What happens when your photographer can’t make your wedding day?

Don’t bury your head in the sand…

I feel bad even bringing up this subject. After all, if I hadn’t said anything you might never have thought about what happens when your wedding photographer can’t make your wedding day. And, it’s not as if couples planning a wedding don’t already have enough to worry about!

But, the fact is that us wedding photographers (most of us, anyway) are human. And as such, we get sick ,we get injured, heck eventually (like everybody) we die. Any one of these things can prevent us from being able to attend that wedding we booked and confirmed a year ago…or a month ago.

Recently I came as close as I have ever come in my 15 years as a wedding photographer to not being able to honour a wedding booking. The 2 days before the wedding in question, I literally had not been able to get out of bed for 48 hours. At the time, I thought it was just man-flu but after the wedding I learned I actually had bronchitis. The morning of the wedding I had improved just enough that I knew I could still do my job well (even if it was going to HURT LIKE HELL). Sure enough, the wedding went really well. (And sure enough, I was DESTROYED the next day).

But even though both the couple in question and I dodged a bullet on this occasion, this experience got me to thinking about the “what ifs” for couples if their Wedding Photographer couldn’t make their wedding day. So, I thought I’d write a blog post summing up all the things you need to know in case your wedding photographer can’t make your wedding day. I hope you find it useful.

IT’S IN THE CONTRACT

Any decent Wedding Photographer will require you to sign a contract before they confirm your booking. (If your Photographer doesn’t offer you a contract, run a mile!). Now a contract is meant to legally protect both parties but as the contract is written by and therefore biased towards the photographer, it pays to make sure you have read and understood all the details.

The information you’re looking for in this case might often be found in a clause in the contract called something like “limit of liability”. Here’s an excerpt from the Limit of Liability Clause in my standard wedding contract as an example;

7 Limit of liability
If the photographer is ill or becomes injured and cannot supply the wedding services specified above, Fallon Photography will do everything possible to book a replacement wedding photographer.
In such a case, if the Client declines the replacement photographer the Client may terminate this agreement and receive a full refund of all moneys paid.

What exactly should you look for in the photography contract?

You want to make sure that;

  • At a minimum you will get a full refund of all monies paid if your photographer can’t shoot your wedding. (It might not hurt to double check how promptly your monies will be refunded in this case. You don’t want to blow your budget because you’re paying for TWO wedding photographers in the short term).
  • Your Photographer will attempt to help you find a suitable replacement photographer to your liking.
  • Your original Photographer will do their best to ensure replacement photographers offer similar priced Packages. (Note: sometimes photographers will adapt their prices to those of the sick/injured photographer in an effort to help them and the couple out).

Is there anything else you can do to protect yourself in case your wedding photographer can’t make your wedding day?

Other than making sure you read the contract fully, the only other things you can do to protect yourselves that I can think of are;

  • Find out if there is a reasonably large pool of local high quality wedding photographers to choose from. This is especially important if your wedding is in peak season (December to March in Queenstown) or on a Saturday.
  • It’s also helpful to know if there is a good supportive community feel amongst local wedding pros. This will determine how far out of their way they will go to help a troubled colleague.
  • Book a photographer from a multi-photographer studio.
  • Consider wedding insurance. This might enable you to replace your original photographer with a more expensive photographer if necessary. Being able to shop in a wider price range makes it more likely you can find a suitable photographer who’s available at the last minute.

A real world example when your wedding photographer can’t make your wedding day.

So what does all the above actually mean in the real world? What would have happened with this recent Wedding if I wasn’t able to shoot the couple’s wedding?

  • Before I freaked out the bride, I would come up with some solutions. Ie I would find some awesome local wedding photographers who were available. (In this case it was a Monday in Spring so availability was way less of an issue than with say a Saturday wedding in summer).
  • Next I would check which of those Photographers offered similar priced packages to me. If not, I would ask if they would possibly be willing to match my prices so the couple didn’t have to spend more.
  • I would then have the difficult conversation with the bride telling her I wouldn’t be able to shoot her wedding. I would then outline the replacement photographer options.

At this point the couple would either…

  • Accept one of the replacement photographers I provided them with. In which case, I would transfer the funds received from the couple to the photographer in question. They would be in the new photographer’s hands from there on, or…
  • The couple would reject all of the replacement photographers. In which case, I would refund them in full and they would find their own replacement photographer, or…
  • Worst case scenario, neither I nor the couple could find a suitable replacement wedding photographer. This is where you’d really need Wedding Insurance. Wedding Insurance might allow you to find a higher budget replacement photographer, thus significantly widening your options. (Eg it might allow you enough budget to fly in an out-of-town photographer if you have to. This would open up even more photographer options). Otherwise, it might simply be a case of lowering your standards. You might have to consider choosing a wedding photographer who is less experienced or not your ideal choice.

The Takeaways

Read the photography contract. Ask your photographer “what happens if…?” and whether they have ever had to deal with a similar situation before. Consider taking out some Wedding Insurance. You can’t cover yourself for every eventuality. But with a little bit of forethought you can be much better prepared in case your Photographer can’t make your wedding day.