Church Weddings

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT GETTING MARRIED IN CHURCH

As a wedding photographer, I love a good church wedding. I shoot in churches up and down the country all year long. I’ve shot in beautiful old tiny village churches, quirky modern churches and big old grand churches/cathedrals. And, whilst I’m not the least bit religious, I do love some of the traditions that church weddings bring.

The singing for one.. I love a good singalong!

However, whilst I love the church service, it’s good to know that churches all have different view points on what is and what isn’t allowed when it comes to wedding photography.

So here’s a few pointers to what you might expect at a church wedding.

EMBRACE THE LONG WALK

First of all, do not run down the aisle. Seriously. Your betrothed isn’t going anywhere. Make it last by slowly walking down that beautiful aisle. And send those cute flower girls and pageboys first, followed by the wedding party before you head down the aisle so that everyone gets to see their beautiful shining faces before the main attraction. Delayed gratification! Don’t forget to allocate the wedding party enough seating so there isn’t a bun fight at the front of the aisle, ruining your big entrance whilst they figure out where they are supposed to sit or stand.

Bride and father walking down church aisle. Yorkshire wedding photographer, Toast

CHURCH DECOR

Some churches are prettier than others. Some are ancient little chapels, some are the more modern variety with amazing light. But nearly all of them are a blank canvas. Usually they have amazing stained glass windows to admire and the occasional bit of stone carving, but you might want to jazz up the setting with some beautiful floral decor or lots and lots of candles. Work with your florist to find something that will work for your style, but bear in mind that whilst candles and flowers can make your aisle look incredible, if you’ve got a narrow aisle and a wide dress, it needs to be clear enough for you and whoever is accompanying you down the aisle to get down safely without bursting into flames or knocking everything over. Before you start worrying about your budget, remember that most of the florals and candles can be repurposed at your venue. A great florist will reuse arrangements on your top table.

PHOTOGRAPHY AT CHURCH WEDDINGS

This is probably a good time to talk about photography. Occasionally, the vicar is not a fan of photographers. Perhaps they’ve had a bad experience from an over zealous photographer, but occasionally all photographers at one point or another are turned away from the church. In my opinion, couples should be able to choose whether or not their marriage ceremony is photographed for prosperity and I’ve had a few couples who have opted for minimal coverage during the service which, of course, is their prerogative, but on the odd occasion, a priest has made it very clear that there won’t be any photography at all whether the couple like it or not. It’s a great idea to chat to your clergyman/woman so that you know in advance whether or not they allow photography in the church and if they do, just what they allow. Generally though, a wedding photographer should be as discreet as they can be during the ceremony and only stepping to the front as you walk down the aisle, or if the priest asks them to come forward for the exchange of rings. I’ve been doing this wedding photography thing for so long now that I could probably read the sermon myself! I usually know what will happen next and when to be in position for a key moment.

Groom waiting in church. East Riddlesden wedding photographer, Toast

Thankfully however, most clergy will give us photographers a couple of options. Option one is “sit in one place at the front, no flash” or “sit at the back, no flash”. Occasionally they go wild and let us loose on the balcony. Generally though, photographers like to be as discreet as possible, trying to shoot some of the key moments whilst being unobtrusive and capturing those other more beautiful fragments where your dad wipes away a solitary tear or the tiny flower girl decides to have a dance in the aisle.

Flower girl in church. Tipi Yorkshire wedding photographer, Toast

PLAY IT AGAIN SAM

Now I love a good organ recital and there is nothing more majestic than the sound coming out of a set of pipes that are centuries old, but not all churches have a great organ player and possibly you want something a bit different. I do love a great big choir (mainly because it drowns out my terrible singing) but I’ve also attended weddings where the bridesmaid has got up and belted out Ava Maria (not for the faint hearted I can tell you, but she was rather wonderful!). Other times it’s a friend of the groom with a guitar knocking out excellent Oasis covers. I’ve done weddings where a grand piano and soul band have been on the altar, and ceremonies with string quartets – whatever floats your boat but live music is excellent in a grand old church for sure.

Organist. East Riddlesden wedding photographer, Toast

READINGS

You may elect to have a couple of readings from your nearest and dearest (although if I hear Edward Monkton’s Lovely Dinosaur Story once more, I may go insane), you may want it all over and done with in record time… but a little reading can lighten the moment, make you ponder, and create a bit of gratitude. Work with your vicar or priest to get the reading that suits you as a couple. Don’t just pick a religious reading if that’s not really your bag – I know you’re getting hitched in a church but you don’t HAVE to have a religious reading. There are lots of books, poetry and song lyrics to steal that can raise a smile or bring a tear to the eye.

wedding ceremony at adel church leeds documentary fine art photographer yorkshire

The Important Bit

When it comes to church weddings, the big bit is the vows and the rings. There’s some in between moments too, but all eyes will be on you for this important section. Ring bearers do not have to be Best Men. They can be whoever you want and I think it’s a lovely gesture to get mums or dads up to perform this lovely little duty. Don’t be afraid to turn to each other when it comes to the actual vows. rather than staring at the vicar. It’s much nicer to be facing each other – that way, your friends and family get to see your faces too. When it gets to the first kiss bit, don’t rush it… but no big snogs! And then milk the audience approval for as long as possible. You just got married, you may as well enjoy the congratulations as much as possible.

THE PAPERWORK

Signing the register can happen in the weirdest of places. Sometimes you will both be whisked away to the vestry to sign the register with your witnesses and immediate family. Usually, the vestry is not exactly in glamorous surroundings. Generally it’s a tiny office with the accoutrements of clergy life including the filing cabinet, a flask of tea and the vicar’s coat hanging in the corner – oh so glamorous! Sometimes the signing happens on a little table at the very front of the church and very occasionally, on the grand altar so you can face your audience but generally it’s over and done with in record time. I don’t make a big thing about shooting the staged signing shot of you holding a pen whilst grinning like crazy, but I do shoot the signing documentary style so that’s its as natural as possible. I don’t do a ‘witnesses or bridesmaid’ signing shot as the light in church tends to be on a dark side and again, trying to shoot 6 people in a vestry next to the filing cabinet is not exactly glamorous.

Bride and groom signing the register. Yorkshire wedding photographer, Toast

CONFETTI

From your point of view however, you should be enjoying the moment – the ceremony goes by in the blink of an eye.. one minute you’re waiting at the church door, the next confetti is raining down! (Remember to check with the clergy that confetti is allowed – some churches insist that confetti is thrown outside of church grounds) and if you do decide on a confetti exit, bring your own confetti. Most guests generally forget to bring their own so it pays to get on the internet or buy it from your florist, but make sure you buy it by the bucketload. Of course this will also mean that you get to do a bit of wedding DIY by making pretty paper cones to hold all that lovely confetti, or stick it in big baskets and get your flower girls to hand it out as your guests exit the church.

bride and groom with confetti at love actually church fine art wedding photographer

Finally, take time to breathe it all in… remember to smile as you head down the aisle, shed a tear, and remember that although it was nerve wracking, this is the most important bit… the bit where you get to say you are officially MARRIED!

Leeds wedding photographer, Yorkshire by Toast of Leeds. If you’re getting married in the future at a church in Leeds, get in touch by visiting my photography website at www.toastofleeds.co.uk or you can find me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest. I photograph weddings across the UK in churches, tipis, barns, country houses and iconic hotels. For more information and to check availability, contact me now.

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