Let’s face it, weddings are expensive. And my job as a wedding photographer doesn’t help. However, the value of quality photos of your wedding day is high.

Romantic, grayscale photo of fashionable bride and groom kissing

Let’s imagine for a second that you want quality, professional photographs from your wedding day but the costs are adding up and the budget is bursting at the seams. It’s tempting to find cheaper or free alternatives. Let me help you look at simple ways to save money on your wedding that doesn’t leave you skimping on pictures.

Let’s start with big picture questions. Consider the necessity and value of particular elements you wish to include in your ceremony, reception, or day as a whole. Ask yourself, “Why?” Is it just tradition or your own expectations? Can they be shifted and still respect the vision you have for your day?

More specifically, think about details and if you really care about including them at all or if you can do it yourself and not add to much stress.

Romantic close-up photograph of wedding day kiss

When considering flowers and food, opt for local, in season options. For example, serving watermelon in February isn’t going to be a money saver (nor will it taste as good!). And getting your florist to import an exotic flower won’t be as cost-conscious as choosing spring blossoms native to your area that are already in bloom in May.

Wedding day flower arrangement

Also, when considering flowers, if you are trying to stick to your budget, consider using less. I have had several winter weddings avoid flowers altogether, using the greenery already decorating the church or venue. In my own wedding, we didn’t do boutineers for the gentlemen.

Skip programs, or keep them simple. For longer ceremonies, it can be helpful for guests to have one, but I’ve attended many weddings without them and I don’t think anyone noticed. It also helps reduce waste.

Something old, something new. Something borrowed, something blue. The tradition to have each of these things isn’t a bad idea when it comes to minimizing your costs. Consider second-hand, borrowed, or otherwise re-used items. Decorations can be thrifted, bought used from Craigslist or similar places, or borrowed from a friend. I’ve had a bride who borrowed her dress. Some of my favorite flowers at a wedding were in a collection of jars the bride and friends saved and washed from things like salad dressings, spaghetti sauce, and preserves.

Details shot of wedding invitation on reception table with decorative greenery

Use one venue, rather than separate venues for reception and wedding ceremony. I’ve photographed several that are in the same room. It’s convenient for your guests and you as you coordinate only one location.

Feeding people can grow expensive quickly. Consider what options make the most sense for you. Maybe a dinner reception isn’t the best idea, and a cake reception better fits the bill. One alternative that I liked a lot was a cake reception for all the guests, but a more private affair was held later in the evening with dinner for family and the wedding party.

Wedding reception place settings

Do your research to find unique, affordable options that suit your tastes and match your values. Ask questions and seek alternatives. My wedding reception was in a non-traditional location and I was concerned I’d get turned down when I asked and that it would cost a fortune. I asked, and not only were they happy to oblige, but it was only $75 for a cleaning fee. What a treat to dance with my new husband where I’d dreamed!

Fun newlywed couple and bridal party dancing

Involve family and friends. If you have someone with special skills who wouldn’t mind being an emcee or coordinating for you, go for it. If you have aunts a plenty who want to make appetizers or arrange your flowers, use their gifts and give a hearty thanks!

If you love cars, splurge on an amazing unique kind of transportation for your day, but if not, your own car will be just fine. Though I might suggest cleaning it for a touch of extra sparkle.

All that being said, save for what you value and prioritize that. I’d love for you to clear the way for your photography. However, other vendors would likely hope you would do the same creating memories through the dancing, or atmosphere at the reception, or a stunning cake that looks like a work of art.

There’s something so special about a newborn baby. Their fragility. Their squishy cheeks. Their appearance into the world after being almost abstract to their family for many months. They are certainly reason to celebrate.

African American mother holding newborn baby

When photographing a newborn, there are a couple of location options that I tend to opt for, but most frequently, I photograph at the newborn’s home. Parents have often created a nursery for their littlest ones out of the love that is in abundance while they can’t yet hold their tiny hands and feet.  Mother’s bodies are healing and one less outing, the better.  Families change and seasons change, and documenting the home your baby comes home to is a special kind of documentation to me.

One of my children, adopted and having moved internationally at age 2, can never know what the home he was born into looks like.  We can’t really even imagine it. What a gift it would be to him to have a sense of place and home of birth through a photograph.

Newborn blanket with Peter Pan theme

Our oldest, though he can’t remember it, knows the home where he was born and says, “Hi old house!” every time we pass it. The photos we have of that home where he was born help him establish the days he doesn’t recall. And see how goofy we looked standing on the front porch on the way to his first doctor’s appointment. The Christmas tree where we stood after he came home from the hospital. And the red slip covered couch where I sat to watch too many hours of The Today Show after he was born.

Newborn baby's feet

I have a handful of tips on how to prepare for your newborn photography session at home. These are things I tell to almost every family.

Schedule ASAP. Newborn photography is best done before baby is 14 days old.  Less than a week is ideal for photographing, but not always ideal for parents just getting home from the hospital and recovering.

Warmth. We’ll probably be changing baby or wrapping baby or undressing baby, so keeping your house warm will help baby stay settled and sleepy. Crank up the heat and be prepared to get toasty.

Mother and father cradling newborn

Clothes. Mama’s bodies do not bounce back in a day, so not everything in your closet is going to fit.  Honestly, I know that makes it hard to plan ahead. That in-between stage, when your body is still looking like you are about 4 or 5 months pregnant can be hard to dress, and so I just say- girl, do your best. Your presence in the photo is far more important than any shirt or pair of jeans you can squeeze into.  Many tops these days are rather flowing and have a lot of drape, so that can be an easy option. I advise couples to coordinate but not match, and to send a picture if they have questions about wardrobe.  Simple is best.

Tidying.  There is no need to wear your body out more than it already will be cleaning and preparing. I do suggest clearing out any excess clutter sitting out in the nursery (like bags of diapers, those shower gifts that never found a home or need returning, or pile of laundry), making the bed in your own room, and potentially tidying up in the living room.  But don’t overhaul the house.  I’ll move whatever I need to and it’s no big deal.

Props and special tidbits.  If I see a fun basket or bowl or box in your home, I might use it as a prop. If you have any special heirlooms, handmade gifts, blankets, hats, or clothing you’d like included, have it out and ready in case we have a great way to incorporate it.

Mother cuddling newborn baby in rocking chair

You can expect that if my kids are sick or I am sick, I’ll postpone for the safety of your child. I’ll also use sanitizer or wash my hands before holding your baby.

I’ll never pose your baby in a dangerous way, nor move away from baby without a spotter.

If you are having a newborn mini session, your photos will likely all be relationship photos, and little to none of those photos will have baby alone. Mama and Dad will be there to cuddle baby for our short time together. If baby is really sleepy, we’ll do our best to get baby alone.

If you are having a This Season session, you can expect a longer, relaxed pace together.  We’ll spend a full morning, afternoon, or evening together. I’ll photograph a mixture of posed portraits, candid moments, soothing, feeding (as desired), and details of baby and their space. If baby is fussy, it’s OK. If baby is sleeping the whole time, that’s OK. You can expect to just enjoy looking at your baby and spending time as a family.