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Destination Weddings

Destination Weddings: Accept Photographer in Destination Package, or Bring Photographer from Home?
         Brides who plan destination weddings often wonder about hiring vendors at a distance. Fortunately, the websites and agencies that help plan destination weddings offer packages in which everything or virtually everything is taken care of. The bride merely has to choose the location and check off what she wants, and she is frequently given numerous choices within those packages. See below for links to helpful sites and the names of two easily obtainable books that will help you cover all the bases for a destination wedding.
         The one service that might require a little more attention is photography. Unlike the menu, the dress, the flowers, the décor and even the video, with photography a bride has to rely on the particular vision of the photographer to capture her life-changing event. And these visions can vary widely.
         Sometimes these are spoken of as styles: photojournalist, romantic, edgy fashion, nostalgic, etc. But there’s much more to it than this. Every wedding photographer can get the family portraits right, but which ones know how to put you easily into romantic poses? Which ones are attuned enough to fleeing emotional moments to capture them? Which ones see relationships of perspective that can create dynamic and surprising compositions of you and your friends and relatives?
         Fortunately, you don’t have to know much about this to decide what you like. You can let your eyes guide you. So if you want something more than boilerplate generic, it really is worth your while to look at the work of a number of photographers. And look at how they lay out their albums, too. How well does it tell the story of a wedding? How much does it capture the atmosphere, the details, the excitement, the romance, the emotion?
         If you are considering accepting the photographic service that’s part of the package, insist on seeing the work of the particular photographer they will assign to your wedding, or better  yet, see if you have a choice in the matter. If you like what you see, fine. But it’s also a good idea to review the work of photographers in your area who are willing to travel to your destination. Some may even offer you a discount, since you’re giving them an exotic mini-vacation.
         The advantage of using a photographer from near your home are several: (1) you know and like the work, so you know what you’re getting. (2) you have a chance to get to know the photographer, to build up trust, and work together in coming up with ideas at your wedding; and (3) you can be in close contact through the creation and editing of your album, so you’ll get exactly what you want, rather than a generic layout. There’s possibly a fourth advantage: you can make a deal to get all your hi-resolution (printable) images, whereas they may charge you per image in the photo package you get from your destination—so a local photographer may actually end up less expensive!
         For example, Sandals, an industry leader in destination weddings, that has resorts in Jamaica, St. Lucia, the Bahamas and Antingua, offers four photography packages ranging in price from $1400 to $3000 (starting prices). They do not permit brides to hire outside photographers, unless that photographer is a friend and a guest at the wedding. I have no doubt that their photographers are experienced and competent, and know the classic shots to set up (e.g. bouquet in focus on the ground in the foreground with couple out of focus kissing in the background, hands on rings, etc.), and their packages may be adequate for you. However, the “PhotoBook” that they offer as an album is what is sometimes called a “coffee table book,” not a full wedding album. You receive a CD of all purchased images, that is, all the images in your book (which may be enough). Additional hi-res files of images are $20 each, so it would be prohibitively expensive to get the whole collection of several hundred images (at $2000/100 images!). If you have an particular ideas about the photographic style you want (e.g. with a fashion edge, dreamy-romantic, photojournalistic, etc.) there’s no guarantee of getting it. And if you want a hand in the presentation of your photos in your album (the layout) you can pretty much forget about it. So if you think you can be happy with good generic wedding photography, this may be for you. If you appreciate imagination in your photographs and their presentation, a little more effort put into actually evoking the experience, rather than just recording it, you might have regrets later on.
         I’m all for brides and grooms knowing exactly what they’ll get before they sign any contracts, knowing, liking and trusting the photographer to be there for them, to be inspired, to give a little extra—this kind of personal service based on a relationship and a style that you like, is priceless. It can increase the quality of your final album many fold and save you many regrets. It’s not only not that much more expensive, but may actually end up being about the same price or even less expensive, even if you include flying your photographer down and putting him or her up, since the add-ons in the set packages can easily drive up your final price.
         If budget is less of a concern, then you’re almost always better off carefully choosing your photographer yourself—whether he or she is local, or whether  you’ve seen his or her work on-line, fallen in love with it, and spoken on the phone. It’s an extremely personal choice, and the entire “future life” of your wedding day depends on it.
•Books to help you plan your Destination Wedding:
Destination Bride by Lisa Light

Destination Wedding Planner: The Ultimate Guide to Planning a          Wedding from Afar[Spiral-bound] by Allison Hotchkiss

Destination Weddings For Dummies by Susan Breslow Sardone

Destination Weddings by Isabella James

The Knot Guide to Destination Weddings by Carley Roney and          Joann Gregoli

•Links to help you plan your destination wedding:
This site will help you plan your flight and accommodations
Offers a complete planning system, connections to a large group of destinations, lists of vendors, advice, etc.
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