Weddings are quite seasonal, and while things tick over through winter I thought about a little post about booking and planning your wedding. I've had to turn down 2 weddings for 2014 in the last week because they conflict with existing bookings, despite still having quite a few dates free for Spring, Summer and Autumn.
Once you've decided you want to get married and have a rought idea of when, the first considerations is usually the venue for your wedding. Venues come in all shapes and sizes and you may have to shuggle dates or venues to fit your plans. The size of your wedding party and the ambience you want to create also play a part in these considerations.
So what next? Dress? Guest lists? Caterers? Ice Sculpture? Firework display? Herds of wildebeests marching across the Serengetti?
There's so much to consider in planning a wedding, whether small or large and there is an awful lot to fit into a limited budget too. Some wedding magazines and sites give you a checklist to work through, to make sure you've considered most of what you need, but they don't necessarily prioritise this list, so here's my two penneth from a photographer's perspective.
Your first point should be to set yourself a maximum budget for the whole affair. This is an absolute maximum and you need to be strict with yourself about this. Then you set your ideal budget, which should be what you hope it will cost if you shop carefully and wisely. Some research might be needed here, to get an idea of what things cost. It can sometimes feel that adding "wedding" to your enquiry racks up the prices, but in truth very few suppliers pad their bills this way, it simply costs a lot to provide a specialist service.
So, your list might include:
Wedding Venues (Church/registry office and/or reception venue)
Decorations /chair covers etc.
Additional catering costs (open bar, wine on tables)
Now take the list you created and strip it down to the bare minimum of what would make your wedding be what you want it to be. Anything that fell of this list is not a priority for you, but a nice to have. So you need to be sure that you have the core elements organised, booked, budgeted for and ready to go for your big day. These should the things you focus on first and can be prioritised accordingly.
Once that is done, you can move on to the nice to haves, create a new order of priority and budget accordingly with your remaining budget, always ensuring that you do not start pushing the edge of your maximum budget.
Now, because you're reading this blog I'm going to make the rash assumption that at some point you will be considering a photographer as part of this process.
If the photographer is on your nice to have list, then this is an indication that you might not wish to go for the shiniest most in demand photographer in the market and can look lower down the price scale or strip out some of the bells and whistle offerrings that the photographer you choose has within their packages.
If the photographer is on your priority list, then you have to think that not only is he or she essential, but it is also worth the money to get a good one. The better the photographer often the higher the demand for their services and the sooner you need to think about trying to book them. Most bookings are taken within a 12-24 month window, though I do get a lot of wedding bookings in the 6-12 month window and a few with even shorter notice.
So you found 1 or 2 photographers you like the look of and they both have availability. You can then get down to negotiating. Many photographers will have packages, tiered to offer the basic album package, disk package or a big album and family album package. Some photographers will also have packages that will determine the number of hours they will cover for your wedding. While a big album is a great way to show your pictures of the big day, it may not be to everybody's tastes, so there might be room to switch out some elements of the package for others that are more tailored to your needs. You're more likely to succeed at this type of tailoring of the offer, rather than simply trying to get the photographer to lower their price. We photographers spend a long time considering how we price our services and our fixed overhead costs don't change just because you want coverage for your wedding for 2, 4 or 8 hours.It's therefore easier for us to swap out album A for prints B and C than it is just to knock off a few quid.
So you've met your photographers, got the best deal you can, you now have to make your decision. Sooner rather than later is my advice, as each day that goes past could mean that the photographer you chose has taken a booking from someone else.
But be sure! When you book your photographer there will usually be a booking fee paid and a contract signed. There's not much room for changing your mind, once you've signed on the dotted line and handed over your pennies.*
To sum it all up, book your priorities first and as soon as you can. Then prioritise and book your nice to haves if you can afford them. Just don't expect to get a great photographer if you left them until last and with only a small amount of your budget left.
* Worth mentioning here that if you order your photography in a face to face meeting at your home or elsewhere you still have some protection, much as you would if you'd been sold a conservatory by a door to door salesman, so you do have 10 working days in which you can cool off and still change your mind without penalty.