What percentage of the wedding budget should photography cost?

According to the website,  www.costofwedding.com, the average wedding cost in the San Francisco and Santa Clara counties is about $34,000; average wedding cost in the Napa and Livermore areas is about $32,000; average wedding cost in Monterey County is $30,000. If you do a Google search on the subject of wedding photography cost, the general answer is 10%. Depending on how DIY your wedding is, or how important wedding photography is to you, 10% is not necessarily what you want or need.

If your wedding budget is the average bay area cost or higher, likely this is a high-end affair with attention to detail. Usually a couple in this range often devote a higher percentage of their budget on photography, and include fine art albums or fine art reprints. If your wedding budget is lower than average ($15,000 or less), then likely you are a young couple making decisions based on making the most of your budget. It can be difficult choosing a photographer because usually talent and experience is proportional to price. Another reason that it can be difficult is that many couples simply want more coverage than their budget will allow for or think that they need 8 to 12 hours of coverage when that’s more than is necessary. (See question, “How much coverage do I need?” in our Tips & Resources section)

Decide how important wedding photography is to you and your fiance. (A good indication is if you are looking for a photographer right after you’ve booked your venue, or if you realize that it’s a month before the wedding and you haven’t looked for a photographer yet) Decide if 10% is enough to cover the type of quality that you want or adjust the amount to cover the quality of your documented memories. Decide what that percentage is from your budget. Decide if you are going to have photography only or photography AND videography and understand that your budget percentage should cover whichever of those that you chose.


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No Regrets: Setting the Right Wedding Photography Budget For You


As tempting as it is to save on wedding costs by minimizing your photography budget, don’t.

Keep in mind that there are no wedding day “do-overs.” A less experienced, less expensive photographer may not be able to skillfully and artfully capture the mood, emotion, and all-important, never-to-be repeated moments of your wedding. What’s worse, you’re bound to experience some post-wedding day regrets if you choose a wedding photographer just because their rates are the lowest.

Let’s face it. Spending money on wedding photography is like spending money on anything else: you get what you pay for. The less you spend, the less value you’ll almost certainly receive—and the more likely you’ll be disappointed in the end.

So what should you spend on a wedding photographer? By all means, realistically assess your wedding budget. But don’t put photography at the end of your list of priorities. After choosing your guy, your gown, and your venue, choosing your wedding photographer is the most important choice you’ll make, because everything else from the wedding day will just fade into distant memory. You’ll want to live ‘happily ever after’ with your pictures, too!

Instead of compromising by hiring a photographer on the low end, find a photographer whose work you love. Hiring that kind of photographer for 4 hours will give you much more memorable photographs than hiring someone who will shoot cheap for 12 hours. Besides considering hiring a great photographer for fewer hours, consider that almost all of your wedding expenses will be reduced if you decide to host your wedding on a weekday instead of a weekend. Being realistic with the number of guests to have is the biggest help.

The bottom line: Let quality, not cost, determine your final decision. It’s a little like researching a fine restaurant online or over the phone. Just knowing the prices beforehand isn’t going to tell you much about how great the food is. You want a wonderful, memorable experience with a restaurant. And you will want that with your wedding photos. The investment you make in your wedding photos is an investment in memories that will keep paying off long after you’ve walked down the aisle.


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Origin of smashing the wedding cake in the bride & groom’s face

I would have to say that after doing quite literally HUNDREDS of weddings, that there has been maybe less than 10 weddings that there was cake smashing in the face. (I’m not talking about putting a dab of frosting on the nose) Even at weddings that have no cake smashing, we inevitably hear at least a couple of guys saying, “DUDE!! GET HER!! SMASH IT IN HER FACE.” Usually, the groom has the good sense to ignore this advice because after all, HE is the one that is going to be with her through the night, not the others.

However, I thought I would share some information regarding the cake smashing. If you have already decided that this is something that you’re going to do, that’s a personal decision. It’s always good to know the origin of a tradition.

Cake smashing, “Dear Abby”, June 26, 2011

The cake-in-the-face custom should have been retired at least 50 years ago. The significance of the “ritual” is extremely demeaning to women. According to the book “Curious Customs” by Tad Tuleja (Stonesong Press, 1987): “The cake-cutting at modern weddings is a four-step comedic ritual that sustains masculine prerogatives in the very act of supposedly subverting them.

“… in the first step of the comedy, the groom helps direct the bride’s hand—a symbolic demonstration of male control that was unnecessary in the days of more tractable women. She accepts this gesture and, as a further proof of submissiveness, performs the second step of the ritual, offering him the first bite of cake, the gustatory equivalent of her body, which he will have the right to ‘partake of’ later.

“In the third step, the master-servant relationship is temporarily upset, as the bride mischievously pushes the cake into her new husband’s face. … Significantly, this act of revolt is performed in a childish fashion, and the groom is able to endure it without losing face because it ironically demonstrates his superiority: His bride is an imp needing supervision.

“That the bride herself accepts this view of this is demonstrated in the ritual’s final step, in which she wipes the goo apologetically from his face. This brings the play back to the beginning, as she is once again obedient to his wiser judgment. Thus, the entire tableau may be seen as a dramatization of the tensions in favor of the dominance of the male.”

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A beautiful San Jose wedding at the Corinthian Event Center


Jessica & Paul,  who are both huge sports fans, met at a Super Bowl party. Almost four years later, Jessica predicted to Paul that the NY Giants and the Patriots would go to the Super Bowl again and that the Giants would win again like they did at the Super Bowl Party when Jessica & Paul first met. “It’s fate. They’re gonna repeat 2008 and it will be a sign that we were meant to be getting married 4 years after we met at that party.” The NY Giants DID win that second Super Bowl. And Jessica & Paul DID get married shortly after that!

Jessica decided to choose the 24th of that month. She told Paul that 24 was Kobe Bryant’s jersey number so he’d never forget their anniversary, then he was totally on board for the date!

Jessica & Paul had their San Jose wedding at the Corinthian Event Center. The ballroom is wonderful, with a forties-type ambiance. The gorgeous flowers from from Nona Tai from Floral Design Studio and their cake was from Bijan Bakery. The Art of Emotion was their San Jose wedding photographer.

Being San Francisco wedding photographer actually takes our work all over the bay area. San Jose is a great place to get married!


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East bay wedding in a restored Victorian

Tava’s love story is one of my very favorites! Tava and Kyle started dating when she was only fourteen. After a couple of years, they parted. As the years passed by, Tava decided that if she EVER got married, it would only be to Kyle ans since they weren’t together, she was obviously NEVER going to get married!

Thirteen years passed and they ran in to each other. Then they did lunch. Then never parted. Although Kyle hadn’t proposed yet, she started making some tentative wedding plans and found our magazine ad, deciding that when Kyle proposed, she was definitely contacting us! He did finally propose and we were Tava & Kyle’s wedding photographers!

Tava & Kyle chose Neumanali, a great restaurant in a restored Victorian house in the east bay area, for their small, intimate wedding.


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Wedding at the W Hotel in San Francisco

Sabah & Shaka are an urban professional couple who decided after 6 years,  to get married. They chose the very edgy W Hotel in San Francisco and it was a beautiful event!

Also part of the event were the amazing flowers by Bunch Studios and a gorgeous cake by the Cakemaker!


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Trying to plan a wedding on a very tight budget?

Weddings can put a dent in a bride and groom’s finances for years to come. If you are operating on a very small budget, you definitely need to find ways to cut costs. If you really need to save money, elope. However, if you are still thinking of a wedding, here are 8 tricks to save a lot of money!

#1 CUT YOUR GUESTS LIST TO A MINIMUM, like 50 – 70. Food is the biggest ticket item. You don’t need to invite everyone you ever knew. Invite those only in your inner circle.

#2 Don’t choose Saturday. This is the high demand day. Instead, opt for Friday or Sunday. Or if you’re really interested in saving money, do a weekday with a brunch.

#3 If you absolutely must have Saturday, do it at a family member’s home.

#4 If you are having it at a family member’s home, coordinate a potluck. It works and saves your biggest amount of money that you would have spent for catering.

#5 Have your dress made by a seamstress, or buy one used off of Ebay or Craigslist.

#6 Have either no bridal party, or just one each. Tell your MOH to go pick her own dress, telling her what color you hope for. A wedding is not about the bridal party. It’s about you and your husband-to-be.

#7 If your small group does in fact end up at a restaurant, don’t include alcohol. The restaurant will have a bar and if the guest is dying for a drink, they can find their way there.

#8 Be realistic with your expectations. Some things are just not that important. Your guests will not care about STD cards, expensive invitations, coordinating tablecloths and overlays, favors, guest signing, expensive centerpieces. They want to watch you get married and they want to have fun at your reception; that’s it.

Because your guests want to have fun, don’t ditch having a DJ, who can read what the group wants. And most importantly, while you need to do your wedding on a budget, the most important things of the day are your commitment to each other and your memories. Having a professional photographer, even if it’s only for 2 – 4 hours, is something you will be glad you did as the years go by. Your memories are important. So are your pictures.

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A perfect wedding in the wine country!

Jocelyn and Devin are both from the bay area and Jocelyn had become friends with Devin’s sister. They were in two separate groups when they met at the San Francisco Bluegrass Festival (you never know when one relationship will lead to another!) and according to Jocelyn,  ‘have been pretty much inseparable ever since!’

After their engagement, they chose Thomas George Estates in Healdsburg for their wedding. It’s a lovely spot that only recently added weddings to their venue offerings. They chose us as their wedding photographers for their wine country wedding. The florist (loved the colors) was Etc. Designs, the fabulous food (seriously, we partake of wedding food all the time and it was awesome) was by Trends Catering. Cake by Patisserie Angelica and the DJ was from Brad Kinney Productions who always is a great DJ!


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An Elopement? Don’t forget pictures!


We live in a time that more people are eloping because of the expense of a wedding. However, you can still have beautiful pictures! Joy & Dustin from Louisiana decided to get married at the Sand Rock Farm here in Aptos, California. Dustin’s parents decided they wanted to watch their son get married, so it was just the four of them.

It was possible to do about an hour shoot with them after the ceremony at this lovely venue and I later told Joy that the advantage she had (besides saving money) was that they got to have a whole hour of couple photos, whereas at a wedding of several hours with more than 40 people, it’s typical to only have about 15 to 20 minutes of the bride and groom alone.

Joy also shared that their families decided to give them a party when they got home, so it sounded like it was the best of 2 worlds!


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Thank you all!

A warm thank you to all of our San Francisco bay area brides (and grooms) for honoring us with this award! We were thrilled to have been chosen and voted for by brides and grooms to win the 2012 & 2013 The Knot Best of Weddings pick and also have been chosen as an ‘Editor’s Choice’ by The Knot. We were completely thrilled, humbled and honored!



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