Today I got some very depressing news.
Without going into it much, a documentary idea I had been researching and working on for nearly a year was crushed.
A production company with several documentaries under their belt had the same idea (Even the same title I had come up with) and produced a trailer long before I even started a single interview.
I went on a drive, called a good friend, moaned and groaned, angrily wondered aloud "Are wedding films all I will ever make?!?!" ...and got it out of my system.
After my long and contemplative drive, God put something in my heart that I had to share.
I'm often blinded by editing, scheduling, making money, and spending money to realize what my wedding films are actually "doing".
Then, 3 "What If" thoughts kept going through my head about what my films actually "accomplish."
1) What if wedding films lower divorce rates?
The truth is, after most people are married for 5 or 6 years, the "spark" is gone.
Not to say the love is gone, but the butterflies and the excitement of the honeymoon phase is often replaced with duties of career, kids, and just life in general.
It's no wonder that most divorces occur within the first 10 years of marriage and it's where the term "7 year itch" comes from. After 7 years, some start looking around for that "spark" again.
When editing a wedding video, I sometimes think "What if, 6 or 7 years from now, this couple is struggling and has forgotten that feeling they had on their wedding day?"
I then imagine that one of them decides to re-watch their wedding video and they see that "spark" again and the excitement.
It's like me with my kids; Sometimes they drive me and my wife nuts. Then, for whatever reason, I stumble across a home movie I made of them when they were 3 or 4 years old and suddenly that feeling of newness, and love, and adoration flood my emotions. By the time I'm done watching them learn to ride a bike or say "dada" for the first time in the videos, I've forgotten whatever was causing me and my wife so much stress. I want to wake them up from their sleep and tell them how much I love them.
2) What if this wedding film changes the definition of "Love" for future generations?
I have been doing this long enough now to have couples email me saying that they showed their wedding video to their toddler. They LOVED it and continually ask to watch it over and over. I think about these kids as they get into their tweens and teens. These kids will see something that most of us never saw growing up; our parents being crazy in love with each other. These kids will hear their parents say words that they may never hear them say to each other on a typical day.
These kids will grow up having an idea of what "love" is implanted in their subconscious. A definition of love created by their parents, not a TV show, a movie, or a book.
A daughter might now grow up looking for a man who reminds her of how her father spoke to her mother in their wedding video, and vice versa for the son who sees his mother's love for his father as the quality he should seek in a mate.
3) What if my wedding films, and ALL wedding films made, change the way women and men choose a partner?
This may be a stretch, but I'm pouring out my thoughts here so bear with me (Plus, 3 points are always better than 2 points!)
20 years ago, we didn't have social media, we didn't see wedding films pop up on an Instagram or Facebook feed.
Girls today see more weddings of strangers now than in any time in history.
Brides are hearing men say some of the most sincere, and powerful words of love to their chosen mate.
The idea of what "The perfect husband or wife" is, could begin to shift just based upon the fact that people see "The best" of what an ideal bride or groom can be.
Once I started contemplating how my wedding films, or any wedding film, has the potential to reshape the future of relationships, I began to feel more rewarded by the opportunities I have to be a part of a couple's most important day.
Not to belittle the real disorder known as ADD, but I think I MIGHT have it, with a touch of OCD.
I'm ADD in the sense that I get distracted very easily and I am OCD in the sense that I demand perfection in my film work, and once I start a project, I can't stop for a day until it is done.
I know other wedding videographers who take 40, 50, even 60 weddings in a year! I simply am not one of those. I take less than 20 weddings per year. That's it. I do not "over-book" and I have ZERO "backlog" (In other words, I am not working on more than one wedding at a time and I don't have 3 or 4 weddings waiting to be edited while I work on another.)
My clients benefit from this because this means their wedding is my entire focus. No other distractions to cause my ADD to go into effect.
And while someone with true OCD does NOT consider it an advantage in their life, my 'touch' of it does allow me to get wedding films done in less than 3 weeks. (My quickest wedding edit was 6 days, my average is 10 days, but my longest was about 2 and a half weeks... still far faster than most in the industry).
But these aren't the only reasons I limit how many weddings I take in a year. One of the main reasons is my family. I treasure time with my wife and children. Our weekends together are amazing and memorable. No amount of money a client pays me is equal to the time I could be spending with my wife and kids that day. In a few years my oldest son should be old enough to be a PA (Production Assistant) for me at weddings. That's a really fancy name for the person who carries all the heavy stuff on the wedding day.
One other rule I have; I do not take more than 3 wedding weekends in a row. This allows me to 'breathe'. I once did 4 weekends back to back and the stress was more than I (and my family) could handle.
Your wedding day is one of the most special days of your entire life. I do not take it lightly. Your love story is my only focus; not just when I am at your wedding, but for the next few weeks after your wedding day as I am working on your film. I cannot and will not allow the distractions of "backlog" and stress to cause me to rush through creating an heirloom for you and your future generations to enjoy.
There is no doubt about it:
Weddings these days are EXPENSIVE!
According to TheKnot.com, the AVERAGE cost of a wedding in America is a little over $35,000.
Trust me, that is WAY more than I spent on my wedding 17 years ago.
But, a lot of folks do spend that kind of money on their wedding. If, for example, a potential bride goes to their friend's high-budget wedding and see the sparkle and the glamour, that potential bride (Whose budget may be significantly smaller than her friend's) will want the same feel and "luxury" at their upcoming wedding.
But, not every bride has the same budget, so naturally, some folks pay for the vendors they CAN afford, and for the rest, they try to cut corners.
But at what cost?
In general (Budget-wise) there are 3 kinds of weddings, all of which have the same awesome, wonderful outcome; A married couple!:
The Low Budget Wedding - $10,000-ish or less. Usually at the church of the bride or groom, and a reception is generally on the property of the church. My wife and I fell into this category 🙂 so there is nothing wrong with it in my book!
The Middle to Middle-High Budget Wedding - $10,000-ish to $40,000-ish. This is a big range because it's where most weddings fall and this is where virtually all my clients fall into. Keep in mind that a wedding in Arkansas on average, will be less expensive than a wedding in, say, Manhattan, NY
The Super-Expensive High-End Wedding - $20,000 to even, yes, $100,000+. Nationwide, this is about 5% of all weddings.
So clearly, not every bride can afford "the best" vendors in every category...
...and that's okay!
Let me just go ahead and say that many brides have a perfectly awesome wedding day when friends and family help make things happen. I did a wedding in 2016 where I was the ONLY wedding vendor that was NOT a family or a friend, unless you count the venue... and things went PERFECTLY... half the guests even stayed late to clean up and put up tables and chairs!
But in most cases, this comes with a great risk.
While you may not be able to afford the BEST florist, photographer, DJ, etc in your town, there are still many great, experienced vendors out there. The risk comes when a bride bypasses the best, AND bypasses the great and more affordable ones, only to end up hiring vendors that have little to virtually zero experience.
The Wedding Day Learning Curve
Brides trying to save a few hundred dollars will inevitably hire a friend or family member (We refer to the family members as "Uncle Bob" in the wedding industry) to do things that the bride assumes can't possibly be that hard:
Your cousin owns a Canon DSLR camera so you consider her as your photographer.
Your fiance's roommate from college has an iPod full of awesome tunes so you ask him if he can be your DJ.
A guy at your church runs the camera in the balcony so you ask him to make your wedding video.
Your uncle bought a "really expensive" drone at the hobby shop last week.
These all have the potential of saving you thousands of dollars. And some maybe even have the potential to work perfectly well with your style of wedding. But as someone who has been in the wedding business for almost 10 years I can tell you that these "vendors" often come with a steep price, and sometimes can impede the other vendors.
Of the ones that actually show up, there is a huge learning curve. Weddings are not easy-going events for vendors. Professional, seasoned vendors work very hard to make sure the day goes smoothly for the bride, so she has no idea of how hectic day really is. (Side note: If a bride feels stressed on her wedding day, she has hired the wrong vendors or she chose to not hire a wedding planner or coordinator and decided to be the coordinator herself... BIG mistake unless you thrive on stress.)
A wedding moves fast, there are many moving parts. Knowing how to work well with the other vendors is crucial. Knowing where to be and when to be there is top priority. Do you want YOUR wedding to be the one that someone uses in order to get their sea-legs?
I actually worked with a "DJ" who was a friend of the bride and groom. Some of his songs stopped mid-way during the reception dancing. Everyone would stop dancing, and look around, puzzled. Then he would apologize, saying his data connection ON HIS PHONE kept dropping. He was streaming "YouTube" videos to broadcast those songs. Do you want to risk such a buzz kill on your special day?
What's in it for Them?
If you hire a friend or family member to do your photos or video and you've paid them next to nothing, what's their incentive to get your photos or videos out to you in less than a year? I did a video for a couple 7 years ago. They hired someone they knew for a low price to be their photographer. 7 years later they still don't have a single photo from their wedding. My video is all they have.
But what happens more often than not is that these fly-by-night vendors just decide not to show up. I get planners and other vendors frantically calling and texting me to see if I am available to fill in for a videographer who didn't show up, or they ask me if I know any DJs who are available. It's really kind of sad.
And what's the real risk for them? They aren't risking their reputation because they don't have a business. They aren't risking losing money because they've charged you very little or even nothing at all. Just this week I had a venue owner contact me desperately asking for some vendor recommendations for her bride that is getting married in 3 weeks. One of the friend-vendors bailed. One story I heard was the friend/family member was invited to go to Florida the weekend of a wedding they were asked to work. They chose to go to the beach and left the couple without a videographer.
When these people bail out, you are left scrambling at the last minute to find any available vendor. And trust me; all of the good ones were booked a year ago and you will be left with the scraps, IF you are able to get anyone at all. By trying to save money you have potentially forgone any opportunity to have nice photos/videos taken of your most important day. Or that big party reception you always dreamed about now turns into just a nice, quiet dinner with family and friends. Or, people realize something is missing from your wedding photos. Oh yeah; flowers!
Is the risk of this stress worth it?
Keep some things in mind when budgeting for your wedding:
This day is more than a party. It is truly a ceremony of two families joining together to form a brand-new branch on a family tree. It IS worth capturing, and it IS worth remembering. It IS worth "passing down" to the next generation. Your venue will not allow your children and grandchildren to visit their property to "remember" your wedding day. Your caterer will not prepare another meal for you on your 50th wedding anniversary for free. Your cake will lose it's taste in a few weeks. Your flowers will be dead in a week. Your photos, video, dress, and wedding ring are honestly the only items you get to keep forever and pass down to countless generations from this day forward after your wedding day.
"Going cheap" is never a good idea with any wedding vendor, but some provide a product that outlasts the others and hiring those vendors and being assured they WILL show up (Because their contract says they will), is important.
Hiring a friend or family member as a wedding vendor isn't the problem. The problem is hiring a friend or family member who aren't professionals in their field.
More and more brides today are wanting to have their special day encapsulated in video form.
Naturally, all brides hire a photographer to capture those moments that kids, grand-kids, and great grandchildren will be able to look back on. Photography is a well established industry in the wedding world and brides know what to look for, and what to expect. But wedding films, while truly a treasure and an heirloom, have not fully established themselves in the wedding niche and therefore, brides can be confused about what to expect and what is considered reputable business practices.
Today I want to look at 5 things all brides need to look for and be aware of when considering hiring a wedding filmmaker. These could be the red flags that could save you stress, headache, heartache, and possibly money:
1. Music Choice.
This seems like a strange topic to start out with, but it will make sense.
All wedding films have music in them. But not all wedding films are using that music legally.
Without getting into the legalities of it too deeply, the basics are this: If someone makes a film (whether for profit or not), and they want to use music in the film, they need permission to put that music in the film from the musician, (unless the filmmaker wrote and performed the music themselves). The musician made the music, wrote the music, paid for the studio time, paid for the promotion, etc... and so they deserve to be paid.
For us film makers, we have 3 options;
- Use a resource like musicbed.com to find the PERFECT song to match our films, and pay the licensing fee of $49 to $99 per song to use once (This is what I do).
- Pay thousands of dollars (even tens of thousands) to license a song that is very popular that is often heard in movies or on the radio (Not a viable option for most of us).
- Download a song for 99 cents that we like (Or that the client has chosen), and put it in the film without paying for the rights to the song (Very, very illegal).
If your videographer says "YES!" when you ask them if you can choose the song, beware; they are likely agreeing to use a song that can get them sued, and your film pulled down off any publicly shared social media or video site. I sometimes send my brides to musicbed.com and show them options. In the end, ALL of my brides for almost 10 years have let ME choose the song, and every bride has been over the moon of my choice. Not all songs fit every story or every couple. A professional videographer can find the song that is the perfect fit. An unprofessional videographer finds a song on iTunes, pays 99 cents for it, and uses it in your film.
Your love is precious, and is to be passed down from generation to generation. If your videographers takes shortcuts to save $49 by breaking the law, what other shortcuts will they take with your story? To me, committing a federal crime to tell a love story is the ultimate irony.
More information can be found here on this topic.
2. The no-meeting contract
We do weddings for people all over the country but mostly in East TN, West NC, and North GA. Sometimes I CAN'T meet with the bride due to distance. In cases like this, I either have a lengthy phone meeting (With BOTH the bride and groom) or we try to meet halfway sometime before signing a contract. I do this for several reasons:
- To get to know you. I can't tell your love story that is unique to you without knowing you a little first.
- To make sure you like me! The last thing you want (And I want) is for you to hire someone that annoys you who ends up following you around for 10 hours on a day that is supposed to be your least stressful and most happy day. If you don't meet your videographer, how do you know this person is going to be nice, fun, and stress-free?
- To make sure my shooting and editing style matches your story.
It's no secret that I don't take every wedding that inquires with me. Sometimes personalities do not click, and sometimes a wedding plan isn't going to mesh with the way I shoot or tell stories. However, if the videographer you wish to hire only speaks to you via email or texts, and never offers to meet with you in person before signing a contract (Even if you live in the same town), consider this a red flag. They may not have the same passion about your story that you want your filmmaker to have. Ask a videographer if you can meet with them sometime. Their excitement to meet you will be a good indication that they are the right pick to tell your story.
3. The over-booker.
Some wedding filmmakers will book LOADS of weddings per year, sometimes multiple weddings in one weekend. They will brag that they book 60+ weddings per year. When a weekend comes around and they realize they have double booked, they start asking the local videographers in town if they can cover one of those weddings. If no one can, then one of those bride's will not have a videographer that day. They choose which wedding to shoot and refund the other one. Don't be pulled in by the glamour of a videographer who claims they are booked every weekend because they may double book your weekend and run the risk of not having a video of your special day at all. Ask your videographer "About how many weddings to you do per year?" Anything over 40 and there's a good risk your wedding day may get double booked.
4. The long edit.
This goes hand in hand with number 3. Some videographers take MONTHS to edit a wedding film (I know one group that takes 6 months to edit a wedding film). This can be due to inexperience, poor time management, or they take weddings every weekend and those edits overlap, causing your film to take 3, 4, and even 6 months to finish. They'll suddenly get on a kick and try to knock out 3 or 4 weddings in a week. You don't want to be one of those wedding edits that gets rushed through. This is the reason I limit how many weddings I take per year (less than 20) so I can focus 100% of my editing time on YOUR wedding. Often times I am done with a film in 10 days. I realize that is fast for the industry and I don't know the "Secret" to me being so quick, but I think one reason is because I don't overbook. Ask the videographer you are communicating with how long they can expect to wait until their product is finished. 8 weeks or less is pretty standard.
5. The photographer-turned-videographer
For some reason, there are a handful of photographers who look at videography as "Photography 2.0"; They have the cameras, they know lighting, they know composition, so they feel they can make videos too! They offer photo and video packages which is very alluring to a bride (One less vendor to meet and pay). The truth is that a wedding film is nothing like making a photo album. My wedding films tell a story that no photos can ever tell. On the flip side, a videographer really has no business trying to do photography either. While both businesses use similar equipment, if you hire someone offering you both, they are giving you only half of their time and abilities to each aspect.
I've found that the majority of photographers who offer video services are fairly new to the industry and that inexperience will ensure you get a very average (at best) video. Your best bet is to find the photographer who's style you LOVE, and ask them what wedding filmmaker they recommend and have worked with before. Most of my referrals come from photographers I have worked with.
This list comes from being in the wedding industry for almost 10 years. I have heard all the horror stories and seen all the heart-ache because brides didn't do the research or notice the warning signs and red flags when hiring an inexperienced or fly-by-night wedding videographer. Hopefully this list will help you or someone you know as they begin their wedding planning!
Text. Book. Couple. And that groom! Alex was the groom I wish I had for all my weddings... willing to swim through shark infested waters to take his wife a glass of lemonade, and not afraid to tell the world about it. This was my first wedding of 2017. I prayed that God would use me to glorify Him and give this couple a gift they could treasure for many generations. I give God all the glory for this final film. I pray that God can use me in all of 2017 to create heirlooms for families like this one.Below God, I'd like to thank: Levi Mlinar, my second shooter, who is so amazing I could have sat around drinking ginger-ale and let him do everything and not have had a care in the world. Chris Braly, my brother, for the aerial footage. Rich Smith and his beautiful wife Heather of Rich Smith Photography for being goofy, funny, easy-going, easy to work with and of course, an amazing photographer. (richsmithphotography.net/) DJ: CBH Entertainment for providing some super clean audio feeds. (facebook.com/CBHentertainment/) Walnut Hill Farms for the perfect venue AND amazing catering. (walnuthillfarmga.com/) Chickamauga Florist. (chickamaugaflorist.net/) Make up artist Angela R. Jordan Hair: Krystal Ducker Quartet: Polyphonia Strings (polyphoniastrings.com/) Dress by Stella York from Glitz Nashville. (glitznashville.com/)