People ask me all the time, what the most important part of a wedding. The first answer is that the most important thing is slightly different for each couple. For some couples, it’s having the perfect band. For some, it’s a meaningful and personal ceremony. Some couples can’t stop thinking about a rockin' party!
They’re all right, and prioritizing is really important, so that your wedding is exactly what you want it to be.
But there is one thing that no matter what your budget, or priorities, you really need to make sure you devote time and budget to. And that thing is Photography.
A good photographer can take a wedding where everything is going wrong and turn it into a bonanza of amazing one of a kind photographs. She can take a cookie cutter inside the box wedding and make the photos look like it was a completely one of a kind event. A really great photographer can make the wedding seem like it sprang directly from the soul of the bride and groom.
You want the best quality you can get for your budget. That’s obvious. What is maybe not so obvious, is that it’s really important to devote a significant portion of your overall budget to photography, and actually, the smaller the wedding and budget, the larger the percentage should be! Photographers don’t charge by the person. Their packages are based on their talent and their time, so you could have 50 guests or 300 and they’re doing nearly the exact same job.
Photography will probably seem expensive, but realize that a person holding a camera does not a photographer make. I’ve heard so many times phrases like, “My cousin has this really nice camera and takes the best pictures of his kids!” This IS NOT the same thing as a wedding photographer. Even other kinds of photographers (commercial, for example) aren’t necessarily the right choice. There is an art to catching just the right moments.
There is another component to wedding photography that is incredibly important. You are going to spend at least eight hours on one of the biggest days of your life with this person. You absolutely have to like and feel comfortable with them. It’s even better if you like them. Take engagement photos. Meet with them at least once. Make sure being around them makes you smile. Trust me on this one, you can physically see it in the photos when photographer and subject aren’t clicking.
How, you may be thinking, am I supposed to find a person like this when I google wedding photography and find ten thousand names? Well, here is where I can help. Recommendations from friends are a great way to find someone you’re comfortable with. Also, if you like the people in the pictures, it can be easier to see if you like the style.
You can also talk to your other wedding professionals. If you have a planner, then of course, your planner is the first person to ask. Generally planners have relationships with all kinds of wedding professionals and certainly will know great photographers in your budget. If you don’t have a planner (which you should!) then ask your venue, or your caterer. We all end up working together on weddings and everyone knows someone.
There are also great online tools like The Knot. The knot will list tons of great photographers in your area and before you even click on their website, you’ll get a preview of where their prices are ($, $$, or $$$). It’s not finite numbers, but it’s something!
The point is, your wedding is one day. It’ll be over before you know it and the only thing left will will be fifteen vases (that you wish now you had rented because what the hell are you going to do with 15 matching vases), and your photos. Make sure they’re worth it.