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.
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 paigboys first, followed by the bridesmaids 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 bridesmaids 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.
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.
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.
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 feint 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 songs. 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.
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… there will be some rings, a declaration of marriage and a little kiss and then a whole lot of cheering! Remember to take handkerchiefs just in case! Weddings can be an emotional time for everyone so tissues in a pocket somewhere are essential.
Signing the register can happen in the weirdest of places. Sometimes it’s in the vestry surrounded by 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. I don’t make a habit (groan!) of staging the signing shot, but if you would like this, don’t hesitate to ask.
From your point of view however, you should be enjoying the moment – the ceremony goes by in a 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 and 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.
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.