The unexpected cost of a friend filming your wedding

Your friend wants to gift you a service, and it’s a blessing to your budget. It all sounds too good to be true. And the video might turn out to be great. But there’s also the possibility that it won’t.

**Quick qualifier here as this is one of our most popular posts ESPECIALLY just before wedding season.** 

If you are struggling financially do not go into massive debt for your video or for any service. Being in debt a terrible way to kick off your wedded bliss. 

This geared toward making the decision of whether to invest in your wedding memories or to let a friend film your wedding. This is not meant to convince you to fork over money you simply do not have. 

Three times you should actually have your friend or family member film your wedding.

  1. When a wedding film is of absolutely zero priority to you—don’t just think about now, though; think about how future you will feel about it. You + 20 or 30 years. And think about if you plan on having a family and if it would be important to you to share it with THEM.
  2. You’re OK with your friend missing big important moments—it’s incredible how fast those big moments are over (and sadly, no one stops the first dance for you when you have to change a memory card or insert a fresh battery).
  3. It’s 100% OK with you that your friend doesn’t experience or participate in your wedding—your friend is now officially working your wedding, they won’t be celebrating with you. Except, they probably will sneak at least some celebrating in there somewhere (Oh, hello, open bar…), which leads to point #2, and that goes back to point #1.
Chatham Bars Inn Couple Rainy Wedding Ceremony under clear umbrella

How high of a priority is a wedding video to you?

I’m not saying you have to drop several thousand dollars on a wedding videographer—I’m saying there’s a good bit of unexpected regret if you don’t think this choice all the way through.

If you need help walking through all the steps of figuring out your priorities and determining if you really want a friend to film your wedding—keep reading.

If you already know where your priorities are and you want some options for those priorities—click here, and it will jump to the bottom.

Having a friend film your wedding sounds like a great budget move at first.

Almost everyone has access to a reasonably good quality video right in their pockets. They made a killer iPhone commercial with one, after all.

If it’s good enough for TV, it’s probably good enough for your wedding, right?

Trust me, though; it’s not. That commercial they created to showcase how amazing the iPhone is used a butt load of other non-iPhone equipment. They used a professional film crew they neglected to mention—plus a famous Hollywood director with a massive commercial budget. 

Your friend’s iPhone 11 (errr… 13… whatever version we’re up to right now) video isn’t going to look like that snowball fight commercial, so just set your expectations accordingly.

Consider all outcomes of a friend filming your wedding.

Even though this video might not cost you any money, it might end up costing you your friendship. (Which is more valuable, unless you don’t particularly like your friend.)

Think about all the things that can go right and consider all the things after something WILL go wrong.

(Because something ALWAYS goes wrong at a wedding—even for pros)

How upset are you going to be when that happens? 

Go into any wedding forum under the wedding videography section, and you’ll find brides who were furious that their friend let them down. And it’s not their friend’s fault; their heart is in the right place. But a wedding is the LAST place amateur filmmakers should be. (I mean that in the nicest way possible.)

Commercial and movie professionals shudder at the idea of filming a wedding. Not because it’s uncool but because it’s so hard to do and the stakes are enormous. You get one chance, one shot, one moment to get things right. In any other element, you can stop and shoot as many takes as you want to get your film perfect. 

Weddings? You’ve only got one. And you have to do it in a way that’s not going to ruin the guests or the couple’s experience while at the same time capturing perfect lighting and quality audio. That’s why being unobtrusive is such a big deal—and hat’s a skill that not everyone has.

A friend is always a guest first, cameraperson second.

It’s complicated—the friend who’s your stand-in videographer is in a tricky situation because they’re also a guest.

And as a guest, by nature, they’re going to want to experience your wedding.

They’re going to want to drink and eat and have fun—none of which we do as professionals.

OK, we eat at precise times (meals that we will abandon when we hear something going on that we have to film and don’t get to go back to). And we do have fun; it’s just not the same kind of fun that your friends will have.

And Harborview Studios NEVER drink at a wedding, even if you want us to. Because drinking inevitably leads to forgetting to do REALLY important things, like, hitting the record button. And we’re not so arrogant to believe that our brains can outsmart alcohol—because brains can’t and they won’t. Alcohol wants your brain to take off and have a good time—that’s it’s freaking job. There are an estimated 8 billion memes that everyone heartily identify with that agree with that point. 

You want your friend to enjoy your wedding (you did invite them, after all).

But the split attention of simultaneously experiencing the wedding AND working the wedding is an almost impossible task. As simple as it might sound, it takes a lot of skill to hold a camera steady for an extended amount of time. 

What could go wrong with having your friend film the most important day of your life?

A lot. But as professionals, it’s our job to fix all of it ASAP and provide a seamless and incredible experience for you.

Lighting is a challenge, even for professionals, and that can make footage dark and grainy. Colors won’t be balanced, which means you can end up looking hot pink or green. Are you tan? Because it’s likely you’re going to look orange instead.

And they probably won’t be working with professional audio equipment, which means you probably won’t be able to hear your vows. (And that’s one of the main reasons you even want the video in the first place, right?)

Your friend might be great with a camera but not ready to film a wedding.

There’s a LOT more to filming a wedding than holding a camera and pointing it in the right direction. Weddings are high-stress events—filming one is non-stop action.

Weddings are complicated, and you always need to be in the right place at the right time and with the ability to ask the right questions.

Your wedding timeline will get knocked off schedule, and professional vendors like the planner, caterer, or photographer aren’t going to fill in your friend with a camera.

They don’t have time to wrangle a non-professional if they’re not around to film an event, so don’t expect them to; that’s not their job.

And I hate to say it, but the photographer you spent thousands on… they’re going to be so pissed all day having to deal with your friend acting as a videographer. And that friend could (and usually does) end up ruining shots for that expensive, talented photographer you invested in. 

You might end up hating your friend when they miss filming your first dance.

If something goes wrong, they’re not your just a friend anymore.

Now they’re the friend who ruined your wedding video. The one who missed your first kiss and who got shaky footage of the first dance because she was trying to enjoy the party, too.

I don’t say that lightly.

That’s a permanent mark on their friend record that doesn’t come out (I know you know what I’m talking about). 

It’s your wedding, and you don’t want your irreplaceable memories to be effed.

If you value your wedding memories—you’re going to regret having your friend film your wedding.

Maybe it’ll come out great! Or maybe it won’t. And unless your friend has a portfolio, you won’t know their skills until your wedding is over. Because by that time your wedding video can’t be fixed. Ever. (Which sounds dramatic—because it IS.)

What are your options if you don’t want a friend filming your wedding video?

It all comes down to your priorities. If your parents are anything like mine, they say things like, “You can’t have it all, Cindy.” (Except they probably don’t call you Cindy and if they did that would probably be creepy and weird.)

And the most annoying thing is, they’re right. So you have to pick what’s most important to you.

Realistic options for every wedding videography priority level

If a wedding video is…

 ZERO PRIORITY — have your friend film your wedding. All of the above is still true. If you absolutely don’t care about quality, or they’re of professional quality, and you don’t mind them not really celebrating with you—go for it. The important thing is you know what’s involved when going into this agreement.

If you want to hire a professional, there are budget-friendly pros—but keep your expectations realistic. If you hire someone for $500 off of Craigslist, don’t expect $5,000 quality. And it might take quite a bit of effort to find a budget-friendly videographer you like. 

✅ A PRIORITY BUT YOU HAVE A SMALL BUDGET but don’t want to sacrifice high quality — Total honesty here? This unicorn doesn’t exist. Inexpensive videographers exist, but “cheap” comes at a cost, and 99% of the time, that cost is quality on some or all levels. Whether that’s actual camera skills, editing skills, skills that involve wedding day interaction, or project-long customer service skills—something will be missing.

If you LOVE that $7,000 videographer’s films, but you only want to pay $2,000—you will not be getting the same product. Not even if you asked them to copy their style.

Because this is the reality: Videography is HARD and a great film by experienced filmmakers is going to cost some bucks. Why? Because we’re damn good at our job, that’s why. 

Sidebar—do not ask a videographer to copy another videographer’s style; it’s not fair to either vendor. Not only do videographers spend years developing their own signature styles, but this ask is a big burn (even if you don’t mean it that way). 

To you, this seems like a perfectly logical way to solve a problem and get exactly what you want. To the original videographer, it sounds like “I don’t think your skills are worth $7,000,” and to the affordable videographer, it sounds like “I don’t like your product, please give me a much better product at the same price. I just need you to be someone who’s cheap… but better.”

Not to mention, we all learned in school copying someone else’s work is wrong, and that’s pretty much what you’re asking them to do. (Although, we know you don’t mean that intentionally.) 

⚠️ If you’re in the Unicorn boat, you’re going to have to re-review your priorities. Is it essential for you to remember these moments? Then a wedding film is high enough of a priority to be on equal footing as your photographer.

And if you’re struggling to fit all the things into your budget, don’t take out one of the things that will provide you with a rich lifetime of memories. Examples—programs and favors can go immediately. (Gasp! Not FAVORS!!) 

Be honest with yourself. When was the last time you kept a favor you couldn’t eat that wasn’t out of obligation? (And now it’s sitting somewhere collecting dust?) #bible.

Programs can be eliminated (unless you have an unconventional wedding; most people know what happens at a ceremony). It’s not that these things aren’t a delight—they just aren’t necessary. They’re a weird tradition that kept going over time—when was the last time you treasured your friend’s favor or program? 

Pretty much anything to do with paper can be eliminated or reduced because it all gets thrown away. I love a gorgeous invite as much as the next person, but you’re the only one that’s going to keep that thing. All that hard work (and those poor trees) is going right into the recycling bin.

If you’re feeling pinched and you need to free up space in your budget for the wedding film that’s important to you, then this might be a place to start.

⚠️ CRITICAL TO YOUR HAPPINESS, and you have a healthy wedding budget—I can only assume you’re looking for proof or permission to invest in videography. Or you’re trying to fend off a friend’s awkward offer. (This is what you tell them, btw, “Thank you so much, we’re flattered! But it’s important to us that you be fully present and celebrate with us, so we hired professionals to capture our big day.”)

You already know it’s essential, so absolutely go with a pro. Expect that investment to be as much as or more than the photographer you hired.

And while you're here, check out more articles about hiring a videographer for your wedding!

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