This question has been popping up in my Instagram stories a TON these last few weeks: “How do you charge for destination weddings?” I remember so clearly being completely CONFUSED by this topic when I was in the early years of my business. What do you charge for??? How do you know WHAT to charge? When/how do you tell your clients the travel costs involved without scaring them off?
There are so many different pieces involved in destination wedding travel, so I’m going to simplify things for you today! I’m also going to source questions from Instagram stories to be sure I’m sharing EXACTLY what you want to know 🙂
I break my “destination weddings” into 3 different categories (I’ll explain each one in a second):
“Local” (within 2 hours)
Driving Distance (farther than 2 hours)
When a client inquires with me about their wedding day, they are prompted to give me their venue name ON the contact form. This way, when they inquire, I can immediately research their venue and map it from my house. 60 miles of travel is included in my wedding packages, which means there are no costs involved for any venue within 60 miles (WOOHOO!) But, if the venue is over 60 miles away, that’s where additional travel costs come in.
Once I figure out how far the venue is from my home, I will include the travel costs in my FIRST email back to a bride. It will look something like this:
“I have attached my wedding packages and pricing guide for you to review! In addition to your package price, additional travel costs are required because your wedding venue is over 60 miles from me! _____, _____ and ______ will be added to your final invoice due four weeks before the wedding day”.
Now, HERE is how I decide what to charge:
“LOCAL” WEDDINGS (WITHIN 2 HOURS):
So, local is in quotation marks because 60 miles away doesn’t really mean local 🙂 But, because 60 miles of travel is included in my wedding photography package, I consider weddings within 1-2 hours “local” to my house. For weddings that are within 2 hours of my house, clients only pay for mileage outside of the 60 miles included in their wedding package. I charge $0.57/mile (what the state of Virginia recommends). So, if the wedding is 85 miles from my house, the client pays for 15 miles (85-60) at $0.57/mile ($8.55).
DRIVING DISTANCE (FARTHER THAN TWO HOURS):
This is where the TRUE travel costs start to come in! For me, if a wedding is over 2 hours (120 miles) away from home, I require a one-night hotel stay on the night of the wedding. If it is more than three hours away (180 miles), I require a two-night hotel stay local to the wedding venue (the night before and the night of). They also still pay for mileage (just like I listed above!)
If a wedding is out-of-state and requires flying, my clients are responsible for mileage to the airport (if over 60 miles), airfare for myself and my second photographer, two-night hotel stay local to the wedding venue, a rental car and a $250 travel stipend (food, baggage fees, etc.) Whew! Personally, I PREFER to drive if I can, so I have driven to weddings as far as Ohio! This helps to lower costs, because then they are just paying mileage, but not the additional costs of a rental car and travel stipend.
Now that you know what I require and charge my clients, here are your FAQs from Instagram stories:
Do you book the hotel or does your client/When do they pay for travel costs?
When a client books me, 50% of their package price is due upon booking, and the remaining 50% is due 4 weeks before the wedding day. When there are travel costs involved, those travel costs are laid out in a separate invoice (itemized) that is also due four weeks before the wedding. So, I book all of my own accommodations (the best price I can find within reason as far as quality of my stay – normally a Hampton Inn!) and then invoice them for the cost, as well as provide a receipt so they know exactly what I paid. This prevents me from having any “surprises” when it comes to my accommodations, and allows me to use my own military discount when booking – haha!
Do you visit the venue beforehand for weddings that are out of town?
I do not! I actually prefer to not do venue visits before the wedding day at all! This is for a few reasons, including minimizing travel when weddings are out of town. But, I have found that scouting a venue on the day OF the wedding (by arriving early enough to allow time to do so) is the most beneficial. The florals, landscaping, lighting, weather and time of year will all determine where I shoot on a wedding day – and those things will only matter on the day of the wedding. So, I don’t ever do venue tours! I just always arrive 30-45 minutes before I begin shooting every wedding so that I can scout the property and find where I will be shooting.
And, the MOST frequently asked question: Is it worth it to shoot at a lower cost/just the cost of travel to shoot a destination wedding that you really want to shoot?
This is such a big question, and the answer will be different for everyone! For some people (moms with kids, those who have full time jobs, etc.), the value of being at home is so high that shooting a wedding without getting paid is not worth the time away. However, if shooting destination weddings is something you want to grow in your business, there is value in shooting those weddings at a lower cost. But, it is OKAY to use your discretion in these situations! Just because a wedding is in a seemingly exciting location doesn’t mean that it will be the perfect fit for you.
And, my biggest piece of advice here is to shoot for the cost of TRAVELING, but make sure ALL of your expenses are covered (instead of shooting for just the cost of your wedding package). For example, if your wedding packages begin at $1200, but you are shooting a destination wedding in Italy, you will most likely end up paying more than $1200 and spending your own money just to shoot the wedding. Instead, make sure ALL of your costs are covered (mileage, airfare, rental car, food stipend, baggage costs, second shooter payment, etc.).
And, just to help you with prepping and packing for your destination wedding, I’ve put together a DESTINATION WEDDING CHECKLIST for you to help you prepare! Including what I use to PACK my equipment, links to all of my favorite tools, my entire equipment list and more! You can download it for FREE below!!!