Dear Today Show, Yes the Wedding Markup is Real. Here's Why.

I sat on the floor of my living room playing with my puppy and eating my morning yogurt. It was our typical morning routine with the Today Show playing softly in the background. But something caught my ear, and I hit up the volume a few notches. I sat there with my mouth hanging open. I was horrified and hurt about what I was witnessing. What followed in the next few minutes left me confused, and bewildered at the naiveness of the news anchors and the Rossen Report. In order for this blog post to not be a hundred pages long, you can watch the video here to get a grasp at what I'm talking about. 

Dear Today Show, 

So many thoughts flickered through my mind as I watched the video accusing vendors of marking up services specifically for weddings, even when the service and package was the exact same as a normal birthday party.

Most wedding vendors fall into two categories: 1) We charge the same price for a birthday party as we do a wedding or 2) We charge different prices for a birthday party vs. wedding. You proved this in your video. But is it wrong that we might charge more for a wedding then another service? Absolutely not. 

We as wedding vendors (a photographer myself), work our butts off. We're constantly trying to maintain our business, personal life, and make our couples the happiest they can be. We worry about being booked for the following year, have the stress of a business on our shoulders and the desire to make our clients the happiest they can be in our hearts. Sometimes juggling a full-time job as well (*raises hand*), are stay-at-home moms, or are just trying to make a living. 

We're entrepreneurs, dreamers, creative souls, and the hardest workers. We're constantly defending our prices, services, and final product. Daily we have people scoffing at the price of a wedding photo package, asking for discounts or deals and not respecting the hard work that is put into what we do. And today, that person was you, Today Show.

Your report proved nothing. The DJ was right in saying that a wedding requires way more than an average birthday party. And that's what I'm saying here. What did your report do? It confused our potential clients and it made wedding vendors seem sneaky and greedy. The level of misinformation is going to make it even worse for us to defend our prices going forward. And to top it all off? Now we have to deal with clients sneakily sending emails about birthday parties to price check us and our integrity. 

I'm not explaining the following for you. I'm explaining it for my future clients, my fellow vendors, and the general public so they can be rightfully educated on vendor pricing and why its different (if the vendor chooses it to be different at all). So let me gently explain the difference between a wedding and a birthday party, from a photographers aspect.  A wedding, from start to finish, consists of the following: 

  • Emailing potential client a few times about inquiry, pricing, etc.
  • Meeting clients in a face-to-face consultation
  • A few more emails regarding contract, engagement session, invoice, etc
  • Shooting the engagement session (1.5 hours)
  • Editing the engagement session (2 hours minimum)
  • Blogging engagement session (1 hour)
  • Uploading finished gallery to the client's online gallery/website for delivery
  • Meeting/Emailing client to talk about wedding day timeline, logistics, shot list, family portraits, photo requests, etc
  • Sitting at home on a Friday night double checking batteries, back ups cameras, reformatting memory cards, and trying to manage your anxiety for the upcoming day.
  • Waking up early on a Saturday morning to have enough time to pack the car, make sure you have snacks and bottled water, get ready, leave half an hour earlier than you're supposed to in case you get lost, arriving at the wedding and being on your A-game for the next 8-12 hours.
  • Shooting details, portraits, lots of pictures of drunk bridal parties, keeping the mother of the bride calm and the bride even calmer, making sure everything goes as scheduled, pinning on boutienniers, helping bustle the dress, making sure the bride and groom are hydrated with at least some water, dealing with crazy family members and people following you around with their "professional" camera, trying not to get beer spilled on your equipment, making sure the bride and groom have some breathers throughout the day, and capturing every sweet and loving moment of the day on camera. 
  • Getting home late that evening and immediately backing up memory cards to two different locations, editing a few favorite images to post immediately onto Facebook for the lovely couple, and crashing into bed.
  • Sunday leaves photographers with a headache, swollen feet, aching joints, and pure exhaustion. It's called the wedding hangover and it's so, so real.
  • The next month consists of late nights of culling and editing images, blogging more sneak peeks, and delivering the final gallery of 500-800 images to the client. Are we done yet? No we sure aren't. We then are in the midst of emailing for album assembly, ordering said album, sending client gifts, writing thank you notes, and once again, making sure our clients are 100% happy.

A wedding and a birthday party are two different beasts. A birthday party might require one face-to-face meeting, possibly a second shooter, a few nights of editing, and we're done. Even if both events have the same hours, same package, and same number of people. A birthday party is a birthday party. You have one every year. A wedding only happens once and is essentially "one of the most important days in someones life that rests entirely on your shoulders and if you screw it up your business and livelihood is dead." It's months of planning, preparation, and "behind the scenes." 

There's a lot more riding on the shoulders of a vendor when it comes to a wedding. A lot more stress. More work. More risk. We have every right to price it differently, if we choose to go that route. Please don't disrespect us and make running a business more challenging than it is already. 

All the best, 

Morgan