If you haven’t already figured it out, we’re hot and heavy into the wedding planning season.

Most of the bridal shows in the area were back in January, and brides who have summer weddings scheduled are deep into the “everything” of their day — meeting with florists, caterers, wedding planners, and photographers.

I’ve done lots of these initial meetings. Some go great and result in a booking. Sometimes your style is just not what a bride is looking for and that’s OK. You both move on I have no problem with that.

But when a meeting ends with the bride saying something like — “Well, I have a cousin who has a really great camera and I might just have them take the pictures.” — those are the meetings that make me want to cry.

See, there is one thing that I tell every bride that I meet with and it’s please, please, please get a professional photographer to do your wedding.

Nothing against a cousin or an uncle or someone in the family who has a really “nice” camera. But a wedding — hopefully — is a once in a lifetime event. It can’t be duplicated. It can’t be recreated. The lighting is almost always terrible. And it’s incredibly complex and chaotic. You get one shot at a wedding and if you screw it up, that’s it.

I have talked with too many people who have used a friend or a family member to shoot their wedding and then have gotten the pictures back and they were awful. Group shots with heads cut off. Blown out. Too Dark. Pictures missing because film got exposed or files deleted. And their memories are gone.

Look, I know that professional photographers are expensive. I am one, and I know how much I charge for a wedding. But when you get right down to it, when all is said and done, all a bride and groom have left from one of the most special days of their lives are the images (and video, if you do one). The cake is eaten, the flowers dead, tuxes sent back to the rental place. Even the dress probably won’t ever be worn again (unless you do a Trash the Dress session — hint, hint).

The pictures are all you’ve got. If you have to skimp a little on other areas in order to make sure that your memories get captured correctly, shouldn’t you make that sacrifice?

So if you are a bride planning a wedding, please, please, please do the following:

  • Use a reputable pro. We’d love to meet with you and see if we would be a good fit for your wedding. If not, we know several great wedding shooters that we could put you in touch with.
  • Make sure that your photographer has done weddings and has a portfolio they can show you. Just because some has a “great” camera doesn’t mean they can take great pictures with it.
  • Make sure that they are bonded and have a backup plan in case something happens on your wedding day. Car accidents, appendicitis and stolen cameras DO occur. Even to an uncle or a cousin.
  • Get a contract with everything spelled out in writing, so there are no surprises.

I know weddings are expensive and controlling costs is important. Please don’t do it with — when you look back a few years down the road — what is possibly the most important part of your day.