Why I Only Book 10 Weddings a Year
I say ‘only’, but 10 is still a lot! lt’s just not 15, 25, or 50 - like other photographers may take on. Each photographer operates differently. We all have different goals, dreams, and obligations that can directly affect the number of weddings we chose to tackle each season. My number is 10, and I’ll explain why. And if you make it to the end, I’ll let you in on a few rules I’ve set in place to help me focus before and after a wedding!
Weddings are a lot of work!
And pressure. Duh! ;) In fact, just months into my journey as a photographer I spoke the words, “I’ll never photograph a wedding.”. That stemmed from a mix of insecurity and lack of confidence, but I believed those words when I said them. I didn’t want anything to do with weddings especially when I was still figuring out my camera. The thought of someones special day completely in my hands…terrified me. Family and children sessions felt safe, and that’s where I was going to stay.
But then a handful of months later a wedding inquiry rolled in. My first ever. I wasn’t advertising for them, but a newly engaged couple saw my work through a friend on Facebook, and reached out. My heart pounded and I immediately thought, “no way”. I sat on the email for a few days and after the initial panic wore off, I started to actually consider it. There was a curiosity there I hadn’t felt before. I approached the inquiry openly and honestly and told the couple they would be my first. After some back and forth, they booked me!
I was at a point where I was very comfortable navigating my manual settings and switching lenses quickly for different lighting and location scenarios. And although that’s a very important skill to have on a wedding day, that’s such a minuscule part of navigating a wedding as the lead photographer. I had a lot to learn! I went on to photograph their wedding, loved it, and continued to fill my calendar with none other than…weddings!
Weddings are Physically demanding
A wedding photographer must really be ALLLL the things. We must be present and on our game (and feet!) for 8-10 hours straight. But it’s not only a mental game (I’ll get to that), it’s a physical game. We lug around heavy equipment on our backs and shoulders for hours on end. We hold up large telephoto lenses with shaky arms so we don’t miss that moment. We run back and forth in the heat or the cold to fluff a dress or fix a curl. We bend over and kneel to arrange a flat lay or lay down on our belly to get a fresh perspective. When everyone is sitting during a ceremony, we are scurrying around like little mice, standing on chairs, kneeling, hiding behind pillars…trying to be quiet and stealthy while capturing different angles and moments. When everyone is enjoying a cocktail before the reception, we are swapping out batteries & memory cards, setting up light stands, and communicating with the DJ about the flow of events to come. We are always moving, or thinking about our next move.
All of this movement does play a toll on the body, which is typically recognized the next morning. You may have heard of the term “post-wedding hangover”. The head to toe body aches and drowsiness that lasts well into the following day. A hangover without any alcohol. It’s a real thing! And it happens to me after every wedding - without fail!
Weddings are mentally demanding
In addition to the physical aspect of weddings, they can also play a toll mentally. I have an introverted personality naturally, but on a wedding day I transform into an extrovert. Thankfully so…but that takes a lot out of me! This transformation is imperative to keep everything running smoothly and for my clients and their families to take me seriously. There are moments when I need to command a large crowd for family formals, or gather a rowdy wedding party for group shots. I direct posing, sing praises, and am constantly thinking about my next move. Rarely a moment goes by when I’m not communicating to my assistant, my clients, their families, or the other vendors involved!
the work begins after the wedding
When the bride & groom have their last dance, my work is actually just beginning! After a wedding day, you’ll find me back in my office uploading, culling, backing-up, and editing 100’s of images. This process is meticulous - and can take weeks to complete. My contract states that wedding images will be delivered within 60 days of the wedding date! And that time is OH so needed. I can’t rush this process. It’s where the art is created - where I breath life into each individual image. My perfectionist personality may edit and even re-edit until I am 110% satisfied with the quality I deliver. I do not currently outsource my editing. I touch and spend time with every single image that is returned. This is the part of my job that brings the most joy. The editing, refining, and perfecting. And then of course clicking “send” on a completed gallery, knowing soon that bride & groom will get to re-live their day through hundreds of special moments that I have stopped in time. I am a one man show, and I love that I get to provide an experience for my couples from start to finish.
Because each wedding day is so physically and mentally demanding, and because I spend so much individual time on each wedding in post-processing, I simply have to say “no” on occasion. I have to set limits and turn down inquiries. It’s not fair to my couples if I’m overbooked and they’re not getting 100% of me and my talent. When there is too much on my plate, something will suffer - and that’s either my work, or the time I am spending with me family. Truthfully, I don’t want to choose between the two. Neither of those should suffer. If balance exists, it’s because I’ve found it in the art of “no”. I have (politely) turned down brides who’ve approached me with dates I do in fact have open. Why? Because I don’t want to reach burn-out. My couples deserve the best of me. I know the best of me cannot exist with a calendar consumed of nuptials week after week. The beauty of this job is that we get to set our own boundaries - and someone else’s may look very different than mine. And you know what? That’s OK!
I recently spoke of the art of saying “no” and how it actually transformed my business and increased my income in my recent post, The 5 Changes I Made In My Business that Doubled my Income in 1 Year.
why i love weddings
I know I know, I’ve focused on a lot of the challenging aspects of weddings throughout this post, but I don’t want anyone to think for even a moment that I do not LOVE weddings. I absolutely do. In fact, I love them so much, that’s why I had to set a limit! As I touched on previously…overwhelm, stress, and burn-out are REAL. If we are pushing ourselves too hard or putting too much on our plate, we may start to notice feelings of resentment towards our passions. I don’t want to be in that place, or even get near that place. Currently, I look forward to each and every wedding. They each spark excitement, release creativity, and are reminders that I’m in the right place.
So what do I love about weddings? Everything, really! I love seeing my brides & grooms for the first time that day. Full of nerves and excitement. I love the eager anticipation before the ceremony, and the joy-filled family members looking onward. I love witnessing all the firsts. First looks, first kiss, first dance. I love that they’re fast paced and continually challenging me to surpass my boundaries. I love that I get to play a small role in such a pivotal life moment. That I, Laurenda, get to provide my couples with tangible keepsakes that could potentially live on for hundreds of years. I get to be a part of that legacy, and that’s pretty special.
my wedding rules
Aside from accepting 10 weddings a year, I’ve set a few additional “wedding rules” for myself as well. These are in place solely for me to mentally prepare for each individual wedding.
I will not book a double-header.
In the wedding world, this refers to back-to-back weddings in 2 consecutive days. Whether that’s Friday & Saturday weddings, or Saturday & Sunday weddings. The anxiety I get just thinking about that is enough for me to politely say “no”! ;)
I will not book sessions the day before OR day after a wedding.
The day before a wedding is spent prepping all of my camera gear, packing up my bags, and mentally getting in the wedding zone. I immerse myself in the couples story, their colors & vision, and familiarize myself with their venue (via social platforms). I try to keep my focus on them, and not another session I’ve scheduled. The day after a wedding…well number 1 I am recovering from my “hangover”, number 2 I am spending time with my family who I just spent a full day away from, and number 3 I am uploading, culling, and backing-up all the wedding images from the previous day. I could shoot sessions these days, but I choose to eliminate any distractions and keep my focus elsewhere!
Congratulations for making it to the end!
If you’re a bride & groom, I hope you take care of your photographer, respect the lengths they go to, and understand the time & work they put into your day before, during, and after!
If you’re a wedding photographer, dig deep to figure out what number rings best with you. Maybe you need a higher number for income purposes, maybe you’ve reached burn-out and need to take a step back and evaluate what number fits best into your current season of life. I challenge you to find your number, and stick with it! I challenge you to stand up and say “no” when you need to. My number may change over the years. As I age and my kids age, life will look differently and that number will shift to reflect that stage of life.
I used to think the amount of weddings I booked per year defined my success. If I wasn’t booking 20+, than I was failing. I felt pressure to book, book, book - hustle, hustle, hustle - but I’ve learned that success looks differently to everyone, and success to me is continuing to find excitement and joy in my work through every session - through every wedding.
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