Does anyone else remember that part in Old School where Will Ferrell delivers a super eloquent counterpoint in debate and then is like, “What happened, I blacked out?” Yeah, that was basically me after my wedding ceremony. People were coming up to me all night afterwards, saying, “That ceremony was so beautiful.” And even though I wrote the thing myself and knew it backwards and forwards, I still have pretty much zero recollection of what actually happened. Instead of pre-assigned toasts, we had anyone who felt moved to stand up and speak during the ceremony, and while there are lovely photos of people saying really sweet things, I’m horrified to admit that I could not tell you a single word of what they said. And to add insult to injury, several of my best people got stuck in horrible traffic and were over an hour late, missing the whole thing.
Before getting married, I would never have thought to find the budget for a wedding video, but now, now the number one thing I would pay anything for would be a video of our wedding, particularly of that ceremony. So today I’m going to be singing the praises of APW’s newest sponsor, the New York City–based and nationwide-traveling filmmaker and photographer behind Weddings by Elizabeth Mealey. And trust me—if you can set aside a budget for wedding video (which, if you read on, might be more affordable than you thought), she is your person. (Not even exaggerating when I say I was bouncing up and down in my seat while we chatted, because she is exactly who I would hire if I got to do it all over again.)
(And if you can’t, please find someone with steady hands to hold up a phone.) Because video captures memories the way photos simply can’t. Elizabeth knows this firsthand herself—she’s in this business because she believes there’s nothing else quite like them:
I got engaged to my partner of five years in August: We ate dinner at an open-roofed restaurant overlooking the Mombasa harbour, with palm trees swaying in the warm evening breeze, and stars shining overhead. It was pretty close to perfection. A few close friends were with us, and they took photos on my Canon I’d put in their charge for the evening. The photos they took are amazing memories. But do you know what I wish? I wish I could press play and listen to my fiancé’s voice as he proposed. I wish I could play it over and over, and that when we’re gone, our family members could play it and hear his Kenyan accent, and the pride and emotion in his voice, and in my voice when I said yes. That’s what you can get with video that a photo just can’t give you: the sound of your loved ones’ voices. This is why I record audio at every wedding I shoot, and weave it throughout your highlight reel. A music video with a bunch of pretty pictures is nice, but honestly, your photographer is probably already giving you beautiful pictures; I want to give you something that no one else can.
Something like this…
But let’s back up a sec so I can tell you exactly how Elizabeth Mealey approaches video differently than what might come to mind when you hear the words “wedding videographer” and imagine someone with a giant spotlight getting in the way. As she says above, she’s not just following your photographer around and making a highlight reel of moving pictures set to music. She’s capturing the sights and sounds of what’s actually happening like a documentary filmmaker would. Because, it just so happens, that’s what she actually is.
I am a wedding professional AND a still photographer/camera operator/Director of Photography who works on everything from indie films to nonprofit short docs. In any given month, I’m probably editing your wedding, DP-ing a sex-positive feminist web series, and planning a shoot for a New York nonprofit such as Sanctuary for Families. This doesn’t mean I’m distracted, or that I won’t give your wedding the attention it deserves. Actually, the opposite is true: My experience from other industries allows me to bring creativity and a fresh eye to my wedding films, instead of churning out a bunch of formulaic highlights.
My work on documentary projects continually teaches me to tell “ordinary” people’s stories artfully. It has also given me the practical experience to anticipate important moments before they happen, to follow action with my camera as it naturally unfolds (even when things get a lil’ crazy) and to record high-quality audio despite imperfect acoustic conditions.
On the sets of indie films and web-series, I’ve learned how to manipulate light to draw the eye to the subject, and create shots that don’t just record action, but evoke mood and emotion. I’ve also learned how to gently direct people so they can be un-self-conscious in front of the camera, and to change just enough elements in a scene so that it’s more aesthetically beautiful, but still feels undeniably real. (Just because that empty water bottle was really there on the table doesn’t mean it has to be recorded for all eternity in your wedding video. I remove just enough so we can focus on what’s important: you, your day, and your story.)
All of the above is also why I don’t really like to call myself a wedding videographer: I’m a wedding filmmaker. If you just want someone to show up, press record, and give you the raw footage at the end of the day, I’m not your gal. I work closely with every couple to create a short film that is both a document of their wedding AND ALSO a work of art that delves into their story in a nuanced and meaningful way. I want every film I make to be creative, aesthetically beautiful, and, most importantly, to reflect the personality of my collaborators as individuals and as a couple.
I have hunch that it’s that kind of thoughtfulness that is why Elizabeth produces not only super authentic records of wedding days, but super beautiful ones. Because if you’re anything like me, the second reason behind budget that you might be unsure of having a wedding video is that you’re terrified you’ll hate watching yourself in it. Which, I mean, I don’t think that’s gonna happen with Elizabeth behind the lens…
Speaking of rates, let’s get down to what you’ve been wondering about. As I said, Weddings by Elizabeth Mealey is based in New York City, where the sky’s the limit for the rates of super-talented people. Luckily for you guys, right now Elizabeth’s talent far exceeds her price tag: her most-loved package is $3,000—and that includes a lot of amazing stuff:
- Up to 9 hours of wedding-day coverage by Elizabeth Mealey and a second videographer.
- Sneak-Peek Instagram Mini Highlight; 30 to 60 second Instagram video.
- Highlight Reel; 6 to 10-minute video, including audio clips woven throughout.
- Documentary Ceremony Cut; Shot with three cameras and edited together. The cut is the length of the ceremony: if the ceremony is 10 minutes, the video will be 10 minutes—if it’s 30 minutes, the video will be 30 minutes, etc.
- Selected RAW footage outtakes (amazing moments that didn’t make the cut, but that she doesn’t want you to miss).
Oh, and for the first 5 APW readers that book Elizabeth, that $3,000 also includes free travel to anywhere in the United States.
What’s more, while Elizabeth Mealey’s emphasis is on the moving image, she is a super-talented still photographer as well, who regularly second shoots with some of APW’s favorite New York City photographers like Justin McCallum. So while she sadly is not superhuman and can’t do both things at once, she is happy to connect you with a fantastic photographer (or videographer if you decide you’d rather hire her for photos). So, ahem, just saying you could quite possibly hired the dream team of Elizabeth and Justin to provide unbelievable images and videos for less than the $6K+ price that many New York City wedding photographers/videographers charge for just one of those things. And I mean, if and when you do just that, you should probably definitely absolutely let us know…
And finally, because if Elizabeth’s work and artistic philosophy wasn’t awesome enough, here’s one last thing you should know about her because as she told us, bless, “This is very important to me and I definitely want it to be a part of the post” :
The mainstream wedding industry can be extremely heteronormative, whitewashed, and generally exclusive and problematic in a myriad of ways. The people most impacted by this don’t need me to tell them that. Whether it’s publications who only show skinny white brides as their ideal client, or vendors who assume that the bride is the most important person in the prenuptial duo (hello! What if there’s no bride?? What if they use gender neutral pronouns?), the wedding industry can often be awful towards couples who don’t meet the standards of our white supremacist patriarchal society. I want to live in a world where love in all its forms is represented in the media, respected, and celebrated; Where people of all sexual, gender, racial and cultural identities are seen as equally worthy of love (and, if they so desire, deserving of a kick-ass wedding!).
Unfortunately, society as a whole is not there yet, which is why I actively strive to disrupt these standards at every turn. This takes many forms in public and in private, from being verbally unapologetic about my politics on my business platforms (yes, my Instagram description says “Get married, Smash the Patriarchy, Love Wins, Black Lives Matter,” and yes, this is intended to scare away people who disagree), making sure that couples of color and the LGBTQ+ community are not just tokenized but represented in a nuanced way in my portfolio, to the behind-the-scenes work of prioritizing women, especially women of color and queer-identifying folx, when I hire anyone to work for me, from second shooters to brand designers. My aim is to not just “include” but truly center the queer community and people of color in my work, because in an industry where so many professionals still turn down gay couples, refuse to use clients’ correct pronouns, and exclude black and brown people from all of their marketing materials, the very least I can do is make it blatantly known that the queer community and folx of color are not just “tolerated,” but actively prioritized in my business. If a couple wants to get married on a plantation, or make racist, sexist, or homophobic comments in the presence of their wedding vendors with no pushback or repercussions, they will be able to find a wedding filmmaker who will work with them—but that person is not me.
I mean, is anyone else applauding, tearing up, possibly cheering at their desk right now? Thought so. 😉 So then why are you still here? Go check out more Wedding by Elizabeth Mealey, and remember…
ELIZABETH MEALEY IS OFFERING FREE TRAVEL WITHIN THE U.S. FOR THE FIRST 5 APW COUPLES WHO BOOK WITH HER THIS YEAR. CLICK HERE TO GET IN TOUCH.