning to do videos as well. Clay Blackmore, partner of Monte Zucker, a well-known Silver Spring-based wedding photographer, says they started making videos because they were fed up with having to "compete with the video guys."
"It seemed like they were always in our way or rubbing shoulders with us or competing for the time of the bride and groom. The day of the wedding, they've got enough to deal with without having two different photographers trying to drag them in two different directions."
Since videotaping weddings is a fairly new art, some churches and synagogues are wary of potential disruption to the ceremony. Restrictions are still commonplace in parts of the country where less video has been done, reports Mr. DeLaney. "The cutting edge of wedding video is metropolitan New York, Florida, Southern California," he says. "In other parts of the country, the camera movement is more restricted."
Ed Danko, a Bowie-based wedding photographer whose wife, Jean, makes videos, says that modern professional equipment is definitely discreet. "We don't have high-powered spotlights and that sort of thing," he says. "And we use wireless audio, the kind they use on television, a tiny tie-tack microphone that we can have either on the groom or on the pastor."
"You have to look at it from the clergy's point of view," adds Mr. Blackmore. "A lot of times, they'll bend with you or work with you lTC if you're professional enough to get in touch with them a week in advance, maybe meet with them in the church or synagogue and say, 'Would it be possible for us to work from here?' Usually, they'll go with it."
The finished product is usually one to two hours long, generally with a few minutes of highlights at the end.
How do you find a good videographer? The best way is to get personal recommendation from a newly married friend. Otherwise, try asking a professional photographer, or check the Yellow Pages under "Video Production Services." Be sure to ask to see a sample tape or two to make sure you like the videographer's style.
Of course, video cameras have a way of capturing forever those crazy moments that you might just rather forget.
Videographer Greg McGeehan, owner of Coastal Production Studio in Randallstown, remembers one memorable summer wedding where a bridesmaid fainted. "Not being a news cameraman, I zoomed away from her," he says. "I was not trying to dramatize the wedding, but to highlight the wedding in a nice fashion for their memories, so I zoomed into the bride and groom."
Mr. McGeehan, who has been videotaping weddings for eight years, later asked the couple if they wanted their tape to include the minutes where the service was stopped so the bridesmaid could receive first aid. "They said to leave it in, so we did."
Mr. McGeehan likes to put funny foibles, such as the off-color toasts given by relatives who have had a few drinks too many, at the very end of the videotape.
"That way, if you're in mixed company, you can turn the machine off," he says. "But it does make for a few laughs later on."