Wedding vendors—particularly wedding photographers—have a right to their art and promoting their work to attract future clients. But at what cost to their clients?

One of the biggest mistakes a wedding photographer can make is not triple-checking with their clients that it's OK to publish their wedding or engagement session.

One of the biggest mistakes wedding photographers make is to not triple-check with their clients that it’s OK to publish their wedding. Whether it’s the photographer’s blog or website, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest or a newspaper or wedding blog or magazine. Anywhere that the couple’s wedding or engagement photos will appear—especially depicting their faces, anonymous or not—needs to get the couple’s explicit written permission.

Couples are entitled to their privacy, and that’s more important than your art or securing your next client. If you violate your clients’ privacy, you’ll see your client numbers decrease, giving you less chance to make the art you love—and the money that supports it.

Wedding photographers own the copyrights to their photos but the client who hires the photographers are usually first-timers when hiring a professional photographer and don’t assume that you’re going to go publish their likeness. Perhaps even more crucial is that the client trusts the photographer with something so intimate and sacred: their private vows. You have an obligation to honor that trust with open communication about your intentions.

Couples are entitled to their privacy, and that’s more important than your art or securing your next client.

Privacy is an important consideration for everyone. It’s essential that you especially consider privacy for your LGBTQ+ clients. Though marriage equality is a federal reality in the United States and many places abroad, we can still be fired for being gay or trans in many states, as well as kicked out our housing. Some of us are not out at work for myriad reasons—and plenty of us don’t invite our families to our weddings because they either don’t know or refuse to accept our gender identities and/or sexual orientations.

We’ve been publishing Equally Wed, the international wedding website for LGBTQ+ couples and the wedding professionals who serve them, for eight years. Since 2010, we’ve featured nearly 500 real weddings and more than 200 engagement stories. Frequently, we speak directly with the couples who we’re featuring, but we’re a small business with an even smaller staff, and we often rely on the vendors to provide us with the details from the wedding or engagement that informs our articles.

Over the years we’ve received notes from couples asking us to take their wedding features down after discovering them on social media. They write to us with horror or sorrow. Some of their emails have included lines like:

“We never gave our photographer permission to publish our wedding.”

“I could lose my teaching job for this. Can you please take this down?”

“My company doesn’t know I’m gay. Our wedding is private. We never wanted it to be online.”

Do we ask these newlyweds if they signed a contract with their wedding photographer agreeing to allow their weddings to be published? No. Whatever the couple signed does not matter to us when they feel violated. We respect their privacy over sharing their gorgeous photos and driving traffic to our site. Do you have your clients sign a contract agreeing to let you publish their weddings and/or engagement photos? You might consider doing so.

Often wedding photographers have a model release in their contracts, freeing them up to share their work wherever and however they want to. But be careful because blissful and excited nearlyweds are likely not reading every word in your contracts. Before you submit their weddings to any publication—or publish them to your own social media streams or your website, ask again in writing. In this case, it’s always better to ask for permission rather than forgiveness. Once photos go live on a site or a social media platform, they’re out of your hands. Even if you delete the post, images can be reblogged, pinned, regrammed, shared and saved to desktop computers, tablets and phones.

When you check in with your clients specifically about publishing their wedding on social media, a wedding publication and/or your own website, it shows your clients that you care about their well-being; it protects you in the long run from potentially ruining your reputation as a safe wedding professional for LGBTQ+ weddings and engagements; and it makes your relationship better with editors because we can trust that your submissions have already cleared by your clients.