Nothing makes a wedding professional cringe like hearing "We've decided to have a friend do it."

What makes me cringe is knowing you're most likely on a one-way train to Painsville, and you volunteered for the ride.

It's a story I've heard and seen too many times, as has every wedding professional. And when all is said and done, yeah, you may have saved a small amount of money, but you'll have to live with the results forever.

I take some risk in writing about this because many brides believe strongly they don't need professional photography. I would agree nobody needs it to survive, but I'm not talking about survival. I'm talking about really living life.

I get the position. When faced with a wedding, sometimes the numbers loom larger than life: locations, catering, decorations, dresses, minister, cake, flowers, photography, video. The total investment can be scary.

So, chances are you know someone who's good at photography, maybe really good (if they're so great, why are you looking at me?)

They seem to have an eye, the skill, the gear and would love to photograph your wedding for a cut rate. It seems like a solid deal.

Except I can't think of a single photographer starting out who wouldn't love to photograph your wedding for a cut rate. That's not saying much.

However, there's a huge difference between someone good at photography and someone who runs a legitimate business doing it. The person who's only good at photography can still let you down a hundred ways on the business end.

Let's look at the differences.

  1. Expertise: This is the acquired, inside, detailed knowledge of a craft and industry that can only be gained through time and practice. It enables a photographer to predict and navigate unforeseen problems, challenging conditions and complexities with efficiency and good results. Having a good eye and a good camera doesn't replace expertise.
  2. Time: One of the biggest reasons friends let you down is while they may be initially excited and energized to help you, the enormity and demands of doing a wedding quickly become overwhelming and consume time they don't have, making for extended delays in communications and delivery.

    You've probably experienced first hand how when you ask a friend or family member to do a big project, it takes them forever because they have no real stake in it and you'll love them anyway. 

    Your friends already have jobs and lives of their own. They can be there for you as a friend or as a professional, but probably not both.
  3. Process breakage: Without full-time dedication, experience and the proper business tools, the entire project will break down in terms of communication, efficiency, quality, accuracy, problem-solving and most of all your protection.
  4. Protection: A business is there to protect you. While a friend may want to do a good job, does he really have the safeties in place for your protection, including insurance, a professional contract and the industry backing and resources to deliver results?
  5. Relationships: It can be hard to turn down a loved one who wants to help, but it's your wedding. Your loved ones will respect your decision to hire a professional if you believe it's the right thing. On the other hand, paying a loved one to serve you on your wedding day will always put the relationship at some risk.

I love my friends and family. I have a couple of brothers in law who are handy, and if given the time and money, they could probably even build me a nice home.

But they don't have the time, and there isn't a person in the world who can give it to them. They have jobs, lives, families, and building me a home just isn't possible even though they have the skill to do it.

If I were to build a home, I would want to work with someone who had the time for me when I needed them the most. I would want them to have expertise to see and know what I couldn't and not just build me a home that looked good but was comfortable to live in, hassle-free to own and done correctly down to every nailed board.

Plus, I wouldn't want to burden my loved ones with such a big project with pressure that they had to deliver. Hiring a professional would put everyone at ease.

Wedding photography is like a house. It shouldn't just look good. It should be made to last, done correctly down to the detail, and done efficiently to save you stress and future cost.

After seeing this story, some brides have scoffed even more at the idea of professional photography. "I'd rather put the money toward a honeymoon," they say.

That's fine. I'm not here to tell you where to spend your money, just help you spend it wisely so that you get the most out of every dollar.

Some brides argue, "The marriage is worth investing more in, not one single day." If the marriage is so important, why not have a physical connection to the day it started?

A collection of professional pictures will absolutely become a historical point of reference for your family, and as a bonus it'll bring a lifetime of joy and beauty to you and others as you pass it down and relive the story of when your marriage started.

Wedding photography isn't about survival. It's about living. Investing in something that will work and return for you is the challenge. I'm here to help. :)