When it comes to planning your wedding budget, many couples grapple with the question of whether or not to hire a wedding videographer. While having a photographer is typically viewed as a necessity, significantly fewer couples plan to have a videographer present at their wedding — and nearly all of those couples deeply regret the decision. Elizabeth Mealey is a New York-based photographer and videographer who believes that video of your wedding day isn’t just nice to have — it’s essential to fully capture the important moments of your day.
Elizabeth has been documenting couples in love ever since she was a freshman in college and a project for a documentary photography class on the large Somali population in Boston turned into a close relationship with a local Somali family. “They were fairly private people, so they weren’t interested in participating in the documentary project, but they asked me to photograph their sister’s women-only wedding celebration. It was around 200 women dancing and eating food in their traditional Somali clothing. At the time, I wasn’t really thinking that I would end up as a wedding photographer, but this was the first taste I got of how I could apply my documentary storytelling skills to weddings.”
When Elizabeth moved to New York, she decided to really dive into wedding photography and videography, and began shooting weddings alongside another Catalyst vendor, Justin McCallum. While Elizabeth also does a lot of documentary and narrative film work, she loves working with social justice-minded and multicultural couples to capture their wedding day on film.
Not convinced you need to have a videographer at your wedding day? Elizabeth sat down with me and outlined a few of the key reasons that she feels every couple needs to hire a videographer.
Videography Helps Capture the Full Narrative of Your Wedding Day — Your Vows Are Part of That.
Elizabeth knows that your wedding is about more than a pretty dress and stunning florals — it’s about your love story. As a videographer, it’s important to her to capture that fully.
“I always approach weddings as part documentarian, part artist. I strive to document reality, but also to elevate reality. Telling my client’s stories is what makes wedding videography so meaningful, and I want to make something that is individual to the couple rather than only focusing on pretty details.”
In an industry that is overwhelmed with Pinterest images that only look at details and rarely focus on the personal story of the actual couple, this is something that really drew us to Elizabeth’s work. Being able to capture the full narrative of your wedding day is important, and while your wedding photos can capture many of the important moments, one thing you can’t get from photography alone is audio, which Elizabeth sees as a critical part of your wedding day.
“I like to record audio so that I can document what people say at your wedding. With videography, it’s not just about creating beautiful images — it’s just as important to hear your partner and your loved ones’ voices as they share their vows and speeches. I think having a record of these moments, where the people closest to you are sharing what’s in their hearts, is incredibly special.”
One thing we end up hearing from couples all the time is that they don’t actually remember their wedding day. I can attest to this feeling myself, as the frenzy of emotions, nerves, friends, and family came together and turned my own wedding day into a bit of a blur. Elizabeth reflects back on her own wedding, as well, and how she had scribbled her vows on a tiny sheet of paper that she then handed to her officiant and didn’t see again. “I don’t even remember what I said exactly, and that was my only copy. I’m really glad my videographer captured our full ceremony.” Having your ceremony recorded ensures you never lose these moments that are meant to be the cornerstone of your marriage.
Elizabeth also loves that videography allows you to gather up your loved ones and relive your wedding day in such a fun and intimate way. “You consume video differently than photos. With your wedding photos you put them on your wall and put them in an album and share them on Facebook, but with a video you might sit down with your loved ones and have a viewing or cuddle up with your partner and watch it. It’s an event. It’s a totally different way of looking back and experiencing your wedding all over again.”
With Videography, Music Gets to Play a Significant Role
I don’t know about you, but in the months leading up to my own wedding, the music I wanted to play during the ceremony and reception became a major focus for me. Music was such an important part of my life and my partner’s life, and we spent a fair amount of time making sure our wedding day music reflected our relationship. Elizabeth knows this is the case for so many couples, and she always pays close attention to a couple’s musical tastes.
“One question I like to ask my couples is ‘If your wedding was a music video, what would the song be?’ This question helps give me a glimpse into the music that is meaningful to each couple. I pay close attention to the songs that play at their wedding, and I do my best to capture that same musical vibe in their video.” Who among us hasn’t listened to a song and pictured our life as a music video? Getting to relive such an important day over and over again in this way is part of what makes wedding videography so special.
It’s so important to Elizabeth that the music in your video matches your personal taste that she spends quite a lot of time in post-production finding the absolute perfect tracks. “It’s important to me that the music I use has the same essence as music the couple already loves. The part of my job that people don’t get to see is after the wedding where I spend hours and hours in post-production, and choosing music is a big part of that. My process for video editing is to get the sound right first — I start by laying down the audio tracks, the music, speeches, vows, etc. This helps me determine the length, pacing, and emotional story of the video, and once I’ve mixed those tracks I add the visuals on top. There are a lot of copyright issues with music, and so I subscribe to libraries of music that I can license for your videos. I never want a couple to be at risk of having their wedding video taken down off YouTube or Facebook because it contains unlicensed music.” Elizabeth is even known to edit tracks and splice together songs to create the best possible sound landscape for your video.
Dance Is a Big Part of Most Weddings — Make Sure You Capture It Fully
If music is important to you, then dancing also probably holds an important spot in your heart. Dancing at wedding receptions is by no means a requirement, but it’s one of the most common ways that we see people celebrating their unions and Elizabeth is here for it. “I’m a dancer and one of my favorite parts of a wedding day is when people are dancing,” says Elizabeth. “When I’m into the music I get more into my work. We’re all having a great time moving together, and I get to just be in the thick of it and capture it all.”
For Elizabeth, it’s these moments that make her feel most connected to her couples, and even though she also does a lot of photography work, she can’t imagine documenting these moments with anything other than video. “The energy you get to capture with video is so different from still photography, especially with regard to dance. What sets videography apart is movement and sound, and that’s what dance is all about. You get to see the motion and movement as the dance happens.” It’s this energy that often gets missed when couples don’t choose to hire a videographer.
Music & Dance Let Your Community and Cultures Shine, and That Comes Through on Video
The ceremony and vows are all about you and your partner, but the wedding reception is when your larger community really gets to shine. Community and culture is so important to Elizabeth, and she has found herself specializing in multicultural weddings over the course of her career because of this, and because she herself is part of a multicultural couple. Elizabeth is Jewish-American and her husband, Joab, is from Kenya, so their wedding was not just a marriage of the two of them, but of their two communities.
“One of my favorite weddings I’ve filmed was a couple where the bride was Jewish-American and the groom was from Benin,” she says. “The entire wedding party was wearing different designs cut from the same kitenge fabric, and all of the guys had kitenge yamakas. They played the Horah, and also a lot of West African music. I felt very connected to them because it reminded me of my own wedding. It was this beautiful cultural mashup, and it all came out in the dancing.”
Dance shows up as a critical part of wedding celebrations in so many different cultures, and she loves seeing the personality of the wedding guests stand out during wedding receptions no matter what cultures the couple belongs to.
“I love the moments when the grandma comes out and does her thing, or when guests I didn’t notice before surprise me with killer dance moves,” says Elizabeth. “People get to shine in their own way even if they aren’t part of the ceremony or giving a speech. If they’re on the dance floor and they’re killing it, they’re going in the highlight video!”
Elizabeth also loves that videography is able to capture moments that often get missed by the couple. “As someone who had a videographer at my wedding, it was so great to be able to look back on the day and see the moments when all of my friends and family were having so much fun. During your wedding, you don’t necessarily get to see all of those moments first hand because you’re being pulled in so many different directions. It’s great to be able to go back and relive the joy of your whole community.”
So What Makes Elizabeth Mealey Stand Out from Other Wedding Videographers?
A Deep Focus on You, Your Partner, and Your Relationship
Elizabeth does all of her own editing, which isn’t always the case for a lot of larger studios that outsource their editing to other firms. This is so important to Elizabeth because she believes telling your story is the whole reason for videography, and she gets to know her clients in such a personal way throughout the wedding process. She is able to pull out the moments that are going to mean the most to you and your partner because she’s gotten to know YOU and witnessed all those moments at your wedding firsthand.
“You can give the same footage to five different editors and they can all make something different and GOOD that captures the wedding and will probably look beautiful, but I want to take it a step further. It’s important to me that the couple really feels SEEN, and that what I make isn’t an impersonal recap of generic moments, but a narrative that reflects the individuality of the couple I’m working with. Being present for our pre-wedding conversations and at the wedding itself is important for this to happen.”
A Desire to Make the Wedding Industry a More Inclusive Place
“If I couldn’t bring social justice into my weddings work, I wouldn’t do weddings,” says Elizabeth. “The wedding industry is super whitewashed and super straight, and there are a lot of people and bodies that don’t get represented in wedding media. Part of my mission is to actively combat that by making it as obvious as possible that you are welcome here — If you are disabled, if you’re queer, if you’re a person of color, you are not only welcome, but you are prioritized in my business. I try to make that as clear as possible on my website and on my social media, and am careful to not do it in a way that tokenizes people.”
Elizabeth also makes monthly donations to the Audre Lorde Project and the ACLU. “I want my business to give something back to the communities I claim to support. It’s really important to me that my activism isn’t performative, so I’m always striving to push myself to do more.”
Ready to Have Elizabeth Mealey Capture Your Wedding Day?
Head to her site to view more of her amazing work and to submit an inquiry for your wedding!
Photos of Elizabeth Mealey in action by Shawnee Custalow
Jen Siomacco is the CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Catalyst Wedding Co. She works to mesh together her love of feminism, love stories, accessibility, equality, and design into the Catalyst brand. When she’s not traveling the country working to make the wedding industry a more inclusive place, she’s writing on her couch and snuggled up with her husband and SUPER lazy cats.
Photo by Tiffany Josephs Photography