Wedding Expense: Cost vs. Investment

Let’s face facts; weddings are expensive.  There’s no way around that little bit of truth.  I know this fact not only from being a wedding photographer/videographer for the past 17 years, but also because I got married myself this past October.  Granted this was my second wedding, my first was to my late wife in December of 1991, but I knew going in to the planning that it was going to cost us some money.  However, one of my advantages this time around was knowing the difference between a Cost item vs. an Investment item for our wedding.  So, what’s the difference?

Did you know that the average cost for a wedding in the Knoxville area is right around $26,000.  That’s the cost of a good car.  The down payment on a new home.  Yikes!    Some have a hard time wrapping their head around that number, but if you sit down and lay it all out on a spread sheet you will find the numbers add up pretty quick.  Venue, flowers, food, photos, music, dresses, tuxes for the guys, rentals, honeymoon, the list just goes on and on.  Now, $26K is an average as some spend a lot less then that and others go way past that number the fact is, it’s still a large amount.  So one question brides often ask themselves   “What’s most important?”

The answer to that question is as different as each bride is.  To some, the dress is the most important thing, yet another bride might say the venue is the key to her wedding day.  There really is no correct answer to that question.  It’s really only what’s important to you, as the bride.  With that being said, what about the rest of the items on your list?  How important are those?  Where should you spend you money?   It has been my experience over the years that every wedding item falls into two categories: Cost and Investment. Let’s look at each one and spell out the differences:


When you look at a cost item, your looking at something that you will spend money on one time, use it at or for the wedding and then it’s done.  Flowers are a great example of a cost item.  There are some amazing florist in our area and a few are very good friends of mine.  They makesome of the most unbelievable floral arrangements and center pieces I’ve ever seen.  They continue to push the envelops for their brides but the fact is, when the wedding day is over, so are the flowers.  I’ve seen a lot of flowers either thrown away at the end of an event or donated to charity depending on the wishes of the bride, but the fact remains. The flowers are done at the end of the night.  Same with the food.  The food is thrown out at the end of the night as well.  Sure, sometimes we vendors will grab a to-go box and take some home with us, but for the most part, the food is thrown away.

Other cost items include; linens, dresses (yes, your dress is a cost item.  Will you ever wear it again? Maybe your daughter, but you will wear it one day ONLY), tuxes, rentals, the DJ or band who plays at your wedding reception, the coordinator, even the guest favors you spend hours and hours on.  Here’s a little secret: save a bunch of money and don’t do the guest favors.  Most never leave the reception area and the ones that are left usually go home with us vendors.  I have a entire closet filled with mason jars, glasses, among other things that brides spent hours and hours on to give to their guest to remember the wedding day.  Most of them never take them home, AT ALL.  Save your money.   In fact, if you go to any bridal shows, 95% of what you see there are cost items.  95% of what you see and the vendors you meet will be a one time thing.  They are all cost items.


When you make an investment, you are hoping to get something back in return.  When someone invest in a company, they are hoping that the company will do well and pay back some of the money that was invested.  This is true with your wedding,  when you pay out the money, you want to have something to show for it.

Currently there are only two areas when you can invest in your wedding and get something back; Photography and Videography or Film.  Let me make this clear right here; I’m not saying that cost items are bad and investment items are good or better.  I’m saying that because I do photography and videography that these are the only investment items, but when you sit down and look at everything, it’s how it falls.

Let me break it down this way; when you leave your reception at the end of the day, you have two things, a husband and memories.  That’s it.  Are you going to bring your DJ home with you to pay a soundtrack for your life?  Of course not, that would be silly.  But you will bring home your memories.  The sad thing with memories is they fade over time and it’s hard to get them back.

Photography will allow you to relive those memories anytime you want.  Videography will do the same, only in a slightly different way.  Photos give you a quick snapshot in time, the blink of an eye.  You get to see the moment, but you don’t get to live the moment. Video, or film, will only let you see that moment, but also hear that moment, and you get to see that moment move.  You get to see yourself walk up the aisle.  You can hear your guest cheer for you as you kiss for the first time as husband and wife.  You can hear and see your first dance.  You can hear grandma wish you well on your new journey in life. Photos and film give you all the important moments of your wedding day.  They give you those moments back to you over the years, even as your memory fades, the photos and film will always be there to give them back to you.

When your planning your wedding, look at what your cost items are and what your investment items are.  Make sure you are investing in your wedding, not just spending money.



Why hire a wedding professional?

This is the time of year where couples start the planning process for their weddings.  November to February is the biggest time for engagements which follows right along with the planning season.  As a former groom (my wedding was this past October and I’ll talk about that process in a later blog), I know first hand what all goes into the planning process.  There are a lot of decisions to be made and it seems that every time you turn around, there is another choice to be made.  The venue, the food, the flowers, the photographer and the favors are just a few.  So how do you go about choosing a wedding professional and why choose one at all?

I’m sure you’ve all seen the stories in the news about how event professionals automatically bump up the price the second you say the word “wedding”.   Many news outlets have decided to go on a rant about how they do undercover reporting to prove that event professionals jack up the price just because the word “wedding” in the title.  The fact of the matter is, weddings are a completely different animal then any other event you will ever attend.  Thus, the need for professionals.  But why?

A wedding, in most cases, is a once in a lifetime event for most couples.  In theory, you should only get married once, right?  With that thinking, you can’t really compare a wedding to a birthday party.  Everyone has a birthday every year, but we don’t throw a party for it every year, only the big ones, like those ending in “0”.  For those events, it’s fine to hire your uncle or cousin to work the event.  It’s a birthday, but it’s not that huge an event as you may plan for a week or two for that event.  But a wedding.

Let’s compare a wedding to a birthday party and see why a wedding professional is so important to your day;  At a birthday you invite close friends and family to a nice venue, maybe your house.  Serve them some cake, maybe some finger foods and play a little music in the background.  After about an hour or two, everyone leaves and thanks for a nice evening.  Not much to mess up there, right?  I mean if you play music off your iPod and mess it up, who cares?  Everyone has a phone with a camera and they are all taking pictures, that’s perfect.  You may look back on those pictures in a few years and say, “what fun that was.”.  But if no one took a single picture, would you be upset?  Most likely not.  And at most your may have put out a couple of hundred dollars for the day.  Not to mention the couple of days it took you to plan the event.

Now, let’s look at the wedding:  Most girls have been thinking of their wedding for years.  Some since they were little girls.  Most plan for months, some even for years.  Brides worry and fret over every single detail of the day.  Everything from the look of the dress, the color of the tux’s on the groomsmen, right down to the length of the table linens.   It’s a memorable day, where a couple start a new chapter in their lives, new beginnings.  It’s also the only time you have both sides of the family in one place, at the same time all in a good mood.  In some cases, it may be the last time some family members will be around at all.

It’s a day that most couples will look back on every year on their anniversary as they remember the beauty, the love and the friendship of all those who came to celebrate their day.  If the photos get messed up, it is a big deal.  If the music is wrong, the food is not right or even if it rains, all that will be remembered for years to come.  So, do you want to trust your wedding day, the day full of memories, to just anyone?  Of course not.  You want someone who knows what they are doing to be a part of your day.

If you were thrown in jail today for something you didn’t do, would you go to Craigslist to find an attorney?  How about a doctor to do surgery on your heart?  Would you let your cousin do open heart surgery on you if all he’s ever done is watch medical shows?  Of course not, yet so many so called “experts” tell brides that if they want to save money to do just that.  Find someone on Craigslist who is just staring out and let them shoot your wedding for cheap.  If you’ve got a good playlist on your iPod, use that and save the money on a DJ.  Have the ladies of the church or family member make the food for your wedding day.  Nice ideas, but all have failed in the past.  I know because I’ve seen it.  It’s like that commercial for “Farmer’s Insurance”.  “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.”.

I’ve worked weddings where they used Spotify for the music.  The wifi was spotty and the music was not good as it would jump from song to song without any pattern.  I’ve seen cousin Amy do the photography at the wedding where she used one hand to shoot pictures and the other to eat a Popsicle because she was hot.  I’ve seen Aunt Polly try to be the wedding coordinator but do it from the chair she was on because she was talking to her second cousin she hadn’t seen in years and the couple missed their first dance because no one told them the DJ was playing their song.

Look, I can go on for pages, but the fact of the matter is you want to have a professional work your wedding.  Not because we are expensive or because I’m in the business but because you want to have a day you will remember for all the good things and not the bad thing that will happen.  And they will.  Invite your friends and family to be guest, not to work your wedding.  Let them enjoy the time there with everyone and hire the people who know how to handle anything that can come along.

In my next blog I will talk about how to find the right vendor, what to ask and how to choose between them.



Do Brides Watch Their Wedding Films?

When I meet with brides who are wanting to inquire about a wedding film, one of the most common comments I hear is “I don’t think I would ever watch the wedding video more then once or twice.  Why would I want to spend the money on a video that I’m only going to watch once?”  In all honesty, I thought the same thing more then 25 years ago when I first got married.  I thought who in the world would want to have their wedding day on video or film.  I thought like most others, that photos would be more then enough.  That was 25 years ago.  So what changed for me?

At the wedding of my first wife, we had a photographer who was a “friend or a friend”.  I never met him or talked to him before the wedding.  He took a lot of photos that day and was a very nice guy from what I can remember of him from 25 years ago.  After the wedding, we never heard from him or saw him again.  The only photos from that day was the ones taken by family members and they were not very good.  But, an uncle of my then wife set up a video camera and videoed our wedding.  I didn’t like the idea at the time, but it is now one of my most treasured items from my first wife.  You see, my first wife died 3 years ago.

One of the many reasons why I love what I do, capturing weddings of couples every weekend, so that they can have something they can go back and look at over time.  But in reality, how often to they really watch their wedding film if ever?   I can’t really tell you that they watch it “X” number of times each year.  That would be easy.   I can tell you that most will watch it again on the wedding anniversary each year.  It’s a great way to feel like you’ve gotten married all over again each year.

That’s not always the case.  Every now and then I get a message from a former bride and groom who tell me that they just watched their wedding and how much they enjoyed doing so again.  Today was one of those out of the box cases.  One of those times when I hear from a former bride and it makes me feel good about what I do and the gift I give to each couple.


Kristy Royer was a bride of mine back in August of 2015.  Shortly after her wedding, she and her groom moved to SC for his job.  This morning she posted on her Facebook page about watching her wedding film last night, here is the post:


In several comments she talks about the toast a bridesmaid did, how funny it was and how special it was for her.   She had a great day at work and was sore from a workout she had that day, but this is what made her day even better.  She just decided to sit down and watch her wedding film all over again.  I asked her why, she told me she does so several times a year, just to laugh and feel good about her relationship and to remember what an amazing and beautiful day she had.


Do you want to remember what a beautiful and amazing wedding day you had?  Don’t you want to see your wedding as your guest saw it?  Be that fly on the wall as you see all your planning and work unfold into your dream wedding day?  Of course you do.  Midnight Magic Studios can capture your day with full motion and sound.  Here is a trailer for Kristy’s wedding day.  Contact us today to schedule your wedding day.



A Brief History

Want to learn about the beginnings of Midnight Magic Studios? How it all started? Here is a brief history.

I’m one of those people who can say “I’ve had a camera in my hand all my life.”  The big difference is most of the times my camera was a video camera or an old 8mm film camera.   I fell in love with movies and television very early in life.  My parents got me my own television when I was 11 years old.  Now, you have to think, that was back in 1975 when most homes had only one TV in the entire hours.  To be 11 years old and a TV in my room, well I was the king of the hill with my friends.

My high school had a video production program in house and I was like a kid in a candy store with it.  I wanted to learn everything I could, every detail, every aspect of video production from running camera to editing and everything in between.  I was always carrying a camera around with me.  I was always looking at things not just for the beauty of it, but how can I translate what I see to video so that my viewer can see what I see and feel what I feel.

Flash forward to 1999.  I’m married and have a beautiful little girl.  My wife’s cousin was getting married and we were sitting around trying to figure out what to get her for a wedding gift.  My wife suggested that I video her wedding.  “WHAT!?!?  Who in the world would want to have a video of their wedding!” was my response.  I couldn’t picture why someone would want to have that when you have someone taking pictures all day long.  But, my wife at the time was a very prescient person and before the day was over, I was set to make a wedding video for her cousin.

I worked really hard to capture the day, trying to get everything I could.  I mean this was a wedding and in my mind there were no do overs or re-shoots.  Now, granted, I didn’t have the best of equipment to work with, just some old camcorders and no microphone system to speak of so it was pretty much one shot, very little sound and very shaky.  I strung three VCR’s (ask your parents if you don’t know what a VCR is.  It’s a lot like a DVR only you had to have a tape cassette for it to work.) together to edit it all together.  No computer editing to speak of.  At the end, for what I had to work with, it wasn’t too bad.  In fact, I had fun doing it. I kinda of enjoyed what I was doing and I learned a lot along the way.

Two years later, I get a phone call out of the blue from a young lady saying she had seen the video I shot for my cousin in law and she really liked it.  I didn’t know this person but I thanked her.  She then asked if I could do something like that for her wedding.  I told her it was just for my cousin and not something I did on a regular basis.  She then said “I’ll pay you for  your time if that’s ok.  Would $500 be ok?”.  My next statement to her was “When is your wedding?”.

I found out that I could do something I really liked and have fun along the way, plus I get paid to do it.  HOW COOL!!!!   In fact, the next day at work (I was working at Jewelry Television at the time) a co worker and I were joking around about doing wedding videos for a business.  When I got home that night, I talked to my wife about it and we started brainstorming the idea.  I did some research on the area, asked a lot of questions of former brides about what they liked and disliked about their weddings, if they had a video, or if they didn’t, why they chose not to have one.  I took weeks of time to research every aspect of this business. Everything right down to the type of tapes to use and what shoes I should wear.  I’m a very detailed person.

So, in May of 2001 I started a small video business.  If you want to call it a business at that point.  It was just me and a web site, a very crude web site, but one non the less.  I did a wedding show that August and started booking weddings.

My first full year of working weddings I did 3 weddings.  Last year I shot over 37 weddings and it continues to grow.  I have much better equipment, I have learned and strengthen my skills as a cinematographer and have found that I love weddings.  I love working with people, sharing their special day with them and watching them grow not only as people but as families.  This May will begin my 17th year as a wedding cinematographer in the Knoxville area.  I truly love what I do and I say this a lot.  I have the best job in the world and can’t see myself doing anything else.

Now you know a little bit of the backstory about Midnight Magic Studios, but the one question I get all the time is where did the name come from?  That is for another blog.

Looking Back While Looking Forward

I’ve had blogs before but over time I’ve lost them due to changing web sites, building new ones and so on.  However, there was also not much time for me to post blogs because my hands were more then full with life and work.  There’s a long story that goes with all of that and that will be for another blog post at another time.  Today is all about new beginnings and looking forward.

2016 was, without a doubt, the best year of my life.  In January I met the most beautiful and amazing woman in the world.  Mary.  Mary filled my life with so much happiness, laughter and light.  I had a very long period of darkness and sadness due to the loss of my first wife, again the subject for another day and another blog.

I asked her to marry me in June, moved into a new home in August and got married in October.  Now we have just finished our first Christmas as a new blended family.

As we get ready to jump into 2017 there are so many new and exciting adventures in front of us.  So many moments yet to be lived.  We are planing a cruise for my daughters birthdays in April and planing to buy a house later this year.

But those are all blogs for another day.  Today is just a jumping off point.  A beginning, a start.

In future blogs I’ll introduce my self, my family but most of all, I’ll introduce my business and the amazing brides I work with every weekend.  So, subscribe to this new blog and follow the happenings not only on a personal level but with Midnight Magic Studios as well.    So long 2016 and hello 2017.