Any tips on how to learn more about the wedding day before I arrive?

James Blankenfeld asked: So I have this wedding this coming Saturday. Asian bride, Jewish groom. They only want me there for 2.5 hours. It's at their home and it's a small gathering, like 30 people, ceremony in the backyard, informal dinner and done. So I gathered up my Keywords for the couple, but they aren't doing any vows, they are doing informal toasts, she said she isn't sure who is speaking, it's like, open up the floor, whoever gets up and talks is who is giving a speech. So I'm trying to see how I can prepare. Like Jess and Brian, family and friends are the utmost importance to them. She already gave me a list of the people to capture which is great, so I know to capture the little moments between them and the family. They are doing a Chinese tea ceremony and a Jewish ceremony as well, which I can capture, however only being there for 2.5 hours can be tough, especially in crafting a unique story. I'm trying so hard to not fall into the trap of filming documentary style this whole time and then editing up a highlight montage rather than a true story for them. Any tips since this isn't the traditional wedding where things are laid out, numerous locations, and not having me be there the whole day?

It sounds like you're looking for tips in two main areas here:

1. You want to know who might be giving a speech, and what they're going to say, ahead of time.

First of all—bam! What a great question to pursue as the storyteller. This is a great approach and mindset to put into practice James, I'm proud of you. And here's my suggestion that might help: They gave you a list of people to capture. This means, that that's a list of people who they are particularly close to, or have a particularly special relationship or meaning to the couple. Why not ask the people on those list whether they plan on giving a speech or not? And if they do plan on giving a speech, ask them if you can have a copy (and it will help here to explain why it's so important)?

Personally, I had a best friend of 8+ years get married this past year. She and her husband eloped while I was abroad—but only their immediate family was there anyway. So, as a way to invite their friends to still celebrate their marriage, they had an official reception about 6 months after the wedding. It was super informal as well: we camped in tents for the night, it was about 30 close friends, food was all homemade, etc. I was technically her "maid of honor," though again, I didn't have any formal responsibilities. Regardless, I asked her ahead of time if there would be the opportunity to give a speech, and I wrote out my speech, and even practiced it to my brother beforehand.

Even if the people on the list don't have the same personality type as me (I'm a perfectionist, and I would be damned if I didn't make my best friend cry from my speech!) I bet you someone on that list will have a good idea who you should look out for, who they expect would give a speech, and who they expect would give more felt and emotional speeches, vs. funny and uplifting speeches (which can help you deciding which would best relate to your Keywords.) So get out there, and start asking those friends and folks on the list!

2. You also are looking for some guidance for planning ahead of time what you want to capture, and how to make the most of those 2.5 hours.

Again, super great mindset to adopt here, and it's great to see that you're looking at these things in advance. If this were me, I would ask the bride, groom, wedding planner, parents, anyone else who would be most relevant, if there's an itinerary of the events going on and when (such as those two tea ceremonies). Once you can see everything that's going to happen laid out, then you can start using your Keywords to decide what's relevant or not.

In the future though, if you wanted to explore what's going on that day outside of the 2.5 hours, I'd look at setting expectations earlier on. If you set the expectation that you're going to be getting to know the couple as people, and tell their unique story, then you can use that, along with the Big 3 Things and your Keywords to explain to them why you need to be there earlier or later to capture certain moments that demonstrate those things and are important for you to deliver to them a really impactful wedding story.