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!