Bringing a Photographer to Your Destination Wedding

The advantages of making this investment in your photography.

Bringing a Photographer to Your Destination Wedding

Photo: Melissa Mermin & Earl Christie

Something will likely go awry on your wedding day, especially if you have planned a destination wedding from afar. But certain mishaps are much easier to take in stride than others: If the cake is not what you envisioned, you will soon forget its strangely tinted icing and put it behind you. But if your photographs turn out to be a huge disappointment, you will spend a long time regretting your choice of photographers with no way of fixing the situation.

While some mistakes are unavoidable, investing in the right wedding photographer for a destination wedding can help prevent terrible photos -- and unnecessary stress. When planning a wedding in a city or country with which you are not familiar, asking a photographer you know from your area to travel to the wedding is a wise choice. You will have greater control over the outcome of one of the most important elements of your wedding: those precious printed memories.

Finding a great photographer is made much easier these days, whether by searching the internet, asking friends and family for personal recommendations or looking through magazines for advertisements that catch your attention. Any savvy, reputable photographer has a Web site showcasing his or her style and philosophy, and these galleries are a great place to narrow your search to those you want to interview. The beauty of hiring a photographer close to home is that you can meet in person on multiple occasions to plan your event. It also makes ordering albums and prints after the wedding far more convenient. By sticking with a local photographer, you have the ability to work together before the wedding on your engagement photos, which will allow you to develop a solid “working” relationship that wouldn’t be possible with a destination photographer.

As with any wedding professional, a photographer who travels for a wedding will expect to have certain expenses paid. This also qualifies for any assistants you agree to hire. If you choose to bring the photographer of your dreams with you to your destination wedding, you will be responsible to pay for the photography team’s round-trip airfare, accommodations, transportation, as well as a per diem to cover food, tips and other miscellaneous expenses incurred while traveling.

Some photographers might even charge an additional fee for a “weekend buyout.” This covers any revenue that might be lost because the photographer would be out of town and unavailable to return home for a Sunday event. A photographer might also charge for actual travel time. Of course, fees and expenses will vary from photographer to photographer and depend greatly on your wedding location. Each photographer works differently, so ask very detailed questions in order to get very detailed answers.

If your photographer does charge you a weekend buyout fee, you might want to negotiate that he or she shoots your rehearsal dinner and/or Sunday brunch for free in exchange. Having your photographer photograph the rehearsal dinner is a great way for him or her to get to know family members and meet your guests ahead of time. It can make a huge difference to everyone involved when the group is familiar and comfortable with the photographer.

If your wedding is on a Saturday, arrange for your photographer to arrive on the Thursday before so he or she has plenty of time to settle in, scout the location, and perhaps adjust to a new time zone. He or she will then be ready to shoot the rehearsal dinner on Friday night, if need be. The photographer can choose to fly home after the wedding on Sunday or extend his or her stay until Monday to enjoy a long weekend. (Note: If your wedding falls Monday through Thursday, you may be able to negotiate a better rate since most wedding photographers’ busy days are Friday through Sunday.) The client should be responsible for paying for the first three nights of the photographer’s stay. The fourth night is optional but sometimes covered as a gesture of appreciation for a job well done. If your wedding happens to be out of the country or the photographer has to fly more than eight hours to reach your wedding, you should pay for a minimum of five nights, giving he or she enough time to arrive and be fully rested before working the long hours associated with shooting your wedding weekend.

When it comes to destination wedding planning, it is hard to put a price tag on piece of mind. By making this greater financial investment, you will be able to better control the quality and style of your photographs. You will also be able to choose a person with whom you feel comfortable spending the day or entire weekend. You will know what to expect before the big day unfolds.

Opening photograph by Melissa Mermin & Earl Christie