Do not hire your relief society president as your wedding photographer.
Ok, that advice might seem a bit harsh... Here's what I mean:
Around the world, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are known for their friendliness, community, and thriftiness (among other positive traits). It is not uncommon for ward members to share vegetables with each other throughout the fall and cups of sugar when their friend or neighbor needs one for their next batch of home-baked cookies.
Members of The Church donate time, money, and energy to those in need.
To anyone familiar with this community there is no doubt about its generosity.
The Church Wedding
The values Church members share don't stop at the DI donation bin, but carry into every aspect of their lives. Weddings are no exception.
A typical Latter-Day Saint's wedding day is very community-oriented. That means everyone is invited, loads of help is donated, and plenty of money can be saved. I'll use my wedding as an example:
My husband and I were married in the Bountiful, Utah temple in June of 2018. Getting married in a temple means a no-cost wedding ceremony. Our reception was held outside a local church building that we reserved. Fresh donuts were fried and served by family friends alongside milk. The cake was ordered from the grocery store my dad manages. My mom found a great deal on some artificial flowers that we used for decoration and my bouquet. Entertainment was covered by my husband's brother, an aux cord, and one big speaker.
Even with finding ways to save money like we did, we managed to get everything to look like we wanted and were able to spend more of our budget on things we prioritized. Photography was an area we felt was important and here's why you should as well:
Photography is an Investment
Most of what happens on your wedding day will not affect you beyond that day (besides the marriage itself of course!). You won't have the taste of your hors d'oeuvres in your mouth forever, you won't take the lighting home with you or most of the decorations and many of the beats your DJ plays will go in one ear and out the other.
Photography is different.
Your wedding photography will likely be printed and hung on the walls of your home after your wedding. Even after you replace wedding photos with family photos in the years to come you will save, cherish, and look back on them often. Of all of the expenses to trim on your wedding day, photography should be low on your list.
What's the Difference?
What is the difference between paying a professional photographer and taking your church friend's offer to do them for free?
Well, it depends on your photographer and on your church friend. Some relief society presidents will do a phenomenal job and some professional photographers might not capture the images you'd want. Generally though, you get what you pay for.
Here are some of the pros of hiring a pro:
- Experience: A professional photographer has some level of experience with photography. It isn't guesswork for them. Exposure settings, lighting, etc. will be taken care of and adjusted as needed.
- Crowd control: If you're expecting a large wedding party or guest list you'll want someone who knows how to organize large groups of people into photographable positions. Again, most photographers have at least some experience doing this and can manage the crowd.
- Equipment: Professional photographers have invested in various lenses, camera bodies, lighting, SD cards and backups, and more. A relief society hobbyist likely has not put in the money needed to adapt to every situation that a wedding presents. Your basic DSLR kit will not be enough to expertly capture each moment at the wedding.
- Minimal Risks: There is always a chance something can go wrong with your wedding photography. Equipment can malfunction, lighting can be harsh, weather is unpredictable. Professionals plan for these types of things. We usually alternate cameras, use multiple SD cards, and have umbrellas and other equipment on hand. Hiring a professional minimizes the risk of lost or distorted images on your special day.
I think most couples agree that photography should be a priority in their wedding, but what about those that don't have a big budget?
While many of the big names in photography hide their prices and require you to inquire first, others offer transparent wedding packages and unique options. In Utah, there are many wedding photographers who are early in their career, but who still take amazing photos. There are also many experienced professional photographers that offer affordable prices!
If you've already done your research and you're still having trouble finding a photographer in your range, here's what I'd suggest:
- Ask about a la carte: Many photographers don't show this on their website, but will still offer a la carte options to couples that just need a few hours of wedding photography.
- Prioritize special events: Maybe pictures outside of the temple or at the reception aren't as important to you and you'd rather have a photographer shoot a formals session and first look. Prioritize the events that matter most to you and trim your budget for events lower on your list.
To wrap up, many aspects of the thrifty church wedding are helpful and benefit brides and grooms all over the world. Couples that can prioritize photography in their planning, should. Hopefully, I've given a few useful tips to use to find professional wedding photography options for any budget.