Why is "Wedding" Photography More Expensive?

I read a great article by Lauren Grove, the editor of wedding blog Every Last Detail. In the article, she addressed 5 Wedding Truths and today I want to share my thoughts on one of those with you: The word "wedding" isn't the reason that wedding photography is expensive.

To be perfectly honest, this was a misconception I had as a bride. I had not yet started my photography business, so I only had a bride's perspective of wedding planning. During the planning process, I saw the advice on wedding forums to book a consultation with a vendor for a "big family party" only to tell them later that it was actually a wedding. I didn't like this idea at all, because honesty and trust with my vendors was very important.

Now that I've had the opportunity to photograph over 50 weddings as well as one big family party, I can state without a shadow of a doubt that there is a HUGE difference in the amount of work that goes into planning these two events. For the family party, I chatted with the client once or twice in person and we sent a few emails back and forth. And then I showed up a few minutes early and made sure we were all on the same page since the party was a surprise. Then I photographed the event for a few hours, edited the images, and sent her the files. That was it. Now let's look at a wedding in comparison.

For the average wedding, I spend at least 4 hours planning the event. In addition to our consultation and the booking process, we send emails back and forth to build their timeline, put together their family formal list, and make note of a dozen other details that I need to know for their wedding day. I also send my clients a welcome email with additional information that they might find helpful. And that doesn't count driving to and from meetings, booking travel arrangements, or anything relating to the engagement session.

For the family party, I shot for 2 hours. For weddings, I tend to shoot 7-9 hours. And I take twice as many photos per hour at weddings, because there's more to photograph, so I have way more post-processing to do.

For the family party, I took candid shots and a few family pictures. Everything is very casual. For a wedding, I'm shooting details, candids, family portraits, romantic bride and groom portraits, group photos with the wedding party, the ceremony, and the reception. All in different lighting situations. Some parts of the day like candid shots and the ceremony are very hands off, but portrait time is very involved. So not only do I have to be good at blending into the background and capturing moments as they happen, but I have to lead and organize large groups of people as well.

All these different lighting scenarios requires more gear and more expensive gear. Photographing weddings means very dark receptions, which was the reason I upgraded my camera body. Photographing a variety of different things (details, candids from across the room, large groups, couple's portraits) means I need a wide variety of lenses. I could shoot family events with a much cheaper camera and much cheaper lenses.

Add on top of all this the fact that weddings are a high-pressure situation. Friends and family members of the couple have gathered from all over just for this one event. There's no redo. There's no room for error. Everything has to be done right the first time. So it takes a lot more experience and confidence to shoot a wedding well than it does to capture a casual family event.

These are just the main ways that weddings are more expensive to shoot than other family gatherings. Much more time goes into making the wedding day and the wedding images perfect for the bride and groom and all that time (and additional gear) means that we have to charge more for weddings.

So even though it looks like a wedding photography package might be jacked up in price, you're getting much more for your money than just the hours that we'll actually be shooting the wedding. And it's the same for other vendors across the board. While the comparison would be a little different for every vendor, a wedding is a bigger event, and therefore costs more.