Why Your Wedding Can’t Cost the Same as a Birthday Party


August 31, 2016

For Photographers- Bday vs Wedding
Last week, I saw a new story from the Today Show and the Rossen Reports on the wedding industry and how much more we charge. He compared a birthday party pricing to a wedding and called the price difference the “wedding mark up.” As I watched this video, I sat there shaking my head at the ridiculousness of the story. You can watch the video here to see what he does undercover to prove this “wedding mark up.”

For those of you genuinely wondering why a 6 hour birthday isn’t the same as a 6 hour wedding, this post is meant to educate and teach people on what goes behind the scenes. This is in no way me complaining about the amount of work I do. Everyone has a job that requires a lot of work. I LOVE my job and LOVE what I do. I just think that there are a lot of people not in the industry that don’t know how much behind the scenes work goes on for a wedding. I hope this post is helpful insight to all!

6 hours of wedding coverage isn’t the same as 6 hours of birthday coverage. (I don’t do less than 8 hours in my packages, but that’s for a different blog later on.) What the Today Show failed to explain and share or even RESEARCH is the amount of behind the scenes work that goes into a wedding before and after. A wedding and a birthday party are two completely different events. My preparation for a birthday and wedding require entirely different amount of work. The stress level and mental work the day of is also completely different. Even if the hours are the same. Even if the number of guests are the same.

My preparation, work during, and after a birthday party looks like this:

  • One initial email to book the event, a possible phone call
  • A possible face-to-face meeting, but not very likely for a birthday party
  • A handful of emails leading up to the party
  • Friday preparation for the party the next day: charging batteries, reformatting memory cards, making sure I have all documents needed for the party like possible picture lists and timeline of the evening
  • 6 hours of coverage at the party including candids of guests talking and hanging out, birthday cake, other possible detail decorations, and singing happy birthday
  • Possible family list of group shots
  • Backing up memory cards when I get back from the event to two different locations
  • A few nights of culling and editing pictures in which clients will get around 300-400 pictures

My preparation, work during, and after a wedding looks like this:

  • Responding to an initial inquiry via a phone call along with a follow up email with my Bridal Guide I made in order to educate my potential brides on their wedding experience with me
  • Follow up emails to set up a consultation with bride and her groom or possibly her mother or maid of honor
  • Meeting clients in a face-to-face consultation
  • Follow up emails after the consultation
  •  If I get a booking at this point, we then send a few more emails regarding contract, engagement session, invoice, etc
  • Shooting the engagement session, editing the engagement session, and blogging the engagement session which totals around 6 hours in itself
  • Final wedding preparation meeting to talk about wedding day timeline, logistics, shot list, family portraits, photo requests, etc
  • Follow up emails the weeks leading up to the wedding to make sure the timeline didn’t change, get the family shot list back from the bride, and make sure all of our ducks are in a row
  • Possible venue walkthrough depending on location of venue
  • Friday preparation for the wedding the next day: charging batteries, reformatting memory cards, printing off timelines and family picture outlines, putting any missing items in the Wedding Day Emergency Kit
  • Saturday preparation for the wedding: packing the car with all gear, making sure water and snacks are available, getting ready, leaving at least 30 minutes before you need to in case there’s Atlanta traffic (which, let’s be honest, there always is!)
  • 8-12 hours of coverage including shooting details, couple portraits, wedding party pictures, keeping a calm demeanor to help the bride and even mother of the bride, reassuring the bride that we are on schedule and making sure we stay on schedule, making sure you capture all of the key moments of the day, directing all of the extended family for portraits after the ceremony, same day slideshow edits at the reception, and a lot of behind the scenes things to make the day flow smoothly
  • Backing up memory cards to two different locations when you get home from the wedding and posting a picture or two to social media outlets: Instagram and/or Facebook
  • The days following the wedding include editing 150-200 pictures for the blog post to be shared Tuesday
  • The next 2-4 weeks consist of culling and editing images, and delivering the final gallery of 700-800 images to the client. This is obviously done with a birthday party as well, but even with the same hour coverage, there will inevitably be more pictures to cull, edit, and deliver because there will be more happening at a wedding than a birthday party.
  • We then spend the next weeks and sometimes months after a wedding emailing back and forth with a bride on her album. She chooses the pictures her pictures and the photographer will spend time making an album, sending over the proof of the album, wait for approval or make changes needed, order album, and then meet with bride again to deliver the album.
  • Some photographers order prints or send USB boxes to their clients after the wedding

Simply put, there is no way as a photographer, I could or would charge the same for a birthday party that I do for a wedding. In fact, it’s completely unfair to ask me to charge the same. So Today Show, there is a “wedding mark up” if you want to call it that, but it accounts for the countless hours and work that goes into the work I do for the wedding day vs a birthday party. I won’t even go into the details of why I have to charge more because of the higher risks and costs associated with different groups or the cost of insurance I have to have to shoot weddings. I’m sure most wedding vendors would say the same at their “mark up” and have similar reasons why it costs more for a wedding event vs a birthday party.

I love my job. I love shooting weddings. I occasionally will shoot a birthday party if I’m free that day. But please, Today Show, do not equate my job as a wedding photographer to a birthday party. I might as well say you should be paid just as much as someone in a small town TV studio because they work the same amount of hours as you.


  1. This is 100% true! These two events cannot even be compared. A wedding day is like no other day.

  2. Bryanna Hunt says:

    Mandi, Can I feature this on my blog in two weeks?

  3. great comparison, a birthday party is definitely not the same as a wedding!

  4. mbarbeau says:

    great comparison, a birthday party is definitely not the same level of work as a wedding

  5. graciehart1 says:

    The two events are just completely different. Also, a birthday party isn’t going to be eight hours of coverage. It’s likely to be two, unless it’s an adult birthday party and then maybe three to four.

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