It might seem like an oxymoron having a wedding photographer suggest ways of affording the best wedding photographer out there. We get it! Weddings are expensive. It’s an industry that engaged couples pour a lot of money into. But, that doesn’t mean you have to go broke over getting married. We do believe that your wedding photography will be one of the few things you will continue to enjoy after the music fades and all of your guests peace out and you return to your day to day lives. For that reason, we have come up with a list of the top three things every couple should consider when planning their wedding so that they can ensure they have the most amazing images that they and their family can enjoy for generations to come.

As Phoenix wedding photographers and Hawaii wedding photographers we have the privilege of working in two of the most sought after wedding destinations in the world. Couples come from all over the world to take advantage of the year round gorgeous weather we have here in Arizona. And, in Hawaii, not only is the weather gorgeous but you can’t go wrong being surrounded by beaches. With over 150 weddings under our belt, we have seen and photographed all types of weddings. Nothing surprises us anymore other than hearing how much our couples spend on this SINGLE day.

arizona elopement wedding

Intimate wedding in AZ with Jenn & Spencer who came from Canada with their small handful of family members.

We have also read plenty of articles from websites such as The Knot and Wedding Wire and other various blogs out there on this same topic. Most of what we have read suggests that couples should save money by taking out flowers or not buying alcohol or even (gasp) going cheap on their photography. Obviously, these resources don’t value the other vendors or photography and we just aren’t in that same boat. So, we aren’t going to cut out vendors. Rather, we are going to give you realistic ways to save cash because, let’s be honest, how much fun is a party without alcohol??

  • Cut down on the size of your wedding party
    It’s important to have the people that you care for most by your side. But, here is the issue with having a traditional wedding party. You will likely want to buy them gifts, plural. Buying a few gifts for a couple of people is not a big deal… but a couple would indicate that you each have one person on each side. Realistically, if you have 4 friends on your side and your fiance has 4 friends on their side that’s 8 gifts. Don’t even get me started on the issue of he or she has twice as many friends as you do and then your wedding party size doubles. You can spend $25- $50, easy, on one gift. Doesn’t seem like much until you multiply it by 8 or more and then all of a sudden you’re spending hundreds of dollars on gifts to thank your friends for, well, being your friends. Why not just invite them to your wedding as guests and party hard with them?

Flagstaff elopement photos

Lowell and Laurie stopped traffic with their ceremony in the woods. No wedding party, no reception, no fuss. Their ceremony was (literally) the talk of the town the next day and they have killer photos to prove it!


  • Cut down on that guest list
    We understand that you feel obligated to invite your dad’s cousin’s BFF from college because they had a college class together. But, unless your parents are paying for the food and drinks, this should be a no-brainer. This is your day… just start chanting that so it sinks in deep. If you invite 100 people and 75 of those people show up with a $30-$75 per plate cost, you can do the math on that and see that, taking all of your acquaintances to dinner for $75 bucks a pop (before alcohol) is going to add up fast – thousands and thousands of dollars on FOOD. Even $35 a plate is a lot for a side salad and a slab of steak and mashed potatoes garnished with 3 spears of asparagus. I don’t know about you but, I don’t know many people who take me out to fancy restaurants and spend $35+ on a meal for me. In fact, I rarely take myself out for that much (without alcohol – that part is important because you will likely be buying all of your guests alcohol, which is an additional $5-$30 per drink or per person cost that isn’t usually factored into that plate cost.)

    Sommer and Brody spared no expense during this spur of the moment pit stop at a local San Francisco pizza joint, which included a quick toast of champagne in plastic dixie cups.

    Sommer and Brody spared no expense during this spur of the moment pit stop at a local San Francisco pizza joint, which included a quick toast of champagne in plastic dixie cups.

  • Choose a location that is far, far away
    When Renee and I planned our own wedding we found that, because of our line of work and making meaningful connections with lots of our couples, our guest list was adding up fast due to many people who took it upon themselves to invite themselves to our wedding. Yes, you heard me right! Invites had NOT yet been sent out and we had people already letting us know whether or not they would be able to attend. I saw dollar signs spinning in the back of my head and not in a good way. I imagined spending lots and lots of money to make everyone happy and put ourselves even deeper into debt. So, we pulled the plug on our original wedding location and decided to put an ocean between where we live and where we were going to get married. This instantly weeded out those people who felt like they would just be able to show up.

    San Diego Wedding Photos

    Tara & Lindsi held an intimate wedding right on the beach in San Diego. The sun went down and this spot on the ocean was converted into one killer after party!

    Planning a destination wedding is one of the BEST ways to save money on your wedding. Often couples who plan a destination wedding add additional time onto their wedding trip to turn it into an experience rather than a one day event. This will narrow your guest list down to the individuals who REALLY matter in your lives, which means you may automatically have a smaller wedding party, if any, and be expected to feed (and drink) less people.

    We have also noticed that our couples who plan a destination wedding are far less stressed when it gets down to the wire than our couples who plan this huge event and feel they have to meet or surpass all of this expectation.

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    Robin & Renee’s wedding. Photo by Dan Dalstra Photography

    Now, just because you have a destination wedding doesn’t mean that you can’t have a party. Renee and I had under 30 people at our wedding and our guests were taking their clothes off by the end of the night. Saving money on the huge expenses of a venue and food and alcohol allows us to afford one of the raddest wedding photographers in the USA as well as the BEST video duo ever! We may be biased but, we think our wedding was pretty dang hot for something that cost us under $20k. In fact, that number includes a 10 day stay in Hawaii, excursions with all of our most favorite people in the world, a super dope wedding complete with a private Luau, and plenty of food and drinks – so much so that we had to leave a lot of the alcohol behind when we left.

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Robin & Renee’s wedding. Photo by Dan Dalstra Photography

Party in Hawaii with our besties for a week, CHECK

Saving tens of thousands of dollars on our wedding, CHECK

Having the most AMAZING wedding photos and video to remember it all by, PRICELESS (but yeah, we saved money so we have that too!)

So, moral of the story is, do your wedding the way you want to do it. Don’t get caught up in the expectations of others. At the end of the day, this is your day. The way you will remember your day is through your photos. The way your kids will likely share in the memories of this day with you is through your photos. We believe that there are many things that come into consideration when planning or anticipating your wedding budget. The ONE thing that you should never skimp on is the quality of your wedding photos. Please, for the love of your history and future, choose a wedding photographer whose work will blow you away and, after all is said and done, make you feel something amazing!

For more information on what it means to have the best Phoenix wedding photographer, Hawaii wedding photographer, or destination wedding photographer we are here to help! Contact R2 today about your wedding photography.

*Here at R2 we take all of our weddings seriously. With over 150 weddings photographed, we believe that each one of our couples is unique. Not everyone is looking to cut costs. But, for those of you who are, we believe that this information may be helpful. We photograph weddings all over the United States as well as internationally. Our couples have budgets ranging from over $100,000 down to $20,000. No matter what your budget is, we believe that all couples should design a wedding that resonates with them 100%. This is YOUR day! We also believe that having AMAZING photos is priceless and that this information on affording the best wedding photographer will help those couples who really value photography and are looking to get the most bang for their buck without shutting down all other vendors out there.