I promise that once we’re done looking at all of the costs we’re going to circle around and talk about each of these categories in detail, including how to make good buying decisions and what to expect for your money.
Photographers at the level where I believe good quality work begins price just below $2,000. There are lots of very good and sometimes excellent photographers in the $3,000 to $4,000 range. You can expect to find more excellent photographers between $4,000 and $6,000, which is about the top of the market in Baltimore. It’s not hard to spend 40% more than that when you step into the Washington, D.C. market.
These fees usually just cover the photography itself for a full-day, seven or eight-hour wedding. Most of the time that fee doesn’t include production of an albums or prints. The fee often does include an engagement photography session (highly recommended), which is a great time for you and your photographer to get to know each other.
Sometimes the fee includes one photographer and sometimes it includes two, the principal and an assistant. Even though two photographers theoretically produce more images, overall quality and the quantity of images are not always related, so the fee is not necessarily linear relative to person-hours. We’ll talk about this in detail in a later column.
DJs – Fees for DJs start around $500 and run to about $2,000. The vast majority of the DJs I see at Chase Court, the wedding venue in Baltimore that I run, charge between $1,000 and $2,000.
Most DJs base their fees on four or five hours of music, the time they spend setting up and breaking down, and waiting time when they need to be set up ahead of the ceremony time.
Speaking of ceremonies, DJs provide music all the time for wedding ceremonies. Having them use a second sound system is the best choice, rather than having them move equipment. DJ fees for ceremony music typically run between $200 and $400.
Musicians – Live musicians are the big bargain in the wedding world. In terms of bang for your buck, nothing beats the experience of live ceremony music – and for that matter, reception music, although the economics change there.
Individual musicians generally run in the $300 to $500 range a piece. For about $1,000 you can have a string trio bring you down the aisle in style and play for your guests as they wait for the ceremony to begin and play through your cocktail hour. What’s not to like about that!
Vickie Preston, of Entertainment Exchange, says that small, wedding-oriented, variety-style bands cost between $3,500 and $4,000. Add more pieces and the fees start around $4,500. Larger, popular bands run between $8,500 and $9,000.
Officiants – This is the other someone who marries you. They are the person who makes it legal and sometimes also represents your spiritual community.
Individuals whose primary professional role is to officiate at weddings charge fees that are typically in the $300 to $600 range, sometimes with an additional $100 to $200 for attending your rehearsal (recommended!) as well as a fee for travel outside of their immediate area.
Most full-time professional clergy, which is to say those from mainstream religions who are often attached to a congregation or parish, don’t charge a fee but are happy to accept an honorarium and/or a donation to their organization. It’s not out of line to offer money comparable to what you would spend on one of the for-hire officiants cited above, especially given that most full-time professional clergy bring significantly more professional training and experience to your wedding. It’s common that these clergy members are also invited to your reception, given their place in your spiritual life.
Next time: more on wedding costs.