If you are at the beginning stages of wedding planning or fully engulfed in the process unless you are a royal with an unlimited budget then you more than likely have some sort of budget in mind for your event. Some couples have a large 20,000+ budget, some have a modest 10,000+ budget and some are working with just a few thousand dollars. Did you know that the average price of a wedding in Colorado is now $30,000? The picturesque venues start at around $7000 for a weekend event and most caterers are charging $100+ a person per a meal. Those costs alone are going to add up quickly and with a very modest budget are not going to leave you much for extra for all the other vendors needed at a wedding. The best way to start figuring out your budget and how much to spend on each vendor is to prioritize what is most important to you.
If you have a $10,000 budget I highly suggest not blowing it all on the venue. There are options out there for couples with this minimal budget such as parks and recreation rentals or even churches offer a more affordable alternative to the high ticket wedding venue. If you have a $20,000+ budget then by all means book that amazing venue. A location with a beautiful view and lovely decor might even save you some money in decorating just because it may not need much more. The time of the year you host your event might also effect the pricing. Some venues even offer savings for hosting an off season event. Depending on the venue this time-frame in Colorado is typically November through March.
A trend in the wedding venue companies is to now offer all inclusive packages. These venues advertise as a one stop shop that is supposed to save couples money and the hassle of looking for all of their other vendors. I’ve worked at a few of these types of venues over the years and can see the advantages and disadvantages to them. The main benefit being that you will probably be able to host an event for under the cost of the average Colorado wedding (sometimes) if you use all of their vendors. The disadvantage of this concept will be that because vendors on these lists are often making their services available for under the market value they are also having to pay their employees under the market value for their work. For instance the DJ hired to fulfill these packages is often a college kid with maybe one or two events under his belt and you won’t be allowed to chat with him directly before your event. This person may not know how to keep a dance floor full, what announcements that need to be made or even how to handle a problem with equipment should it arise. My thoughts about this is to make sure you are able to vet all of the vendors they use. Make sure that you are able to replace vendors with your own when necessary and that it won’t cost you extra to use your own. There are still advantages to being able to create your event the way you want it to be even if it may cost a little more.
Some venues that do not provide food onsite might also require that you choose a caterer off their preferred list. Typically, there are reasons for this requirement. The main one being they’ve worked with these vendors a number of times already. The venue knows the quality of the service they provide and want to make sure that the same quality is provided to the guests they are hosting as it reflects poorly on the venue if the service is bad. If the venue you want to book has a list of caterers you must choose from then request a list of them before you book the venue so you can reach out them to figure out the average pricing. I’ve seen it a hundred times… couples book a venue because they are offering a great deal only to find out after the fact that the caterers on the venue’s list are all out of their price range! Ask questions!!!
After you list all of the items needed to service your wedding, rearrange them in order of importance and then research the average cost of each service and decide on how much you’d like to spend on each item. Leave a little wiggle room in your budget for services that are of the most important to you. For instance if photography is at the top of your list and you’ve budgeted $3000 for it but you found a photographer who’s work you love and personality clicks with yours but they charge $3500 don’t compromise on that service, instead take that $500 off your budget somewhere else. Maybe you had $500 earmarked for wedding favors, but do guests really need some tchotchke that will more than likely end up in the trash after the event? Probably not, but if your wedding photos get screwed up you will remember that forever! Don’t be afraid to ask vendors if they can work with your budget. The worse they can say is no.
Remember that there are also a lot of little items that add up quickly as well. I once covered a beautiful DIY wedding held in a tent on the property of the bride’s parents. The day of the event she told me that she thought they were going to save money by hosting it themselves, but by the time they rented everything they needed (including the porta potties, something they had forgotten about) they were at the cost of the most of the venues they toured, but had all of the hassle of having to set up everything themselves! Her biggest regret was not having researched the costs of everything that would be needed to do the event themselves and having to beg friends and family to do all the heavy lifting!
The biggest take away you should get from this article is to do the research. Ask questions from your top picked vendors, read reviews and research some more before you sign on the line. Prioritize what’s most important to you and understand that priorities are different for every couple. Just because your best friend dropped a ton of money on a band at her wedding doesn’t mean you have to if hiring a DJ will still fit within your vision and save you some dough.
Happy wedding planning!!! Reach out if you need some advice. We’ve worked at tons of venues throughout Colorado both big and small. We truly believe that every couple deserves to have the wedding of their dreams no matter what their budget!
As a wedding photographer/videographer I see a lot of wedding trends come and go. Some of the classics stick around for a good while, but even some of the die hard wedding traditions are starting to move their way out of the limelight. I thought I’d take a peek at the fun trends that are making their way to couples this year and with a mention of the ones on their way out. Let’s see if you agree…
TRENDS ON THEIR WAY IN
1.) Weekday Weddings – We saw quite a few of these over the last year just due to couples needing to work within venue’s availability after they had to postpone their 2020 event. Don’t expect them to go away. Lots of venues offer special savings when a couple is willing to host their event mid-week. Almost everyone has a limited budget, so couples all over have found this is a great way to save big on their wedding!
2.) Customized Weddings – These have already been really popular. Engaged couples want to do something different that stands out and makes their event more memorable. I see a lot more couples wanting to do their wedding “their” way instead of the “traditional” way. This can mean having a food truck instead of a sit down dinner, having a cocktail hour before the vows, coming up with their own unity ceremony instead of a candle, etc. I already have two “brunch” weddings booked in 2022 for breakfast lovers everywhere! Anywhere a couple can put their personal stamp on their event they will be doing it!
3.) Electronic Invitations – The pandemic made electronic ways to stay in touch with your guests more acceptable due to all the postponements and reschedules. And now they are here to stay. Electronic save-the-dates, invites, RSVPs are a great way for couples to save money, even if you just use a wedding website to get all that extra information out for instance like where to stay, and how to get there. A small QR code placed on a physical invite even gives your guests a quick way to go to your wedding website.
4.) Destination Weddings and Elopements – We’ve covered a lot of these in the past few years and when Covid lockdowns happened couples still wanted to get married, so they chose the most exotic place they could get to within the US borders. We had quite a few couples coming from areas without snow, or from the flat plains to Colorado just because they wanted to get married on a mountain top. And in reverse a lot of couples in Colorado going to locations with beaches!
5.) Renting a Vacation Home for Bachelor & Bachelorette Parties – People looking for ways to avoid crowded clubs and bars are looking into staying with their close friends at a large home they can rent through sites like Vrbo.com and Air BnB. And then they are even hiring a photographer to come out and document it! This can be a long golf or ski weekend or maybe a great location like Nashville or Las Vegas for fun shows and gambling!
TRENDS ON THEIR WAY OUT
1.) Bouquet and garter toss… Many, many couples today are deciding to drop this steadfast tradition. Some of the reasons are because couples are waiting to get married later in life and it just doesn’t seem right singling out one or two of your last unattached friends. Also your dance floor is rocking, who wants to slow down a party for this out dated tradition.
2.) Things on Guest Registries – Also a sign of the times with couples waiting until later in life to tie the knot; a lot of couples are already in a co-habitating scenario and don’t need stuff. I see a lot of couple’s that have honeymoon registries or a site for saving for a down payment on a home. Young couples today are not interested in china patterns. Some are even asking for donations to charities in lieu of a wedding gift.
3.) Wedding Favors – Most couples are ditching the wedding favors in order to afford other items like a video record of their event, or higher end entertainment. Over the years I have found that the largest waste of money goes to wedding favors. People often forget the trinkets given to them by the couple leaving most items behind. The exception to this rule is if you give them something you know they will use like food or drink. I remember one couple that provided a bottle of wine to each family on their way home from their family owned vineyard. Now this is something we all know will get used! Photo-booths have also become a popular favor replacement because it gives guests a memorable experience and a memento that you know they will save and cherish.
4.) Extra Large Bridal Parties – While couples have a lot of friends many are opting to go with small 1-2 attendants or none at all. It gets really hard trying to coordinate schedules of a lot of people for dress fittings, parties, and more. Couples are finding that they’d rather have their guests be guests instead of having them full-fill the obligations of a wedding party. Not to mention how you’ll need a larger alter space in the ceremony to fit a large bridal party. Group photos also take twice as long to do with large entourages.
5.) Receiving Lines – I will go as far as to say this one is pretty much already gone. When I ask couples if they are going to have a “receiving line” I often get a blank stare followed up with the question of “what is that?” A lot of today’s couples have never even seen one unless they’ve been to a very traditional church ceremony. If you’ve never seen one here’s a brief explanation: it’s where the couple and their parents stand in a line to greet and shake the hands of each and every guest after the ceremony and it can take 30-60 minutes depending the amount of guests you have invited. One of the main reasons this one has disappeared is because of the amount of time couples have to do their formal group photos after the ceremony. Most of the time the photos take precedence over a receiving line. Covid pretty much put a complete kibosh to this tradition. A lot of couples now greet their guests while dinner is going on at the reception after they have eaten.
Whether you love all the group photos taken at a wedding with friends and family or would prefer to spend more time smoozing with your guests the reality is that the only way to guarantee a photo with grandma is to plan to take one. These type of photos are the formal portraits at a wedding and I’m going to chat a little bit about how to do them quickly and efficiently so you can get on to the partying!
There’s been a trend in the last couple decades of couples wanting to have more of a photo-journalistic style of wedding coverage. A true photo-journalist should never stage a photo as they are there mainly to document the event. While this can often times capture some of the most emotional and memorable moments at a wedding, choosing a photographer who only offers this type of photography can often mean you miss getting photos with a lot of the people who are important to you that a traditional portrait photographer will take. You can have both styles of photography and the best wedding photographers will offer both!
I started out assisting my mother with weddings back in the nineties during the days of film when each wedding you photographed had a limited amount of film to shoot for each event. Photographers had to choose their frames very deliberately. In those days you took maybe 2-3 frames of each group shot and just hoped someone didn’t blink. You took one shot of the cake and maybe 2-3 of the cake cutting. Delivering 300-500 images back then was considered a lot! I’m thankful to have learned photography during that time period because not only does it make me appreciate the ability to take as many photos as I want at an event, but also it did teach me a lot of skills that I still use today to help with facilitating the formal portrait session quickly. Here are some tips for couples planning a wedding:
1.) First, if at all possible find a photographer that has a portfolio that includes group portraits and speaks about the importance of taking these types of photos at a wedding. This will ensure that you get a photographer that will be proactive in making sure the photos you want with others get completed and not missed.
2.) Ask the photographer to walk you through their process of doing group portraits. Each photographer will probably have a way of doing things that works the best for them. This way you can hear about any potential “red flags” they may state like “I really hate taking group photos, so I do the bare minimum” or “I’ll do group photos if you really want me to” or my favorite “Just grab me whenever you want a photo” That last statement is fine in conjunction with a well laid out plan for how and when you will be doing the bulk of the portrait photos and should be in addition to those photos not in lieu of a planned group formal photography time. The last thing you want to be doing on your wedding day is being in charge of grabbing all the people you want to take photos with, this is the photographer’s job.
3.) Most couples utilize the cocktail hour immediately following the ceremony for the time period to take these group photos. I am starting to hear more often that couples would prefer to enjoy some of that time-frame to meet and greet guests and are opting to do some if not all of the group formals before the wedding. If you are planning on doing this it’s imperative that everyone you’d like to be in these photos knows the time-frame that you will be starting the photos. I also suggest telling them a start time 30 minutes prior to the actual start time to make time for late comers (especially if you know you will have a few of these). Even if you plan to do all of the group photos before the ceremony leave some time directly following the ceremony to do just a few more in case someone doesn’t get the memo or you run out of time before the ceremony. If you don’t need the time it will just give you some extra moments with your new spouse and maybe some extra time for more relaxed photos of just the two of you which really are the most important photos you’ll want from the day!
4.) Utilize your wedding officiant or DJ/MC to make announcements for photos. Simply stated, if you plan to have the officiant tell the guests where they are supposed to go following the ceremony recessional, it’s a great idea to also have him/her mention that the couple has requested that immediate or all of the family of the couple should stay behind for a few moments for some family photos. This tells Uncle John that he can’t make a B-line to the bar just yet! And saves a lot of time looking for the family members needed for the group photos. Less time taking photos means more time to hang out with friends after wards. Family photos can be done as quickly as 15-20 minutes if everyone is present. The overtime comes when a photographer or another person has to go and look for someone who is missing.
5.) Start with the largest family first or with the side that has the most jobs to still do if they are helping out with the reception set-up or meal. Do the extended family photos first if you are doing them and whittle them down to smaller groupings and complete one side (if at all possible) before moving on to the other spouse’s family. If you have any specific groupings you’d like to have photographed give a list to your photographer. Every photographer should have a basic list of what they usually cover to show or tell you about (if you’ve been doing this for 20 years like me then your list can be in your head, but they should easily be able to tell you what their normal groupings are) and then you can decide if there are special groupings you want that are not on that list for instance: generation groupings, just cousins, just aunts and uncles, etc. This will ensure that the photographer knows what’s important to you.
6.) A loud boisterous photographer who is willing to direct people will get things done a lot quicker than a timid person waiting for groups to arrange themselves. If you get the feeling that your photographer is not going to be good at this, but still really like their work then utilizing a family member who can help with this is really recommended. A loud Aunt or Uncle who knows all the key family members and that wants to help is a great person for this role! You can also ask them to keep an eye on your dress and/or other things as the photos are being taken. A detail orientated photographer is great, but an extra pair of eyes is also helpful.
7.) Put the kibosh to others wanting to take photos while the photographer is doing formal portraits. I can’t stress this enough! I know the urge for the mother of the bride to want to take a duplicate photo of every photo the photographer is taking, I really do, but every time the photographer has to stop in the middle of their group arrangements to allow someone else to take photos it adds on to how long it takes to do the group photos. This also results in photos with people looking everywhere, but at the paid photographer’s camera. The couple is going to get a high quality large resolution digital images back from the photographer that they can share with everyone so why would they want a dark, crooked underexposed low quality cellphone picture of the exact same thing? The shocking answer is they won’t want them. Half the time they won’t even see those images as they will get forgotten about and never downloaded from the person’s phone. The best thing a couple can do is set expectations before the wedding by telling everyone that they think will want to take photos that it’s best to let the photographer do their job so that they can get through the photos quickly. This always sounds better coming from the couple rather than the photographer.
Sometimes there’s a real shutter bug in the family as well that likes to bring his/her DSLR which is great, but can also sometimes become an issue. For example if they are taking key members of the wedding party away to do photos of their own while the contracted photographer is trying to get their shots. This has happened to me on more than one occasion and it’s really not helpful and again makes the portrait session take longer. I think it’s great when another photographer comes up and introduces themselves to the photographer and asks permission to take photos. When this occasionally happens I can tell them exactly what they should and should not do. The most beneficial way to take additional photos is to get photos of things the contracted photographer can’t take. Examples of this would be photos of the guests at cocktail hour and dinner or even covering the rehearsal the day before. If someone in your family has expressed interest in taking photos at your wedding it’s imperative to chat with the photographer you have hired beforehand to discuss what this might look like. Most photographers have clauses in their contracts that won’t allow a second professional unless they are hired by them and this is to ensure another photographer is not impeding their job. Having an extra person covering stuff that contracted photographer can’t cover is a great way to utilize someone else with a camera.
8.) Overall, if you really feel like group portraits are not for you, at least consider doing photos with your immediate family with you and your new spouse in them immediately following the ceremony. A few frames of each side of the family should at least be enough to appease mom and dad. These can take as little as ten minutes. If you are worried about it turning into a long session tell the photographer up front that you only want “X” photos. This will let them take control of the situation should more group photo requests come up on the day and allow you an easy way to escape the multiple groupings if you don’t want to do them.
In honor of pride month I thought I would post this beautiful elopement of two ladies from out of state. Covid wasn’t going to stop them from their union and neither was a pandemic! When they reached out to me they originally were looking at exchanging vows at park in Boulder, but then Boulder had just stopped issuing permits for everything due to the pandemic. I suggested this location and the rest fell into place. We met the morning of Halloween on a mountain top near Denver. The couple exchanged vows and spent a couple hours taking photos. It was a great day to see love prevail!
Destination weddings in Colorado have become big business in the wedding industry. Couples from all over the world are imagining themselves saying their nuptials with majestic peaks in the background. Maybe the couples has previously vacationed here and fallen in love with the state or perhaps like one of the couples I photographed a couple years ago the bride had never seen snow before and had always wanted to get married on a snow covered mountain top! Whatever your reason for getting married in Colorado it’s now easier than ever to do! The internet has given everyone the key to searching out thousands of venues and vendors. Couples can check out photos and videos of properties, search by price point and even view reviews from others who have used the vendors in the past. Tools like email, FaceTime and Skype make is easier to do virtual meetings to discuss your needs and concerns that some couples choose to book some or even all their wedding vendors without ever meeting in person! If this is something you plan on doing here is some tips to help you navigate choosing the best vendors!
1.) Consider hiring a Wedding Planner – I’m all for do it “yourselfers” that want to save money, but sometimes a planner is a huge help in facilitating the wedding of your dreams; especially if you don’t live or know anyone where you plan on hosting your event. A planner can have more insight on particular venues and vendors and can even in some cases save couples money by helping them find the best value for what they want to spend. If hiring a planner isn’t in your budget, look for venues with amazing on-site coordinators. When booking a site that includes an on-site coordinator make sure you get a list of their duties so you know what you’re getting. Some venues provide a coordinator purely to protect their own interests. The coordinator is just there to turn on and off the lights, show you what you can and can not do and make sure guests don’t destroy the property. Others offer full on planning services as well. They help with decorating, organizing guests and the wedding party and more. Just make sure you are aware of what they will and will not do especially if you are paying extra for them.
2.) Hiring Pros…when to choose someone from home and when to go with someone locally – Hiring some local vendors are much more obvious. Hiring a caterer from home and expecting them to haul out all of their gear etc. can become very cost prohibitive. So looking at local caterers is probably recommended. Others might not be so cut and dry… not to shoot myself in the foot, as I would love your photo and video business, but sometimes you have built a repertoire with a photographer who lives near you and you really want to use them. I completely get that! I myself have covered a number of destination weddings for people who have grown to love my work. I’ve covered weddings in Florida, the Virgin Islands and even Costa Rica! But sometimes choosing a photographer who lives and works in the area you’re getting married in can be very beneficial. They might work at your venue on a regular basis or know some amazing off the beaten path spots to take photographs. Consider the travel costs you might have to cover when bringing a vendor with you. Sometimes these costs can double the cost of the service they provide.
3.) Do your research and set a budget in advance – Talk with all the parties involved to set-up realistic budgets for each service you are looking for prior to meeting with venues and vendors. In your research don’t be afraid to ask the business what their starting prices are and a rough estimate of what their services would cost for what you need. Caterers this might go off of an estimated guest count and food preference. Photographers and videographers might charge for how much time you want them to document your event and whether or not you want more than one cameraman present. Disc Jockeys and musicians usually start with the time-frame they will be playing music and then add-on for things like extra lighting. Once you have found a few vendors in your price range only set-up meetings (whether they are on the phone or in person) with vendors who are in the range of your budget.
4.) Visit your Destination Location – If at all possible schedule a scouting trip to the area you are looking to getting married at during the time of year that you plan on hosting your event. Photos of a property are great, but we all know that photographers have ways to take the photos showing the venue off in it’s best light and can doctor the images using Photoshop! It’s good to see and meet vendor in person whenever possible. Remember that great venues and vendors book up quickly so while I recommend doing your due diligence with all services, if you have a particular date in mind it might be wise to do this sooner than later because for most vendors once they are booked they’re no longer available to take on more work. Don’t be afraid to ask for past client referrals!
5.) Get it in writing! – Make sure the vendors you hire always use a contract and be sure to review the contracts before signing. Bring up any concerns to the vendor before you sign and give them a deposit. If the vendor doesn’t provide it for you, ask them for an itemized list of everything that is included in the quoted price. At a destination wedding, it’s especially important to make sure things like pick up and drop off of items are being handled by the vendor and everyone is on the same page of timing and what’s included. Be sure to think about things that make it easier for guests traveling to your destination like room blocking at hotels and shuttle service to and from ceremony and reception locations.
6.) Go with your Gut – If after meeting with a vendor for any service something feels “off”, but you can’t put your finger on it listen to what your subconscious is trying to tell you. Some red flags to consider: disparaging talk about a current or past clients (unless it’s to explain how they handled a challenging situation without naming the clients), how quickly they return emails and phone calls (sometimes with emails it’s just technology failing, don’t hesitate to pick up a phone and call them), trying to strong arm you into features or add-ons that you might not need or judgemental comments about your budget and an unwillingness to work within it. While vendors all understand budgets please don’t call a vendor that says their prices start at “X” price expecting them to do basically the same service they are advertising for at a 1/3 of the price! There may be a little wiggle room in some vendors prices, but don’t expect over a 5-10% difference.
Finishing up on our final Willow Ridge Manor wedding for the year… this amazing wedding of a couple that has shared 29 years of their life together before they were able to finally tie the knot! Marta and Sheri had an amazing wedding with a ceremony that started out with pure entertainment from a flash mob as they walked in. I’m not sharing the music that they danced into in their highlight video due to copyright concerns from the big league artist’s songs they used, but it was awesome! It was the first time we’ve captured a scene like that for a couple. I’m guessing it took lots of practice not only for the dancers, but for the lovely ladies too. I also wanted to mention their floral arrangements as well. The couple chose to go with eco friendly alternative flowers that were absolutely stunning and did not look like “fake” flowers at all. I was quite impressed with both the style and quality of these arrangements. Chris and I had a blast doing photos and video for this happy couple! Enjoy some of my favorite photos below.
Vendors Who Made This Day Possible:
Venue: Willow Ridge Manor
Caterer: Fresh Tracks
Disc Jockey: DJ Guy
Cake: Nothing Bundt Cakes
Favors: PB Love CO and MODma
Florist: Flintwood Floral and Design
Photography & Video: Crystaline Photography & Video
Love has no boundaries…. as depicted by Arthur & Tyler’s love for each other. This same sex couple will be sharing their wedding vows next Summer at Willow Ridge Manor and we’re so excited to be photographing it, along with my husband providing their musical entertainment via his DJ business. I got to spend an beautiful Summer evening with them strolling around downtown to do these urban engagement photos for them. Since their venue has a completely different feel to it we decided to focus more on the city that they live in. I love Denver! It keeps changing and there’s always new places for me to take photographs at…. I remember when I first moved here (over 20 years ago). The area around Union Station used to be pretty much a quiet spot without a lot of activity. You could get get a landscape photo of Denver’s skyline from the same place I took the last two photos in this post now there’s nothing but high rises there and it’s always full of people. Progress… it changes things. In this case for the better as I’m so happy that people in love can get married now no matter who they are! Looking forward to celebrating your big day with you both! ~Jamie
This wedding took a while to happen! We were originally booked to cover Denise & Tauna’s wedding in 2017 and due to some unforeseen circumstances the ladies had to postpone their grand affair until a year later because of this they had to downsize their plans to a simple ceremony held at the Genesee Mountain Park Picnic Shelter just a little ways up in the mountains outside of Denver. I was pretty amazed at what can be done at this affordable venue with beautiful picturesque views! The shelter comes with access to electricity so they were even still able to have my husband, Michael with Digital DJ provide music for their event. The couple made this a complete DIY event by do all of their own decorations, silk flowers, and even all their own cooking for the event! Denise told me she was up to the wee hours of the night creating their amazing taco bar for the wedding.
The bride’s decided to incorporate a lot of LGBT friendly colors having the wedding party wear rainbow colors. And combining rainbow sand for their family blending ceremony during the actual ceremony.
A lot of fun was had by the guests that attended… and you could definitely feel the love these two shared! Congrats again Denise & Tauna!
Venue: Genesee Mountain Picnic Shelter
Disc Jockey: Digital DJ
A short five minute highlight clip from a same sex wedding couple that held their beautiful garden ceremony at The Rusted Poppy Inn located in Pueblo, Colorado. Lovely venue – http://www.therustedpoppyinn.com , Amazing Wedding Planner – https://www.facebook.com/statiseventsandfloral/, Also a great officiant – http://www.thetattooedofficiant.com