Are You Feeling Lucky?

Are You Feeling Lucky?

Recently Good Morning America aired a couple of segments about how to save money when planning your wedding. One of their correspondents, Ginger Zee, is a bride-to-be and admits that she is not really "that girl" who cares that much about planning her wedding. Her "style guru" and Wedding Planner, a well-dressed chap named Francesco, offers some tips for Ginger and viewers on weddings on a budget.

Some of his advice is okay; and some is, quite frankly, just plain terrible. Particularly, his advice is to spend "as little as possible" on photography and just find a student who needs portfolio shots, or just have your guests send you all their iPhone shots after the ceremony and make an album. One comment on the article likened this approach to "playing Russian roulette with a six shooter, 5 of the chambers are loaded and you're hoping you get the one that's empty." Yikes. Are you Feeling Lucky? Now, sure, I'm going to be a little biased as a photographer. And sure, I've been that student, many years ago, who photographed some weddings on the cheap for portfolio shots. I don't think any of them were too disastrous! I mean, everyone has to start somewhere! Right? There is certainly the possibility that hiring an unseasoned photographer will work out just fine.

My problem with Francesco's advice is that in no other area does he advise forgoing a professional for an amateur. He doesn't suggest having a friend make and decorate your cake, having Aunt Gertrude make some flower arrangements for you, or asking a design student to whip up your wedding gown for you. He offers tips to cut your costs with your venue by not choosing expensive upgrades or add-ons, to trim your bakery budget by using sheet cakes instead of a large decorated cake, and to rein in your costly floral arrangements by using large flowers and/or bulk flowers for bouquets and then placing them in vases to make reception decor.  These are all smart suggestions, but none of them are remotely close to saying "don't use a professional." Which is exactly what he advises in regards to your photography, and this is a mistake. You CAN hire a professional photographer within your budget, and you SHOULD hire a professional for any service on your wedding day you think is important.

First let me say that each wedding and couple are different and will have different priorities. If bride and groom are a baker and a chef, obviously food will be at the top of their list! If you've had most of your friends and family travel in from out of town, you may want to serve a full course meal to thank everyone for making such an effort to be a part of your special day. If you love fashion, you may have dreamed of wearing a certain designer's bridal gown your whole life, and you're willing to sacrifice any other elements of your dream wedding as long as you get to wear the princess dress. Go for your dreams! It's your day.

Weddings can be expensive, and almost all brides and grooms will have to make tough decisions about what is most important. Wedding photography is usually about 15-20% of a couples' budget. At the end of your wedding day, you'll have your memories and your pictures (and possibly video). Professional equipment, skill, and experience are worth the cost, if you want to have any photos that you are proud to hang on your wall later. If photography isn't important to you, that's fine. I get it. Then you won't be disappointed if your photos are blurry, dark, or oddly cropped; if your photographer doesn't know how to pose you in a flattering way; and you don't end up with any pictures with your parents or your favorite Aunt from Europe who flew in especially to help you celebrate your big day. NO BIGGIE. Right? Right? Hey, I don't want to sound harsh-but I just can't tell you how many times I've had people tell me, "Oh, you should have photographed my friend's wedding, her pictures were terrible." Or, "Oh, I wish I'd budgeted for a real photographer-there are no good wedding pictures of us to display in our home." I even had a client who booked me for a family session tell me about how she had pictures re-done after her wedding so she could have at least one image of her in a wedding dress she felt proud to hang on her wall.

So if you've spent months, years, or maybe a lifetime dreaming of the details of your wedding day- as well as many dollars on a dress, venue, cake, flowers, music, and food, my guess is that you'd like good quality photographs of your day that reflect the time and effort you put into planning this important event, and of all the family and friends that came to help you celebrate. Therefore, if you can afford it, hire a professional photographer. Hire the photographer you like the best within your price range. There are professionals at almost every price point, and this goes for just about everything on your budget list! In fact, I'd like to offer you my own advice for budget conscious brides. Each brides budget is personal, but here's how I think you can get the most out of your budget, big or small.

1. Choose your splurge FIRST. Decide what elements of the event are most important to you, whether it's photography, the cake, the music, the venue, your dress...determine the cost of those first, and then you know you have to fit everything else into the remainder of your budget-the areas you MUST limit your costs. No, it's not going to be easy! 

2. Decide what is LEAST important to you, and spend as little as possible in those areas. Aspects of your day that you don't mind if they aren't perfect, or super-fancy. This is where Pinterest and DIY can come in handy! Maybe you can find a great dress on Ebay and have it altered. Don't care about having a big display cake? Have sheet cakes made to serve your guests, and just have a small cake decorated for the ceremonial cake cutting. Find ways to do "double duty." This was the one tip of Francesco's that I really agree with! Could you use your bouquet as a cake topper? Can some of the decor that decorates your wedding venue also be transferred and set up as decor at the reception? If you choose a really lovely, scenic venue like a park, you may be able to save on decor quite a bit and just enjoy the beauty of your surroundings. Do you need heels for the ceremony, but flats for the reception? Maybe just choose the one pair of comfortable shoes and call it a day? ;) Can you borrow anything from friends or family to save money on decor or wardrobe? TIP: Be prepared in case results are not perfect or it doesn't turn out as you imagined, make sure you do this is ONLY in areas you won't be disappointed!

3. For the things that fall in the middle of your list-neither the most important, neither the least important, this is where you will really want to shop around. I do believe there are professionals at almost every price point, so if you don't feel comfortable DIY-ing floral arrangements, and you're open to suggestions, meet with a few recommended floral designers, be clear about your budget and needs, and ask what they can offer you within that budget. Same with photographers, videographers, caterers, etc. There are often a variety of packages to choose from. You may not get your dream dinner menu or favorite flowers, but you'll have something nice within your budget. 

4. One of Francesco's tips was NOT to use vendors from the preferred "list." While I agree that you don't need to feel bullied or forced to use a particular vendor, you may actually get a discount for using a vendor's preferred partner, so be sure to cost-compare FIRST before you book a vendor-on or off the list. here at F/Stop Blues we definitely offer discounts for customers who book us by working with our preferred venues or wedding coordinators, so sometimes it benefits you to use that list!

5. Favors-are they really necessary? Most people really don't need extra trinkets to clutter up their homes (sorry) and they can be a big expense. Even if you DIY, you could probably use the time spent making favor boxes on something else! If you really want to give guests something to take home from your big day, consider a Photo Booth! Not only does this give your guests a fun activity to do during your reception, but it also gives both of you a lasting memory from your big day. Adding a photo booth on to your wedding package with F/Stop Blues is pretty inexpensive, and we can even watermark your photos with your name and wedding date! Useful "wedding favors" for the win!