• Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
sunshine & unicorns: a blog about love, learning, and life in the upper midwest

03 April 2009

our single biggest budget-saver

I love wedding and engagement photos. Love. Them. Even before I was engaged, I spent way too much time stalking photography blogs. Bf and I are amateur photographers; it's one of the hobbies that brought us together. We have a couple of nice cameras and enjoy going out and taking photos of anything and everything we see. Whenever people talk about cutting their wedding budgets, the last thing to go is the photography. I fully support that decision. Photos are IMPORTANT. They're memories.

So it might come as a surprise to you that we're not going to hire a photographer to record our marriage ceremony.

There are several factors weighing on this decision. For one, Bf thinks pro-photographers are kind of creepy. I have to agree at least partially. They follow you around, paparazzi-style, squatting in the middle of your ceremony aisle, snapping photos of your guests with their mouths full and poking their big, beautiful, expensive lenses into your face at every opportune moment. And while it's true that during touching, important moments, most people would not even notice a camera's presence... we're not most people. The officiant would be asking us for "I Do's" and our camera-geek selves would be whispering lens specs to each other.

Additionally, my family doesn't care for posed family photos. They like candid shots. So the whole "get the family together for a group shot" situation is not likely to happen on our day anyway. And it's not that big of a day! There will be no elaborate centerpieces or cute matchy-match bridesmaids. Just us and our folks, pretty much.

But the biggest reason we're forgoing a photographer will also take the longest to explain (so sit back!).

I love paper photo albums (remember those?), but I have a history of over-recording everything. I've always had a goal of recording my life's important events in photos, but not long ago - at the ripe old age of 25 - I realized that I had more photo albums already than my grandparents had from their whole lives. Of course, this is largely due to how easy and inexpensive it is to develop digital photos... but it's also because older generations only recorded what was truly important: weddings, children, holidays, travel, and people.

I'm a follower of blogs like Unclutterer and The Simple Dollar. Their ideas overlap in that less clutter equals more money for important things. I don't take everything these sites say to heart, of course (homemade shampoo? no thanks), but the principles are clear: to live a frugal and clean life, you need to prioritize. As 25-year-old me looked at my mountain of photo albums, I realized that I had neglected to do just that. I then took on the gargantuan task of paring them down. Did I really need 7 photos of the same mountain from different angles and zoom-lengths? Twenty-six photos of a car that I only owned for a year? Twelve head-shots of my friend eating her birthday cake? (See what I'm getting at here?) When I was through, I'd gone from nine photo albums to four and had removed only photos that were duplicates and/or completely irrelevant to the event being shown. My albums are now both manageable and interesting for potential viewers. It felt GREAT to accomplish that.

A wedding is a pretty important event, but when did it become the MOST important, most expensive, most heavily over-photographed event of a couple's life? Let me tell you about my parents' wedding album. I wish I could show you a photo of it, but my parents live far away so a description will have to do. I have always loved their album. It's forty or so photos. They're all 3x5 snapshots, showcased in a store-bought album.

What's important isn't what the album looks like though. It's what's inside. A photo of my smiling parents holding hands at the courthouse. Their kiss. A handful of photos showing their 20 guests. Toasts at the reception. The cake cutting. The get-away car. That's it. There is no closeup of the embellishments on their cake. No artful composure showcasing a buckle on my mom's shoe. (Gasp -- I don't even think you can see her shoes in any of the photos!) My parents' album shows what really mattered to them: their marriage and their guests. Not the detail of the centerpieces or the labels on the wine bottles. Just them, getting married. Bf's parents' album is simple too. His mom scrap-booked their snapshots in a cute little book that I really enjoyed looking at with her over the course of about 20 minutes on a Saturday afternoon. My dream is to have an album like these [except that instead of a ring-bound album with plastic inserts, I might try a Blurb book :-)].

What's wrong with the photo below? Maybe it's not perfectly centered, and maybe it's a little blurry, and maybe it wasn't taken with an expensive camera. But doesn't it capture the moment? The joy? Isn't it classic and representative of the couple at that time in their lives?

When I was married before (yep - I was), I had five albums. FIVE. And I never felt like going through the hassle of looking at them. If anyone wanted to see, I'd usually only pull one out - the one with the bulk of the ceremony photos. And I'd hastily flip around to what I thought were the most important shots. The rest were just too much. I was embarrassed by the amount of near-meaningless photos of random details that there were. It was photo-overload.

Bf and I don't NEED 200 photos of me putting on lipstick and eyeliner, or 45 shots of Bf's dinner plate, or 300 head-shots of us making various faces throughout the ceremony. We don't want a whole shelf full of wedding albums containing so many photos that people make up excuses to not have to look at them. We don't want albums so detailed that only those planning their own weddings would be interested in viewing them. We want a simple, short and sweet album showing us getting married. Our parents' albums are touching in that you can really spend time on each shot, absorbing the day. Each photo is special in its own way. A big fat 800-photo collection? Though quite thorough, it's also very exhausting. People feel the need to skim through it, pressured by the hundreds of photos they've yet to view.

I know some brides want these photos to serve as memories of a day that goes by in the blink of an eye, and I respect that. It's just not a priority for us. My husband and my marriage are pretty much the only important things in to me in the long run (and so is the $4000 we'll save by skipping the pro-photog). With both of us taking classes and venturing in to the wild world of home-ownership too, I'll forgo a couple of memories and keep that fat wad of cash in my purse, thank-you-very-much.

I know what you're thinking: this is a huge risk. What if no one gets any quality photos of our wedding? Got it covered. Though we don't want to involve a professional photographer in our big day, we may are open to getting some professional photos taken commemorating our marriage. (So what if they weren't taken that very day?) Instead of spending thousands of dollars spent on wedding-day coverage, we've decided to wait and see what our parents' cameras provide. If those shots don't satisfy us, we'll opt to spend a few hundred on a "married" shoot. (Think "engagement shoot", only after the wedding. Some people call this a "day-after" shoot or a "couple session".) We'll wear our wedding attire and venture out on the town with a photographer, capturing some posed and candid shots of us: the new Mister and Missus. We may decide to use these shots on our announcements and for framing.

We'll then be able to combine the pro-photos with our parents' shots, all in a nice album... and viola! A concise collection of less than 100 photos documenting one the most special times in our life together.