Consider this column a fair warning to anyone with a decent camera or a mediocre ability to use said device. Someday down the road one of your cousins will get engaged. Although you haven't seen this bride-to-be since she convinced you to get your head stuck in a metal St. Louis Cardinals trash can when you were 4, your aunt Margie, her mother, thinks that you would be the perfect wedding photographer for her daughter on the most important day of her life.
The request really only leaves you with two possible options. Rest assured that there is a price to be paid in both scenarios, whether you choose to do it or you decline.
If you're wondering "Why Me?" here's how it all transpires. After aunt Margie searches online through wedding photography Web sites for a total of three and a half minutes, the expense of the service will immediately appear overwhelming and outrageous. Sweating and frantic, the mother of the bride begins dialing relatives for any direction to a photographer that might be "reasonable." Somewhere within these next few phone calls your aunt gets a hold of your mother who gushes uncontrollably over your photographic eye, telling your aunt that she is sure that you would be happy to lend your talent if it meant helping a member of the family.
The phone call comes and your aunt spends 15 minutes showering you with talk of how proud she is of you, how grown up you've become and how cute you were as a child. All of this has been craftily planned to catch you off guard and overtaken with her flattery just before she "pops the question."
Here are her words to you with my provided translation, as I have 24 cousins on my mother's side:
She says: "We would just be absolutely thrilled if you would photograph your cousin Amanda's wedding."
Translation: "We don't want to shell out $2,000 for hiring a wedding photographer."
She says: "It would be so meaningful to have a close member of the family do it."
Translation: "You're bound by blood and don't you forget it."
She says: "Your uncle and I have been searching and searching and just can't find a photographer that possesses your level of talent."
Translation: "We've never actually seen a single photo you've taken but we know you wouldn't charge us a dime out of guilt."
The only positive to saying yes to a family wedding is that such a joyful occasion (sometimes aided by alcohol) usually lends itself to nice images for capturing. The downsides are that when you agree to shoot one, whether you know it or not, you're agreeing to all of them. Every one of your aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews will be taking note and will hang it over your head when their time comes. Also, for the entire day of the wedding, your status as family member has temporarily been put on hold and you are now "the help." Nobody cares if you aren't getting paid (another downside) - just shut up, eat your free food and get to work will be all you'll hear.
There isn't a positive to saying no other than that you don't have to shoot the wedding. However, if you do so, enjoy your new status as a social pariah within the family. Relatives will talk mercilessly behind your back and unlike all the other guests, you will be the only one charged for drinks during the reception.