Wednesday, March 07, 2012

A Picture's Worth a Thousand... Dollars?

Photo Credit

Wedding planning is coming along slowly and not-so-surely. We've got the dress, the venue, and the officiant (more on that later!). The thing that is causing us the most stress right now, however, is the photographer. (And by "us" I mean "me." Nathan doesn't even want a photographer because he doesn't think he looks good in photos. Which, I told him, is all the more reason to get a good photographer!)

In case you didn't know (because I sure didn't) wedding photographers are expensive. Really, really expensive. I understand why - the photographers are talented and often trained professionals. They have fancy equipment. They often travel for shoots. They spend the whole day with you and then countless days after, sorting through and editing your photos. I get it. I appreciate it. I admire it. But that doesn't mean I can afford it.

My sister and Maid of Honor, Susan, is a photographer and a photo editor at a magazine, and she volunteered to help me find a photographer who does awesome work and is within our budget. This is proving to be much harder than I anticipated. I feel like I've looked at dozens of portfolios, fallen in love with more than one, and then broken my own heart with the sad truth, which is becoming more of a refrain these days: "We just can't afford it."

On the one hand, I wish we had a million dollars and could throw the exact wedding we want, with all the bells and whistles my Pinterest board desires. Local, organic food. A team of exquisite photographers. A hip band and a laid back DJ. A quaint castle in which to not only marry and party, but also provide free rooms for all our out of town guests.

But we don't have a million dollars. We have a few thousand and we're making due, which is more our speed anyway. We're creative, we're thrifty, and I'm trying to look at this as a fun challenge, a way to walk the talk as far as living a simple and sustainable life goes. I also keep reminding myself that it's not the wedding that matters, it's the marriage. That no one will remember the details of the big day, only how it made us feel - happy, in love, surrounded by friends and family, and looking lovely in some fancy clothes.

That said, the one thing I do want is nice photos. I want to have those moments - imperfect as they may be - captured and done justice, so that in the years to come, I can look back on them, remember, and smile. I only plan to get married once, so the pressure to get the photos just right is even greater. And yet the budget remains so small. I've been obsessing over this for the last two weeks, and have gotten some great advice and ideas from people. There are two main roads we can go down:
  • Having a few friends to take the photos for free. PRO: I like my friends, they like me, and I would be comfortable with them sticking a camera in my face. Also, free is the best price there is. CON: My friends aren't professionals and while they mean well and are being generous with their time, I don't know if giving them such an important job is worth the risk. Also, I kind of want my friends to be free to party with us, and don't like the idea of them "working" my wedding, even if they offered.
  • To hell with the budget, and splurging on a professional with a great portfolio. PROS: Our photos will be awesome, and I won't spend the wedding worrying if they're doing it correctly. Peace of mind is important. Also, so many people have said photos are something worth splurging on. We're cutting a lot of corners so we might be able to make it work. CONS: The photographer I like best is literally one half of the budget we arbitrary decided upon. More than the dress and the venue, combined! That just seems so excessive (for us, that is - all costs are relative, of course). 
What I really want is a professional photographer who will do our wedding for free. Since that is highly unlikely, I'm toying with this compromise:
  •  The best of both worlds? Hire a professional for only half the day (that is, four hours). Allow the professional to photograph the early part of the day - the getting ready shots, the ceremony, the decor, the portraits, the early part of the reception/dinner. Then rely on friends and family to take photos during the dance party, when everyone is going to be tipsy and having fun anyway. Honestly, we don't need four hours of professional photos of our guests dancing like fools. Amateur photos should suffice in that department. One great idea a friend on Facebook suggested is to include stamped, self-addressed envelopes containing blank CD's with the wedding favors, or just in a basket by the door. Guests could take one home, burn us any photos they took at the wedding, and then mail it back to us, ensuring we get a large collection of personal photos from the people we like best. I love this idea, and think it would be a great way to capture what matters - the energy and emotion of our wedding day, and the love and joy that I fully expect to be present. 
So now I turn to you, dear Readers. Do you have any advice, opinions, ideas, suggestions, or stories from your own weddings? Y'all have been amazingly helpful with this wedding planning business so far, and I always look forward to comments on these posts in particular. Thank you in advance!