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 edited 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. It’s a very personal decision!
First things first: what are the differences between a trailer, highlight film, feature film, ceremony/toast edits, and raw footage? And what does it mean to have audio included (or not)?
NOTE: Different videographers might use other terms to describe trailers, highlight films, feature films, or other video snippets and durations. My rad friends Maddy and Felicia of I Heart My Groom Films use the term “trailer” for short sneak peek videos under a minute long, but other videographers might use the term “trailer” to describe what I’m referring to as a “highlight film.”
Trailer or “teaser”
This type of under-a-minute wedding video snippet has gained a ton of popularity in the last few years because of the ease of sharing on social media. I Heart My Groom Films make really great trailers that are quick and easy to view and share! Here’s a trailer they made for Nina + Devon’s wedding. I also love this teaser by Jay + Mack Films!
Usually under 10 minutes (the average is anywhere from three to seven minutes), a wedding highlight film 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 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; I’ve seen anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half. Here’s an example of a longer feature film from Amari Productions. Essentially, 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).
Ceremony or toast edits
These are audio-centric edits a couple might want just so they can remember their vows or the details of loved ones’ speeches during the reception. Unlike highlight or feature films, ceremony edits or toast footage better serve as documentation for posterity. I would hazard the guess that you won’t be able to find examples of these on portfolio pages for wedding videographers, but you can always ask if it’s something they offer “a la carte.” I Heart My Groom Films also often does these shorter edits for a couple’s first dance (or other special moments, like if the groom has a DJ set during his own wedding!).
What about raw footage?
Raw footage is something I would discourage a couple from pursuing. Raw footage is typically less expensive (if a cinematographer offers it at all; many do not — more on that later) because there is little to no editing involved, 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 couple 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 and you don’t have room in your budget for video, it’s an option. 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.
How much should you budget for wedding videography?
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.
Just like photography, there are many different styles to consider for video!
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.
The bottom line
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 or toasts are incorporated into the audio component of your film. My planner friend Vanessa recently commented that her dad gave an incredible toast that had everyone in tears, but she can’t remember what he said 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 seven years, so imagine how you’ll feel in twenty years after your wedding.
A few of our favorite wedding films:
- Theater 10 Films perfectly captured Molly + Matt‘s emotional first look (one of my favorites — check it out starting at 1:50!)
- Jay and Mack Films nailed it with Katherine + Scott’s highlight film (also featured on Martha Stewart Weddings)
- It was such a dreamy experience to work with Iron + Fern, and their highlight film of Erica + Jesse’s wedding also features their ceremony vows.
- 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.
- I Heart My Groom Films
- Jay + Mack Films
- Iron + Fern
- Fox Jump Cinematics
- Amari Productions
- B Studios
- Reign Film
- Emma Lynn Cinema
- Theater 10
For more wedding vendor recommendations, check out our list of preferred professionals!