Photo restrictions in churches (and other venues!)
Over the years, I have been lucky enough to have photographed wedding ceremonies in some absolutely beautiful churches. But sadly, I have also had a couple of occasions where I've not been able to photograph the ceremony at all. Often a particular church has been chosen due to a family connection, for example where parents got married etc. Which makes it even more disappointing when couples are told that they can't have photos of this part of their day! Churches and/or officiants all have different rules and views regarding photography during the ceremony. So, if you're getting married in a church or any other sacred space, it's really important that you find out before your wedding day if there are any photography restrictions!
During the ceremony, my aim is to photograph the key moments as unobtrusively as possible. This is such an important and special part of your day and I am always fully respectful of the sacred space we are in. Being stood at the front is always preferable, as I'm able to get better photos of you walking down the aisle and document the cute little moments in between the vows and giving of the rings. But I am then also able to pick up on guests reactions too - happy tears from mum and gran, the look of worry as the best man looks for the rings and children during the ceremony are always cute and can do some hilarious things!
To avoid disappointment, I recommend asking your officiant in advance what their policy on photography is. For the majority of church weddings I have photographed there haven't been many restrictions put on me. But one restriction I do come across fairly often is only being allowed to photograph at the back. This isn't too much of problem - I have lenses that make it look like I'm still pretty close, plus a lot of the time during the ceremony couples are turned to face each other anyway. Some of my favourite photos from church weddings are actually shot from the back of the church too!
Sadly not all photographers have the same level of respect or unobtrusive approach. I've heard horror stories of some photographers lying down the aisle as the bride is walking down, shooting over the vicar's shoulder, disrupting the ceremony to get the couple to kiss again and even standing on the pews! (All things I never have, and never would do!) Whilst this is a small minority, unfortunately, it does mean other wedding photographers get a bad reputation. So because of this some officiants put very strict rules in place and won't allow photography during the ceremony at all! This is always a disappointment for both myself and my couples, as I know how important photo memories of this part of the day are for a couple and their families! But at the same time, it's important to respect the wishes of the church.
Always get completely clear guidance on the rules, but be prepared that the 'rules' may change! I've had occasions where couples have been told photography is fine, but then I have been told differently on the day!
If you have booked me for your wedding and your church/officiant does tell you there is no photography allowed, ask them why. Often the answer will be something simple, such as no flash photography. That's fine as I don't normally use flash during the ceremony anyway. But if the answer is because they have had a bad experience with a photographer in the past, then it's good to explain to them that you have booked me for my unobtrusive style! Tell them you have invested in a photographer to document the story of your day. Explain to them how important photographic memories of your ceremony are to you and your family. Ask them if they would compromise and allow me to take photos from the back. And let them know that I don't use flash, my cameras have a super quiet shutter mode and I will keep all movement down to a minimum, which all helps to keep my presence discreet!
If you are still told you can absolutely not have any photography during the ceremony at all then you may want to consider having a ceremony at a different location (but I understand this isn't always possible.) If your heart is set on the church, then we all have to respect their wishes and you'll have to prepare for the fact that sadly you won't have full coverage of your ceremony.
It's worth noting that it is not just churches ceremony that has photography rules. Civil ceremonies and registrars tend to have fewer restrictions in place (most of them do anyway... I've still come across a few strict rules put on me by registrars.) However, one set rule always in place during a civil ceremony is that your photographer isn't allowed to photograph you signing the register and this is standard practice for all ceremonies of this type - no one, not even your guests can photograph this. It's to do with data protection. They should, however, have a blank dummy copy that can be used to recreate this shot if you want to. (Although I do tend to say put the pen down at this point - it can look a bit weird and awkward! Let's get some relaxed and natural shots instead.)
Whether you're getting married in a church or not, it is always asking in advance whether or not there will be any photography restrictions in place! Whilst on the subject of the ceremony... have you considered having an unplugged ceremony?
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