Can you hold the date for me?

I had an excellent client meeting on Sunday at the Tea Noir Champagne Bar in the Garrison Inn in Newburyport, MA. I'd just had my eyelashes extended (you have no idea how ridiculous that feels to write but the ability to skip wearing make up outweighs the embarrassment) and I had a lovely hour of chatting with the bride about her fabulous June 2011 wedding over peach champagne cocktails. This particular client had meetings with other photographers planned for this week (always a good plan) and towards the end of our meeting, she asked "Would you be able to hold the date for me?"

I thought this was a great question deserving of a mini blog post.

To hold a date I need a signed contract and retainer check.

In seasonal New England I accept a limited number of wedding commisions - usually 15-20 each year - so I can give each one my full attention. Each wedding may include 80 or more hours of work including engagement shoots, processing, travel time, album design etc. That's how I like to work. So generally, holding the date is difficult for me and also awkward for clients. Here's why:

- Out of town clients will want to talk and book over the phone, it's hard to tell them that I have to hang up and try to track down the other clients to see if they've made a decision yet.

- If I get another inquiry, then I'm obliged to call back the original clients to tell them someone else is interested in their date but this always feels like shady car salesman pressure tactics.

- There has to be a time limit on the hold and this may force a premature decision

- I may hold the date, turn down a wedding and then not be booked (rare ;) but it occasionally happens)

So it's simple, all dates are open until I get a "yes, we want to book you" and then I put the contract together.

If you're looking for a wedding photographer I would suggest:
1.Narrow down your choice of photographers - referrals from friends, websites you love, try googling "{venue name} wedding photographs" to see images at your venue
2. Ask yourself if you LOVE the pictures you see online, also check out their blog to get a feel for more recent work
3. Schedule meetings with your shortlist to see a complete wedding and some albums.
4. Consider having all your meetings in one week so everything is fresh in your heads. I provide clients with a checklist they can use to compare photographers - myself included.
5. Remember that you're looking for three key things:
a) Do you LOVE the pictures? Can you imagine yourself in them?
b) Could you get along with them for 8 hours or longer on your wedding day?
c) Do they fit with your budget?

Then magically, just like you knew he was "the one", and your dress was "the one" - you'll know who should photograph your wedding. And if you're not 110% sure, don't settle! Keep looking. There's a photographer out there for everyone.....

...and if you're just here for the pictures - here's a preview of delicious Kate Spade shoes that will be featured in Lunda & Jonathan's engagement shoot at a castle next week after I finish blogging the brilliance that was Kristin & Zach's wedding this week.

And feel free to comment; discussion is always good. Click on "view comments for this post" and choose name/url (you can leave url/website blank) and type away...


  1. I think what you're saying makes complete sense. Often times, I ask clients why they chose me and usually it's because of a referral. Sometimes, people say that they fell upon my blog and felt a lot of emotion from the images. I think that's the ultimate highest compliment.

    It's hard as a professional to "hold the date" especially when there's no incentive for you. What if ... at the last minute, they decide they don't need you and you've already turned down jobs by then? Aiyyyy - That's a tough business model.

    Is that how many weddings you do per year to sustain your business, 15-20? The idea of going pro has always been in the back of my mind, but I'm absurdly nervous...

  2. Leah
    We just knew when we met you too! Can't wait for you to photograph our wedding and see you soon.

  3. We definitely had the she's the "ONE" feeling when we met with you, Leah. We met with one other photographer the next day, and that meeting solidified that we wanted to hire you! I think I emailed you the next day! That was one of our easiest decisions! I love it when you feel that confident about a decision, and your photos already have proven we made the right choice. :)

  4. I think your approach to holding dates is the right way to do it. There's no point in telling people they need to make their minds up because someone else is interested. It screams 'snake oil salesman' if someone tries it on me, and I imagine my clients are going to feel the same way. You've worked out a good way of explaining it.

  5. I think you'll remember that I almost ran back to Starbucks after we met you! I didn't need to see anyone else after our meeting. It's kind of like when you try on that perfect wedding dress and you just know, that's it, that's the one. Thank Goodness for Google, because that's how I came to find your blog and it changed my life! Not only did I absolutely love all your pictures you took of the engagement and wedding, but you inspired me to find my passion in photography.

    Kristine Soares

  6. I am so glad I found this too! Definitely a good model plan for myself as well. You've explained it brilliantly! I'm happy that kristine found you as her photographer which lead me to meeting you while I follow my passion too! I am indebted to you always for my first official gig. I will never forget that!

  7. Save your time people! Dont even bother meeting with other photographers because Leah is just the best!