If I had to summarize the 44 responses to this question in one sentence, I would do it this way: Do not skimp on your big day's photography. Just. Don't. Do. It.Many of the people who gave an opinion either regretted not spending more money themselves, or knew someone who did. "You can skimp on everything else, but those pictures are forever," one of my friends wrote. Another noted she hadn't even ordered digital proofs because she's so disgusted by the work her photographer delivered. (Word to the wise: Negotiate, or try to negotiate, so that you receive a disk of digital images and have the right to print the images.)Photography is one of the biggest reasons I turned to bartering. I knew I couldn't bear to not have gorgeous, candid images of our day (I've worked for years with fabulous photojournalists, so I know how striking photography can be when done well), but I suffered from some serious sticker shock. Then, I met Ken Cavanaugh at Cavanaugh Photography, who did want to barter, and my mind was set at ease. We would have a professional behind the lens, and I would work to earn it.Others, in responding to this day's question, said they wished they'd hired a videographer, and one said she would hire a DJ if she could have a do-over.I liked this advice: Spend more on what's more important to you. If you dig live music, this person wrote, hire a band. If you're particular about food, splurge a little on a top-notch caterer. For one former bride, having a string quartet was worth the extra $400, while spending more to have live flowers simply was not. One former groom said he regretted pinching pennies on tuxedos because the shop they used did an awful job tailoring and actually delivered some of the tuxes to the wrong places.Here's what I've learned generally in my own wedding planning: You get what you pay for, in most cases. If you want a fantastic photographer, said fantastic photographer will cost more. If you want a newspaper journalist to write your love story, it will cost more than hiring your friend to do it for you (shameless plug, I know). The husband-to-be and I are paying more than we initially expected for our caterer, and I'm glad. They serve a tasty chicken piccata, mashed potatoes made from scratch and a lot of other delicious food, and they're a third-generation company -- tried and true.Another of my Facebook friends said her husband and she ran out of booze, which reminds me to share with you what I've learned: You can find distributors who will sell alcohol on commission. That means that if Steven and I buy more alcohol than our guests end up consuming, and if any cases and bottles are unopened, the distributor will take the alcohol back and refund us that money. When it comes to purchasing for our party, we'd rather over-purchase, and we're glad to know that we can potentially return some of it.One woman said she was sorry that she skimped on her wedding shoes and doesn't like any of the photographs that show those shoes. Of course, nothing is all about price. A former editor of mine urged that simply spending more dough does not ensure a great vendor or responsive service. He suggested asking oneself, "Did they capture each couple's story, or take cliché images?" when vetting photographers, and considering how a DJ plans to keep your party lively.When it comes to our pending nuptials, we've definitely spent more (via my bartering) to ensure we have karaoke and a very competent DJ and emcee. It's important to us to have a party that gets people up and dancing, and keeps them up and dancing, and I hear from Something New Entertainment's former clients that they deliver. Finally, one former bride said she wished she'd spent more on linens because she saw another wedding with pricier linens, and they did make a "tremendous" difference in the overall feel of the room. Speaking of linens, we've decided to buy ours instead of renting them. Anyone know a quality site that sells them?
I will never understand what drives a woman to want to be on that Bridezillas show. I want to be remembered as a beautiful, beaming bride, not a screaming witch.
But, we all know that under the right amount of stress, the prettiest of personalities can turn ugly. It was with that in mind that I asked my peanut gallery the above question, and there was no shortage of replies.
The first person to respond said this: "I started to feel like it was more for everyone else. Don't let that happen. Keep in mind, it is YOUR day (and Steven's) so make sure YOU will be happy at the end of it. I finally got to the point where I just couldn't wait for it to be over. Wish I would've spoke up and said enough is enough."
I asked her what specifically made her feel that her own big day was more for everyone else, and she told me she had female relatives take over. The event became one that she didn't recognize. Take others' advice, she urged, but make sure the dream that's executed is the one you two share.
Other Facebook friends of mine offered these reasons why they became upset, overwhelmed and irked:
*A few people said their DJs didn't follow directions, that they refused to play requests even when the bride told them they should and played a genre of music that didn't mesh with what the man and woman of the hour requested. I feel confident that Something New Entertainment will do us proud. Every time I interview Anna-Jeannine to write a blog for her, no matter the topic, her focus is squarely on what will make the bride and groom happiest.
*Another woman said family politics can be a stressor. I wrote a blog for Something New about dealing with such issues, and the takeaway was this: Planning for challenges helps ensure they don't become problems. So, consider providing corsages and boutonnieres for every mom and dad figure so no one gets offended. And, if there truly are people who you’d rather keep apart at all costs, make sure you alert the photographer.
*A sorority adviser wrote this: "Also, be sure to talk with Steven about his wants and needs. Too many brides feel it is HER day and he is just along for the ride. His input counts. I was too much of a bridezilla in that aspect." I think I've done this. My groom purchased some of the tree trunk slabs for our centerpieces and chose outright what his groomsmen and he will wear (gray slacks, gray vests and ties -- tuxedos seemed too formal given Mr. Grizzly). And, he's the reason that bacon-wrapped meatloaf will be an entree (more on our caterer as soon as a contract is signed!). I figure, my life is happy because he's in it; so, too, will my wedding be.
*A few people said that assigned seating became a real bear (bears are on my mind, yes) and one of my former newspaper colleagues said that's the exact reason they assigned family to a few tables and let the rest of their esteemed guests sit where they pleased.
*I particularly appreciated what one friend of ours in Pennsylvania offered: "After all the planning is done and the day starts, you will worry about this or that and feel like you have to take control. Don't! Take time to enjoy everything around you!"
*Another former journalism colleague of mine shared that she ripped her veil three weeks out and rush-ordered another only to RIP THE OTHER ONE on the day of. Omg. Thankfully, a trip to a bridal store three blocks from the venue produced a third. She recommended, "Plan for every worst-case scenario. I know many brides who pack an emergency kit: extra hose, needle and thread, safety pins and bobby pins, stain sticks, headache medicine, Pepto-Bismol." I think this is something I might ask a bridesmaid to handle. Zilla alert!
*Another bride said her photography got backed up so much that while her groom and his groomsmen had dozens of shots together, her bridesmaids and she had maybe 10. I can't guarantee that this will prohibit the same from happening on my day, but I've been sending, revising and re-sending a timeline to my vendors to try to ensure to the best of my ability that I'm allotting reasonable slots of time for hair, photographs and more. A few of them have complimented me on being so proactive, and all of them have been helpful and honest where they need to be.
*Apparently, groomzillas exist, too! One woman said her husband said he didn't care, then threw tantrums, she thinks, in an effort to please his parents. She wishes they had discussed things and had more of a team mentality going into it all.
I'll close with these two observations because they help me take a deep breath and beat back my growing anxiety. (My number of wedding nightmares currently stands at two, sigh: one about us forgetting at home all of the jars that have become a labor of love for my mom and me, and the other about the personalized dress hanger I've ordered being misspelled).
"To be honest, I don't think I was a bridezilla at all, and it's because I made sure I was well prepared. And if something wasn't perfect, I just remembered that very few people, if anyone at all, would notice the detail I was obsessing over so I let it go. And all I have are wonderful, stress-free memories!"
And, this gem from a bride who, at the time, was still planning her own big day: "Planning my wedding I'm keeping two things in mind... can people say they had fun and we love each other? If they can answer yes, it was a success. You might not remember little details, but you will remember how you feel. People get so caught up in the stuff... don't forget why you're doing it!"
If it did nothing else, my 30 Days of Wedding Questions cemented this for us: We would not cut corners when it came to wedding photography. Too many married people said poor photography was their greatest regret of the day. And, my friend, Nick, put it this way:
"Picking a photographer is one of the most important decisions you'll make. The day itself is a blur and the quality of your images helps you remember and be able to share your day with others for many years to come."
Doing your research is paramount, most told me, and bridal shows can be the place to get started because you can see portfolios and talk with photographers. There are two shows in Northeast Ohio this January, by the way: the Today's Bride show at the I-X Center in Cleveland and the Boutique Bridal Bazaar in downtown Cleveland.
Most of the respondents to this day's question said they chose their photographers based on portfolio. I chose Cavanaugh Photography for the same reason. There were images of theirs that made me CRY. That's true talent: capturing the emotions of a day in such a way that a stranger to the bride and groom can feel them. Others said they chose to work with friends (recall that I'm a reporter, and many of us reporters know plenty of photojournalists). One also said she chose a younger photographer to save on price.
Here's a snapshot (woo, I'm so clever!) of the other advice offered:
*Give your photographer a list of must-have photos, that way you know you'll have the shots you know -- going in -- that you want.
*Ask who will actually be shooting your wedding. Some teams have more than one photographer, so if it's a particular photographer with whom you're impressed, you'll want to make sure it'll be him or her shooting your big day.
*One former colleague of mine discouraged me from having the officiant stand in front so guests can see the couple's faces. The reason: Front and center in most of her pictures was the pastor's butt. Another friend of mine, though, noted that they did the same but used steps to put them at a higher elevation, so it was less noticeable.
*My recommendation: Make sure to ask about rights to the photos. I wanted them so that if, in 10 years, we want to print a whole bunch of our wedding images for an anniversary party or for display above our mantel, we would have the rights to do so.
Some specific photographer recommendations for my betrothed readers from me and my peanut gallery: Cavanaugh Photography; Graham River Productions; Making the Moment; Marty's Studio; Paul Floyd; oh, and did I mention, Cavanaugh Photography?!Here's a really helpful infographic; it presents 10 questions you should ask prospective photographers, plus a list of shots to request be taken. One image I know I want is a shot taken from behind Steven and me, aimed into the crowd of our guests, while we sing a karaoke song together. We love to karaoke, and we love the people we're inviting. The image would be magical, I think.
What's a must-have photo for you?
One person (my sister) recommended hiring a person to draw caricatures of everyone who comes, with the bride and groom in the middle. Hang it in your home over the mantel, she suggested.
*Offer a frame that everyone can sign, and use it as a meaningful frame for a wedding picture or two.
*Some brides and grooms rent photo booths and ask guests to affix instant photographs of themselves on blank pages in a book, accompanied by written messages. This could be possible, if I'm able to barter with the photo booth company with which I've been speaking!
*One of the rare men who responded to my wedding posts (lol) suggested putting out a book of photographs of the bride and groom together. At his wedding and reception, he also gave guests themes, such as "What's the key to a successful marriage?", to encourage guests to write more than their names.
*Ask guests when they RSVP to send you photographs of themselves, then use them to create a scrapbook and ask guests on The Big Day to sign alongside their photographs. Not only do you receive messages, but you have a built-in reminder of what people looked like at the time.