THE UNSPOKEN TRUTH
There are a lot of blogs out there addressing this exact issue, and while many say the same thing few address the real issue. We've all seen the Facebook posts and craigslist adds asking for "A good cheap photographer". Then we see the follow up post of "Why is getting married so expensive???". That is the root of the problem. We can read through this post and discuss cost breakdowns, expenses, and HOW it is so expensive but we are failing to answer the WHY. The truth is getting married isn't expensive. In Benton County for instance, you can get married for less than $300 with marriage license fees and officiant costs. It's very easy and VERY cheap to get married. Now to orchestrate a wedding - THAT is expensive. Finding a venue, gathering guests, catering, dresses, photographer, videographer, DJ, these are all items that are not a necessity - it's a luxury.
I'm going to try and keep this section short, because in all honesty you can find out the exact same information on just about every photographer or videographers blog and I'm certain that we can spend our time better by addressing other options. So expenses. HOW is it so expensive? When we look at a photographer or videographer, we only see on thing. They are there for one day taking pictures or shooting video, how hard is that? Anyone can press a button and shoot video, right? Not quite.
I've trained over 700 students now and I always tell them the exact same thing - "You are a camera operator, not a camera recorder. You shape the moments, you tell a story, you create emotion. Anyone can press a button and record, it takes skill and talent to operate and move people." Also - let's not forget the dreaded "wedding hangover". This is a term that I like to take credit for coining, but honestly I'm sure someone else has said it along the way. On a typical wedding we shoot a minimum of 14 hours. That's 14 hours of carrying tripods, operating gimbals, setting up cameras, moving cameras, setting them up again, walking up hill with equipment, climbing stairs - it's exhausting. The next day you wake up and it feels like a literal hangover. You body is dead, your head hurts, you can't see straight, and all you want to do is lay in bed all day. Aside from those two factors - let's just take a look at some of the factors.
On average, let's say someone charges $2000 for a wedding. I've seen professionals charge anywhere from $750 - $5000 but let's just take $2000 for an average. Right off the top we need to take 30% for taxes.
- Taxes (30%) - $600
- NEW TOTAL - $1400
Next, let's look at crew cost. For my crew depending on how long they have been with me I pay them anywhere. from $200 - $450. Most professionals do roughly $500 for their assistant. Remember they are paying taxes on that as well. So after taxes an assistant is making roughly $22 an hour.
- Crew - $450
- NEW TOTAL - $950
Liability insurance - very important to have some type of coverage should something go wrong. Typically you are looking at $50 a month for coverage, nothing extreme. Let's say on average you do 4 weddings a month, we can divide that per wedding and it will be roughly $12. Equipment insurance is CRUCIAL. You need to be able to continue working at all times. If you drop your equipment, or someone spills a drink on it, it is TERRIFYING - that's your livelihood. Depending on how much equipment you have and your policy is an obvious factor for the expense. I can tell you I spend roughly $70 a month on a policy, again divided by 4 weddings, comes out to roughly $17. So for our purposes we will say insurance costs around $30.
- Insurance - $30
- NEW TOTAL - $920
Meals. Believe it or not, vendors still eat. On a 14 hour day, I pay for lunch for my crew. It is VITAL they get a break and can step away from the stress of the day. Lunch for crew, you can expect around $30.
- Meals - $30
- NEW TOTAL - $890
Fuel. Many of the weddings vendors do not specifically shoot in the city they live in. Hauling a massive amount of equipment and crew is costly. At a minimum, $75 for fuel.
- Fuel - $75
-NEW TOTAL - $815
$815. This is probably a high take home estimate for most as they probably have many more expenses. Most bride and grooms are only going to see this total and nothing else. However, what they are not taking into account is the fact that yes we only shoot 14 hours, but then we go home and edit for another 40 hours. So for 54 hours you can estimate your pay to be around $15 an hour. Also keep in mind, vendors have families, that have mortgages, health insurance, car payments, daycare etc. In Arkansas, the average household income is about $44,000. Doing 4 weddings a month for 12 months (which will never happen between September - February you may book anywhere from 0-2 weddings a month), you are scheduled to make $39,000 which still comes in under the average income. It's a luxury, it is expensive, but vendors are real people trying to provide just like everyone else.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Holding a wedding is no doubt expensive. I've personally been there and vividly remember spending close to $22,000 when it was all said and done. So what can you do? There are plenty of vendors out there that offer incredible deals. For instance, there are photography/videography teams out there that when booking both offer a discounted rate. There are venues that provide catering for you should you book their venue. Alda's Magnolia Hill is a prime example. One of our favorite venues, she provides her world famous Peach Teach and then the reception dinner is incredible. Choosing hours is another option. Some vendors allow you to book a time slot (4 hours, 8 hours etc). If you are not crazy about your photographer being there all day, why pay all day. The same with your DJ. Is it necessary to have your DJ at the ceremony for audio purposes? Yes, they are certainly capable of doing an incredible job, but most videographers are capable of the same task and they are already there, they may just need to acquire a few extra pieces of equipment. Look around, inquire, find the best deals, but remember, it's very cheap to get married, but orchestrating a wedding is a luxury with expenses to do so.