The decision of whether or not to have a wedding video is a tricky one. A lot of the couples I work with prioritize photography as one of the most important components of their wedding day (of course!), but when it comes to having a highlight film, feature film, or even just raw footage of their ceremony, toasts, etc., their vision is sometimes a little muddy. Some married couples note that their biggest regret is not hiring a cinematographer; others say they rarely watch their wedding film so wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as a “must-have” for other brides and grooms.
First things first: what’s the difference between a highlight film, feature film, and raw footage? And what does it mean to have audio included (or not)? Disclaimer: I’m a photographer so I don’t know all the fancy jargon for video! This is just my layperson’s explanation of what each type of film is like. :)
A highlight wedding film is usually under 10 minutes (the average is anywhere from three to seven minutes) and is a montage of the highlights of the day’s events. This is what you’ll typically see on wedding videographers’ web portfolios; the shorter length makes it easy to share with family and friends and usually has a song or two (sometimes intermingled with audio clips like vows or toasts). Here’s the highlight film Felicia created from Ashley and Tyler’s wedding in Barcelona; I also love Sarah and Erin’s wedding highlight film (another one by Amari Productions!).
A feature film is longer, and I’m not sure about averages, but definitely significantly longer than the highlight film. Reign Film has package information on their website (including the 45-minute feature film from Melody and Stephen’s wedding so you can see the differences between the highlight vs. feature). Essentially, though, the story of your wedding day is a little more robustly told with a feature film, simply because there is more time to do so (and usually more audio coverage, too).
Raw footage is something I would usually discourage a couple from pursuing unless they ONLY want the unedited clips of the ceremony and toasts made by loved ones (which would include audio). This is something a bride and groom might want just so they can remember their vows or the details of loved ones’ speeches during the reception. Raw footage is typically less expensive than a highlight or feature film because there is no editing (or very little editing) involved for the cinematographer you hire, but that also means your product on the backend will be much less impressive. It won’t necessarily something you’ll want to share with friends and family; it better serves as documentation for posterity. I would hazard the guess that you won’t be able to find examples of raw footage on portfolio pages for wedding videographers. This is for the same reason I don’t show unedited images on my website portfolio (or anywhere in public, really!) — the best wedding filmmakers would much rather get creative by curating your wedding day and telling your story with a highlight or feature film, and it’s a much more polished product for the bride and groom to share with loved ones (and enjoy themselves, of course!).
If raw footage is what you’re after, I don’t think it’s the end of the world to have a friend or family member do the filming (though I VERY rarely recommend this option for ANY of your wedding vendors!). But again, if you’re just looking for a super-basic record of your ceremony, it’s no big deal. But if you think you might want editing done later on, do it right the first time — very few talented wedding cinematographers (if any) are going to be willing to edit someone else’s raw footage of your wedding day. They won’t know your story, the filming won’t be done in a way that’s conducive to curated content, and it’ll cost just as much as (if not more than) hiring a professional from the beginning.
When brides and grooms ask me about wedding films, I tell them they should expect to spend just as much on a videographer as they are on their photographer; there seems to be a misconception that video is somehow less expensive than photography, but there is just as much work and time involved in creating the finished product.
As with any other wedding vendor you hire, do your homework. Look at their previous work online — I think that’s the BEST way to see if you are interested in the cinematographer’s style and artistic vision. It also doesn’t hurt to have an idea of what inclusions you want or to ask questions about what to expect: the duration of the film, how many shooters/cameras there will be (and their shooting style, i.e. how intrusive they are and how much equipment they bring), how the music is selected (sometimes there is additional cost for this because music licensing is required), and how much editing will be done.
So what’s my personal opinion on wedding films? Your wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’m a photographer, so of course I’m a big believer in preserving your wedding day memories and finding a talented professional to help you do so. I vote YES on having a wedding film, and my suggestion is to go for the investment of a highlight or feature film (versus raw footage). Moving pictures are an added dimension for remembering the momentous occasion of your wedding day, and this is enhanced even further if your vows are incorporated into the audio component of your film. My planner friend Vanessa recently commented that she and her husband said beautiful words to each other during their ceremony, but she can’t remember them because she opted out of hiring a videographer (which she now regrets, if you hadn’t already guessed). And she’s only been married for two and a half years, so imagine how you’ll feel in five, ten, or twenty years after your wedding.
Here are a few of my favorite videos with some great audio incorporated (again, apologies for my ignorance of the technical terminology!):
- Reign Film’s highlight video from Lauren and Russell’s wedding include their vows and toasts.
- Kim’s father’s toast opens this video by Redmond Digital Media; the film ends with the bride and groom’s whispers to each other during their first look (yes, I cried).
- Joanna and Nevin’s vows to each other make an appearance in this highlight film from Finding Muchness.
- I went to high school with this groom, Tristan, so I tear up whenever I watch him cry during his vows in this film from Amari Productions.
Both photography and videography, depending on your priorities for your wedding day, have a useful and legitimate place in your budget. Do some research, look at some highlight films, and if you’re convinced it’s something you want for the long run, you won’t regret the investment. And what a cool thing to be able to show your children and grandchildren! If my parents had a wedding video, I’d be watching it over and over.
And I’m sure you saw this coming, but whatever. My personal favorite choices for wedding cinematographers:
What do you guys think? Will you be hiring a wedding videographer? Or, if you’re already married, did you decide to go for it with a wedding film? Are you happy with your decision?