Back in February we introduced our concept of how we apply a first things first approach to wedding planning with three lists – List #1: The Big Picture, List #2: First Impressions and List #3: The Details. Next, we started breaking each one down and began with the first item on List #1: Setting Your Date & Guest List. Today, we’re going to begin the process of researching and selecting your photographer, videographer and wedding planner, item number two on List #1.
Other than your family, these wedding professionals are going to be some of the most important people involved with your wedding planning. They are also going to be the ones that will spend the most time with you, and will be involved in some of the most important decisions and moments of your special day. Having said that, it means that you have to take extra care and time to make sure that you hire the very best to meet your needs as well as budget.
Photography, particularly wedding photography, is one aspect of wedding planning that is very near and dear to my heart. (Myself personally, I would tweak my budget in order get the best photographer, within reason, of course.) I know that the decision to hire a great wedding photographer can be one of the most expensive elements of your planning, but if your wedding photos are not done well, it can be one of the most regretted decisions of them all. The reason that it can be the most regretted decision is because it is the only thing (besides videography which we will get to shortly) that you will keep, that you can look at time and time again, that will be definitive documentation of your special day. A day of celebrating your love story with friends and family, and the beginning of your happy ever after.
Here are some tips that you might want to consider when selecting your wedding photographer:
- Research, research, research Take your time. To get the kind of photographer that will capture your love story, you want to get the best fit for your needs and budget. Do not settle.
- Look for work that is consistent. Great photographers are proud of their work and will blog on a regular basis. When a photographer is consistent with their work and style, it will shine through on their blog and galleries. It concerns me when a photographer posts one amazingly awesome wedding, followed by three more that are just eh. I would want to make sure that my photographer is bringing his or her best each and every time.
- Ask questions of them. And they should be asking questions of you. It’s all part of getting to know each other. Remember you will be spending a lot of time together. You want to be comfortable with them as well as in front of their camera. Hence, engagement shoots.
- A lot can be determined by how a wedding professional will be handling your day by the way they answer phone calls and emails. Are they responsive? Are they prompt? How long does it take for them or an assistant to get back to you with answers? However, you must do your part as well, by not expecting them to get back to you after working hours i.e. 11 o’clock at night or even on weekends, especially during wedding season. Oftentimes you may not hear from them until Tuesday since most pros work the weekend, so Mondays may be their Sunday. Be respectful. But, if more than a week or two goes by without a response, you may have to reconsider working with this particular professional. (This really applies to all of the vendors you will hire for your wedding.)
- Make sure that you check with your photographer how their timeline works on the day of a wedding. Does it match your timeline? For instance, I know that there are some photographers that may show up 1 hour before you start off down the aisle. What this means is that he/she will not be there for any of your getting ready shots, so you better be ready. Not much time for a first look (if you so desire), not much time for family shots before the ceremony, etc. Some photographers will cut out after all the “important” elements are complete – first dance, cutting the cake, garter toss. This is certainly okay but if there are party shots that are important to you, please be sure to check if your photographer is going to include this time. Speaking of time, some photographers price their packages by the hour, like a 4-hour, 8-hour or other time frame. You want to ask when that time starts and ends so that you will know if you will have the right coverage for your wedding and if it will meet your expectations. There is nothing worse than having a really wonderful moment only to discover your photographer has left the building and it won’t be captured.
- If you are interested in albums and/or canvases, be sure to request a time when you can see these actual items, in person. Albums and canvases will be your final documentation of your special day that a lot of time, effort and money has gone into. You want them to make you say WOW when you see them! You want them to be stunning! You want to share them years from now, and be proud and misty eyed when you do. And if your photos are not done well (regardless if they are in albums or canvased), this will be your biggest regret. I have heard it time and time again. So sad..
Videography is one of those elements that many seem to have a love it or leave it attitude towards. Many couples put a videographer on their list of must haves, but unfortunately, when the budget starts to strain it is usually videography that gets eliminated first. Why? Personally, I think that the quality of videography has been questionable until recently. Like in the last five years. As technology and the internet has evolved, wedding videography has become much more visible and quite frankly, amazing! Just like photographers, there is a certain level of skill and expertise that is required to take a video from good to great to awesome! Much of what I noted above for photographers will apply to videographers with these additions:
- Like photographers, do the research, but with videographers you must take the time to watch the videos on their websites and/or blogs. If they have nothing to watch, walk away. While you are watching, observe if the transitions from scene to scene are smooth and flowing.
- Most videographers will put your video to music. But did you know that you need to make sure that you have the rights to that music? Yes, yes, you do. If you don’t and your wedding video filmed by a pro goes viral on YouTube, you just might find yourself and the videographer receiving a nasty legal notice asking you to cease and desist. Yep, that happened to someone. A reputable videographer will know what the proper process is to ensure you don’t have any problems. Uncle Charlie won’t know what to do. He just thought it would be fun to see it on YouTube. ;)
- Videography done well will leave you breathless, teary eyed and saying WOW! It takes wedding photography to that extra next level by providing the sound that is equally meaningful on your special day. Not only will you see the tears but you will hear the emotion. And once you see and hear an amazing video it will leave you with a most memorable impression. Why do I say that? Because here is a video (done so incredibly well) that it still leaves an impression on me three years later.
Last, but most certainly not least, let’s talk wedding planners. (In my opinion, each one of the wedding pros that we are discussing today have equal value. They all will play a very important part in making your wedding day the best it can be.) Just like photographers and videographers, excellent event or wedding planners will share many of the same qualities, and require the same amount of research to find the right one for your wedding day preparations. Wedding planners have something in common though with videographers, in that many couples want that organized, go-to person on their Team I Do. But then budgets and other offers of help preclude a couple from making that final decision to have professional assistance for the long to-do list. So what does one look for in an awesome wedding planner? Here are my tips and why you should have a wedding planner:
- A great planner will help you organize everything. They are there to offer guidance in color and style choices, and then lead you to vendors that will bring your vision to reality within in your budget. But you knew that already, right?
- You also want to make sure that your planner works well under pressure, and that they will be your calming influence when you need them to be. How will you determine this? Ask for references and if they have a list of preferred vendors, check with them. Very telling. Also, you can tell a lot about how a planner will handle your day by how responsive they are in returning phone calls and emails. (Just remember the boundaries we talked about earlier.)
- A great planner will be creative when needed (think DIY for you not-so-DIY gals), have connections to obtain those hard-to-find decorations, get the best prices, handle the troublesome relatives and be your overall best friend. That’s the best kind of planner!
- Best tip ever – Want to enjoy your day? Be relaxed and stress-free? Hire a planner. Period.
Last tip and it’s a big one. It applies to all of the wedding professionals discussed today. I do not recommend that any of these services be left to family members that are not pros in these categories. Do not have Uncle Charlie take the video. Do not have Cousin Sue plan your wedding. Unless, they are professionals, and you have seen their work and you like it. Instead, invite them to the party, and let them enjoy! Why? Expectations can vary greatly when it comes to “services” provided. Issues of compensation usually arise. Makes for very awkward situations and many times hurt feelings ensue. I know that some of you out there may be saying “that won’t happen to me” and some have even been successful with family helping out. Kuddos to you! High five! You are one of the few lucky ones.
One thing to remember as you are doing your research, don’t set your heart on only one professional. Choose at least three in each category. That way when you are able to begin checking on availability, you won’t be disappointed when it doesn’t work out. Each one should also be similar in expertise and price range, so you never feel like you are settling. Also, keep in mind that everyone offers different packages. Do your research, ask questions. You might be surprised who you can afford and all that you can receive in your budget.
Have you chosen your photographer yet? Will you choose videography for your wedding? And how about that all important wedding planner – will you or won’t you? We’d love to know what you think or what you have decided and why!