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Wedding Wednesday - Photographers and Tipping

I have finalized the photographer - can't remember if I have discussed that or not. I'm actually importing my favorite (now retired) wedding photographer from Austin. You probably think that's crazy and no wonder my budget is out of control but it was actually more affordable to bring her to us - including travel expenses - than it would be to book a local photographer I have no experience with.

I have been very fortunate to work with some truly gifted photographers. There are photographers that became more than just colleagues, I consider them friends. I have a short list of photographers that I always thought if I ever got married again, these would be my go to's. And even though she doesn't do weddings anymore, when I asked her she said she would do it for me.

If you came here looking for tips, here's a few about photographers.

  1. It's good to start with a budget. And then cushion it. I'm not suggesting you disregard your budget but speaking as someone well versed in the cost of weddings, times have changed a lot. And while I still think you should be able to find a pro to fit any budget, I feel photography is one area you shouldn't skimp on. But some people may feel differently.

  2. Begin your search by looking at local photographers. Check their website but don't forget social media. Look for examples of their work. Find a few that you like their style first.

  3. Talent is important. You obviously want a photographer that knows how to compose shots that will tell the story you want told. But rapport is equally important. Make sure your photographer is someone you are comfortable with. I used to always say they should at least feel like someone you could be friends with. You want someone you can laugh with and trust.

  4. Be clear on your expectations. How long will it take to get your edited photos? How many edited photos can you expect? Can you have the unedited photos (spoiler - usually the answer is no)? Photography is an art. Asking for raw photos is like asking for the pencil sketch and color swatches and mistakes when you buy a painting. I'm not saying they won't, I'm just saying it isn't common. If that is important to you then you should be upfront about it. Think about it this way, when you take a selfie, how many tries does it take to get the one you like best? Your pro may take a dozen (or more) bad shots before they get the right one. And they don't want to give you anything less than the best of their work.

  5. If an engagement session is included, take it. This is a great opportunity for you to learn to trust your photographer and for them to get a feel for how comfortable you are in front of a camera. Isn't it better to do that before the wedding?

  6. Once you make your choice, trust your professional. But if you have any doubts leading up to your wedding it is better to address them before, not during or after. Better to potentially lose a deposit with a photographer you are not comfortable with than to hate all your wedding photos.

  7. Find out their back up plan. How many memory cards do they have on hand? How many batteries? Will they have a second shooter (I definitely recommend a second)?

  8. Be prepared with a must have photo list and do not wait until your wedding day to share it with the photographer. I'm not suggesting you have ALL the photos planned ahead of time. But I would suggest a list of maybe 10 photos you will regret not having, even if they seem obvious. Is your friend doing your flowers or hair or make up or baking your cake or providing any other service? Make a point to get a good photo of that and a photo with you and the friend (this is a good tip for any of your vendors). These can be included in your thank you card and all reviews you write for them (assuming they are a pro). And if they are just getting started, they will appreciate having photos to use for their portfolio (just make sure they give proper photographer credit). I personally regretted not having a photo of just me with each of my boys and each bridesmaid at my last wedding. A mistake I will not make this time around.

  9. Don't forget about the details you love. I loved the back of my first wedding dress and made sure my photographer got a picture of it. I chose my second wedding dress in part because of a starfish like detail at the waist. Don't expect your photographer to know everything that is important to you.

  10. Don't forget to include your photographer in your meal count. OK this isn't strictly a photographer tip. You should include all of your vendors that are staying throughout your event.

  11. Speaking of tips...

I belong to a Facebook group for brides to sell their gently used wedding items though it seems to more often be more of a Q&A sort of forum. Something that comes up a lot is wedding day tipping. Who should you tip and how much?

I am a firm believer in tipping because the service has gone above and beyond. Etiquette states you should not tip the owner of the business. Since a majority of wedding businesses tend to be operator owned, this would imply that most tips are not necessary.

Yes, tip the catering staff - unless it is included in your cost already (and it frequently is). But your photographer likely owns their business, and your DJ, and your wedding planner or day of coordinator. But as a former owner of my own wedding business, I can tell you how much a tip, no matter how small, is appreciated.

In order to be competitive, most wedding pros price themselves as what they need to keep their business afloat. Sure, your Day of Coordinator may make $2000 that day. But they are probably also paying an assistant. They probably have insurance. They may need to have extra coverage on their car since it is used for business purposes. They have to keep their emergency kit fully stocked and unexpired. They probably spend a lot on advertising so more couples can find them. They have almost definitely put in a lot of time prior to your wedding day, probably at least double what you have contracted them for day of. So instead of looking at it as they just made $2000 free money for a days work, think about what all that goes towards. Suddenly tipping the business owner makes a lot more sense, doesn't it?

The second rule of thumb is tip anyone that stays the duration of your event. DJ and photographer yes. Florist and baker no. I'm not saying you can't tip them, you just shouldn't feel obligated.

But then, I don't think you should ever feel obligated to give a tip. There are resources on line to give you a guideline of how much to tip each person - I'm sure you can find it on or I won't even bother looking. But if you have already paid someone $3000 and you "have" to tip them $300, that can be a huge blow to the end of your budget.

I lied - I needed a picture for this post so I found this guide from #ifyouinsist

Speaking from experience, even $50 is a welcome tip. You know what I did with that? Booked a massage the next day. Trust me, after being on my feet non-stop for 10 hours, I needed it.

Let's face it - weddings are expensive. Or at least they can be. And feeling obligated to tip a bunch of people you have already paid a lot of money to can be overwhelming. So here's a few tips on tips.

  1. Don't think a small tip is insulting. Most of your vendors will not be expecting anything so even a small tip is appreciated.

  2. Don't feel obligated to tip anyone.

  3. If someone has offered you a big discount, you definitely should tip accordingly.

  4. If a friend has offered their services free of charge, consider a tip worth at least half of the value of their services.

  5. Gifts for services are always good too. Going back to my example of I would use my tip money to get a massage (sometimes a mani pedi because I did break a lot of nails), how about a spa gift card? It doesn't have to cover the entire amount for a service, every little bit helps.

  6. Write great reviews on every platform you can. Provide photos that showcase what they did. Be sure to include specifics - "my DoC handled all the details including redoing our flowers when the florist messed them up!" PS that's a real life example from a wedding I did - shout out to my assistant Kelly for helping redo all the centerpieces!

Anyway, that's my two cents. I'm very excited about our photographer and I cannot wait to see all our photos.

Was any of that helpful? Have any other questions? Let me know.

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