“What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.”

Thank you so much to Lauren for this post, its a conversation we had in the planning stages of her vow renewal and one that I hear so often when it comes to wedding photography. I asked her to share her story as I thought it may help a bride having a similar dilemma.

Sophie x

When we got engaged, we’d just bought our very first house. Anyone who’s been through that process knows it’s full of endless expense and not just the actual purchase of the house either, but furnishing it too. Even the thriftiest among us finds themselves spending a small fortune. So, when in the midst of this move, Ian proposed one chilly night in Paris, our thoughts soon turned to how exactly we could get married without the added financial burden of an expensive wedding.

We were exceptionally lucky in that our circle of family and friends contained many a talented person. A florist, a cake maker, a future Mother in Law with an artistic nature and a penchant for making invitations, and gradually we found ourselves making plans without the massive cost we had originally anticipated. We undertook as much as we could ourselves- the card box, the table decorations, the name places which were handwritten by a friend with beautiful, cursive handwriting. If you had a talent we could utilise, you could be pretty sure we’d come a’knocking. However, in the midst of all this penny pinching, we made the one decision I truly regret and which has irked me ever since-we hired an amateur photographer with very little experience of shooting weddings or formal events.

I should add that I was by no means coerced into such a decision. We had looked at various photographers online who all seemed amazing, and we’d even found a few we particularly liked, but then a colleague mentioned he’d started a sideline photography business and when I enquired, he quoted a quarter of the price of other photographers we had approached. We looked through a few pictures he’d taken, were happy enough, and decided it was too big a saving to turn down.

Well, let me tell you this. When it comes to your wedding day, never go with ‘happy enough’. Despite a meeting at the venue beforehand, a lot of the photographs we had requested and thought were being taken, weren’t. Locations changed, organisation was scant and despite him being warm and friendly, he clearly lacked vital experience. When we met our photographer again several weeks later to review our photographs, we realised he had already deleted many of them and selected a very small number of photographs himself, many of which were not the reportage style we had requested. I remember that despite there being a couple of shots I did like, I was overcome with an immediate sense of disappointment; ironically not with the photographer, but with myself. In that moment, I realised this had been a budgetary sacrifice too far.

The thing is, it’s very easy to look at a photographer’s prices and seem overwhelmed. Of course, it is a big expense but it’s impossible to convey the amount of work that goes into effectively capturing the countless moments that make up your day. The gentle smiles, the quiet interactions, the rambunctious toasts. Trust me when I say, you’ll want to be able to look back in years from now with a pile of photographs in your lap, which even many years later, bring back the essence and emotion of that day. The regret that comes with not being able to do so, is really quite enduring.

This year marks ten years since we got married. To commemorate that, we arranged a very quiet and personal vow renewal in the lavender fields in Hitchin. Together, we researched and found a photographer we absolutely adored (I think you know who!). We were so impressed with her unobtrusive style and quiet confidence and from the outset she shared our vision for what we wanted the day to be. When we received them, her photographs were such an authentic representation of who we were both as a couple, and as a family, that I quite literally cried tears of joy.

It is by no means my place to tell people what to spend their money on when it comes to their own day, and obviously every couple has different priorities but I will say this: When you hire a wedding photographer you are paying for the services of a professional, an individual who will provide visual documentation of the most precious day of your lives. They will, if you select well, capture moments that you’ll want to relive again and again, for the rest of your lives. So, learn from my mistakes and really research your photographer, look over their work, read reviews, and choose somebody that you’re confident will capture the essence of your day; and remember, sometimes, you really do get what you pay for.

Lauren Barham