Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Guest Post: Don’t Let Other People Tell You How to Spend

NOTE: I’m on vacation today, so the lovely authour of Well-Heeled Blog has offered to write a guest post for me. WHB was one of the very first PF blogs I ever read (and still one of my all-time favourites). I’m so glad that after so many years, she’s still around. :)

When it comes to personal finances, I try to keep in mind that how much I can spend doesn’t have to dictate how much I should spend. That didn’t help me, though, when I first started looking for a photographer for my wedding. Even though I was surprised by how much photography cost – $2,000+ for 8 hours of coverage and printing rights to the pictures, plus another $1,000+ for albums – I assumed I’d have to swallow these prices as normal cost of planning a wedding because That’s Just How It Is.

One photographer I spoke with, prior to giving me his quote, made me fill out a questionnaire that included the question: “how much does photography matter to you?” I was a little taken aback, because I felt like that was a not-so-subtle way of asking “how big is your photography budget?” A budget that, to be frank, was veering more and more into the uncomfortable territory. While we can technically afford $2,000 or $3,000 or $4,000 on pictures, we’d feel better spending that money for other things. So I got my answer to that question: photography matters to me, but it doesn’t matter MORE than having a wedding that fits within our $6,000 guideline. It doesn’t matter more than going on a fantastic honeymoon. It doesn’t matter more than saving money for graduate school.

Don’t get me wrong, photographers are professionals who put a lot their time, energy, and artistic vision into capturing this big day, and they should be compensated for their time and expertise. My decision is no judgment on brides who places a higher priority on photography, and it’s not a judgment on what photographers charge for their craft. I just think that for a moment, I was getting swept up in the notion that wedding photography has to be the biggest item on our budget. Because every wedding website, magazine, and blog seemed to tell me that if I didn’t spend $XYZ amount, all the photos I have will be horribly bad and I will forever regret not hiring a pro. When I took a step back, and thought about what I really wanted – I realized that photography wasn’t the most important thing to us, and that was OK.

I also realized it’s not such an either-or. There are a choices between handing our flower girl a disposable camera and hiring an artist of the DSLR who charges thousands. Was I willing to take a chance on someone talented just starting out in the business? Was I OK with prints on a CD instead of a professionally-designed leather album? Was I willing to skip the traditional 8-12 hours of photography coverage and settle for 4 hours instead? Yes. Yes. Yes.

That’s how we cut our wedding photography budget down to $1,000. I posted an ad on Craigslist, sorted through more than 60 portfolio submissions, and then signed a contract with a lady who is establishing a full-time wedding business, and whose portfolio we loved. We found someone whose fits our style. I made spending decisions that reflects our priorities. And I have a feeling we’ll get some pretty good pictures. That is a personal finance success story in my book!

Well Heeled Blog is written by 20-something professional with a nerdy interest in personal finance. She likes to explore topics at the intersection of life & money, loves to try new restaurants, and dreams of Argentine tango. WHB’s mantras are “personal finance shouldn’t make you miserable” and “spend on what matters.” Right now, she is trying to planning a $6,000 wedding while applying for her MBA, which will cost the equivalent of 10 weddings. Follow her on twitter @wellheeledblog!

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


  1. Sheila says:

    I totally agree with the title of your post. Whatever amount we can spend does not have to be the amount we should spend. Great article! This is a great example of how we should be responsible for our finances.
    My recent post CNA Training

  2. A friend of mine's fiancee is just starting out as a wedding photographer. Whilst newbie wedding photographers don't have much experience under their belt, they are really eager to please and desperate to improve their portfolio. My friend's fiancee even went so far as to do several weddings for free (sorry she's much much pricier these days!)

    I hope your wedding is a blast!
    My recent post Best of the weekend sales, deals, vouchers and discounts

    • Krystal Yee says:

      I totally agree. Sometimes new photographers will go above and beyond in order to prove themselves and get more work into their portfolios. And, just because a photographer has been around for a long time, doesn't mean they're any better than someone who's new!

      • To be honest, I do think that wedding photography is a different beast than other types of photography. You need to be able to get the intimate / couple-y moments, get the important family portraits, capture the "tone" of the wedding, and do it all with grace under pressure. New photographers can have a good eye, but I wouldn't take a chance on a BRAND new wedding photographer (my photographer has taken 5 or 6 weddings by the time I signed with her, and will have another 5-10 weddings by the time my wedding comes around). You don't get a do-over on your wedding day. Of course, it's not "either-or" – I think it's possible to catch an up-and-coming photographer if you are flexible, do your diligence, and have a little bit of luck on your side. With experienced photographers, you are not just getting their photographic skills – you're paying for their professionalism (i.e. you know they will show up), their network (if they somehow get sick on the day of your wedding, they will have substitutes), their reputation (they are a "known quantity"). They have insurance. They know how to respond in low-light settings or adverse weather conditions. These are all things that come with experience shooting weddings. Sooo… I guess I just want to say that professional photographers charge what they charge for a reason – not because they are out to gouge folks – and every bride has to decide what their priorities are and how willing they are to pay for something.
        My recent post My Guest Post on Krystal’s Give Me Back My Five Bucks

  3. I think that wedding photography is not all it's cracked up to be. I've been happily married for 11 years and we don't go back to the wedding photos very often. It seems like you will, at the time, but afterwards there is no time or interest. Maybe in 25 more years we'll long to see how it was. Also, the photographer didn't really capture the interesting bits. One of my groomsmen was late for the church and missed his reading for example, or that my brother-in-law's wife was grumpy and everyone noticed. That kind of stuff. Also, the pro's stuff was not really as interesting as the candid shots we got from our guests.
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  4. Kellen says:

    I think the best wedding photos are the ones in between where you find a nice backdrop for the bride and groom. You don't need 1,000 awesome photos, just a few good ones to hang up on the wall. Glad to hear you found a solution that fits your style and your budget,.
    My recent post August in Review

  5. Christine says:

    Amen, sister. I spent less than $6000 on my wedding ($5000 was my goal, but I'm ok with having gone over).

    I got an amazing deal on a photographer for $1050 who did about four hours worth of work and he was amazing! As a graphic designer, I did the book myself (and it's awesome). The wedding isn't the big thing, anyway, it's the marriage. And if you can make wise financial decisions now, then you've got a great foundation for a future without the leading cause of divorce (financial stressors).
    My recent post Netflix Canada: The Big C

  6. james h says:

    I definitly think at the moment we should operate by what people can do and their potential rather than their past experiance
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  7. munchkin says:

    I think that the photography to me would be one of the most important things, and something I would splurge on. But that doesn't mean I would spend WAY more than I can afford either. I'm glad you were able to find someone you like within your budget. I would be interested in hearing if the pictures were to your satisfaction afterwards.
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  8. Leslie says:

    Just make sure your photographer gets a picture of you and your husband! I cut our budget & hired a newbie, he got flustered during family photo time and forgot to snap a shot of just ME and my husband. We didn't get one single picture. :(

  9. fabulouslyfrugirl says:

    I think wedding pictures would be nice to have, but I think I'd just like a few nice ones to remember the day (or hang up) – like the artsier ones. Even though I'd love pictures with family, I think that candid shots are probably just as good. Probably a few hours is enough for me, as well. Thanks for the great article~
    My recent post August 2011 Recap

  10. I'm glad you were able to come up with a solution that makes sense for you and your budget. You'll end up with photos you love, but not at the cost of a used car!

    One of the hazards of reading about finance all the time is internalizing others' expectations for how we should spend money. I've noticed I'm bad about talking myself out of buying something I need because "what would the other bloggers think?" The more important question, as you pointed out in your post, should be "What works for my lifestyle and goals?"
    My recent post 5 Reasons to Sign a Prenup Before You Tie the Knot

  11. Ben Brown says:

    I was not really happy with the photographs taken by the supposedly professional photographer at my wedding. You may find it hard to believe but some of the best photos taken are actually taken by people at your wedding. So it's always a good idea to ask everyone to forward you the photos that they took at your wedding.
    My recent post How to set up a trust

  12. Dee says:

    Great post! Good reminder that just because something is important to a lot of people, doesn't automatically mean it's also important to me. The only trouble is that sometimes it's difficult to be sure about something like your situation with wedding photography because there are some people who actually do have your best interest at heart who legitimately believe you'll regret not having the professional photographs in the future. It must be the same with a lot of new-born items and getting recommendations about "must-haves" for babies that turn out to not be essential expenses for some parents because of different lifestyle choices. Sometimes it's hard to predict whether an expense is worth it to you. It's nice when a little introspection leads to an answer.

  13. Martilyo says:

    I agree with you. I think during some stages of our lives we get retarded with money. Weddings, funerals, new cars, houses…etc. Emotions run rampant during these times and the people on the receiving end of our money try to make you think that money isn't important. They are wrong. Money is very important. What makes things worse is when people finance such things. They are living in the now and realizing how important it is to live now, but keep your future in mind. I have paid a lot of "stupid tax" over the years and it ended. I write a lot about this in my pf blog, The Angry Millionaire. As far as "Professional" photographers go, I have taken some of the best pictures with my $100.00 point-and-shoot digital than I have with my $1600.00 Canon SLR camera. I have found some of my friends that I grew up with have side photography businesses they promote on Facebook. I would work out a deal with them. You help them advertise their business and they give you a major financial break. Not including that someone you know personally is taking part in your marriage. Good luck to you!

    To your financial health — Martilyo!
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  14. putri_salju says:

    I recently got married in Vancouver, BC. My photographer (husband and wife team) costed just under $7000 including taxes for 11 hours of coverage, engagement session, some prints from the engagement session, a wedding album and a guest book. This expense was absolutely worth it in my books. Our engagement photos were gorgeous and I doubt an amateur photographer could have replicated it. I have seen some shots of our wedding from friends' cameras – I'd say they weren't the greatest shots. Every friend will photograph different things from different angles and they're not necessarily the stuff you're interested in. For example, half of one friend's photos are of another friend's baby daughter. Cute as she is, she is not the focus of the wedding.

    Reshooting the wedding in my opinion is not a particularly good option either. You will have to fork out more money for the reshoot, unless the photographer is going to do it for free…Still if you're going to get professional hair and makeup done for the shoot, that's not going to be free either. Maybe cheaper than 'wedding hair and makeup', but it's still going to cost something.

    Photography is important to us and so we did allocate a significant portion of the wedding budget to it. We cut back a lot in other areas that aren't as important. Instead of hiring professional videographers (they cost at least $4000), the video is taken by some friends. The flower budget is kept low – I found my florist – who did a wonderful job by the way – on Craigslist. I found my wedding dress on Craigslist too – it's beautiful and cost only $650. The bridesmaids' dresses were from Banana Republic during their Boxing Day sale. The groom's aunt did most of the decorations so we spent almost nothing on decor. We didn't spend a lot of money on stationery either because after the wedding they just go in the recycling (simple invitations and church programs, no place cards, menu cards etc., just one seating chart). We didn't hire wedding coordinators because in my experience they don't do enough to earn their fee if you're organized. Oh and no chair covers!! At almost $4 a pop those suckers can set you back a pretty penny…And I'm happy to say we came in under budget for the wedding.

    My then boyfriend also had a professional photo shoot done for his own use because an amateur photographer that he was going to work with just wasn't all that interested in getting the work done. He kept delaying the shoot, forgetting appointments etc. that my boyfriend just decided it's not worth the savings and hassle. Keep in mind this amateur isn't even established at all. He is the brother of a friend. The professional photographer he ended up picking was helpful not only in choosing the location of the shoot but also in setting up the shots and directing him. In the end he got the look he wanted and he couldn't be happier with those photos.

    Sorry I ramble but the take home message is that sometimes it's worth hiring the pros :)

  15. Jane says:

    I totally agree with your post. It sounds great! Whatever amount we can spend does not have to be the amount we should spend. We should be responsible how we gonna use our money.

    My recent post 9 Signs To Know That He Is A Cheater

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