DIY Wedding Videography Tips for Non-Pros

So your friend offered to create a video of your wedding. Now what?

diy wedding videography tips

Wedding videography. It’s one of those things that you may realize you want (without video, toasts tend to be lost to the ages), but for lots of us, it’s just not in the budget to pay a professional. So, then what? Since there are video features on everything from your phone to some DSLRs these days, there must be a way to DIY wedding videography, right?  Correct! You can even have pretty good video, or maybe even totally rad awesome video. Believe me—I got married long before I became a wedding photographer and videographer. We hired a professional photographer, but for some reason I decided that I myself would be the videographer. Um. Yeah. Get Married from LeahAndMark & Co. on Vimeo

That’s usually a recipe for disaster/no actual wedding video, but I proved it could be done! Still, I don’t recommend that for other people because it’s actually all kinds of bonkers. But! You can definitely have one of your friends be your videographer, even with no prior experience. All you need to do is follow these ridiculously simple DIY wedding videography tips.

1. Designate and empower a specific person to be your videographer

Let there be absolutely no confusion as to who will be doing the videography at your wedding. Even if you’re asking a friend or relative, you want to make sure to have a clear conversation with them about being your “videographer.” Your conversation should leave them feeling empowered to be filming during your wedding day as opposed to scared and pressured to make an award-winning movie. You can also split up duties among friends, and have one person film during the ceremony, then handing off duties to another person during the reception, etc. However you do it, the trick is to make your friend videographer feel special because they are.

2. Use whatever camera you can get your hands on

You can use smartphones, tablets, DSLRs, or even a regular video camcorder to film your wedding day. I’ve also seen people use the laptop cameras to video and live stream their ceremonies to six countries. You don’t need to purchase or rent an expensive professional camera. Sure it helps, but if you’re going to spend all that money, then why don’t you just hire a professional videographer? If it’s truly more important that your wedding day is filmed, period, than stop worrying about whether or not it’s recorded in HD quality suitable for Blu-ray discs burning and playback on the largest television ever created.

3. Use a tripod

A tripod is an absolute must-have piece of equipment no matter what camera you are using to film your wedding day (seriously, this might be the most important of our wedding videography tips). One of the biggest things that ruins handheld video is that it’s handheld. Basically—it’s shaky, unstable, and makes everyone watching it get motion sickness. Any video that is going to be longer than forty-five seconds should be done with a tripod. A cheap five-foot tripod is all you need and it’ll make your video 156 percent more watchable. If you’re using a smartphone to film then you’ll also need a proper mount, but it’s definitely worth it. (See equipment notes at the end of the post.) Don’t rely on your friend holding their arms up with their phone for seventeen minutes from their seat in the third row behind all the tall people.

4. Move slowly or not at all

Your friend that will be doing the video needs to know that the ultimate goal is to have steady, usable footage. They’re not responsible for making an artful or cinematic movie of your wedding day. They just need to put the camera in a spot that captures what’s going on and make sure it’s recording. Unless they have experience with video camera work, then they should move the camera as little as possible when it’s filming. Sure if the subject moves out of the frame, follow them or zoom out—slooooowwwwwly—but the overall goal is to not move the camera at all. So no moving back and forth between people speaking and no attempts at anything resembling an action shot. Their filming should feel like it’s “just the facts.”

5. Communicate with your photographer

Since your friend that’s doing the video won’t be moving that much, they probably won’t get in the way of your photographer. If you’ve hired a professional photographer, then they will most likely be happy to give tips on where the best spot is for your friend to set up their camera, because photographers are divas and they think they know everything. Just kidding! (Well, kind of and not really.) This will also ensure that your photographer knows to generally stay out of the video camera’s line of sight. Ideally your photographer will work with your friend doing the video as if they’re team—because they are!

6. Be close enough to hear

The only thing worse than having shaky handheld video is being unable to hear anything being said. We’ll watch bad video with good sound, but we won’t watch good video with terrible sound. The easiest way to make sure your camera is picking up sound is to position it close enough that you can hear the person speaking. Unless everyone is talking into a microphone that’s blasting through speakers, don’t position the camera far away from the action. If you can hear the person well then the camera probably can too, and that’s how close you need to position your camera on it’s tripod.

7. Make complete recordings

Hit the record button at the beginning of the ceremony and don’t hit stop until long after the ceremony is over. Hit the record button before the first dance starts and don’t hit stop until thirty seconds after the first dance is over. Hit the record button before… well you get the idea. What you want are complete clips of each event from start to finish. No cuts in the middle and no missing sections. Even if the camera has to move to a better spot, just keep recording. One continuous take even with a small section of blurry movement is better than possibly missing something important. It’ll also make the editing process approximately 143 percent easier.

8. Editing can be positively easy

If your friend made complete recordings of each exciting event at your wedding then the editing process becomes super, super, super easy. It’s ridiculously easy. Ceremony footage? You just need to decide when you want it to fade in to start, and then fade out to end. Speeches and cake cutting? When do you want each clip to start and stop? See? Since it’s just one clip you don’t need to line up audio and overlap multiple clips together to make a usable shot. It’s basically done and you just need to decide when you want the video to start and end. If you’ve used Snapchat, or Vine, or Instagram then you’re already doing this type of video editing.

Why? Because, Love

While you might or might not want your ceremony recorded, there are really good reasons to get at least a little bit of video at your wedding. I’ve heard some amazing speeches of love and joy at weddings from family members, some that are no longer with us. There are some things that photography cannot record the same way video footage preserves a moment for playback. So if you want video, make a plan. Pricey artistic wedding videos are great, but remembering that tearful speak forever… that’s priceless (and luckily, basically free).

When it comes to gear, simple is always better. Here are a few basics:

  • A simple tripod that’s at least five feet tall
  • A cell phone tripod mount
  • A video light (or even a strong wide-beam flashlight) if things are going to get dark—or just make sure everyone stands in a well-lit spot and not a dark corner.
  • Extra batteries or mobile battery pack
  • Windows Movie Maker or iMovie for simple video editing are free and easy to use. You can even make DVDs from them.

Mark Tioxon

Mark Tioxon is a photographer, videographer, and sales coach. His family recently sold all of their belongings to wander the earth and live as modern nomads. Mark likes to start at ridiculous and work his way up from there because it’s more fun. When he’s not making home movies of his family traveling abroad; Mark likes to photograph and video weddings for cool people. These days he prefers clients that are really awesome and not just sort of awesome, although he doesn’t like to label anyone or make them feel pressured. His family doesn’t live anywhere permanently and are probably about to live off the grid, but if you can find them, maybe then can help you.

[Read comment policy before commenting]

  • Ashlah

    We used a DSLR on a tripod to record our ceremony (my mom says it turned out well–we’re waiting until our anniversary to watch it), but we didn’t ask anyone to record anything else. And…I’m pretty bummed about it. I never thought I would care about videos. It was my mom who decided to record the ceremony. But the day after the wedding, I realized I had zero memory of what was actually said in people’s impromptu toasts, and that makes me so, so sad.

    I put a plea on Facebook for any cell phone videos, but all we got was one partial first dance. I know there must be more out there, but we may never see them. In the past, I’ve tended to try to stay off my phone during special events, but I might make an effort to take videos at receptions going forward, particularly if it’s clear there is no videographer.

    • kate

      ha, this was basically my question after reading the article, so thanks for answering. and now soliciting others!
      1) who has actually done this?
      1a) how easy was it (REALLY)?
      1b) and are you glad you did?

      or 2) for those that didn’t, do you now wish you had?

      • Meg Keene

        It’s LEGIT pretty easy with iphones. And while I really don’t think everyone is going to want everything recorded (see below), GOD, think about getting those toasts.

        Edited to add: I don’t think this (or anything) should be “yet another thing to add to your to-do list, just in case you regret it.” More like, if you think you might care enough to have a recording but not enough to pay a pro, here is an easy way to do it.

        • emmers

          Echoing this point. We didn’t do/solicit anything video related for our wedding, and don’t have any video footage of anything.

          Sure, it would have been nice, but it’s not something I had the budget for nor headspace for at the time. Now, 4 months out, I have no regrets about this. Our wedding took a lot of planning, and I think it would have sent me over the edge to have 1 more thing to coordinate.

          So as a summary, it’s OK if you’re not that into video. :)

      • Kara

        We had friends get married 5 months before us, and they mentioned that they wished someone had a videoed their wedding. I asked if they wouldn’t mind recording our ceremony and the dances, which they did and it is wonderful to have.

        After that, I started videoing (just on my DSLR) our friends’ weddings’ with a monopod. It was super easy to do, and they were so grateful. I’ve done it probably 5 times, but I don’t edit them. I just copy the files to a DVD and mail it to them :). Everyone has been happy so far.

        • Meg Keene

          Though! I would say that you should ask before recording a ceremony. Not everyone is going to want that recorded, and it’s a bit more personal. Toasts though, people will love you 4 EVA.

          • Kara

            True! I should mention that I asked permission first—or in one case, I was asked by the couple to do this.

            Our photographer didn’t get any pictures of my husband dancing with his mom (the first time in his life he ever danced with her), but our friends got it on video, which is so amazing to have.

          • TeaforTwo

            YEP. A friend of mine mentioned that someone had videotaped her ceremony without asking, and that she really loves having the video to watch, and was glad they did it even though she didn’t think to ask.

            My immediate reaction was to put a note in our programs (politely) forbidding our guests from taking any photographs or recordings of any part of the ceremony. I can’t imagine watching it myself, and to think of it sitting on someone else’s phone or computer makes my skin crawl.

      • Ashlah

        I suppose it’s hard for me to say yet whether I’m glad we recorded the ceremony, since we haven’t watched it yet, but I think I am. The reason we’re waiting to watch it is because we wanted to give our memories a chance to take hold before replacing them with the video. I don’t want my memory of getting married to be from the perspective of the camera. So that’s the only reason I personally might not want it recorded. But I think it’ll be fun to watch, and nice to have when we’re old.

        As for how easy it was? My mom grabbed a guest about 15 minutes before the ceremony (fiance of a cousin) and asked him to hit record. They set the tripod up behind us and to the side (probably not the most aesthetically pleasing shot, but it was just for recording history, not art!), and all he had to do was follow us down the aisle and keep us in the frame. Super duper easy!

        • Meg Keene

          In fact, it’s apparently SO easy that it happened at our wedding when we specifically asked for it to NOT happen ;) (And we didn’t even notice it or know about it till later.)

        • JessPeebs

          On the other side of not wanting to see your wedding from the camera’s point-of-view, my DIT videographer was my godfather, who has since passed away. Being able to see my wedding ceremony from his point-of-view is heartbreakingly beautiful.

          You never know what parts of the day will sneak up on you as being super meaningful after the fact.

      • Jules

        I’ve done this….as the videographer. My friend asked me about 2 months before her wedding.

        1a) Way more time consuming than I intended. I needed to figure out how to get good sound (my DSLR camera mic is crap) and enough video storage and a tripod and all these things I didn’t have because I’m not into videography at all. I ended up filming in HD on my DSLR, threw all the footage into moviemaker afterwards, and am having a hard time getting it to render into one cohesive video, so it’s STILL just raw footage with sound. Also, it was bit of a pain because I couldn’t figure out how to make video clips longer than 10:00, so there are actually 3 clips that I tied together end-to-end for the ceremony.

        Then, I actually used a sound recording device and have just the sound clips which I had to sync up with the video (basically I re-dubbed the video with the higher quality sound which is crystal clear).

        I also recorded the toast, the first dance, and the exit for them because I already had the camera. :)

        I am glad the bride has her video, and I would do it again for an acquaintance. I would NOT ever do this for someone I was closer to because I felt like I missed out on a lot of the ceremony and cocktail hour – I was working, basically. Arrived early, set up in the choir loft, didn’t get to mingle with the guests before or after ceremony or during cocktail hour (we were packing up and breaking down). On top of that, we didn’t have assigned seating and managed to find some of the last two seats together at the reception and felt like a major afterthought.

        I would have also gladly gifted the bride this. I wish she had asked earlier because I would have not purchased something off her registry and had it shipped to my house. I also would have appreciated more time to figure out the tech side of it, and I would have appreciated a small token like a gift card to my favorite fast food place or something simple. That’s not why I did it, but it took a lot of effort and I didn’t feel it was acknowledged.

        • Jules

          …This is also a disclaimer that yes, it can be as simple as using an iphone or a point and shoot, but it just depends on your ceremony site and a little bit on your friendor.

        • Meg Keene

          I think this is also a lesson that if you’re going to do this, it’s probably a good idea to keep it really simple. Like, here is an iphone and stand, can you just prop it up right here by the toasts and turn it on and off? As Mark notes, this is a project that can get way complicated, or can be done in a simpler lower stress way. If you want complicated, hire someone. If you just want some video, go really simple.

          • Jules

            YEAH. And do share that information with them. When you leave it open ended, certain people are going to take “video” and turn it into a…project, which involves more than just hitting “record”.

    • Meg Keene

      I didn’t want our ceremony recorded (to the point that when we found out it was, I asked that it be destroyed). BUT. I’m really sad there is no record of the toasts. I know they were amazing, and I only half remember them. I mean, sometimes hazy memories are the best… but. Part of the reason we put this together (other than reader request!) was to provide easy tips for recording stuff like toasts, because… it turns out those are the best parts…

      • TeaforTwo

        People made some very lovely toasts at our wedding – they were one of the best parts of the day for me. We don’t have video, but we do have the text of a few speeches, the homily (delivered by father) and my husband’s handscrawled and beautiful toast to me. Those paper artifacts are some of my favourites from the day.

        • Meg Keene

          I know, I really wish I had the toast notes. I know there are some, because there is a pro picture of them. But who thinks to ask for that before it’s in the trash?!

          • TeaforTwo

            I never would have thought of it: our DOC scooped up my husband’s handwritten ones, and earned her fee basically in that one act, right?!

        • Jules

          This is a brilliant idea. I’m going to ask my people to keep theirs!

    • Jen

      I have a similar situation. My husband’s cousin filmed our “wedding”- but to him and my husband, that meant “ceremony”. I thought it meant “ceremony and reception” (but never had that discussion with either of them). I was (and still am) heartbroken that we don’t have the speeches on film or any candid times! Please make sure you communicate that to someone if you want it filmed.

    • Blushdrop

      Please contact us if you find any of those cel phone videos. We offer a service where your friends and family upload all the video they can find, and our editors create a beautiful montage set to music you choose. We’d love to help.

  • Sarah

    We’ve been thinking about doing this exact thing, so thanks for the post! All of this is stuff I wouldn’t have thought to say. That being said…anyone have any ideas on who we should ask? Like, friend, family, what? What have other people done?

    • Jules

      From the other side (having been asked before):

      1) Ask someone close enough willing to do a favor but not someone (house party, bridal party…) that may just want to enjoy the ceremony (if you have the option). If you’re asking someone close, keep it very simple. Provide as much of the equipment as you can – including the memory cards and tripod – unless they have their own.

      2) Say thank you when they accept, say thank you again after the wedding, etc.

      3) Be specific. Do you want them to edit the video? Do you just want raw footage?

      4) Think about where they will be stationed during the ceremony. you may want to talk to your ceremony site coordinator about this. Will the officiant be mic’d? Will it be outside? How close up can they get? This is all good stuff to know.

      • Sarah

        Cool thanks for your perspective! We’ve got all the equipment luckily.

      • Kara

        Also, do a test with your equipment before the ceremony/event starts. Just 10 seconds of video can help you determine if your focus is correct—or not.

        Check the lighting….If the couple is in the shade, but you’re in the sun, the video can be washed out.

        • Jules

          Yes to the test run. We actually showed up to the ceremony about 30 minutes early to set up and check everything (mostly the sound)

          I would have gone to the rehearsal just for a trial at the sound (we weren’t sure if it would carry to where we were recording, and if I would have to send my fiance with the sound recorder up to the 3rd row instead of up in the loft). This is probbbbbably overkill though..

    • kate

      yes, echoing Jules’ advice below – i got asked last minute to run the playlist for my FSIL’s wedding last spring and while i was happy to do it and it didn’t take much doing (just stood in the back and hit play/faded in and out on someone’s laptop), i was a little disappointed not to be able to really enjoy the ceremony and sit with the rest of the family. so i think it can be tough for some of your nearest and dearest who may really want to do this for you, but who might find their being present and enjoying the ceremony impacted by worrying about video-ing or having to stand away from the action etc. (which also might really vary by what your ceremony area is like and what kind of video-ing you do too, so YMMV)

      • Meg Keene

        Yeah. This is actually something I’d be SUPER happy to do for a friend but not a BEST friend or family member where I wanted to really be in it. But for a less close friend, it would make me feel important and trusted to be asked, and I’m someone who looooooovvvvvvvveeeeeeessssss to be asked to help (particularly at weddings). So I think you want that person: close but not too close, likes to help out.

    • TeaforTwo

      Your younger cousin who loves being a camp counsellor. Or the friend who is always elbow deep in the sink doing dishes at other people’s parties. Or the childless one who is always off entertaining other people’s kids. In short: someone from your crowd who likes to have A Job.

    • Rebekah

      I asked our friend, the husband of my MOH, to use a videocamera that was purchased for us as a gift. He spent a week or so with it practicing using it to feel comfortable. He used his own tripod. (We’ll watch it in May for our anniversary!)

  • Angela Howard

    I wish this had been posted about 3 years ago. I completely regret not having my sister-in-law’s hilarious and heartwarming toast and my late dad’s toast preserved.

  • Fiona

    This is such excellent advice! I want a videographer now…

  • Teresa

    Right before my friends wedding (I was a bridesmaid, my husband was a guest), I mentioned my husband’s steady hands when they wanted someone to video the ceremony (like, 20 minutes before it started…) and so my husband used their flip video camera and videoed their ceremony and first dance. They were so thrilled and still thank him 3 and a half years later! Then, a year later, we asked that same friend (who was a bridesmaid in my wedding) to have her husband, who was a guest, video our ceremony with our Flip cam and it was perfect. He also caught the toasts, the dances and the cake cutting. I have yet to edit it, so we just watch them on our computer here and there, but it’s lovely to have them and was so easy. I guess it could have turned out kind of crappy, but it luckily did not!

  • Lawyerette510

    Learn from my mistakes: I regret not having someone take video of the ceremony and the toasts/speeches. A few people videoed speeches with their phones, but the sound was horrible. I would love to be able to re-hear our vows and the speeches/ toasts. I’m sure there are lots of people who would’ve been happy to help with this, had we just specifically asked, and guided them in terms of positioning, especially for the toasts regarding sound.

    • Greta

      And learn from my mistakes! I was positive I didn’t want anything filmed – but what I wish I had more than anything was the ceremony – I was in it, I remember how it felt, but I walked in last, so I didn’t get to see the processional of all my besties, I didn’t get to see my husband walking down the aisle and placing flowers on his late mother’s chair, and his aunt’s shedding tears at this – I was in the moment and it was beautiful, but I wish I could watch my ceremony again from a wedding guest’s point of view. I think that might be the biggest thing we missed with our wedding – and one I was positive I wouldn’t want before hand.

    • Now a days everyone has a cell phone in their pocket anyways so there are lots of opportunities to at least get candid video footage since everyone will we filming it anyways. The Weddeo app from lets everyone crowdsource your wedding video for you and it all gets sent back to one place. Most of the time we will video something but not actually take the time to send it to the bride or groom. You can also gather it by having your guest use a # tag :-)

  • TeaforTwo

    We didn’t get anything videotaped, and most of it I wouldn’t have wanted a recording of. Vows, toasts, dances…I remember how they all felt, and don’t think I would like watching a video of those…they feel too intense and personal even a year-plus later.

    BUT. My family has about 5 minutes of video footage from my grandparents’ wedding in 1947. (My greatgrandmother worked for the CBC, our public broadcaster in Canada, and we think that she had one of the videojournalists take some reel, since it’s hard to imagine how else the footage would have come to be.)

    We unearthed this recording a few years after both of my grandparents had died, and it’s so beautiful to see them alive and moving around (not talking; the film is silent) decades younger than we ever knew them. The video is of guests arriving, milling around outside the church, and then of the newlyweds leaving the church, and a few choppy shots of family posing together on the steps. I think in 1947 it would have been positively unthinkable to record a church ceremony which is why it’s just the outside parts that are recorded, but it is still so lovely to watch the guests, pick out our great aunts and uncles as much younger people, and see their personalities as they’re laughing and hugging. It doesn’t feel like we’re violating something personal (I don’t think I would like to watch them take their vows) but it is remarkable to watch now.

    So, in sum: sure, get someone to record your toasts, but mostly get someone to record all of your people in one place, dressed up, happy and as young as they’ll ever be again.

  • Laura

    Can I ask the nitty gritty – how does this work? Does the videographer set up at the back (getting the back of attendants and bride heading down the aisle) or the front (getting their faces). Then, does the videographer set up the tripod in the aisle for the ceremony – then when the couple makes their exit, back out of the aisle? For anyone who’s done it, or attended, is that distracting/view obscuring for the guests? I suppose the videographer could have a seat on the aisle so he could take a seat once the camera is ‘in place’ for the ceremony.
    Sorry for all the questions, I’m having trouble figuring out logistics! We’re having an outdoor wedding, but we’ll have a microphone for the officiant and us, and the readers. for those who have done this, do you think that will be sufficient?
    Thank you in advance to anyone who can help :)

    • Center/in the aisle is the safest shot to ensure getting everything. Start out with the tripod at the end of the aisle with enough room for the procession – and you can either move the tripod up halfway down the aisle and move back at the end – or just zoom in and out.

  • Ryan

    Or Hire a videographer –

  • Blushdrop

    If it’s OK with the APW moderators, I’d like to share a web app we’ve been developing at Blush. It’s called BlushDrop. It’s really hard to find editors that are willing to edit other people’s videos, but we’ve built a system that enables exactly that.

    Check out the site. We’d love to see what your wedding guests have been shooting.

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  • Clipsake

    Our founder’s experience missing out on filming her wedding inspired her to create Clipsake. We send easy to use, professional quality video cameras for you & your friends to film all the fun, behind the scenes + must see moments of your wedding. Then we professionally edit all the footage together into a shareable video keepsake. (or as the author of this article suggested, you could edit the video yourself because we offer pick-and-mix style services!). #filmityourself

  • Using_common_sense

    NEVER video your own wedding. ONLY use professionals. There are serious copyright issues involved in video recording a wedding ceremony. If you do not know what you are doing you could be committing a felony!

  • Using_common_sense

    This is horrible advice. And I am highly suspicious of any “pro” videographer who is encouraging free DIY replacements for services he sells to make a living. That the equivalent of a lawyer giving free legal advice.

    Aside from the fact that a cell phone or amateur’s equipment can NEVER come close to the quality of professional equipment and work, there’s a whole set of legal messes you’re potentially causing. If you have live musicians and you record them and share it on facebook, you’ve just committed copyright infringement. If you have a DJ playing recorded music and it’s recorded in the video, you’ve just committed copyright infringement of the recording artist and record company. People are being sued nowadays for things as simple as posting video of their weddings on facebook.

  • Maria

    I wanted to document the most important and the most unforgettable event in my entire life. I would love to watched it over and over again. Happy moments needs to be treasured. I’m planning to get the professional help of Rocco Joseph Films as my wedding videographer.