Planning a church wedding? Be it an intimate ceremony in a small local church with connections to your family to St. Paul’s Cathedral every church has its own rules and restrictions and navigating them can make all the difference to your wedding photography.
Through the years I have been photographing weddings, I have been privileged to photograph some truly amazing ceremonies at Churches all over the UK, from the little village church to St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. I have been given everything to total free reign to photographing the whole ceremony and signing to actually being stopped at the door and not let in until the ceremony was over.
Thankfully the total ban on photography tends to be less now but knowing this in advance is imperative. This guide is a simple effective way to making sure you get some wonderful photographs to remember a beautiful wedding ceremony without upsetting the resident priest.
- Find out the rules at the time of booking your wedding. This is the best time to find out how strict the Priest or Church are when it comes to wedding photography, and videography for that matter.The vergers or wardens can often be the ones who will make the rules so find out whose rules they are too.
- Put the photographer in touch with the Vicar/Verger before the wedding day. When possible, I have actually attended the rehearsal which is a great way to find out the running order and to give the Priest confidence that I am only there to record the ceremony and not disrupt it. Even a simple email or call can be a big help when navigating the do’s and don’ts of a specific church.
- Book a professional Photographer, it is often the case that people who photograph weddings only as a part time job are less courteous because they are not thinking about their reputation but also, they have not had the experience of working with many different types of Churches and Priests.
- Consider the photographs you would actually like of the ceremony and impart this information to your photographer. If I know that the certain parts of the ceremony are what the couple want then I can concentrate on those moments to capture them
- Have more hymns or readings, occasionally there is not any readings or only one or two hymns but this is often the best chance for me to move about without being noticed
- Consider hiring a photographer who is familiar with the type of church or ceremony you will be having. A photographer who understands that communion will be given in a Catholic Ceremony or the order of service for a typical Church of England wedding will not only know where they need to be when but they will know that they cannot approach the alter or the importance of the blessing. This knowledge means I can respect the boundaries and often the Priest will be more lenient on someone who shows respect for their house of worship.
By far the biggest hurdle I have these days is not actually the rules but making the Priest understand that I will respect their rules and I understand that they do not want a person with a camera coming between them and the couple or firing a flash off all the time. Unfortunately, a lot of the time this is because a family or friend have been asked to take photos to save costs and it is then up to me as the professional to restore the Priests faith in professional photographers.
If you have chosen a church with many restrictions you do have some options.
- You can accept that you will not get any images of the ceremony
- You can allow extra time to stage a few after the ceremony
- Change churches, although I appreciate this is often not possible or ideal
- Ask to arrange a meeting with yourselves the Priest and the photographer prior to the ceremony
If your church is only allowing for the photographer to stay in one spot with no movement then it may be worth considering getting two photographers, at the very least you have two viewpoints.
The most common rule is often no flash photography so if you are getting married late in the day or in a very dark church then consider hiring a photographer who has extensive work experience in dark settings or that particular church.
I have photographed at the OBE chapel in St. Paul’s Cathedral several times because I am familiar with the rules and restrictions and because of that I have built up a good relationship with the wardens there. This has in the past meant that they have allowed me extra time to capture images of the couple in the main part of St. Paul’s Cathedral so working in a friendly and professional manor can also have some distinct advantages. A church wedding in my experience is often a more personal and special ceremony. To me a Church wedding ceremony is the very essence of what marriage is about, unity and love.
If you have any questions or comments about this article I would love to hear from you. I often hear stores from couples or Priests about wedding day photography dramas but I am always keen to find a way to work together and promote peace and happiness in any wedding ceremony.