The Great Big Guide To Wedding PhotographyChurches & Civil Ceremonies
The Wedding Photography Guide to…. Churches
Ceremonies and churches, where things usually go right but where it’s (almost) impossible to fix things when they go wrong. There are two parts to this chapter, Church ceremonies and then Civil ones.
Of all the places things can go wrong at a wedding the numero uno, top of the tree, winner of the ‘I wasn’t expecting that to be the case and there was nothing I could do to stop it’ award, the ceremony is going to. be. it.
The reason is that usually the main players (The wedding party) are going to be nervous and are susceptible to brain farts and fog.
Also, a lot of the control you would normally have is now the hands of either the registrars, the vicar or the vergers (aka security) and things are set up to be precarious which is why there’s rehearsals. Many things have to come together correctly with a church ceremony.
The photography rules in churches are a roulette wheel.
A few years ago and despite a dropping of attendance numbers the church was doubling down on their photography rules and playing a game of ‘who can upset the couple the most’.
Intentional or not, I was turning up to weddings only to be told:
- ‘The bride and groom have video so they won’t need any photos’
- ‘You aren’t to take any pictures at all during the ceremony’
- ‘You must stay at the back the whole time / you must stay in this one spot’ (regardless how things unfold during the ceremony).
It has been agreed by the Church Council that photographs are not to be taken during the service. The marriage is a sacred moment and we feel that it is not appropriate to be taking pictures at this time. I’m afraid we are very inflexible on this because our reasons are to do with the nature of a religious ceremony and are not just about flashes and whirring cameras! HOWEVER, we make an exception for “The Kiss” after the proclamation and will give you time to get that one for the album – and will check you are happy with your picture before we move on in the service. – St Mary’s and St Helens in Selston Parish
Now to their credit inbetween 2006-2014 when everyone thought they could set up a facebook page and call themselves a wedding photographer a lot of vicars got super annoyed and really very angry because things were indeed clicky clicky. Nobody uses flash in a church and nobody winds on film as it’s all digital now. Flashy flashy and whirry whirry it aint.
But, there were people with little or no experience rocking up, walking around doing whatever, whenever they liked with a camera that every time they turned it on it played a tune as well as a loud beep along with the flash on, fully, all the time.
As a result rules were put in place (understandably) that seriously damaged our ability to record things and get couples quality content.
It’s especially frustrating for actual professionals to be excluded from a ceremony in case we cause a distraction when the page boys are running up an down the aisle throwing around blocks from the play area at each other while shouting ‘Bogies’.
Church Wedding Photography rules can be randomised depending on who is marrying you and their mood at the time.
Frustratingly the rules are often just made up and different for every parish and church. One parish’s ‘do what you like just don’t get in my way’ turned to ‘stay at the back of the church but don’t take any photos of me’ (which as the vicar, was hard to do AS THEY WERE STANDING RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE COUPLE).
Things are different now, flash isn’t necessary, cameras are silent and the Clergy are softer on photography than they used to be and there’s less incidences of the above. That being said, it’s really important for all your media services and your resulting coverage that you find out before booking your church not just if they are ok with the fact you have media on the day, but if there is a rule sheet to follow because a lot of couples express upset in finding this out after the fact.
It also covers you in case the vergers make up their own rules on the day. I always try to see the person holding the ceremony in advance of it taking place but it helps if you front run things so you won’t be disappointed.
Walking down the aisle – things to know:
When it comes to you and the ceremony. If you’re walking down the aisle with someone you’re supposed to be on the right of whoever is with you. However, don’t follow this advice if the person you are marrying is with you at the time. If you are the one at the end of the aisle, you are about to feel a something that can only be described as being slapped by a wet fish while someone hits the back of your knees with a birch branch.
Also watch out for the heating grilles in the middle of the aisle, shoes can get stuck in these. Some Churches have them, others don’t. (They may have a carpet runner).
Where the aisle walk can go wrong:
There isn’t an exhaustive list here but decide in advance when walking down the aisle what order your maids or men are going to trundle down in. If you are going first, great. If you aren’t, consider this.
If you have a group of children walking down first there needs to be someone there to take custody of them or they’ll just stand there not knowing where to go next, because they’re children. As a result everything will back up and you’ll be stuck halfway down the aisle awkwardly grinning at Auntie Judith who you’ll have nothing to say to as it’s been 20 years.
Children dutied with walking down the aisle often have trouble deciding whether to run, scream continuously or throw items of clothing so they end up doing all three.
Try to avoid being Godblocked:
It helps to have a clear shot of you walking down the aisle with your boo in the foreground. Our positioning is important here so even if the vicar tells us we need to stay at the back we can usually butter them up enough to capture you walking down the aisle and his reaction. Just make sure you don’t walk down until the aisle is clear.
With the aisle walk, the vicar may walk you down and only be half a metre in front of you which means I’m Godblocked (when a member of the clergy gets between you and my camera). To prevent this, when they start, you should stop and wait for them to get to the end of the aisle before you move so you have a clear run. If you don’t this can happen:
If I end up being told I need to shoot from the back it’s important that you both face each other during most of the ceremony or at the very least during the vows and exchange of the rings. I recommend doing this anyway as everyone else has a better view of things vs the back of your heads. From a photography point of view though there’s only so many ways anyone can creatively photograph the back of your head.
Lastly, if your bridesmaids are walking down behind you, make sure the vicar knows to tell them to take a seat before the ceremony starts or as has previously happened when I’m told to stay at the back, there’ll be no photos of the ceremony at all because of bridesmaid block (see below, this was pretty much the only angle achievable through the whole ceremony).
You don’t need to run down the aisle.
Funny as it sounds people do sometimes charge down the aisle. Which is kinda ‘ok’ unless it’s a short one. Take your time on this as you should only be doing this the once. Enjoy the moment in when it comes, (and give me a chance to acquire focus). You’ll be surprised how many faces you’ll pull when you walk down, you’ll blink more, you’ll be looking around so the faster you go the less chance there is of a killer shot.
If you want to get this over with though, be my guest and Charrrrge!
The Wedding Photography Guide to…. Non-Religious Ceremonies
If you’re getting hitched in a Barn, The Beach, a Country House or Hotel there’s less formality involved than there would be at a church however there’s a certain set of rules to stick to.
With these types of wedding yours will be held by a Celebrant and a Registrar to record the details to make things official. As with the clergy different people have different rules but with these weddings there’s more freedom on where we can be during the ceremony. The usual don’t get in the way of the ceremony rules apply but all the above stuff regarding the aisle walk still applies here too.
There’s also general things worth mentioning that are often overlooked with these:
You can’t have anything religious present
So yeah, there’s that. This doesn’t mean Nan with her Rosary will be thrown through the nearest window, those are personal effects but if you have a candle with a cross on it during the ceremony the registrars will hiss and mutter some magic word and it’ll be gone.
I had a wedding once where during the ceremony it was Nan’s turn to do a reading. God was mentioned a lot. The registrars let it fly but it was fun to see them glance at each other.
Let us know the running order
When you go to a church there’s an order of service but when things aren’t in a church there often isn’t. It helps to know what’s going on so we can prepare.
Singing is allowed
I’ve been a part of several weddings when singing took place. The Beatles, Marvin Gaye, Morcambe and Wise’s TV Theme. Just no Kumbaya.
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