I actually debated even writing this post….but because I feel that it’s super important to be honest and to be real; because let’s be honest we tend to just post all the pretty amazing stuff on our blogs and social media and never really talk about all the struggles that we often face. At this past weekend’s wedding my BIGGEST fear as a wedding photographer started to come true. The fear of getting sick and not being physically capable to photograph a wedding. If you’re a wedding professional yourself, you might share this same fear too! And since I have a chance to share my experience with others, I feel that it’s important to share my personal experience with the heat exhaustion at a wedding and what I learned from it with you guys. So that you might find something helpful to use if you ever start to go thru the same thing.
We all know just how insanely hot and the record breaking temps we had over the weekend. This was the first time I ever had a wedding that was going to be taking place in such hot weather! So I made sure that I packed plenty of water, dressed in an outfit that would help keep me cool and I pulled my hair back & up. It all proved to not be enough! Even after drinking water bottle after water bottle, the heat was too much. Although I was drinking the water I was sweating it all out just as fast I could put it in. My dress was soaked and my holdfast leather harness was drenched! I tried not to think about the heat. If I thought about it and acknowledged it, it would only make me feel worse. However, after we finished the ceremony and started the family pictures I noticed that I wasn’t feeling the best. So I chugged another water bottle. I managed to make it thru the bridal party pictures and just as we got ready to start the couple’s portraits it hit me. I started to feel my heart racing, my arms were shaky and I started feeling weak. I looked over at my friend Kurt who was helping me and he’s chugging water and pacing and we looked at each other and we knew it then. Someone was going to get sick. I pulled myself together because I didn’t want my bride & groom to even know that I wasn’t feeling well. So I stood up and smiled really big and gave the most encouraging speech about how their pictures were going to be amazing and that we were going to get them done as fast as we could so they could get to the reception. Thankfully my couple asked if we could go straight into the dances and cake cutting so they could change into cooler wedding attire. So that allowed me to get a great portion of their coverage done sooner and before dinner!
Just before we started the dances I had my friend Brian (who just happens to be a paramedic and was a guest) check my pulse because I could feel my heart just pounding. And of course I was tachacardic. I took a deep breath and walked over the bin with the iced water bottles. I used a trick that I used when working on in the Operating Room where you place your hands in cold water. Nope it didn’t help. So when we started the dances which took place by the poolside I stepped onto the pool steps to try to cool down. Unfortunately as refreshing as the pool looked it felt like bath water. So no help there. After we finished all the dances and the cake cutting…..I knew I had made it. I made it thru the big to do items. Bryan helped me up because I longer had the strength to get up. We walked into the house found a room and he started placing towels soaked with cold water on my body to try to cool me down. In my head I was still trying to convince myself that I wasn’t sick, that it wasn’t that hot out there and that I was going to be just fine. I was worried about my second shooter/ mentee Kurt. Was he okay? Was he getting sick too? And more thoughts started flowing? Is this really happening? Am I going to physically not finish a wedding? I was trying to drink ice water, eating cold grapes and watermelon and I even tried cucumber water to try to help cool my core temperature. I started feeling nauseated so Brian grabbed the trashcan. You guys it was serious….my arms were shaking so bad that I looked at Brian freaking out yelling “Brian what’s going on! Why am I shaking this bad?” I wanted to cry but I literally had no tears! I was so scared. At this point if I moved my head I would get light headed and there was a vignetting happening with my sight. I seriously thought I was going to pass out! I honestly thought this is it…I’m going to have to go to the hospital! Thankfully Brian kept me calm, kept the towels cold and pushing the water.
After what seemed like forever I managed to cool down & my heart rate to lower enough that I could begin to function again which allowed me to finish their wedding photography with their staged exit (which was the last remaining to-do on their timeline). I took a deep breath and walked back outside to join the wedding festivities! Everyone was nice as I walked by them, asking if I was feeling better and that saying they were so glad to see that I was up and walking around. Some offered to fix my dinner plate, grab me a chair or asked if there was anything else I needed. I was so thankful for the kindness but honestly I was so embarrassed too. This was the last thing that I ever wanted to happen. The wedding photographer is not suppose to get sick. We photographers have such an important job right? I was so worried about how it looked and if my couple was going to be upset. But all of those fears were pushed aside when my couple both expressed how happy they were to see that I was doing better.
Here’s 5 things I want every photographer to remember if they start getting sick at a wedding:
- Acknowledge that you are HUMAN! You’re not a robot! We as photographer’s, business owners and people in general think that we are invincible. But we’re not! We can and do get sick too. We just have to make the best of it. Don’t beat yourself up about it!
- PRIORITIZE!! If you can move things around to get them done sooner do it!
- You have to take care of YOURSELF just as you’re taking care of your assistant/ 2nd shooter, the couple, the wedding party, etc. Be sure to DRINK PLENTY of water before, during and after! If you’re not hydrated beforehand you’ll never catch up! You will always be behind.
- COMMUNICATE with your assistant and or second shooter and vice versa! They need to know what’s going on. That way they know if you step away to catch your breath, get yourself together; that they need to step into the role as primary photographer. You have that extra person there so use them!
- Stay POSITIVE & FOCUSED! Remember to smile the best you can and keep the positive talk flowing. I find that the less I talk about what’s going wrong ie. how hot it was the more I was able to keep my attention on what I was trying to do. Plus staying as positive as you can helps your bridal party and couple push through the pictures as well.
I honestly hoped that this would have never had happened. And I can tell you no photographer ever does. I’m just thankful that I had an amazing couple who were so understanding, patient and gave me so much grace. They allowed me to take the time that I needed to rest & cool down. At that moment they saw me for more than their paid wedding photographer. I was Christina…I was another human being that was at their wedding on what was one was of the hottest days on record in Greenville, NC. I’m so thankful that I happened to have a friend there to help me out as well and that I was able to get enough energy back that I could finish out the photography coverage without missing anything! Everything worked out that not one piece of their timeline was missed. Was the exit later than planned…yes it was. Was it okay? Yes it was! Everything worked out even despite me getting sick. So if you’re a bride and you’re reading this….whether I’m your wedding photographer or you have another wonderful photographer…please remember this: we’re human and we may need a minute to get ourselves together, and your compassion and grace is always such a blessing! Because I can promise that you and your photography is still on our forethoughts. We will drive ourselves into the ground before we give up on making sure that your wedding experience and photography is the absolute BEST!
I want to give a HUGE THANK YOU to:
Brian-Thanks for taking care of me! I owe you BIG time man!!
Kurt of Kurt Hilton Photography– Thanks so much for all your help and for surviving the heat with me! For the encouragement and support! Grabbing water and anything else I needed! Oh and for this lovely picture of me looking like a hot mess! LOL
Erinn & Aaron, your families & guests- Thanks for the compassion & grace! It truly meant so much that everyone acknowledge how hard Kurt & I were working in the heat and how much they cared for our safety & well-being!!