August 14, 2012

The “High End” Bride

The first big shot we got when we were first getting started was for a wedding in Greenwich (grin-itch. n. the shi-shi part of Connecticut). The first time we went to go meet with this bride, it was at an upscale French restaurant on the water. And she never showed. Two and a half hours we sat waiting for her, spending the last of what was in our bank account on $30 pastries and $15 cappuccinos so the waitstaff wouldn’t give us a hard time about staying. We waited and we called and we emailed. And when it was clear that there was no point in waiting any longer, we took our chocolate brown gift box that we had just spray painted in the driveway for her earlier that morning….and we went home.

Eventually she emailed us back and it turned out that, although she had forgotten about our meeting completely, she had coincidentally spent all afternoon lunching at that same upscale French restaurant with friends just three tables away from where we sat waiting. It’s so funny, she said, I knew I was supposed to be at that restaurant that day, but I just couldn’t remember what for! Awesome. Out of regret, or maybe it was just pity, she invited us back down to her parents house for a second meeting. When we pulled into the driveway, I remember thinking it was the biggest house I had ever seen in my life. Until we realized that this was just the guest house. And the main house was twice its size. As we walked into the foyer there were professional decorators decorating the banister for Christmas, and I could’t help but think about the little four foot tree we had just gotten at WalMart. We sat for a few minutes with the bride and her mom, and they asked us questions like if we had been published in this magazine (we hadn’t), if we shot film for weddings like the New York City photographers (we didn’t), and if we had ever shot at their venue (we never had). The whole meeting took about five minutes. They never once asked to look at single image of our work. And as they showed us the door (literally and figuratively), the bride took our spray painted driveway gift box and said ohhh, isn’t that sweet? She may as well have just patted us on our heads.

And as we pulled out of their driveway that day, this one universal truth came crashing down: we were never going to be good enough to hang with the “high end” bride.

And that was the truth that we lived under until about six months later, when without even knowing it, our second big shot came through. We met with a couple for coffee, and they actually showed up on time. We talked for a couple of hours about everything from wine to travel to movies. And at the end of it, they booked on the spot. About a month later as we drove down to do their engagement shoot (they were building a new house & thought it would be cool to do it there), we pulled down a long hidden driveway to see a footprint of a foundation that was easily three times the size of the Greenwich house. And in that moment, I instantly became very aware of the busted up cherry red Neon we were driving (the one that actually wheezed when you started it) and our faded Gap jeans.

Months later after we had already shot the wedding and we were driving back down to their house to go over albums, I confessed to our couple how embarrassed I had been pulling up to the engagement shoot that way. And it was right about then that our bride looked me straight in the eye, and said something that would change everything for us. She said listen, we didn’t hire you for the car that you drive or the jeans that you wear. We don’t care about that stuff. We hired you for YOU. Because of what we saw in you and your work. And the kind of people we knew we wanted there with us on our day. That’s it.

And that was the moment that I realized that I couldn’t care less about reaching “the high end bride.” Forget big houses….the brides that I really want to go after are the ones with the big hearts. Sure, some of them might also happen to have a bigger budget where we’re just a drop in the bucket….some might have to scrimp and stretch and save to be able to get us there. But the one thing that they all have in common, is that they care about other people. They care about us. And we in turn, are crazy about them as well.

I guess my point is, life is way too short to go after the clients or the budgets you think you are supposed to have in order to be successful. And life is way too short to surround yourself with people who make you feel small. Spend your time going after the clients who are really good people, the ones with the really big hearts.

And I promise you, the rest just has a way of taking care of itself.

**This is a gift from our bride Tricia. It’s a picture of us at her wedding when she played our first dance song and made us come out on the dance floor & dance to it. :) And she sent it to us in a frame, engraved with the name of our song, Van Morrison’s “These are the Days.” Tricia has one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever seen. And it makes me so, so grateful that she is, in every way, our bride.

  1. Nancy Barnhart

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this blog post. WELL DONE!!!

  2. Kristin Greenwald

    Mary! I couldn’t love this blog post more. It’s brides like Tricia that make it all worth while. :)

  3. Faye Bernoulli

    Love. You two have such big hearts, and I feel so lucky to have met you!

  4. Ciiku

    Every time I read something you have written, I think it is the best one yet. But you keep surpassing it. Best one yet Mary. Love it. And love your heart. It comes out in your writing.

  5. tommy brown

    Well said!!!

  6. Shang

    Beautifully written and so honest. It’s all about beautiful relationships!

  7. Arody

    Mary + Justin, loved this post because it is so true and real, we are supposed to work from the heart to the heart, nothing else, thank you for sharing it with us. I admire your work. Arody.

  8. Kayla G

    It might be the pregnancy hormones, or the fact that was a wonderful story… but I am so weepy now from it! :) That’s very neat and what a blessing to have good couples to shoot for!

  9. ashley barnett

    Love this post will all of my heart. I get so tired of being told what my ideal client should be. My ideal client is the one that wants US there, values us, and makes us laugh. Plain and simple. :)

  10. Chelsea Tyler McNamara

    Absolutely beautiful.

  11. Sarah Wamuhiu

    It seems like your blog posts have a way of reaffirming the place where we are at with our photography business. We just booked our biggest wedding yet…still don’t even quite know how the couple found us. I saw them pull up to our apartment and I "knew" this was the break we had been fighting for…and they are a sweet couple who didn’t even really want to see samples…they were already sold :) We have reached a point where we don’t sell ourselves to our clients at our meetings, because we have found the clients that work for us are the ones who are already sold by the time they come for the first meeting. And its wonderful that way.

  12. Kevin Berg

    Love this blog! Right down to the faded gap jeans!

  13. M Ocampo

    And that is why Jenny and I cannot wait for September 22nd to roll around. Great post!

  14. Jessica

    Love your honestly and it’s soooo true! Well said!

  15. Christa

    I recently watched a video about attracting the ‘high end bride’ …what silliness…I’m totally with you about the BIG hearts instead. You and Justin are where it’s at :)

  16. Nicole

    What a refreshing post to read this morning! Thank you for your honesty…how completely true is this! Thank you for the reminder today. :)

  17. Dominique

    Could not agree more!

  18. Michelle Stone

    Amen. :) And I must be a total sap..ok, yes, I totally am one, but the last part made me tear up..that is SO sweet!

  19. Karina

    This made me laugh so hard because I (under extreme duress) went to a preppy high school in Greenwich and that first bride was EXACTLY what I dealt with for four years.

  20. Jennifer Bacchiocchi

    Could not agree more!! A big heart trumps a big budget every time. So well said, Mary.

  21. anouschka

    such a great and honest post Mary, thanks for the reminder!

  22. Christy Tyler

    YES TO THIS!!! People in the industry are always talking about ‘ideal weddings’ – but for me it’s more about working with people who are crazy in love and treat us like their friends and not just some vendor they could toss to the side. The couple is so much more important to me than the wedding, the venue, or the budget!! Amen you two! :)

  23. Laura Gordon

    I love everything about this!

  24. Paul

    I do believe I needed that today! Thank you!

  25. Michelle Edgerton

    Such a great post to put things in perspective! Thank you. This is certainly my business model, to find those that care about others more than the impression they make on others.

  26. Cristal Veronica

    This is a truly beautiful post…

  27. Kelly Green

    Wise wise words, this is something I aim to do…attract clients with big hearts : )

  28. Mel

    Great post – as I’m wiping tears from my face. :)

  29. Michelle Feeney

    I love you Mary! You are the best and this post totally just made me tear up. Thank you for always sharing your awesomeness!! xoxo

  30. Lauren Wakefield

    That is the sweetest gift I’ve ever seen. How thoughtful.

  31. Catie Ronquillo

    Wooo! Amen! I’ve been in the awkward spot of being amongst the rich and fancy, and boy was it uncomfortable. I’d rather have a down-to-earth client who just happens to be fancy ;) rather than a fancy client who is light years away from ever connecting with me. Plus, it’s never fun being treated like "the help". Thanks for posting this! :)

  32. Elizabeth

    what a beautiful story!! I agree that a big heart goes a long way — I have just booked my first wedding and it’s at a state park wotj 12 people here in Maryland and I am so excited. This is just perfect for me. Though one of my co-workers is friends with Stacy Kiebler so I keep telling him to keep me in mind for the clooney/kiebler wedding in the future…yeah right…hey wishful thinking!!! :-)

  33. Tricia

    Today, in my cubicle at work I was reading along without scrolling ahead then I recognized the frame and started crying. Like a crazy person. In my cubicle, at work. Haha I’m so glad you like the frame, WE are so so grateful to have you!! xoxo

  34. Autumn Lee

    Wonderful post! I am in tears!

  35. Karen Gerace

    I think I will re-read this post every day. Thank you.

  36. Katelyn James

    preach it!!!!!!

  37. Deb Perry

    "Don’t worry about all that other stuff, just win the heart of the bride", that’s what my husband has told me every day since the beginning of our ‘adventure’ in weddings together. He says it almost everyday…and now after reading this post, I realize that I still need to be reminded of it. hugs.

  38. Shauna Ploeger

    That’s a true story. Well said! Thank you for always being so open.

  39. Bunn Salarzon

    This is exactly what I needed to see today. Thanks for the post!

  40. Phil Monk

    Great word you guys. Connecting with others based on their budgets is really backwards. Thanks for good word.

  41. Janice

    These are great words. Wonderful reminders!

  42. Caitlin

    Love this so much and feel like it’s so important to remember even for those of us outside the photography world. There’s a "high end bride" situation in nearly every career. And not to be incredibly sappy here, but we started planning on the farthest point from "high end" but having you guys decide to do our wedding brought us to a different level. And now we can call you friends, which is even better. Beautiful post.

  43. Adrienne O'Connor, Ruffles & Tweed

    I am completely obsessed with this post – LOVE it, thanks for sharing – you guys rock!! xoxo

  44. Annetta

    Love your story. I agree totally with what you have written.

  45. Evie Perez

    What a sweet picture!!! I love it. This is a great reminder :)

  46. Feuza

    this post is perfect! beautiful and great! I shed a tear or two

  47. bethany cox

    Thank you. This post is what I need.

  48. Evonne & Darren

    Wow, that is so awesome! I love how thoughtful Tricia was, and it’s great to have clients like her! I totally agree with what you said… So if you were dancing with Justin, who took that photo? :)

  49. Bethany Ann

    This makes me smile! This makes me know that I am right where I’m supposed to be. And it makes me SOOO happy. :)

  50. Hope Easter

    What I would give to have clients like that! :) And loved the end of the post! That is just too incredibly sweet!!! <3

  51. Abbey

    Love this story Mary! Thank you for keeping it real!

  52. Nicole Chubb

    This is easily the best blog post ever written. This should really be every photographers goal. Thanks… I needed that!

  53. Lisa Keeney

    Thank you for this!!!

  54. sharon elizabeth

    i agree 110% with this post!!!!! my clients are those who love whole-heartedly.. and who get ‘it’… they know what this whole ‘life’ thing is about… thanks for reminding me <3

  55. William Song

    This post was awesome. It just reminds me of how important chemistry is between the client and the professional. Your post made my day!

  56. Jamie

    love this article! you have the greatest message and such a lovely heart. so comforting and encouraging to read this! thank you. <3

  57. talia

    love this and your ability to write in a way which resonates with so many people in so many ways.

  58. Sarah Goodwin

    oh my yes.yes.yes. I am so tired of hearing about going after high-end clients. My favorite clients have nothing to do with budgets or details or designer dresses, but they have everything to do with who they are and how beautiful their love is for each other & the people around them. "Budget Brides" deserve great photographed memories too -because I’ve never been to a wedding that wasn’t beautiful just the way it was. xo

  59. Charles Maring

    Beautifully said… My mom saw this and sent it to me. It is the mission we have based our careers on, and true to the core.

  60. Tanja

    What a wonderful read. Love it!

  61. Eleonora

    You got the point in this article. Everyday it’s a pleasure your interesting and smart thoughts.
    And btw: that picture of you two make this job even more worth it (is that English?! I hope it has a sense!).

  62. Stephanie Stewart

    Amen! Clients who connect with you/me/the photographer is what makes a perfect match. Those who love you for who you are, the way you tell the story, and the way they want their story told by you, and you alone. Best clients ever!

  63. kelly

    this makes me cry – bc it is so true and bc I have been treated so poorly by some "high end" brides – literally led thru the service entrance and made to wait in a hallway. I love my brides I connect with bc there’s just something between us -thank you for writing this! xoxo Kelly

  64. Kristin

    Ok, I know this post is from a while ago…but I somehow missed it and just stumbled across it. Let’s just say I am sitting on my couch all teary. Jeremy and I had a similar discussion this morning. Love seeing the heart you guys have for your work, your clients and your lives.

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