As a destination wedding photographer in Italy, I hear it far too often. And in the long run I get used to it.
It happens when the question is: “Who have you chosen as your destination wedding photographer?” and the answer is :"Well, my cousin has a camera.."
Well, I am truly glad for your cousin, honestly, I, for sure, know that having a camera can make you happy. I had my first camera at the age of eight and I really did feel I was on top of the world.
Perhaps your cousin is very passionate about photography, perhaps he/she is one of those who wake up before the break of dawn to capture the rays of the sun rising behind the trees in a forest; or perhaps he/she loves to travel and take home dozens of images of the places he/she has been to; or, maybe, he/she regularly takes photos of his/her children, nieces and nephews and proudly shares them with the rest of the family.
You love your cousin, and your cousin loves you and wants to see you happy, therefore he/she will accept to be your wedding photographer just to please you.
The thing is, if you want to make your cousin-with-a-camera happy too, you shouldn't entrust him/her with the task of taking your pictures on your wedding day.
This will be just too much of a responsibility in a day when every member of your family will be around you, celebrating and having fun, while your cousin-with-a-camera will have to stay focussed on taking the right shots, at the right moment, from the right angles, worrying about how to optimize exposure, exposure time and ISO, often without having the faintest idea of how to do it, simply because THAT IS NOT HIS/HER JOB.
Please, believe me, having a camera, no matter how expensive and super- technological this may be, makes neither you, nor your cousin, a destination wedding photographer.
A destination wedding photographer knows what to do, how to do it, when to do it and when not to do it. A destination wedding photographer will know what to shoot and how to shoot it, based on the available sources of light.
He/she will know when to shoot during a ceremony and when not to shoot. He/she will know where to look and what to expect during a wedding day.
A destination wedding photographer will know how to post-produce your wedding so to deliver a set of amazing digital images of your great day within a reasonable number of days.
A destination wedding photographer will be able to cope with a nervous bride, or groom, because it is nothing that he/she hasn't already seen..
A non-professional cousin-with-a-camera may be a problem, a destination wedding photographer will be a problem solver.
Go for the professional, I say. What you really want is a photographer you can trust, because you are actually trusting him/her with the task of creating tangible memories of your perfect wedding day, that you will be able to see for years to come.
You want to consider your wedding photographer as an investment for the future, when your bridal gown and your groom attire have been folded and stored in your wardrobe, your flowers have dried, your food has been eaten, while your pictures are still going to be there for you and everybody else, to remind you of the great time you had together on your wedding day.
Therefore I suggest you relieve your cousin from this task and let him/her celebrate with the rest of your family, let him/her shoot a couple of photos here and there if he/she wishes to do so, but don't deprive him/her of all the fun of a cousin's wedding day by giving him/her a job he/she is not fully qualified to do.
Having said all of the above, let's just contemplate another option.
Let's suppose your cousin IS a destination wedding photographer (this may actually happen as, in fact, destination wedding photographers happen to have cousins too..)
Ok, so, what should you do in that case?
I'd say: “Grab him/her!!” “Don't let go!!” You would be so lucky to have a professional wedding photographer in the family!!
Rest assured that he/she will be more than happy to be there for you, because he/she will know exactly what to do, and will take it upon him/herself to deliver a fantastic set of photos of your great day, because THAT IS HIS/HER JOB.
However, always remember that, even though he/she is your cousin, he/she is actually working for you. Treat him/her with respect, provide him/her with a hot meal, let him/her take a break every now and then.
My advice? Pay him/her for the job. Maybe you can ask for a special rate but do not assume he/she should work for free because he/she is your cousin.
Even more so, because a photographer's job does not end on the wedding day. The wedding day is just the tip of the iceberg. Post-production is an integral part of a wedding photography package and it takes a few days of hard work to post-produce a wedding.
This means that at the end of the day the reception venue closes, the waiters go to sleep, the wedding planner says goodbye and the florist collects all his/her decoration and heads home, but your cousin-the-destination-wedding-photographer will still have to post-produce your pictures for you, and this will mean putting in hours of good work. Think about it..