When was the last time you went to a rave? I’m sure, for many of you, those three day benders have been relegated to the section of your memory dedicated to regrets, withering away on a shelf next to ‘questionable exes’ and ‘studying Media’. In fact, you might even wince at the word ‘rave’, as if whoever uttered those four letters is trying to reach into your brain and painfully relocate those memories to the front of your mind.
Well, I apologise for any discomfort I cause poking around in the dustiest part of your cranium, because I went to a rave quite recently. I can’t say I had as much fun as you probably had, but it was definitely… an experience.
Let me explain. Instead of an abandoned warehouse, it was held in the ballroom of a country manor. Everyone wore dresses and suits, and they played Ed Sheeran instead of EDM. And we were all sober. Or thereabouts.
I know; it doesn’t sound like any rave you’ve ever been to. And that’s because it was actually a wedding. But not a rave-themed wedding. No. Just a normal wedding, complete with a bride, groom, cake and creepy uncle. The ‘rave’ segment started during the first dance. But I don’t mean that the happy couple organised a rave for their reception (although, that sounds like it would be a pretty unforgettable night). What I mean is that the DJ decided to bring ridiculous, tacky, and downright annoying lights to his set, launching into an array of patterns and colours as soon as Ed started singing about ‘legs not working like they used to before’, or some other gumph.
At the flick of a switch, the room transformed from a warm and ambient atmosphere to one where I had to ask the organiser if there was a helicopter search party scouring the grounds (that bottle of gin I ‘borrowed’ from the bar wasn’t going to find itself).
Now, the wedding guests probably stood there, watching the couple being assaulted by red lasers and thinking it was a bit weird, but then continued with their night as the bride and groom encouraged everyone onto the dancefloor to join in with their first dance. Myself, on the other hand, was getting more and more stressed as I strained to calculate the gaps between the flashes of light so that I could snap a photo where the bride didn’t look like she was being targeted by a sniper. It was such hard work that I had to take a shower afterwards. But I guess that’s nothing compared to the week of hangovers and withdrawal shakes following an actual rave.
This has happened on more than one occasion. I’ve even had to specifically tell DJs to cut the lights before the first dance began. Not for the reason that it could most likely cause an epileptic fit, but because I want my brides and grooms to get their money’s worth when it comes to my photography - and that just can’t happen when there are coloured dots coating everyone’s faces like hormonal acne.
What’s worse is when DJs get creative with shapes, like the dreaded love hearts. Honestly, there’s nothing less appealing than being literally blinded by love. But worst of all are the spotlights; huge, great flashes of bright, white light whizzing around the room like a children’s disco. It’s practically impossible for me to get a good shot of the first dance when these buggers come into play. Especially when the lights are landing on various body parts. I’ll look back through my photos and find that the bride’s face looks like it’s been left at home while her body’s been to the Bahamas and sunbathed on a beach for seven hours. In the next shot, the groom’s crotch looks like it’s on fire. If you’ve ever scratched out the faces of your ex-girlfriends on your old photos until the white of the paper appears, you’ll know what this looks like. Nope? Just me? Okay.
If there are any DJs reading this, the point of my post isn’t to offend you (but if you are easily offended, what the hell are you doing reading my blog?). I’ve worked with some great DJs over the years who have listened to me when I’ve asked them to cut back on the lighting during the first dance. After all, we’ve both got a job to do and money to earn, and I don’t want to lose out because someone feels like they want to make a last minute career change to special effects technician. What I do want is for my clients to look back at their photos in fifty years time and remember their awesome first dance - not the DJ who gave them PTSD when their wedding became a warzone, or the weirdly sweaty photographer who did a bad job at capturing it all.