In a previous post, we covered four "hacks" you should steer clear of while trying to save money on your wedding photography. Now, let's talk about what you should consider to attain the high-quality photography you want for your big day without breaking the bank.

But First-- Figure Out Your Priorities

I'll preface this entire list by suggesting that you first sit down as a couple and brainstorm to ensure that high-quality photography actually is a priority for you both. Take some time to discuss your personal priorities and values for your wedding celebration, as a couple. What is it that matters most to each of you about your wedding day (aside from actually marrying your favorite person, of course)? What are you most excited about?

Is it a certain special location? Do you envision getting married on a wild, scenic mountain side with a beautiful valley spread out below, or perhaps in that locally famous winery? Are you crazy about dessert, and you both just want an absolutely show-stopping wedding cake? Maybe you have a wide network of meaningful people in your life, and being able to invite everyone on your large guest list is what matters most. Or maybe you both are obsessed with music, and hiring a live band for the reception is a must. Or maybe it's being able to hold on to the memories of all the special moments and emotions during your day-- the first time he sees you walking down the aisle in your dress... the first kiss... the moment you shove wedding cake in his face... his mom crying during the mother-son dance... maybe it's having those moments captured so you can see and live them over and over again.

The list of priorities and values will be different for every single couple, and there's no right or wrong on this one. And this is where, honestly, I see a lot of stress come in to play for brides in the wedding planning process: many times there can be family or friends (wonderful, well-meaning people) who have their own priorities for your day, and those can end up taking the lead if you haven't thought through what matters most to the two of you.

But once you do that work of figuring out what matters to you the most, then you know exactly where to focus your budget; the things that don't matter as much to you can be flexed to accommodate the things that do! If that not-so-cheap photographer you love ends up high on your priority list, then keep consider these steps to make their services more attainable for you.

1) Book by the Hour.

Some photographers offer their services in a few select chunks of time (4, 6, and 8 hours are common offerings,) and other photographers prefer to charge by the hour. If your photographer offers an hourly rate, you can book exactly the time you need, without having to pay for extra time that pushes you over your budget. And this leads to Pointer #2:

2) Lean on Your Photographer's Experience to Make Your Timeline More Efficient

Many wedding photographers include timeline consultation in their services, as I do-- lean on our expertise here! Your photographer's experience is an invaluable planning tool in making sure your timeline is realistic and will serve you well. There are many potential time-wasters on a wedding day that can be eliminated with early, proper planning. Choosing a venue where your entire wedding party can get ready in the same place, for example, can save significant amounts of time. (I shot a wedding where the groom and groomsmen were getting ready nearly forty-five minutes away from the bride/bridesmaids, and they wanted photography coverage of both groups getting ready without a second shooter. This arrangement burned a significant amount of my time getting from one location to another; and while it didn't matter for the couple in question, this scenario would have been a bad idea for a couple trying to make the most of their budget!)

3) Look for a photographer who offers a-la-carte options instead of only bundled packages.

It is common practice in the photography industry for a wedding photographer to bundle physical products (prints, albums, or wall art) in with their coverage time on your wedding day, for one set price. You may be able to stretch your photography budget to fit a higher-quality photographer if you can find one whose service options are offered a la carte. (I've definitely found that an a la carte approach seems to serve my brides the best, so that is the route I take.)

4) Consider a separate bridal session.

If there is a photographer whose images you adore, but you simply cannot swing their prices for a full wedding day-- consider asking if they offer standalone bridal or bride/groom sessions. After all, those beautiful, posed portraits of the bride and groom alone are the ones most couples want hanging on their wall. (How often do you see images from the reception hanging over the fireplace at a friend's house? Not that often.) If this is the case for you, and those formal portraits are what you have your heart set on-- it may be worth paying for a single portrait session of the two of you in your wedding duds before or after the big day!

5) Add your wedding photographer's services to your wedding registry.

Many photographers offer gift cards like I do, and many couples have friends or relatives that would love to contribute in that special way!

6) Ask about referral programs and payment plans.

Lastly, most of us recognize that our services are a significant expense, and we may have options to help put our services within reach! Payment plans, (or conversely, a discount for paying in full) are options with some photographers. Others offer referral programs, where you can earn discounts or other perks for each engaged friend you send our way that books with us. It never hurts to reach out to your preferred photographer and find out what your options might be. Be honest about your budget and what you're looking for. Most of us care deeply about our clients (and potential clients,) and while we have to get paid in order to pay our bills, we want to do whatever we can to help make your wedding dreams come true!