Wedding industry professionals have quite a few stories to tell. The nightmare couples, where divorce was all but certain. The sweetest couples who you could just tell were meant for each other.
Aside from depleted savings accounts and wedding debt, there are other signs—like the cake cutting— that immediately tip them off to future struggles.
Comments have been edited for clarity.
1. Silence isn't a virtue
Photographer here. Typically I saw red flags when the bride or groom is super quiet. I mean silent and just watching.
One instance was a groom who barely said ten words to anyone during the ceremony or reception afterwards. The bride and her mother were extremely loud and excited the entire time. The bride needed everything to be “perfect.”
I dropped off the photo bundle with them two weeks later and he was still quiet. She however complained about all of the pictures because the groom wasn’t “smiling enough.”
She wanted a discount because I couldn’t make him look happy enough.
They got divorced about a year later. I know because I did his engagement photos with his new fiancée about four years after his first wedding. His new engagement photos showed him much happier.
2. Dealing with reality
I've done a few engagement photos and weddings.
Red flags: when one person is critical of the other during the shoot but then posts the photos with the caption: "about to marry my best friend and my soul mate."
Also, when they badly Photoshop themselves and their partners to appear 'better looking' than they actually are.
Green flags: a couple who can laugh together when doing awkward poses, when they're wiping sweat from their foreheads, and when something goes wrong in general.
3. Cutting the cake
Photographer here. To me the biggest sign is the cake cutting. Some people like to smear the cake everywhere as a joke, some people don't.
Usually the couple is in sync about this. They know what the other would like and they don't smush cake on the others face if they wouldn't want that.
Sometimes one of them (usually the groom) will force cake all over the others face and embarrass and upset them.
I've seen this happen a handful of times and all of those relationships that I have kept up with have ended in a divorce.
4. Sticking together
Wedding planner here.
Red flag—nerves are normal but when one of the pair starts doubting whether they should go through with it waaay before the day, you know something isn’t quite right.
Green flag—they make decisions together and have each other’s backs especially when family can be pressuring.
5. If you can't handle them at their worst...
You can tell somewhat based on how the couple treats each other on the wedding day.
If they are respectful toward one another (and toward me) during a day full of stress, then I think that’s a good indicator of being able to deal with other problems that may arise during a marriage.
Best advice I got about marriage was from my psychology professor. He told us never to marry someone until you've seen how they react when something goes wrong.
I think for some couples that may turn out to be the day of the wedding.
6. Don't try to change them
Wedding videographer here. I try to get to know both people beforehand, so I can work in their hobbies/unique traits into my product.
A big red flag is when one person is clearly trying to change the other. I had one dude who loved poker, craft beer, cigars, hanging with his rowdy friends, video games, etc.
I planned a cool shoot where I had all his friends in an old western saloon, and he sees his bride to be—but she steps in and declares "oh, he won't be doing any of those things any more."
Poor guy just sat there in silence as I awkwardly had to plan them shopping for a Yorkie puppy instead. Half way through post production after the wedding, he called and said he was getting an annulment.
Green flags are just the opposite. Embracing the other person's habbits/hobbies/interests, basically not being a controlling freakshow.
7. Can't decide on the cake
Cake artist here. I had a couple come in for a tasting. Appointment was for 7 p.m. , but he was late. First half hour was just her. She told me they met at a stable where they both kept their horses.
Those horses were going to be featured at the wedding as the bride and groom would ride them to the site (a beautiful farm venue.)
She described in detail her self-designed medieval gown, flower wreath in her hair, embroidered shoes like some from a museum: sounded lovely. She wanted a cake like a castle, which was a specialty of mine.
Then he arrives. Barely says Hi to her, sits down and starts telling me about his wedding.
He'll ride in dressed as a riverboat gambler with a frock coat, brocade vest, string tie, big hat, gold pocket watch, and STERLING SILVER SPURS!
He's fine with the castle cake, but wants to incorporate the watch and a pair of mother of pearl handled pistols (picture given).
For the next hour they carried on two entirely separate monologues. They didn't address each other (or me) and they didn't listen to each other (or me).
They were living in 2 incompatible and entirely self-contained fantasies. I doubt they even made it to the wedding day.
8. Disinterest is a flag
Photographer here. I met the couple in a cafe to discuss their ideas and my services.
The girl was very happy, she was very emotional and interested. The guy, however, was rolling his eyes and grunting at everything and I stop trying to get him involved in the conversation after he ignored me twice.
It made the girl very uncomfortable and she was apologetic of his behavior. I don't know what happened to them, as they apparently chose to reschedule their wedding and didn't hire me in the end.
9. That's definitely a flag
Wedding videographer here. Probably when the bride got absolutely obliterated and started telling everyone at the party (in that loud whisper) that she was having an affair with the groom's brother.
10. Harsh with the letters or vows
Former wedding videographer. So you know how some couples write a letter to their partner prior to the wedding, to read to each other on the wedding day?
When doing the letter read the bride said at the end, which I quote "well that was -expletive- stupid". I cut that part out in the final video.
To be fair, what he wrote was not exactly Shakespeare but still a harsh response.
11. Promiscuous honeymoon
I didn’t need a sixth sense when I heard that on their honeymoon, the bride cheated on the groom. The grooms parents didn’t want the photos OR the video I had shot.
Instead they wanted me to sue her for the remainder of the money they owed me. I told them I was sorry but they signed the contract so they had to pay.
The bride was a total nightmare to him all day at the wedding. It was no surprise she did this. He was absolutely heartbroken.
12. Weather the storm together—without pants
I am/was a wedding photographer: I think you can kind of tell if they are going to stay together based on how they handle all the problems a wedding day can bring.
There was one couple's story I love to tell. They are not your typical bride and groom, they had their wedding in a forest where you could also go climbing. All vegan food and a lot of friends with lots of dogs.
Everything was perfect, except the special dress the bride had made didn't arrive in time for the ceremony and she was devastated.
She was in her sweatpants and a Mickey Mouse t-shirt, all upset, when her soon-to-be-husband took off his suit, put on a big white shirt, stood there in his boxershorts and just said "well, we have to go."
She just laughed and went with it. I was in shock but other than it being strange to have hairy man-legs in the wedding photos, taking the pictures was really fun and they were totally relaxed.
I'm pretty sure they will be doing well.
13. Toasting during the ceremony
I am a videographer. We did film one wedding that seemed fine right up until the aisle walk.
Now everyone is seated in the ceremony hall. Groom and all his men are up front with the officiant. Bridesmaids start walking down the aisle. All beautiful.
The bride walks in with her father. At this point I’m filming the groom and his reaction.
I see the best man in my viewfinder pulling out a flask from his jacket pocket—the rest of the men do the same except the groom. So this is clearly planned.
The best man speaks loud enough over the music so people turn to him away from the Bride.
He raises his flask high and shouts “Here’s to Bride Name, here’s to Groom Name; may you never disagree. But if you do…” He points at the bride with his flask hand and finishes “SCREW YOU, here’s to Groom Name.”
They all chug to their frat boy toast. The best man hands the Groom his flask and he takes a swig laughing!
I have never watched a video more than I have the reaction of the Bride and her father. Jaw dropped speechless. The look of disgust on her whole family’s face the entire night after that was highly awkward to film.
Needless to say I think that’s a big red flag.
14. Need to be on the same page
Video editor here. I’ve had my fair share of wedding videos back then.
Red flags: One partner is having a lot of fun, dancing and mingling, while the other is mostly sitting down.
They aren’t smiling except when taking photos.
The vows are very fluffy or almost selfish. Bonus if the counterpart has something very short and not as emotional.
Green flags: They can’t keep away from each other.
Laughing during the first dance, altar, cake cutting, speeches etc.
I know they may be cheesy for some, but themed weddings. People that dork out together stay together.
15. Making glaciers out of ice cubes
Wedding videographer here.
Had a couple fly us out to Iceland for their engagement shoot. Now the first couple of days were fine and everything looked okay, but in Iceland, some lodging options aren’t very luxurious.
The groom chose to book what was essentially a tiny bunk house—the ones meant for those summer camps—and the bride lost it and complained the whole night.
Next morning things are pretty tense and our team continues the shoot as planned even though it is incredibly awkward. Most of our plans fall through because they start arguing.
In front of a beautiful, solitary glacier. For two hours. Our team can hear them yelling at each other half a mile away because there is literally no one else around for miles.
We finish up whatever we could of the last day of the shoot and awkwardly said our goodbyes. Later on I learn that they broke up a month before the wedding.
16. Controlling mother-in-law
I declined shooting a wedding when the person who was going to hire me was the groom's mom.
When I asked her to arrange a meeting with the couple, she said that they didn't want a wedding (meaning they wanted to elope), and it was her initiative to celebrate it.
I tried to play "I want to hear the bride's ideas" card, but she told me the bride has no ideas, she obeys the groom, and the groom obeys mom. So I'll only talk to the mom.
So I declined, I hope the girl is fine - no one deserves a controlling mother-in-law.
17. Not in sync
Was shooting a friend's wedding years ago and witnessed a pretty serious red flag.
To close the vows part they did a sand mixing metaphor thing where he had a vial of white sand and she a vial of black sand.
They were to pour them into an tall empty vial together to make grey sand symbolizing their inseparable union.
As they poured they were so not in sync with each other at all. One would slow down, the other sped up and vice versa.
They ended up pouring near perfectly stratified black and white layers. He nervously giggled and she looked forlorn as the pastor and guests marveled at their zebra striped creation.
They lasted about 2 years.
18. It is known
My dad is a award winning photographer. He has been in the business for over 30 years and says this is definitely true.
It’s always the brides that turn into bridezillas (yes, they exist) or the grooms that could care less about the wedding and just want to “get it over with” that have very short marriages.
Sometimes one or the other go back to their room because they “forgot their cuff links” or “garter” and never come back.
19. Non-commital at best
It was the first wedding I ever photographed. I asked how he proposed and apparently he didn’t. The bride came home one day and was like “we’re getting married,” and he was like “uh...alright.”
The bride also RAN down the aisle to Beyoncé’s “Halo”. It was a sight. I believe they got a divorce a few years later.
20. No bachelor(ette) for you
Party bus driver for almost 5 years. Often we would do the bachelorette AND the wedding party.
All too often we'd get a "combined" bachelor/bachelorette party, and those were the worst.
90% of the time it was a controlling bride who didn't want the groom out on his own with his boys.
When I was the office manager I really tried to discourage this, as it seldom ended well. There would almost always be fighting and drama.
We had a handful of ladies that we'd done 2 wedding buses for.
If your partner won't "let you" have a bachelor or bachelorette party but wants their own, that's an enormous red flag.
21. Everything is revealed through dance
I taught hundreds of couples their first wedding dance. I totally knew whose marriages would thrive and which couple's would crash and burn.
Couples who when learning together a new skill compliment each other when one of them achieved something that the other did not are going to make it in life.
Couples who would pass blame onto each other when challenged to aquire a new skill always put my divorce Spidey senses up.
Couples who loved to argue and bicker like it was a sport however are also going to make it together in life because some people just totally get off on it.
You can tell when you ask them mid-argument if everything is going OK, and they instantly smile, and usually say something like " ha! Oh yes, we are fine. Sorry, you would hate to be near us at a restaurant!"
Couples that are way too different from one another but it's so crystal clear that they love each other very much will make it until the kids leave then it'll just be them and then divorce.
Couples that don't look each other in the eye or have trouble with maintaining eye contact past 5 secs. I give them 5 years tops.
22. Spend more time together
Never a photographer, but used to DJ weddings. The bride acting like the center of attention, that's to be expected—cliché at this point.
However, when 90% of the reception is her NOT with him, but with her family and friends and his mom isn't even allowed to sit at the head table?
You can probably measure the time between that reception and divorce using a stopwatch.
23. Not caring about the photos
My friend photographed a wedding where the couple seemed like they didn't even want photos at all.
Which is weird, because that's usually one of the areas that couples spend the most money in, and in which they have the most requests.
They didn't have any preferred shots (family, friends, etc.), and when my friend would ask like, "oh, do you want one with your mom/the bridesmaids/etc.?" the bride would just be like, "yeah, ok..."
Apparently there was no outward excitement or happiness present in either the bride or the groom, but there was also no discernible reason for this.
The couple divorced I think about a year later, maybe less. My friend said it was the most awkward wedding photography experience she ever had.
24. Fear of the bride
The bride, whom I didn't even know, apparently designated me to help decorate the reception hall prior to the wedding.
I went to do so, and her mother was there, telling me in a hushed, scared whisper that I better not mess anything up because the bride would be FURIOUS.
I gave her the benefit of the doubt and during the reception I tried to chat with her a bit and she literally rolled her eyes at me. I also didn't see her look at the groom once at the wedding or the reception.
They were split less than a year later.
25. Public violence isn't a good sign
I do Audio/Visual for social events, a lot of weddings.
At one engagement party, my co-worker tells the story of the soon to be groom trying to carry off his soon to be bride.
Anyways, she is SCREAMING at him to put her down and when he finally complies she slaps him right across the face and yells "I'm not done dancing."