The Rumble

wedding photography

What happens when two wedding parties collide?

I’ve always wanted to get a photo of two wedding parties going head to head. I don’t really want to start a fight–but I deeply want to capture the image of rival wedding parties squaring off, bare-knuckled, about to throw down. 

It’ll probably never happen. There’s no reason for competition between two sets of strangers who happen to be getting married on the same day. 

Unless one wedding couple wants to occupy the same space as the other. When that happens… there can be only one.

A bit of history: my own wedding was delayed because another wedding party went WAY over time taking their formal photos in the space that we had reserved for our ceremony. We were supposed to have the conservatory to ourselves at 4:30, but at 5:15 the other group’s photographer was still herding their bridesmaids around. It was an anxious wait for us and our small group of guests, since we had been told that the building would be closed and locked at 6. We didn’t want to be evicted in the middle of our ceremony because another bridal party had been hogging our space.

(As a photographer, I get it–you have to do what it takes to get good shots. But come on. Respect the schedule.)

Thankfully, the security guard was kind, and we didn’t get kicked out. But you can see why, in my mind, bad blood between wedding parties wouldn’t be so unthinkable.

What would a wedding rumble look like? Can you picture it? Two immaculately dressed groups of revelers with claws and teeth bared, staring each other down. Each side has two leaders decked out in their finery, backed up by their color-coordinated attendants, about to launch into a battle royale. The Wedding Planner meets West Side Story. Better yet, Bridesmaids meets The Warriors. I’ve imagined the photo on many occasions.

Twice in my career, the wedding party I’ve been working for has arrived on location to take their formal photos at the same time as another wedding party laying claim to exactly the same spot.

Both standoffs occurred in popular locations for pictures in Chicago weddings. The first time, the disputed territory was the lawn of the Adler Planetarium, a spot that offers a gorgeous and expansive view of Chicago’s lakefront skyline. The second time was in front of the Green Mill, the historic jazz club and speakeasy whose vintage marquee sets the standard for old-school class.

In both cases, I believe I was on the side of the wedding party that was morally superior, more interesting, and more deserving of the spot in question. And in both cases my wedding party was also the nerdier of the two. (I’m including myself in that number.) So if we actually had picked a fight, we almost certainly would have gotten our butts kicked.

To be clear–I wouldn’t really want anyone to get hurt. I don’t go into wedding shoots hoping for them to turn into smackdowns. I just want some playfully cinematic pictures.

I mean, wouldn’t it be cool if, instead of the traditional posed wedding photos, you could show your grandkids something like this?

people in suits crouching like opposing football teams
This photo from Signal Ensemble Theatre’s play MOTION is the closest I’ve come to staging a brawl between wedding parties.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. At the Green Mill, Ron and Micah and their party took the high road and agreed to pose for their photos in a slightly different spot than the one originally planned. The other wedding couple didn’t even acknowledge us. Still, I think our pictures turned out well.

This isn’t the best photo we got in front of the Green Mill, but I’m posting it so you can see the other couple in the background.

At the planetarium, Sylvia and Ryan weren’t going to settle for some other spot. But the other couple got there just before us, so we let them have it first. (We were taking our formal shots after the wedding, so we weren’t in as big a hurry.) The other party was huge, and they took forever. With gritted teeth, I flashed back to the hour before my own delayed wedding ceremony. 

As we waited in the cold lakefront wind, it occurred to me that I might be able to make the faux fight happen for the camera. I asked Sylvia and Ryan, and they were one hundred percent on board. I thought it couldn’t hurt to ask the other couple. I waited for them to finish their umpteenth setup, then went over and politely asked their wedding photographer if they’d be interested in staging a rumble for the camera.

Sad to say, this couple was way too uptight to pose for a photo like that. So all we could do was wait until they were done, and then make our own fun without having the wedding parties in character as rivals.

We got this spot without having to resort to fisticuffs.

Someday, though. Someday I will be working for a wedding party that’s daring enough, and we’ll cross paths with another couple who gets the joke. And then…?

Oh, it’s on.

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