Couldn’t afford it, don’t regret it: why I skipped wedding photography

Guest post by Branwyn

Everyone knows that we loooove us some amazing professional wedding photography, but what about those of us whose ENTIRE wedding budgets are less than a photographer costs? Here's one bride's perspective.

David & Cayla Wedding

When my husband and I started planning our wedding, there were few things that he insisted on, including “no strangers.” Every person present at our wedding should be a friend or family member we considered close enough to invite to our small, intimate wedding. I couldn't help but agree. I didn't want any strangers there either — not even just passing at a distance.

My husband and I are both introverts, both very private people. We have an independent streak a mile wide, and a strong DIY ethic. We saw no reason for our wedding to be any different. Thoughts of hiring caterers, servers, or musicians were considered and quickly dismissed. No strangers. We even briefly considered hiring people we knew, and dismissed the idea as well. If we wanted them at the wedding, then we wanted them as guests.

Everywhere on the internet I went, everyone echoed the same sentiment: “Hire a good photographer. If you don't, you'll regret it. Doesn't matter if you don't think you want it or can't afford it. Make whatever sacrifices necessary to make it happen.”

We could either have the wedding we wanted, or a low- to mid-range photographer with absolutely nothing else. Put that way, the decision was easy.

But the budget for our entire wedding was $1500. That was how much we could afford and felt comfortable spending, and we felt confident we could make everything we wanted in my wedding happen for that amount. We were both unwilling to put off the wedding to save up money, and both unwilling to go into debt for it.

In our area, an “average” wedding photographer charges about $1500. A “good” photographer, about $3000. A photography student from the university, about $800. So, we could either have the wedding we wanted, or a low to mid range photographer with absolutely nothing else. Put that way, the decision was easy.

I want to be very clear here: It's not that we lack appreciation for the art form of photography, or don't think there's any skill involved. It's just not something we chose to prioritize.

I thought about how weddings have been taking place for probably tens of thousands of years, and how photography has only been around for a couple of centuries. Even a couple of generations ago, it was not uncommon to have only a dozen pictures of a wedding, or maybe only one.

That was all I wanted! A dozen nice candid shots of my loved ones. One good picture of my new husband and I together. No group shots, no hundreds and hundreds of pictures to have to sort through, no picture editing to remove my less than flattering bulges or zits or any unfortunately-placed bystanders. Simple and honest and low-stress, like the rest of the wedding we wanted.

So, I said, “fuck it.” We would not hire a photographer. If we were to regret it, then so be it. At least we would be honest to our own values.

And you know what? I DON'T REGRET IT!

I made little cards for our photo sharing website and stuck them in a basket of M&Ms for guests to take. My sister-in-law took the majority of our pictures. Several other people also took pictures and shared them with us. We ended up with more than I expected, a few dozen all told. Lovely, honest, imperfect pictures that take me right back to the overwhelming joy and love I felt on my wedding day.

I wanted a wedding where I could truly be present in the moment. I got exactly what I wanted, and I don't regret a thing.

What difficult decisions have you made with your wedding budget? What were your deal-breakers that you couldn't live without? How did you pick what to prioritize?

Comments on Couldn’t afford it, don’t regret it: why I skipped wedding photography

  1. I love this post! Great photography was our top priority but I scrapped almost all decor, since we were getting married in my mother’s garden which is full of flowers and already lovely. when you’re working with a tight budget you gotta make tough decisions!!! I made a different decision than you did but it still felt hard.

    • This is me! My main priority was to get a beautiful venue that would have amazing decor alread so very little was needed. Might do at least center pieces (and obviously table numbers are need), but other than that, the place speaks for itself and needs no sprucing up!

      Admittedly, it isn’t just about money…it’s about effort. ^__^

      • I feel the very same. I can’t stand “special day” ” bride” BS to the point that we are having a 2 minute ceremony with 0 guests. No aisle, white dress, flowers or anything typical. At first we thought we should get a witness/photographer but then realized we wouldn’t want photos taken during the actual ceremony-it would ruin the intimacy of it. We also don’t want corny posed photos or more than 20 shots. Overall it would be dumb to hire someone for that.

  2. While I can’t even begin to fathom not having stellar photography at my wedding (I would seriously DIY the whole thing if it meant our budget could go to pictures!) I think the main point here is that you put money into what is important to you and your fiance – which I totally love.

    The best way to make your wedding completely person is to play to your passions. If you are nuts about linens, go crazy on the linens! If your dress doesn’t matter that much, but the cake does, find a kickass bakery and go thrift or retail shopping for your outfit.

    If you follow your heart and let go of societal norms, you and your guests will enjoy a wedding that is 100% reflective of you as a couple. No regrets!

  3. Kudos to this bride for knowing herself and her budget and her priorities. As a photographer, I think it’s important for couples to understand their budgets and make choices that work for them. As much as I wish I could offer my services for $400 sometimes, it’s just not feasible for me…… and I respect that my prices aren’t going to work for all couples!

    I’d remind other photographers that couples who can’t afford you, aren’t your target market. There’s no shame in that, nor is there a reason to be offended by it. Do you want a client who asks you to devalue your work or asks you to sell yourself short? No, so just respect that couples who aren’t interested in wedding photography, aren’t lost clients.

  4. I so appreciate this view being represented here. I had a friend make a very derogatory comment about the low-cost photographer we hired for our wedding, and it just didn’t seem like they could grasp that the cost of one of the amazing photographers you see here costs more than what we spent on food for our wedding. I love ooh-ing and ahh-ing over other people’s photos, but couldn’t justify that cost against providing things that actually made the lived experience of our wedding memorable, comfortable, and what we wanted it to be on the day of. Not to mention that neither of us love having our photo taken! We’ll take our basic shots and feel just fine about it. 🙂

    • perhaps you chose a budget package from a very good photographer, but if the derogatory commenter was so unhappy about your choice, did said friend offer to help you find a better photographer and help you pay for that service? I think that would only be fair.

    • I’m so sorry someone made you feel that way.
      As a wedding photographer I try to make sure I have a package that fits a ‘budget’ bride while still paying me what I feel my work is worth, but I have to understand not everyone can or wants to put that kind of money toward photos.

      That being said, anyone who badmouths the quality of photographer you hired is extremely rude. If this person is in the industry, they should be ashamed of themselves. You have to respect the choices of the couple or keep your mouth shut. This is not the milestone where others get to be Judgy McJudgerson.

  5. Thank you so much for this. Ultimately, my fiance and I are hiring a photographer, but she’s a university student and it’s going to end up costing us about 1/5 of what we were going to have to pay. Our wedding budget is slightly larger than yours, but not by much, and like you, the prices I’ve seen in this area range from about $1500 to some at over $4000. Photography isn’t a huge priority for us, but we wanted one person dedicated to taking pictures just to be sure we had some. They can be candid or staged, just as long as we have a few. I’m so glad to see that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.

  6. If not for the fact that my best friends are photographers and willing to do it for us as a wedding gift, we too would have to scrap the wedding photos in order to afford the wedding. Luckily, my friends will be doing the photos. So not only will I get great shots, but they will be special to us because she knows what is important to us, what memories we would want to treasure forever, and she is very creative. I so respect that you prioritized on this.

    • Yeah, I’m with you. 10 years after my wedding my biggest regret is not prioritizing wedding photography… but for some couples, photography just isn’t in the budget OR something they’re that interested in. So even though I don’t share Branwyn’s experience or opinion, it felt important to represent her perspective here.

  7. Props to you for doing what you want with your wedding & SUPER congrats!

    BUT something about your post made me a little sad, particularly with idea that you wanted your wedding photos to be ‘honest’. As a wedding photographer, my goal is to accurately portray weddings for what they are. The ugly cries. The back fat bulges. That time your aunt make a really drunk speech that she won’t remember in the morning. My work IS simple, honest, real. Of course, not every photographer operates in that way, but wedding photography, in itself, is NOT dishonest. Wedding photography can be simple, honest, and it doesn’t have to interrupt your day. You can be present for your wedding & also have professional wedding photography. We aren’t all divas.

    Maybe you had some bad experiences in the past, but I couldn’t help but share my perspective.

    • That stuck out for me, too. “Simple and honest and low-stress” and “having a wedding photographer” are not mutually exclusive concepts! There are tons of great wedding photographers out there, who really care about their clients and about making meaningful pictures. I’m sorry that some people have a hard time finding them. 🙁

      For me, I can’t really relate to this since I AM a wedding photographer, and the wedding photographer we’ve hired for our wedding accounts for by far the biggest piece of the budget pie. Those are my priorities and I regret nothing; I am glad the OP stuck to her guns and made a decision based on her priorities, and that she has no regrets.

    • OP here. Thanks for your perspective. I’m glad to hear you provide simple, honest, real photography to your clients. Even with a pretty good idea that we weren’t going to hire a photographer, just trying to do some research and find local photographers and figure out how much they charge and what they provide I found to be anything but simple and low-stress, but I also recognize that I may have a bit of an unusual perspective. For instance, I found the idea of staying up until 1am the night before my wedding cutting steaks and steaming artichokes to be far less stressful (and, in my mind, simpler) than the idea of hiring a caterer.

      As to the “honest” part, it was not my intention to imply that professional photography isn’t or can’t be honest. From what I could gather on their websites, the local professionals around here offer photo editing and touch ups, which isn’t something that appeals to me personally (I wouldn’t even call it dishonest, but it seems less appealing to me). I’ve even spoken to some people who talked about asking for unedited, un-touched pictures from their wedding photographers and being told no. This might just be a small minority of professionals that do that, but it was something that I didn’t even have to worry about.

      • By photo editing, especially for wedding photographers, that doesn’t mean extensive photoshop, its usually a clean process (contrast, exposure, white balance, cropping ) A photographer will never give you an unedited file because its not processed (these are things that the lab used to do in the day of film) So you are essentially asking a photographer for their film, Just wanted to clarify. Some photographers do more extensive editing but thats usually more apparent in their portfolios and upon consultations 😉

  8. I couldn’t have said it better. We shopped for a photographer in the beginning of the planning process but it just got overwhelming. I actually do portrait photography on the side and it just didn’t seem fair to have someone else do my wedding photos when I have always done my own photos. Lol. So I have set up a time and place to take our wedding photos of just our wedding party, then all other photos will be candid, all natural.

    • “So I have set up a time and place to take our wedding photos of just our wedding party, then all other photos will be candid, all natural.”

      I was thinking that! Seems like a good compromise between no pro photos and an all day photographer.

  9. We were the same way. We couldn’t even think about getting a photographer because their prices were more than our entire budget.
    We lucked out because a high school friend of my husband, who is an amateur photographer, offered his services as his wedding gift to us. He was just close enough of a friend to include him in our celebration but not too close that we would feel bad about him taking pictures instead of enjoying himself. The pictures were jut fine and I don’t regret not shelling out hundreds for some pictures that only I will care about in a few years.

Read more comments

Comments are closed.