Wedding Budget Priorities – Why Photography should be at the top of your list
If you’re planning a wedding, congratulations! You have probably set a budget (if not, do!), and you are trying to decide how to slice the financial pie amongst all of the things on your list for “dream wedding day”. There is no doubt that weddings can be expensive, and every bride wants the day to be the stuff of her dreams. I want to help you use your wedding budget so that you can achieve that wedding of your dreams.
The number one question asked of professional wedding photographers is “how much do you charge?” This is an important question, and a surprising number of brides choose a photographer based only on price. But this is a choice based on only one value: dollars, and the purchase of an important and lifetime investment should be based on other factors – most importantly, quality and long-term meaning.
Let’s think about your photographs from a different perspective. Before choosing a photographer, or worse, choosing not to hire a photographer, think about your wedding day priorities. What do you consider to be the most meaningful components: the venue, the decorations, the food, the flowers, the guests, being surrounded by friends and family, the intimate moments, the promises made? Then think about which of these components you want to last beyond your wedding day. The venue is left behind, the decorations are temporary, the food is eaten, the flowers fade, the guests may be with you for a long time but over the years dear ones will move away, … pass away.
And the experience of the intimate moments will sometimes be tough to hold on to, especially over a lifetime when the “for worse” parts of your promises sometimes trespass a little too loudly on the “for better” parts. Set your priorities for spending on the most important components of the day. Those should be the day’s intimate moments, the sharing of the most important day of your life with the people you love most, and the promises.
How do you hold onto these intangible things? Professional photographs can certainly help.
There are all kinds of resources available to help you save money on the more fleeting parts of your wedding. Arranging flowers is a skill that most of us can master. We all have family members that are great with making decorations.
Some of us are lucky enough to have family members who can make unbelievable cakes. This doozy was made by my niece for a nephew.
And there are some incredible resources for finding less expensive wedding gowns. I found some great tips at Real Simple, The Knot, and Canadian Living, for example. None of these resources suggest that you save money by NOT hiring a professional photographer. In fact, several of them encourage brides to find ways to save on everything else, just so that you can afford to ensure that your dream day is captured with professional photos.
Check out Rock ‘n Roll Bride, a great U.K. based site on which I found perhaps my favourite quote about why professional photographs are important. There is a very poignant cautionary tale on the site from a real life bride, who talks about why she is sorry that she decided to forego a professional. She talks about how her photographs captured by guests and family do not inspire the memories she had hoped they would; that they only make her reflect on what a poor decision she made. She summed it up brilliantly in: “you can’t polish a turd.” That may sound a bit crass to some of you, but wedding days are fleeting, and bad photographs cannot be retaken when the day is over. A more genteel way of putting it: there are no silk purses made from sows’ ears.
One of my favourite wedding sites is Off Beat Bride. It’s a site for brides that are a little unconventional … my kind of bride. A recent post asks: “What do you wish you spent more money on?” The most popular answer: photography! A bride called “Lucy” commented:
“YES YOU WOULD BE COMPLETELY SAD LATER … we went cheap – completely cheaped out on photos – for the same reason – and so we ended up with mostly lousy shots and cellphone fuzzy pics …. thing is you think you can remember stuff, but you can’t and every time I look back at some of the pics I just feel so warm and happy remembering – and seeing some of the people who have now since passed on – it really is important – spend the money for a photographer – and have them get shots of every 150 of your guests and several of you and your spouse – and stupid things too like the greenery or the feet of your friends – anything interesting or unique about your wedding – and one day you will indeed be so HAPPY you spent that cashola on the photographer!!!”
Couldn’t have said it better myself, Lucy.
Even if you have made the decision to hire a professional photographer, you may be thinking you can save money if you find one that will come and just shoot hundreds of photos and then give you a CD or USB stick so you can print to your heart’s content at Walmart. I love Walmart when I need Rubbermaid or laundry soap, but if you invest in professional photography you will best preserve your investment if you include professional printing in your budget. Ask a professional photographer to show you the difference between a professionally printed photograph and the output from the D-I-Y machines at your local big box store and you will understand. But of most concern, those D-I-Y machines do not use archival paper and inks and your photos will not last. If you don’t buy prints from your photographer, at least use a professional lab for your prints. If you buy only a CD or a USB stick, you risk the failure or obsolescence of the technology. Know anyone still using 8-tracks or CD cassettes? How many USB sticks have you lost? Buy professional prints or albums. You will be thankful years from now.
This brings me to my most important thought. Years from now. The reason why photographs are so important is because they capture our history. They help us to savour and hold on to the memories of the milestones of life. I love to be a photographer because I love photographs. I love the photographs in my own collection that represent my own history, my back story. I love knowing that I can give my children their back story … and it’s a long one … I have the images to prove it.
At right is a photo of my parents taken on their wedding day.
It is 1939, in England at the beginning of WWII. If this print had been made at Walmart (think time machine) I wouldn’t have it.
The photo above is my mother’s bridal portrait.
My dad left the wedding dress on a bus soon after the wedding, so it certainly didn’t last, at least not for my mother. But the photo lasts and it reminds me of so many things, … of course that my mother was a beautiful woman, but also that she taught me to treasure simple elegance, like the silk jacquard in her dress; that her mother made the dress and passed on to my mother and then to me the ability to sew and to make anything I put my mind to – that necessity is the mother of invention. That a photo is not just an image.
I’m sure this post sounds very self-serving to some. Let’s get serious; of course I want you to hire me to photograph your wedding! But more than that, I want you to hire a professional photographer, and I want you to buy professional prints and albums. Just so you know my heart is in the right place, and if you look at my images and they don’t blow you away, get on out there and find the professional that’s right for you. Check out the work of these great Nova Scotia photographers, and make a good choice. Choose the stuff that lasts. Best of luck with the wedding plans!