Photos by: Fragment of Light
As anybody who has planned a wedding knows, it is expensive. It's the best damn day of your life (for me anyway), but it's expensive. I was immediately looking for ways to bring the costs down and today I would like to share an outside-the-box tip on how you too can save thousands on your wedding photographer using points and miles.
We had a couple of generally quick wins from putting all of our expenses on points earning credit cards, to making my own wedding ring out of a silver dollar, but by far the biggest way of reducing our costs was won by using our Aeroplan miles to fly out our photographer. This situation was win-win for the both of us. We had a lot of miles, and this was a great way for our photographer to save on travel costs. Below I am going to layout some tips for how you can look into this as an option for your wedding.
Photos by: Fragment of Light
What you are looking for in a photographer
It's tough to know where to start, but going through these steps in the right order is very important. There is no point doing all the work and then finding out it isn't going to work out! Here are some key points to consider when choosing a photographer:
1. You have to love their photos
- We found Sarah through scrolling wedding blogs and coming across this epic ciderhouse wonderland? We chatted to her about our wedding and liked her instantly, but we did our homework on her portfolio before we got in touch.
2. It's best if they live in another country
- If someone offered to fly you 1 hour away, you might not necessarily drop everything to do so. But if someone offered to fly you over an ocean, then you would probably jump at the opportunity. So in terms of being the most interesting destination for a photographer, think in terms of completely opposite climates or cultural experiences. If you are having a beach wedding, perhaps look into rural photographers, etc. Also think about other continents: Australia, Europe, Ctrl America, Sth America, Asia, you get it right?
3. You have to be able to fly them to you
- Keep in mind they need to be near enough to an airport that could fly them to you. You can use a site like FlightConnections to see airports and even filter by airline or alliance to find which ones might be flyable with the exact points you have.
- As long as they are within a short hop to a major hub airport, then you are most likely going to be ok. Just keep this in mind when you are scrolling through photographers.
I recommend making a short list of things you are looking for from above and have that on hand to reduce the overwhelm. Here is our list in case it helps you?
- What photos are we looking for?
- Authentic and natural emotions, no posing!
- Nice mix of capturing the location, the people, and the bride and groom
- Countries to look for?
- Someone that might be interested in coming to Vancouver Island
- Europe, USA (fairly low cost on Aeroplan pts)
- English speaking
- Must be able to fly them to us?
- Our closest airport is YYJ Victoria, serviced by Air Canada and United Airlines, some good options for Star Alliance.
Where to Find your photographer
Ok cool, you have a list of some key features you are looking for and it's time to start looking! Here are some ways you can find photographers that might suit the above criteria.
- Scroll Social Media
- Join wedding groups, search wedding keywords, make wedding pinboards. Just start consuming wedding content and you will find the corners of the internet that all these photographers live
- Special note on Instagram below because it is an absolute BOSS of a way to reach out.
- Find the perfect photographer on Instagram
- Search for wedding appropriate hashtags
- Our photographer recommended adventure wedding photographer, destination wedding photographer, etc
- Find a photographer you like and see where they are located
- Find out if you can use points and miles to get them to you (AwardHacker)
- Direct Message them! (Some semi-relevant but super useful tips on IG DM. Be patient and add value!)
- Search for wedding appropriate hashtags
Making the pitch to the photographer
Key things to remember
- Do the math first
- You are using the points to reduce the amount of money you will ultimately pay. So don't forget to factor the value of the points into the equation. ie try to get a minimum of 1c/point back.
- For example if you have 60,000 points you are using for the flight, and the photographer is unable to reduce the costs by more than $600.00, then you might be better off just paying the extra as your points are likely worth much more than that.
- Don't be a dick, tell the truth, and be willing to negotiate
- You are asking somebody to do something unorthodox. So go slow, and be patient.
- You are asking somebody to reduce their regular rate. So it is ultimately their decision and you are not really in a position to feel entitled or empowered to decide the rate yourself.
- Don't forget that you must be willing to negotiate until this is mutually beneficial. We asked our photographer what her rates were, then she told us what her rates would be if we were willing to cover the travel. It was ultimately up to her what the price was. Some big instagrammers or destination wedding folks try to be cheap and just offer the flight and the "portfolio opportunity". Ain't nobody got time for that shit. Be willing to pay up, but using your points in exchange for a possible discount.
- DO NOT LIE about your experience and don't feel entitled to anything!
- Make it a rad experience
- You are trying to sell them on the experience, so make it a good experience for them.
- They don't need to hear your life story, be descriptive but concise and try to show your personality and vision
With that in mind, here is a general structure for your pitch:
Intro & Compliment
My fiancee and I have been stalking you on instagram for a few months in planning for our wedding. We are loving your style and eye, it's ridiculous how you can capture such natural looking laughter! And your B&W's are deadly.
Set up your wedding
We are getting married next July 2019 at a farm/ski chalet/submarine/castle/whatever-other-interesting-fact-about-your-wedding and have this incredible experience planned and are looking to chat about having you be a part of that.
The Big Controversial Ask
So as you can see, you live in Timbuktu, and I live in Smallville. We really like your work and would be willing to fly you out (in business class!) for our wedding if that is something that would appeal to you? This is something we can afford to do through frequent flyer miles we have accumulated over many years of saving. We were hoping that it might result in a great experience for you and potentially a reduced rate in light of that fact. This would be honestly one of the only ways we would be able to afford a photographer of your calibre."
Respectfully acknowledge the weirdness, layout some options
I know this is unorthodox, but if you are at all interested in this, we would love to have an introductory chat to discuss any and all options. We understand you have to make a living and are open to negotiation. We mean no offense and can only hope you consider this opportunity to help make our day awesome
Love and hugs,
Bride, Groom, Title of your choosing.
Planning and booking the trip
What you will need from them is:
- Personal Information
- Names, passport number, address, phone number, email
- Flight preferences
- Economy or business? Aisle or window?
- Will they need extra baggage allowance?
- Routing and Dates
- Which airports could they fly out of if they needed
- Where can you fly them to/from if they are coming for a longer trip?
- Flexible dates for your planning
Then it's time to start searching for the flights. Here are some of my favourite resources:
- Flight Connections - See routing options and a map of airports
- AwardHacker - See all the ways points can get you from A to B
- Award.Flights - A special tool to search multiple award sites at once
Then once you find some flights that work, DOUBLE CHECK with your photographer before you book them. This can be slow and tedious but make sure you establish a relationship and agreement with them that you may need a quick and final answer if you find flights, and on the flip side you will respect their preferences and questions as you are essentially acting as a travel agent. It's not up to you to decide that a 9hr layover is ok for them!
Reaping the rewards
Having a professional, talented photographer shoot your wedding is an absolute game changer. And having an international photographer come is a really cool experience. We were over the moon with our photos and we were able to find some flights that worked perfectly for her to come here, get a few weddings worth of business, see some family and head home for other gigs.
I hope this helps you in finding a way to reduce the cost of your wedding. We were able to save thousands of dollars by using points and miles to travel hack our wedding photographer. Here are some snaps that were only really made possible by having points and miles.
Stephanie Zito also covers my story and many more in her book, The Honeymoon Hack, which I recommend checking out if you are planning a wedding and looking to optimize for points and miles.
If you like this, please consider sharing it with an engaged coupled and maybe it will help them save some money during a stressful time!
Shoutout to Sarah at Fragment Of Light for these incredible photos and for being a rad human who was up for a flight adventure.