Goodbye wedding photographers, hello photo booths?

The average cost of a wedding in America is over $31,000 according to a recent survey of 16,000 brides by The Knot. Spending that kind of money was harder to justify when the economy was still recovering from the financial crisis, but many couples are now spending like there is no tomorrow as if there is a direct correlation between enjoyment and cost. Tack on an additional $2500 for a wedding photographer, and you’re shelling out a good part of what could be a down payment on a new home.

photobooth wedding rentalHowever, one trend that I notice cropping up more and more at wedding receptions is the inclusion of a photo booth. At first, it seemed a bit gimmicky, but being able to have my own photos as a souvenir was far more meaningful than the typical chachkis (napkin rings, anyone?) given to wedding guests. This actually strikes me as a great idea for budding entrepreneurs, because it may allow couples to spend less on a professional photographer but still capture the sense of fun and joy that one associates with a wedding.

In case you are new to this concept, let me briefly describe how it typically works. The couple contacts a photo booth rental company to rent their equipment for a amount of hours. The booth is set up at the place (some companies go all out with a velvet rope and red carpet), props like costumes are provided for the guests to choose from, and then groups of two to ten people get into the booth and mug for the camera. Before leaving, they each get prints of their photo session to take home with them and the bride and groom get a master copy, so they can relive their wedding through the eyes of their friends and family. In the rise of the machines, could the photo booth business be replacing the wedding photographer? The cost difference to the end-user is significant, which could be a deciding factor for the frugal couples out there who would rather save some money for a rainy day than spend it on a full-time photographer. As well, for the savvy businessperson looking for a new niche to enter, photo booth rentals seem like a good way to make a living.

Do not get me wrong, weddings and receptions are almost always a good time, and I love looking at wedding photos as much as the next person, but my inner accountant can’t help but think that there are good reasons to try conserving one’s nest egg…especially when just starting out on a new life together (not to mention that 50% of couples don’t stick it out until ‘death do us part’). There are good reasons why financial planners caution couples not to spend so much cash at the beginning of a new relationship on what is basically a party with fancy outfits…but our hearts often rule our head.

I spoke to one wedding photographer friend to confirm whether my suspicions were legitimate–namely that the wedding photo industry is changing because these photo booth rental companies are becoming popular. He assured me that my assumption was correct, and that unlike years ago where couples expected a lot of staged photographs with everybody being told how to pose while looking directly at the camera, today the trend in wedding photography involves what he called ‘candid shots’, which, as I understand, is simply trying to capture the bride and groom acting naturally instead of struggling to hold a smile for the camera. People will pay $2500 to have photos taken of them while they aren’t paying attention? Not a bad gig.

I asked my friend about whether he had seen more couples in Toronto renting a wedding photo booth for their reception, and again he confirmed that my observation was correct and that not only are they becoming more prevalent, but that photo booth rental companies are eating into his margin because some couples were only interested in having their photographs professionally taken at the wedding ceremony itself.

Photo Booth Weddings
Photo Booth Weddings

While the use of a photobooth may represent an extreme, it seems that some newlyweds are starting to think creatively about how to save money at their wedding, and if that means having a family friend take the photographs at the wedding and reception and then giving the guests a personal memento like a set of pictures taken in a Photo Booth, then so be it.

Industries throughout the globe experience similar changes as tastes and budgets evolve over time. For example, education is increasingly becoming more of a do-it-yourself-online affair, shoppers are going to big hardware stores so that they can do their own home remodeling projects instead of hiring a professional contractor, and industries that our grandparents may have taken for granted like the farmer’s market are now all the rage among young suburbanite looking for an authentic, but quality experience with the food they eat. Isn’t it about time the wedding industry experienced a similar renaissance?

Like many people my age, I have attended more weddings and receptions in the last year where it was obvious that the happy couple (or their parents) had spent a bundle of money on entertaining the guests, which seems a little like a desperate gesture, as if what really matters about the wedding is whether the guests had a good time. Perhaps I’m becoming too sensible now that I’m 10 years into my own marriage. My spouse and I can count on one hand the number of  times we’ve talked about our reception since our own wedding, and I’m sure our guests talked about it even less. So why spend so much on weddings?

Whether or not photo booths will continue to be a fixture in next year’s summer wedding receptions remains to be seen but it is obvious that some couples have found it to be a way to kill two birds with one stone: save money while making sure everybody actually remembers just how much fun the wedding and reception was.

  • I don’t know if I would completely dismiss the wedding photographer. However, having a photo booth at the wedding is a brilliant idea! That would be something I would love to have at my daughters wedding. She and her husband have collected tons of photo booth pictures over the years and so that would be awesome. Thanks for sharing, I’ll have to think about getting one now that I know they are a lot cheaper to rent than a photographer.

  • I would agree that photo booths are a fun and interactive way to entertain your guests. I have been to a few different events that offered photo booths and each time they were fun and unique! That is nice that photo booths are so much cheaper then investing in a photographer! Thank you for sharing why getting a photo booth for your event could be a great idea!

  • I love that photo booths bring people together and allow for a fun time! Weddings can get a little dull at times when they bride and groom walk around to talk with everyone. A photo booth can give guests something to do and have a good time doing it!