Planning our wedding has been intense, fun, and quite a learning lesson. The experience gave me a much different perspective on what new clients see while searching for photographers and other professionals who make their wedding day special.
The First Impression
At the beginning of our planning process we met with the general manager of the venue where we wanted to host our wedding. We looked through their display albums out of curiosity and for decor ideas. There was strong work by local photographers, but surprisingly none of the albums had contact information for the photographers printed inside! The albums had the photographer’s name, but no phone number, email address or website.
The ‘A List’ and the ‘Black List’
After settling on the venue, we asked the general manager for recommendations for bands and florists. She presented us with an extensive list of people she had a positive experience working with. It was golden! Because we highly valued her opinion and our venue’s expertise, we contacted many of the vendors on her list to inquire about our special day. My fiancé and I are also new to the city we’re getting married in, so having a list of preferred vendors was extremely important to us.
When inquiring about certain bands that were not on the list she would simply reply “no comment,” which we found out later meant she had a bad experience with them. Most of the complaints were about the particular vendor putting their interests before the client’s interests. They could have been very talented and capable but they were now on the “black list”.
Price vs. Value
When considering venues and services, we usually checked out at least three options at various price points and found that cheaper wasn’t necessarily better. We wanted affordable exclusivity and the cheaper options felt less special. We definitely learned to do research, decide how much to allocate to certain services and be willing to spend extra time in certain places to gain affordable exclusivity.
Simple and Inclusive Pricing
The first venue we looked at was at the top end of our budget. When we priced it out per person we thought we could afford it, but we soon realized that it didn’t include tax 10% and a 23% gratuity. That was a third of the total cost left out!
The pricing plan for the venue we ultimately chose was very simple and all-inclusive. They offered three options, each offering a bit more. Then, adding an extra hour to the reception was simple and affordable. We went with the middle package of the three. Jared Bauman would be proud!
Searching for Ideas
My fiancé, Sara, has looked through countless wedding photo galleries and blogs to get ideas for flowers and wedding decor. Occasionally she would ask for my opinion by showing me blogs. There were a few shots that caught my attention but sadly very few images showed the unique moments from the weddings and many lacked any sort of branding.
I posed a question to her, “Would you hire a photographer based on shots of flowers and table settings?” To paraphrase her response, she said that these images rarely moved her beyond a “that looks pretty” comment about flower colors and centerpiece arrangements. What she did notice were the silly shots of bouquets posed in an old oven!
Who’s Going to Shoot my Wedding?
This has been the number one question others have asked me since Sara and I got engaged. My closest photographer friends and a few really talented photographers in the wedding business have volunteered their services. Some have suggested I should set up remotes and shoot it myself!
Rather than accepting their gracious offers, we decided to hire a photographer whom we trust and respect for several reasons. First, our goal is to make our wedding a celebration of the people we love and we want our closest friends to celebrate with us rather than shoot! Having someone volunteer to shoot is gracious, but we feel like it fundamentally changes the client/photographer relationship. I also want to support a photographer whose vision I admire and thus pay for him for his services just as any other couple would. After all, we are relying on him to tell the story of our wedding and put together a collection of images we will cherish forever!
About Paul Morse
Paul’s skill and style have earned the trust of the President and world leaders as a White House documentary photographer. The consummate visual story teller, Paul’s ability to capture emotions with power and beauty propelled him to become the wedding photographer of choice in Washington DC and across the US.