Everyone knows that we loooove us some amazing professional wedding photography, but what about those of us whose ENTIRE wedding budgets are less than a photographer costs? Here's one bride's perspective.
When my husband and I started planning our wedding, there were few things that he insisted on, including “no strangers.” Every person present at our wedding should be a friend or family member we considered close enough to invite to our small, intimate wedding. I couldn't help but agree. I didn't want any strangers there either — not even just passing at a distance.
My husband and I are both introverts, both very private people. We have an independent streak a mile wide, and a strong DIY ethic. We saw no reason for our wedding to be any different. Thoughts of hiring caterers, servers, or musicians were considered and quickly dismissed. No strangers. We even briefly considered hiring people we knew, and dismissed the idea as well. If we wanted them at the wedding, then we wanted them as guests.
Everywhere on the internet I went, everyone echoed the same sentiment: “Hire a good photographer. If you don't, you'll regret it. Doesn't matter if you don't think you want it or can't afford it. Make whatever sacrifices necessary to make it happen.”
We could either have the wedding we wanted, or a low- to mid-range photographer with absolutely nothing else. Put that way, the decision was easy.
But the budget for our entire wedding was $1500. That was how much we could afford and felt comfortable spending, and we felt confident we could make everything we wanted in my wedding happen for that amount. We were both unwilling to put off the wedding to save up money, and both unwilling to go into debt for it.
In our area, an “average” wedding photographer charges about $1500. A “good” photographer, about $3000. A photography student from the university, about $800. So, we could either have the wedding we wanted, or a low to mid range photographer with absolutely nothing else. Put that way, the decision was easy.
I want to be very clear here: It's not that we lack appreciation for the art form of photography, or don't think there's any skill involved. It's just not something we chose to prioritize.
I thought about how weddings have been taking place for probably tens of thousands of years, and how photography has only been around for a couple of centuries. Even a couple of generations ago, it was not uncommon to have only a dozen pictures of a wedding, or maybe only one.
That was all I wanted! A dozen nice candid shots of my loved ones. One good picture of my new husband and I together. No group shots, no hundreds and hundreds of pictures to have to sort through, no picture editing to remove my less than flattering bulges or zits or any unfortunately-placed bystanders. Simple and honest and low-stress, like the rest of the wedding we wanted.
So, I said, “fuck it.” We would not hire a photographer. If we were to regret it, then so be it. At least we would be honest to our own values.
And you know what? I DON'T REGRET IT!
I made little cards for our photo sharing website and stuck them in a basket of M&Ms for guests to take. My sister-in-law took the majority of our pictures. Several other people also took pictures and shared them with us. We ended up with more than I expected, a few dozen all told. Lovely, honest, imperfect pictures that take me right back to the overwhelming joy and love I felt on my wedding day.
I wanted a wedding where I could truly be present in the moment. I got exactly what I wanted, and I don't regret a thing.
What difficult decisions have you made with your wedding budget? What were your deal-breakers that you couldn't live without? How did you pick what to prioritize?