Sunday, June 29, 2008

Weddings in Paris

We spent our second anniversary in Paris (See The Anniversary Trip). It gave us an opportunity to scope out weddings in Paris.

We couldn’t imagine going to Europe and getting married in a stodgy old church (although there are tons of cool churches in Paris). What Paris has to offer is some of the most romantic spots in the whole world.

If you consider a destination wedding in Paris, you might think about a wedding cruise on the Seine. We don’t know if you could do the actual wedding on the boat (although we bet it is possible; more on that below), but you can certainly do a nice reception. You and a handful of guests can take a Seine river cruise and, after you exchange your vows, party the night away. There are several cruise vendors, so check into them carefully. You want to find a small boat that you can rent out (so its private). Check with Bateaux-Mouches or the nice company that operates from the Pont Neuf bridge. There also seem to be several other luxury providers that you might want to check into. A local wedding coordinator may prove valuable, unless you speak French.

As part of your romantic Paris wedding, you might want to take your own wedding photographer with you. Paris offers stunning vistas and charming little lanes to take photos. We thought the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, The Trocadero and The Louvre would all make nice backdrops. After a day of photos, you could have your rehearsal dinner at a restaurant in Le Marais.
Not to be a total downer, there is a residency requirement for getting married in France. It's either 40 or 60 days (there is conflicting information on the internet). means you need to be in country for a while. This may or may not be a problem for you. If it is a problem, consider getting legally married in the U.S. (rather easy to do) and then do your ceremony abroad for you and your family. We think this kind of defeats the purpose of a destination wedding, but know other couples who do it to get around ridiculous regulations in countries like France or Mexico. While this takes the romance out of Paris and France as a destination wedding location, depending on your personal tastes, it may still work for you.

Paris could be a wonderfully romantic wedding destination to begin your new life together. And since you are already in Europe, you might consider honeymooning there as well.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Anniversary Trip

Greetings from Paris!

When we had our destination wedding, we immediately decided that we would take a trip for our anniversary. So this year’s trip is Paris, France.

If you are considering a destination wedding, you obviously love to travel. You should also consider taking an anniversary trip. It was been a wonderful tradition for us.

We’ll write more when we return!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Selecting Your Destination Wedding Photographer

Selecting your destination wedding photographer is one of the most important decisions you can make. There’s no “do overs” on your wedding photos. And, unlike catering, there’s less margin for error. So, you really only have one shot of getting it right.

Adding to the complexity, chances are very good that you won’t find the resident talent that you are looking for in the wedding destination of your choice. We’ve blogged on this before in Covering The Basics – Photographer, but you should count on hiring and bringing your own photographer with you.

Today on WeddingBee, Joe Milton of the International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers has an interesting posting on Top Five Questions to Ask Your Photographer. Now, one thing we’ve learned is that there are more “wedding photography associations” than you can shake a stick at. Some reputable, some not – so do your homework.

But Joe Milton poses some very good questions (these are his questions, but our commentary):
  1. Can I read through the contract? – If not, run far and fast. The contract should be clear and articulate what is expected of both parties…including deadlines! Photographers are notorious for getting you to sign the contract and then take FOREVER to deliver the goods.

  2. Can I see some sample albums of complete weddings? If not, run far and fast. Every photographer can get a good picture or two, but you want to see the whole process. Any good photographer should be able to show you lots of quality work.

  3. How much experience do you have? The more weddings they’ve done, but the better they will probably be. This is crucial in destination weddings as many “native” photographers are just Sunday afternoon amateurs. You want a pro.

  4. How much direction or posing do you do during the day? Some photographers are photojournalist only. Some only do posed shots. For us, we liked the mix. Of our favorites, they were “posed.” Or rather, our photographer gave direction (walk up this staircase, walk down the beach this way) and then she captured the moment. Those were our favorites. But some of the most meaningful “moments” were the candids (the bride’s grandmother walking her down the aisle because she is now paralyzed).

  5. Do you have insurance? Any decent photographer will, so this is not the definitive question that many might think.

This is a good list. But after reading it, the questions seem very elementary. They will only help you rule “bad apples” and will do nothing to help you select from a small pool of 3-5 truly professional photographers. To this rather basic list, we have added our own list of “must ask” questions:

  • Can I speak with a couple who’s wedding you have shot in the last six months? – If a photographer is unable or unwilling to provide a list of references for you to check out, this is a problem. It also surprised us that this should be “in the bag” for the photographer. Yet, we had photographers provide us with references that were negative, so it’s worth going through the process.

  • How much experience do you have with the location/venue/type that I having? - No wedding photographer will have done exactly what you are doing, but have they done something similar? If they haven’t done a Jewish ceremony or a beach wedding, it might be a problem for you.

  • What is your typical method? – In our professional capacity, we both hire a lot of vendors. We are a big fan of asking very broad, open-ended questions like this. It gets the photographer talking about his/her work broadly. The good ones should be able to string together a story that makes sense. Those new to the business or who are “weekend warriors” will stumble on this kind of broad, open-ended question.

  • Do you bring an assistant? – This is useful to know. Will they be doing all the work themselves, or farming it out? If bringing an assistant, try to get a clear picture on what that person’s role may be. And remember, this will also increase your cost factors.

  • How many different cameras do you bring? – In other words, will they be switching back and forth and might miss the moment. Or, will they have back-up with them in case something goes wrong? It’s important.

  • Film vs digital? – In this age of digital everything, there are some photographers that sill do film (believe it or not). So ask.

  • How long before we see proofs? – This is self explanatory.

  • How long before we get our actual album? – Also self explanatory.

  • Who covers your expenses? – This is a point of negotiation. Ideally, it’s better for both you and photographer if you cover the expenses. It’s better for the photographer because they are not out of pocket on anything. It’s better for you because the photographer will probably charge a mark-up fee (some percentage of the actual cost; so a $700 airline ticket to the Bahamas marked up 15% will actually cost you $805).

  • What is your mark-up fee (both for out of pocket travel and also for stock/equipment)? – The photographer should be absolutely honest about this up front. In our experience, too many photographers use this as a “back end” profit center and you have no idea how bad you will get hit until the final bill arrives.

Finally, it’s not a question, but it’s worth stating: actually meet with your photographer once or twice before the wedding. It sounds obvious, but many couples have been known to hire a photographer sight unseen because they found them on some website and their work looked good. This is especially common where destination wedding photographers can live all over the country and fly into the wedding. Try to find a way to meet first and take a temperature check.
Photo credit: Julia Newman