The Inside Story: Questions are the Key
Posted Apr 25, 2005

Telling stories is a fundamental part of the way we live and interact. We grow up listening to stories told by friends and relatives. As these stories unfold, they evoke an emotional reaction from us because compelling stories engage the listener. Likewise compelling video storytelling engages the viewer.

To tell your client's story, you must first gather information: the facts and details of their story. You do that by asking questions. I have a fairly standard set of questions I use as a guide when interviewing the bride and groom.

The questions I ask are broken down into three parts: Pre-Ceremony, Bride's Questions, and Groom's Questions.

Pre-Ceremony (Bride and Groom)
1. How did you meet?
2. What were your first impressions of him/her?
3. Tell me about your proposal.
4. What is your message to your fiancé/fiancée on your wedding day?

Bride's Questions
1. Did your wedding go as planned? How so?
2. Did you feel nervous before the ceremony?
3. Was it special having your bridesmaids there?
4. How did you feel walking down the aisle? Were you nervous? Was your dad/mom?
5. When you looked into his eyes during the vows, what were you feeling?
6. Do you have any special memories about exchanging rings?
7. Your first kiss... what were your feelings?
8. How was the reception? How was the DJ/band?
9. Your first dance at the reception...why did you pick that song? Is it special to you? Were you aware of everyone watching you or was it just the two of you alone?
10. What was it like dancing with your dad? Did you talk?
11. Tell me about the cake-cutting.
12. When you threw your bouquet, were you aiming at anyone?
13. If there is one thing you know you'll never forget about your wedding day, what would it be?

Groom's Questions
1. Did your wedding go as planned? How so?
2. Did you feel nervous before the ceremony?
3. Was it special having your groomsmen there?
4. How did you feel when you first saw your bride coming down the isle?
5. When you looked into her eyes during the vows, what you were feeling?
6. Any special memories about exchanging rings?
7. "You may kiss the bride"...what were your feelings when you heard that?
8. How was the reception? How was the DJ/band?
9. How did it feel to dance with your wife for the first time?
10. Tell me about the cake cutting. Were you neat?
11. When you threw the garter, were you aiming at anyone?
12. With all the expense and hassle of a big wedding celebration, why go through all this?

I interview the bride and groom days, weeks, or months before and after the wedding day. I do this because I want the interviews to take place in a relaxed atmosphere, away from distractions and pressure of the wedding day. I want to establish a real "comfort zone" so the bride and groom feel relaxed enough to remember the past and contemplate their futures.

The interviews, almost always, take place in my office area where I have a small "living room" setup. The only exception to this is when I do out-of-town weddings. I usually conduct those interviews at the bride's home or the hotel where the couple is staying. Again, I want them to feel comfortable, like they're simply having a conversation with me, not an interview. I position myself slightly off-camera and ask them to look at me, not the camera, while we talk. Don't forget composition fundamentals here. I interview the bride and groom separately, but compose their shots to give the illusion that they're looking at each other, not in the same direction.

I interview the couple separately for several reasons. First, most couples tend to talk over each other. This makes editing more difficult. Secondly, they are likely to be less guarded and more open if the other isn't sitting there listening. Finally, she has a story and he has a story. The inside story of their wedding experience can be found somewhere between their separate remembrances.

Remember: Asking questions is really just the first part of the information gathering process. To be a good interviewer and a good storyteller, you must first be a good listener. These questions are really a guide, a map if you will, of how to get to the emotional core of the wedding day.

In the next installment of The Inside Story, we'll discuss how to hear the answers and how to ask the important follow-up questions.