Photographers often play a huge supporting role in elopement planning. From suggesting locations and recommending other vendors to planning the timeline for the day, they often end up taking on the unofficial role of planner for their clients. Many have recognized this, which has led to an increase in the number of photographers offering “All-Inclusive Elopement Packages” to their couples.
But are these “All-Inclusive” packages too good to be true?
What Are All-Inclusive Elopement Packages?
All-inclusive elopement packages include everything a couple might want for their elopement, including:
- Photography (+ Video)
- Hair & Makeup
- Timeline & Location Planning
- Additional Small Extras (picnic, champagne, vow books, etc.)
In some instances, they may also include bigger ticket items such as accommodation or a helicopter tour.
The Benefits of All-Inclusive Elopement Packages
The benefits of offering all-inclusive elopement packages are pretty clear.
- You can offer your clients everything they need. Especially for destination elopements, it can take away the stress of getting married abroad. They can simply turn up and enjoy their day knowing you’ve taken care of everything for them.
- You can choose the vendors you prefer to work with and influence the look and feel of the day (a huge benefit if you’re shooting with publications/portfolio in mind).
- You can sell a high-priced package — higher than just photography. You’ll have the costs of other vendors to deduct, but you can add extra to charge for the time you spend planning, increasing your profit.
These are all great benefits, and that’s why so many elopement photographers are choosing to add this service into their packages.
Potential Problems with All-Inclusive Elopement Packages
Offering a complete package to clients whilst also increasing your income sounds like a win-win situation. So what’s the catch?
If you are considering including all-inclusive elopements packages, make sure you’ve also considered how you would deal with some of the potential problems that could arise.
Problems on the Day
Problems on a wedding day happen no matter how well things are planned.
For example, the officiant calls you on the morning of the elopement. They were in a car accident.
As the photographer and planner, what do you do? You need to decide what your priorities are. Are you the photographer first and the planner second? Or does the photography have to stop while you try to solve the problem? And what happens if you can’t find a solution?
If you are acting as the photographer and planner, make sure clients are aware of what will happen in the instance you have to stop photographing to sort out other aspects.
Client Complaints & Refunds
When you take on the job booking of other suppliers, you also take on a liability level for them.
Going back to the example above, it wasn’t anyone’s fault that the officiant was in an accident. But the client hired you to hire them, so you are responsible. And if the couple weren’t happy with the solution, they might want a refund.
When it comes to refunds, are the clients aware of how much they are paying for each service and how much is your markup/fee? And if you’ve already paid the vendors, are you asking them to refund you?
There are also financial considerations to make around accepting payments and paying other suppliers.
Firstly, if clients are paying you for everything, you’ll want to plan for how and when you pay the other suppliers. Will you pay suppliers upfront or after the services are provided? And how long are you holding the money from the clients before you pay suppliers? Do you need to keep it in a separate account to make sure it doesn’t get spent?
Next, what if a supplier you have an agreement with needs to cancel and the only replacement you can find charges significantly more? Would you absorb the costs, or would the clients be asked to pay the difference?
Finally, more income = more taxes. If you are collecting payments from clients, you may be taxed on the full income, even though a portion of it will then be used to pay other subcontractors. This can cause issues if some of your taxes or insurances are calculated on your gross income (like VAT in the EU and the UK) rather than your net profits.
Cancellations & Postponements
What are your terms and conditions if your clients cancel or postpone an all-inclusive package with you? This is relevant not just between you and the clients but also between the vendors you are booking on behalf of the clients. Are retainers kept, refunded or partially refunded? Do you have cancellation and postponement agreements with your suppliers too?
Business Insurance & Licensces
It’s important to check if what you are offering falls within the scope of what you are allowed to offer within your business license. In some areas, offering planning is considered a separate business license, and anything including accommodation may be protected by package travel rules.
It’s also important to revisit your business insurance coverage and check what you are covered for. If the client has the contract with you, is everything covered under your business liability insurance? Would they cover you for claims against sub-contracted suppliers, even if it wasn’t related to photography?
Whether your contract is for just the photography or for the whole package, you’ll need to be clear about what additional services are included and any limitations or liability related to them. And be ready to address clients’ questions when booking this package.
You may also want to have contracts drawn up for the suppliers that you are using to clarify all the terms of your agreement and to agree on who is responsible for what in the instance they are unable to deliver, or the clients are unhappy with their service.
Should Elopement Photographers Offer All-Inclusive Packages?
All-inclusive packages for elopements can be a fantastic way to earn additional income in your photography business. But do the benefits outweigh the risks?
With all-inclusive packages, you are responsible for everything. If the clients end up unhappy with one part of the package, it could result in them walking away from their experience with you with a bad taste in their mouths, even if your photos are amazing.
At the end of the day, it’s a choice only you can make.
Cat Ekkelboom-White is a leading elopement photographer in Europe, specializing in adventure elopements in the Austrian Alps & Dolomites. She creates bespoke experiences for her elopement couples by combining her skills and knowledge as a photographer and hiking guide and collaborating with local vendors to create truly memorable and authentic experiences. She also supports other photographers to build their photography businesses around their superpowers through the Adventure Wedding Academy.