As soon as you put the title "wedding" on something, it's suddenly more expensive than anything else. This is true of bubbles, clothing, and pretty much anything else you can think of, including photography. I can't speak to bubbles and clothing, but I can share my insights on why wedding photography is such an investment.
First and foremost, you are paying for the photographers' history and experience.
You shouldn't expect to pay top dollar for someone who's just starting out -- they have little to no images to show you what to expect, and they therefore don't have much experience or history with wedding photography.
Much in the same way, you shouldn't expect to pay cheaply for someone who has years of experience and hundreds (or more!) weddings under their belt. Why? It's simple.
Experienced wedding photographers will be very careful handling any details that they borrow from you to take photos of in artistic places. This includes rings, shoes, bouquets, and attire. They will carry your wedding dress in such a way to not let it get dirty. They will hang it in a place where the wind won't knock it down, if there's wind.
Seasoned wedding photographers know that there are certain times during a wedding ceremony to expect special moments to occur, aside from The Kiss and the groom's face as the bride enters. They have experience enough to anticipate special moments -- photographing the parents' faces during the vow exchange or the cuteness of the flower girls waiting during the ceremony, for example.
Wedding photographers who are not just starting out also know where they need to be and when because they have been there and done that hundreds of times before. They know the keywords to listen for and they can recall, from experience, the order in which events happen. They know the best spots to stand in to photograph the moments as they unfold. They also know how to document your memories artistically, according to their style, using what is available to them on the day.
Another of the most important bits about a photographer's experience is that a more experienced photographer will know what settings to have on their camera according to the available light in their current space. An important thing to note about wedding-specific photographers is that most weddings use ambient light, meaning the light that is available. Most places of worship do not allow flash photography during ceremonies so having a photographer with a fast lens and the ability to compensate for perhaps less-than-ideal lighting is essential. Oftentimes, out of respect for the wedding ceremony that is happening, wedding photographers won't use flash photography anyway, regardless if it is in a house of worship or not.
In addition to not allowing flash photography during ceremonies, oftentimes houses of worship will have specific rules about where a photographer is allowed (or not) to be during the ceremony, and the more experienced a wedding photographer is, the more capable they are of being able to use those restrictions to document your wedding ceremony creatively. They know the best angles to be in and have the equipment in their bag to be able to successfully and faithfully document your wedding ceremony.
Along with all of the above, another encounter that experienced wedding photographers must also compensate for is changing light. If you are having a rice-toss outside of the venue where you got married, chances are the light between those two places is not the same, and an experienced photographer must be able to compensate for those different lighting conditions, often quickly. They know which settings on their camera to change and can do so quickly. They also know which lenses work best for that situation and are prepared.
We've just covered the ways in which hiring an experienced wedding photographer is beneficial for your ceremony. (And I'm sure what I've mentioned is not even all-inclusive!) Now let's get into other parts of a wedding in which you are paying for a photographer's history and experience.
An experienced wedding photographer is also able to pose your bridal party and family members in flattering ways, whereas an inexperienced wedding photographer might just tell everyone to line up. They might have been told (if they remembered to inquire) that one of the bridesmaids has recently gained weight and is super self-conscious, but if they aren't on their game and they are just focused on getting everyone lined up, they might not know how to pose her, and she might not want to be tagged in any of the images from the wedding because she hates the way she looks.
An inexperienced wedding photographer might also miss small day-of things which turn out to be huge to the couple. For example, they may not be paying attention to make sure that everyone's head is visible, or they might miss that the maid-of-honor holding her bouquet too high and is covering the detailed bodice of the dress that the bride specifically chose for her to wear. An experienced wedding photographer would take the time to notice these things because they've done this dozens or hundreds of times before.
Experienced wedding photographers will also be familiar with receptions. They will be able to analyze the space and choose angles to photograph events and dances from that will be as flattering and artistic as possible, given the space. They'll know where to put their flash-stands and what settings to put on their flash to properly document the evening.
Once they get back to their office or studio and they start post-processing your images, experienced wedding photographers are going to know killer, awesome, storytelling images from mediocre ones. They are also going to know how to enhance those images to bring out the best versions that they can. They'll also back up your wedding images in case of computer malfunction.
Why do experienced photographers do all of this?
Because they have done it before, and I feel that this is the biggest contributor to the cost of their wedding photography packages. They know their stuff -- and they know where they can go to find answers to the questions that may come up.
Is history and experience the only things that you pay for with wedding photography?
No, of course not.
You're also paying for their time, their education, and their good business practices, but this blog post is long enough already, so those will wait for another post.