Where to Splurge vs. Save for the Best Wedding Photos | Wedding Planning Tips for Brides
Staying on budget is one of the hardest parts of wedding planning, especially when you want Pinterest-worthy photos to remember your day! As a photographer, it’s my job to make your wedding day look drop-dead gorgeous no matter what. But if you’re trying to decide where to put your money in order to get the best photo results, here are a few tips on where to SPLURGE vs. SAVE!
You might be thinking — well, duh! Okay, but seriously: do your research when it comes to photography. Do not skimp on this. It is the one thing that will live on after the wedding day — your photos will be passed down for generations. Make them count! I would expect to spend $3,500 - $12,000+ on your photographer alone.
This is debatably the biggest decision you will make throughout all of your wedding planning. Your venue sets the tone for your entire day. Splurging on a beautiful venue will help you save on other details — you won’t have to add anything to make it stunning!
Specifically, pay attention to the light. A venue with lots of natural light and windows photographs very well (especially if you are hiring a film photographer), whereas a dark, dimly lit space may have a moodier look and be difficult for film photographers to photograph.
If you are getting married midday, keep in mind that most photographers like to shoot with the sun behind the subject - or wait until golden hour (1-2 hours before sunset). If you are particular about a specific location being photographed (especially your ceremony location), pay attention to where the sun is in the sky when you are touring the venue. Share this information with your photographer before the wedding day (they will be so grateful!)
Also, keep an eye out for variety in portrait locations — make sure there’s somewhere with enough space to fit your full bridal party lined up for a photo (without any cars or pedestrians behind them.) Choice between an open field and a front porch? Even better!
I know it sounds kind of strange that a wedding planner will actually improve your photos, but it couldn’t be more true! There are a few reasons why:
As a wedding photographer, capturing beautiful images has so much to do with the flow of your day. A good planner will communicate with your photographer ahead of time and keep the day on track so that there is plenty of time to get the photos you want.
Good planners have worked with countless photographers and want their work to look good not only for you, but for their own portfolio — they know how to design a wedding that photographs well!
A professional planner understands the power of cohesion and tiny details. They will ensure that your wedding design reflects a consistent style, and therefore produce a beautiful and cohesive wedding album!
A good photographer/planner team is unstoppable. As a photographer, working with a good planner is so much fun. We get inspired by each other and bounce ideas off one another — at the end of the day, we end up more excited to serve you because we understand your wedding vision well!
Your bouquet is in almost every single wedding image throughout your day. You can save on other floral details if you have to, but your bridal bouquet needs to be a show-stopper!
I think this one’s a given. Make sure you love your gown! If you feel confident in your dress, you’ll photograph much more naturally and in the end, be happier with your photographs.
Hair + Makeup
Make sure you’re hiring a good hair/makeup artist for your wedding day. It’s a great idea to get a trial run the day of your engagement or bridal session, too — this is a great way to ensure your look photographs well! Again, a confident lady is a photogenic lady — so make this one count!
The quickest (yet sometimes most difficult) way to save money while still having your dream wedding is cutting the guest list. Sit down and really think through who needs to be there for your day to be complete. I love this helpful guide for deciding who to invite — but at the end of the day, it’s your wedding. It isn’t uncommon to spend $200-$2,000 per person — so cut that list!
Bridesmaids Bouquets / Corsages / Boutonnieres
As mentioned previously, you should not skimp on your bridal bouquet. But your other floral details — they can be simple and sweet, saving your budget big time.
Don’t skimp tooooo much on this one (make sure you do your research - you don’t want an awkward DJ killing the party vibes), but you do not need to ball out on a superstar band in order to throw a great reception. Speaking strictly photography, the only thing that matters is that people are out on the dance floor.
Just make sure to construct a good to play/not to play list — and get hype on the dance floor!
Floral centerpieces + linens
Basic white linens photograph beautifully. Simple, minimalist florals photograph beautifully.
If that isn’t your vibe, you can still get insanely high-end wedding receptions photos by using this one trick:
Pick your top tables!
Splurge on one or two tables (your sweetheart table, bridal party and/or family) — these will be the tables most heavily photographed. Then, keep the rest of the tables simple and sweet! Your guests will be more than happy as long as they have a hot plate of food and a good view of you and your new hubs!
Paper Goods / Signage
To answer your question — yes, I am a stationery designer. So yeah, it’s kind of ironic that I’m including this in the “save” list. But truthfully? As a photographer, it’s our job to make even the simplest of details look drop-dead gorgeous.
A great photographer can make a simple one page invitation suite look incredibly high-end with good styling and composition. (I actually bring a full styling kit to every wedding I photograph for this very purpose.)
As long as they’re well-designed, you can save a little on your paper goods. Try having a seating chart instead of escort cards, or skipping wedding programs. And do you really need that “choose a seat, not a side” sign?
I hesitate putting this on the list (because what’s a party without dang good grub) — but if we’re speaking strictly photography, food will not do anything to enhance your wedding photos. You could try doing a buffet instead of a plated meal, or my favorite wedding hack: buy a smaller-than-needed wedding cake, and have your caterer serve sheet cakes from the back!