One of my best friends and former college roommates is getting married this October in Texas, and I unfortunately already had her date booked and won't be able to photograph her big day (I'm so sorry Lesley!). So, we've been discussing wedding photographers as she is going through the process of selecting one. She has found a photographer she really likes (and so do I), but the photographer's basic package is about $500 more than she planned on spending.
So, should she choose that photographer and spend a bit more than she planned, or should she choose a photographer with a lower rate?
My first thought is this, will you be able to redo your wedding photos if you don't like them?
Of course, the answer is no. So, this is how I would suggest determining your wedding photography budget and how you choose your photographer. First, ask yourself what kind of photography style do you want. Do you prefer a traditional, posed look? Do you want purely photojournalism (no posing), or would you like something in between? Then, ask yourself how important your wedding photography is to you. This really does vary between brides and grooms. Would you be just as happy with a student or family friend photographing your wedding, or do you want a professional? Are you willing to cut other areas of your budget for photography, or is it farther down on the priority list? Lastly, come up with your baseline budget. By baseline, I mean the price you would be overjoyed to spend if you got your first choice photographer. Then, determine what your maximum budget is--there should be some room between this number and your baseline.
For example, if your baseline budget is $3,000 and your absolute maximum is $4,000, you should have some choices that fall below $3,000 and some that are in between the $3,000 to $4,000 range. Obviously, if you find a photographer that you really, really like but their lowest price is $6,000, then they are out of your budget. But, if you find one that is $3,500, you shouldn't hesitate to choose that photographer, as long as they meet all the criteria mentioned above. And, if you find your first choice for $2,500, then be excited--you've got what you wanted, and you spent less than you planned!
If your wedding photography is important to you, you should look at it as an investment that will last a lifetime. After all, good photography will last a lifetime--but so will the bad, too! Yes, price does matter when choosing your photographer, but it shouldn't be the only deciding factor.