'You may kiss the bride." After all the wedding headaches – venue choosing, cake testing, dress shopping, vow writing – it all comes down to this moment. And that kiss, the kiss, is one you don't want to screw up.
"Absolutely, couples should go through it beforehand; absolutely, practise it a few times," says Claire Dam, a Mississauga wedding photographer.
She says that, in all the weddings she's shot over the past seven years, one truly ugly kiss stands out.
"It was gross. Gross. Gross …" – a long pause as she relives the moment. "These people clearly didn't talk about it prior," she says.
The bride was expecting a quick peck, but not the groom: He came at her, tongue out.
"I think he wanted to prove his love?" Dam says with a laugh. "He had this big open mouth and she was totally caught off guard. He looked like how you'd eat an ice cream. The first few rows moaned – you could hear them."
Another thing to avoid, Dam says, is what's trendy on social media.
"Honestly, you can go on Pinterest and see all the kissing photos with the groom fist-bumping the air," Dam says. "The bride clearly told him to do that, and it's awkward. It literally shakes the kiss loose."
So the secret to a memorable, suitable-for-framing kiss?
For starters: Make sure your officiant knows, after he says the magic words, to move to one side to prevent an official photobomb. "To have some dude or some lady looking at you from behind – I can't be in control of that person's expression."
To create the perfect smooch, Dam coaches her couples to pause and breathe. "Take a moment and really look into each other's eyes, and as soon as they smile – that's when a great kiss happens naturally and it's beautiful."
For poses, she says it's best to remain natural and loose, and to step into each other gently, so that you avoid the "my little teapot" bent-at-the-waist photo.
"My favourite kiss photos are the ones where one person is holding the other's person's face – along their jaw, with both hands. That's a really sweet thing."
The slow moments before and after a kiss, where the couple really revelled in the moment, with touching foreheads and big smiles, "those are the moments – [the] photographer appreciates it, the couple remembers it and the guests think it's adorable."