Over the last few years, the number of church weddings we’ve been photographing has steadily fallen. More and more of our couples are opting to do their own thing or marry at all in one venues. During our 8 years of experience as professional wedding photographers we’ve gained a wealth of experience shooting church weddings though. We have learned a lot about the various rules and restrictions which can sometimes be in place.
Around 32% of recorded marriages in the UK take place in church. If you plan to be one of them, this blog post is for you! Unlike registry office or civil ceremonies, the rules regarding photography for church weddings are not in any way uniform. The rules regarding photography vary according to who is conducting the ceremony. It can therefore come as a bit of a surprise to some couples to learn that photography may not be permitted at all.
This can be heartbreaking if having photographs is of particular importance to you as a couple. If photographs of your ceremony are something you’ve set your heart on you need to find out early on exactly what the rules are. You need to find out what restrictions are in place (if any) and are up for negotiation. To date, we’ve photographed church ceremonies with the following restrictions in place:
- No flash
- No movement
- Photography only permitted from pre agreed location
- Photography from the back only
- Only 1 photographer permitted
- Photography only permitted for the brides entrance and/or couples exit
- No photography at all
As you can see, it varies massively.
Be proactive in seeking out the rules for your church wedding
If your church has an information booklet ask to see it and if possible make or obtain a copy of it for your records.
We always make a point of discussing with our couples what restrictions are in place ahead of the wedding. However, in around 50% of cases, what the couple have been told at the point of booking varies to what we are told on the wedding day. In the most extreme of cases we had a couple who were told that there were no restrictions in place before the booked. When we arrived at the church on the wedding day though, we were informed that photography was not permitted at all.
With only moments to spare before the bride arrived we did our best to negotiate so that the couple would have some photos. In the end we were able to photograph from the back only, as long as we didn’t move. This wasn’t ideal as it’s not what the couple were expecting. At that point it was better than nothing but what a sad surprise for the couple.
Try to agree terms in writing
The point I’m making, is get whatever terms you have agreed in writing. This is considered to be common sense when booking any other service, but people just don’t do it when it comes to churches. If it’s possible to get an agreement signed by yourselves and whoever is conducting your ceremony that is the ideal scenario. Keep in mind that photographers are bound by whatever restrictions are in place. Therefore regardless of what we have been told ahead of the wedding, if on the day we’re told no photography we can’t break church rules. If we do, we risk not only being asked to leave the church and this causing a scene, but also our professional reputation.
Why wouldn’t photography be allowed at a church wedding?
There is no single answer to this. With alarming frequency photography bans are blamed on the behaviour of a previous photographer. Sadly, this is not something we can overcome. Whilst you would hope that a vicar of all people would extend an olive branch and judge each photographer on their own merit, this is never a given.
Many also state that cameras are a “distraction”. In this day and age, with silent shutters available on many professional cameras this isn’t a particularly strong argument. If your vicar does give this reason, please reassure them that our shutters are totally silent. You literally cannot hear a photo being taken.
As long as you have booked a photographer who is a professional and isn’t using flash, or moving around all over the place there should be no distraction at all. As previously mentioned using a silent shutter will mean you wont even hear the “clicking” that they may be worrying about. Aside from the above i’ve never known a ceremony where there wasn’t some kind of distraction. Whether it’s a bawling baby, venue staff wandering around, late comers, or coughs/sneezes. There’s no avoiding some form of distraction.
Other things worth finding out…
- Is the photographer allowed to take photographs at any point during the ceremony? If not, when are they permitted to take photos. i.e only key moments, not during prayers.
- Where is the photographer(s) permitted to stand? – Sometimes an official may allow photographs, but only from certain locations. It’s also worth asking if the location is up for discussion if it is unsuitable.
- In the event that conditions are not suitable outside for photographs (bad weather, no grounds/space) will you be allowed to have family or group shots inside the church if necessary? If so, is there a restriction on the number or amount of time spent on this? Would flash be permitted under these circumstances?
- It’s also essential to find out if there is a time where you need to be off of church grounds. This will allow you to plan whether you have any time after the ceremony for photos and if so, how long.
It must be said that it’s quite rare for there to be a complete ban on photography. Do keep this in mind when booking a church wedding however. Because there are no official rules in place, you must always be prepared for the fact that your vicar may change their mind at some point during your planning. It’s then possible that you could end up with no ceremony photos if they want to be strict on the matter.
Going in, imagine a worst case scenario and hopefully when you chat with your vicar you’ll be pleasantly surprised. If after a chat there really is no chance of photography being allowed discuss how you feel about this. Is it something you’re prepared to accept. If not there are other options available, such as having a church blessing. Sometimes blessing rules and restrictions are a bit more relaxed.
The best thing you can do is reassure your vicar that you have booked a professional wedding photographer. You may also wish to provide them with facts and information about how your photographer works.
If you’re talking to them about us, reassure them that:
- You are using a professional wedding photography team with more than 8 years of experience. We understand the rules and restrictions that often apply in church and we are both mindful and respectful of them.
- We use a range of discrete, professional equipment which allows us to be almost invisible. Our cameras have a silent mode and the shutter does not make any noise at all. There will be zero clicking.
- In relation to the above, we have a wide range of lenses which mean that we do not have to be moving about to get the shots we need. We can and do stay fixed to one spot.
- Assure them that you personally have studied our work and discussed with us at length our approach. State that you are confident we will not interrupt proceedings- it’s not our style.
- If they object, it’s worth stating that it’s unfair to hold your photographer accountable for the actions of others. This will hinder your photographs and memories as a result.
Making sure you hire a professional
If you’re marrying in church it really is essential that you hire a professional. Primarily due to the fact that churches tend to be quite dark and lacking in natural light. This can make capturing great images a little tricky. In order to capture the best possible images in the absence of a flash, your photographer will need suitable kit. It is incredibly unlikely that a cheap wedding photographer or a family friend will be in possession of such equipment. The reason being that it is expensive. Entry level DSLRs and kit lenses will not cut it. To someone who isn’t a photographer a camera set up may look fancy, but don’t judge a book by it’s cover.
If your church is particularly dark and your photographer does not have this kit, you can expect very dark, noisy/grainy images and possibly camera shake or blurring. This is especially likely to occur during all the important moments, such as the ring exchange and kiss as they all involve movement.
As always you can see more of our work on our website: www.samandlouise.co.uk And our thanks to the Office for National Statistics, for providing the data mentioned in our introduction: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/