Wow, I get this question a lot. Even when I don't get the question it hangs there unspoken for most of my professional life. It seems so high. I remember when I started working and thought "Wow, I can shoot a wedding for $1000 and it'll be great! I will get to do what I love and get paid a decent wage!" When I got involved in actually doing it things changed.
For one thing, the eight hour day plus two meetings that wedding photography takes is just the tip of a much larger ice berg. I completely failed to understand how much time I would be spending on each wedding. The average time the photographer's polled on FredMiranda.com spent on each wedding turned out to be forty hours. That's the average from 400 or so photographers polled. I spent some time doing the math and found that I was averaging a little more than that amount of time myself.
At that point, that $1000 isn't looking so great especially when considering the intensity of the work and the expense of the equipment. Add into that all the expenses associated with owning a business and all the hours spent with advertising, web site, maintenance, insurance and you are suddenly looking at a unprofitable venture.
Every year my work gets better, my equipment gets more expensive to stay abreast of advances in the technology and increase the kind and quality of the pictures I'm able to take. I show up at every wedding wth about $6,000.00 worth of equipment to make sure that, no matter what, I can get the job done.
A DJ makes at least $100 per hour at a wedding and gives nothing lasting. A band cost's about $3,000.00. Catering averages about $6,000.00. $3,000.00 for a dress that will be worn once. Heck, those cameras, the disposable ones that you leave on the table cost about $1,000.00 for 100 and I would be willing to bet, produce only a few worthwhile images. The one thing that you will have to treasure out of this whole deal is your memories. And the only tangible thing is your photos.
So when you start to figure out your budget and start looking at photographers, or thinking of asking a friend to do it as a wedding gift, just remember what you are paying for. At the very least you are paying for a week of work from someone, expertise, expensive and delicate equipment, experience and skill. It helps to understand why Photography is so expensive. When the other vendors have gone home, their work is done while your photographer is just getting started on his or her work. Photography is well worth the price when you consider all that you get for your dollar and the lasting nature of it. The most common comment I get from bride's is that the wedding was a blur and how glad they are to be able to re-live it through the photos and albums.