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?

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

  1. When I got married to my late ex-husband in 1998, we had no budget for photography. We DIY’d almost the entire wedding with the help of his mom as my family decided they wanted nothing to do with it because of religious differences. Our biggest expense was the D.J. ($300) and as a surprise to us, he hired an amateur photographer to capture 50 film images for us. This man was probably in his late 40’s to early 50’s and well, we definitely got “amateur.” Every photo was photobombed by my husband’s 7 yr. old niece and the lighting was terrible. My ex-sister in law took some great images but she never made copies for us. It’s not important to me now as we ended up splitting after a decade, but if even a few photos are important, consider having a friend with a bit of photography knowledge and a creative side take some decent pics so that you’re not left with the “WAW Waaaaw” afterwards like we were.

  2. Can I just say that I think “couldn’t afford it, didn’t regret it” should be a new category on Offbeat Bride? Haha. Seriously though, for anyone on a shoestring budget, it’s really freeing and affirming to see other people talk frankly about the “expected” things that they simply couldn’t afford (or put another way, couldn’t afford to prioritize) but didn’t regret not having.

  3. I had a friend ask me to take a few pictures during their wedding because they had gotten a smaller package and the photographer told them they’d only get a limited number of photos. They saved those for the preplanned, posed, family shots and then I walked around and took candids after the photographer left (I’m not a good photographer, I just have a good camera and like taking pictures for fun). It worked out really well, and they were happy with the results.

    Plus I had fun making a “blooper reel” type photo calendar for them of all the weird shots I got (eyes closed, people mid-chew or sentence) and it made a funny Christmas gift for them.

  4. “That was all I wanted! A dozen nice candid shots of my loved ones. One good picture of my new husband and I together.”
    You took the words right out of my mouth. I was just the MOH in my best friend’s wedding and they hired a killer photographer. While hiring someone of her stature is ABSOLUTELY not in my budget, I thought about all of her wedding photos. And they’re gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, but there are hundreds to scroll through. And…what do you do with them now? She got married about two months ago and aside from showing them to a couple people, they’re just sitting there. They are having a book printed, but the other 200 photos are left to just wait, I guess.
    We just got engaged, and are just starting to throw out some ideas for the wedding. And we realized that we don’t WANT 300 photos of us. Like you said, I obviously want a couple, but I want them to be “real”. I want candid shots taken by family and friends, a shot of my new husband and I to print and frame, and call it a day.
    Reading this made me feel so much better and not alone. Thank you!

  5. I did not hire a photographer either. I HATE having my pic taken and the thought of posing for hours made me physically ill. The stylized dress/ring/”first look” shots that make every wedding look alike is in no way my idea of art. We took great pics with cell phones and point and shoots. I edited them in Photoshop. Many many people have asked me who did them (I edit photos and take product shots as part of my day job, so I have some skill.) I had more fun got away from the silly “must haves” and hacky photogs who charge an arm and a leg and and feel that nixing this from the budget was the best decision ever.

  6. YES! I have a friend who is a wedding photographer and I have heard her complain MANY TIMES when a bride or groom cut a session short and she didn’t get “her” shot! She is well regarded and always busy but it galls me that she thinks the day is about her. If someone hates getting a photo taken, or their shoes hurt, or they just want a glass of champagne already, or they don’t want the obligatory staged shot the photographer wants, they have every right to bow out. Personally, I have never once revisited the photos we have of our wedding, save the one we had framed. That one was taken by my sister who knows how to work an IPhone camera and its lovely.

  7. I’m very relieved and a bit refreshed to see an article like this. It seems like as soon as you say you’re getting married, no matter how discreetly, suddenly every company is trying to sell you something and charge a premium markup simply because you’re getting married. As much as I love photographs and looking at them and loving them, I hate being in them; I’m super self-conscious and generally hate everything about the way I look, even when I’m all made up. But boy I love having pictures of the people I’m with and the things they’re doing. My friends, every day, take pictures with their phones that were far nicer than the cheapest photographer I got a quote from, and the cheapest quote was still the same price as our wedding and reception venue. Eek! Pocket change to some, a fortune to us (especially when it’s hundreds to only do the 15 minute ceremony). So, we’ve got plan B. Much more comfortable, much more candid: openly encourage our friends and family to take as many photos and videos as they want, and we’ll all upload them to the same website where everyone can save, print, and order photos and photo albums. Professional photos would be nice, but they aren’t necessary for us to have for reminders of the day – we’ll have photos we all take, plenty of other keepsakes, and each other. <3

  8. My husband and I only wanted a few decent photos of us and our families to have on display at home so we considered just asking a guest to take some. However when we told people that they recoiled in horror. We ended up hiring a photographer which my mother paid for. As we weren’t doing any traditional things at the wedding we just ended up with a load of photos of my husband’s mates and unflattering “arty” pictures which will look comically dated in a few years instead and don’t even have one half decent one of us two together to frame in the living room. Imo it’s worth hiring a photographer if you want the whole day documented and “instagramable” however if you’re only after some basic family and couples pictures then you’d probably be better off seeing if a relative or friend with a decent camera would take some.

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