Wedding Wednesday Discussions: Photography in Churches

Wedding Wednesday Discussions: Photography in Churches



Today I want to talk about photography in churches, a subject that I’m not too sure brides and grooms are aware of but something that is being brought to my attention more and more, in fact I am now hearing this week in week out and felt I needed to write something about it.

As you know I am constantly telling you that photography is one of the most important aspects of your day and that choosing the right photographer is one of the things you really need to spend time and money on. BUT have you ever considered that your photographer may not be be allowed to take photos of your wedding ceremony as the priest or vicar won’t allow it?
Each week I hear stories from photographs who have been stopped by vicar’s or priests on the day of the wedding from taking any photos of the bride and groom during the ceremony………yes NO photos!! The wedding ceremony, the most important moment of your married life not being captured on camera!

Full wedding HERE  (Photo by  Brideen )


Here are a few words from a photographer……

‘When a bride gets in touch and she has booked a church for the ceremony, very early on I have to manage her expectations about ceremony photos, and this should simply not happen.
I’ve been in business since 2005, and something that still shocks me, even with a couple of hundred weddings under my belt, is the reaction I get from staff and officiates at churches.
Earlier on in business, I worried that maybe I was not doing enough to reassure churches that I was a discrete professional. I sent emails introducing myself, I made phone calls of introduction, I turned up at rehearsals, rehearsals that had meant I’d spent 90 minutes in rush hour traffic to get there, and more often than not, I have sadly been met with what can only be described as hostility.
Wedding photographers though are a thick-skinned bunch, and I have in any of these situations, tried to learn where the hostility comes from. I reassure them I am a professional, and explain that the bride was expecting photos and will be bitterly disappointed to discover there will be none.
One can understand that bad experiences should make a ceremony officiate more wary, but surely a blanket ban on photography during a ceremony only really hurts brides?’ 

 Full wedding HERE  (Photo by  Bohemian Weddings )

Now in writing this I am certainly not saying that all churches are the same, as I know a lot of them are wonderfully friendly and more than happy to let the photographer roam free during the ceremony, capturing your day as you would expect it to be captured.
However these horror stories come from photographers where the bride and groom had no idea that photos weren’t allowed until the ceremony had begun and it was too late to do anything about it.

I will also say that it isn’t just churches, I have also heard stories of registrars not allowing photos during civil ceremonies.
But why?? Why on earth would anyone stop your photographer, the photographer you have paid good money to from taking photos during the ceremony?


Here are a few letters sent back to photographers from the churches themselves, giving reason why…..

‘This is a sacred act of worship and the photographer is required to respect the sanctity and dignity of the service.
Permission to take photographs is at the discretion and direction of those representing the Vicar and Churchwardens at the service.  Their decision about what is or is not allowed is final.  Failure to comply with their directions will result in the photographer being required to leave the church.  Liability arising from the photographer being unable to fulfil his/her contract will be the responsibility of the photographer since it arises from their actions.
A photograph may be taken from the back of the church as the bride/couple enters.  The photographer may not stand in the central aisle or next to the groom to take photographs.
Any photographs taken during the service are at the discretion of the verger on duty and the minister conducting the service.  If you are subtle you will be allowed to do far more than if you are intrusive.  The determination of what is intrusive is the absolute preserve of the minister taking the service and the verger on duty.
Photographs may be taken at the signing of the registers.  Staged photographs immediately after the signing are permitted.
Photographs may be taken as the couple leave but care should be taken not to disrupt the flow of the procession.’


‘I don’t allow photographers to be in close proximity to the bride and groom at all in a Service, and not behind us. You’re most welcome to shoot without flash from the back and from the side aisles, but no further forward than the lectern and pulpit pillars – I’ll point these out to you on the day.
I’m happy for one of you to take 3 only flash photographs at the end of the signing of the register, which will take place towards the end of the Service. I’ll give you the nod when we’ve finished signing and one of you is welcome to take 3 only pictures.
We’re fairly strict about photographers at weddings. Essentially, the wedding is a Service of worship to God in which the couple marry each other. Too much photography makes the event more of a social occasion better left to a reception hall.’


‘Our simple guidelines say that during the service itself you may work with one camera only, from the back, with the digital sound turned off and no flash. I will be working at the front to ensure that the couple are positioned so that you get the shots from the back. I will also do a set up for you after I have overseen the signing of the registers, which here takes place in the middle of the service and in the main body of the church.
I am not able to allow a camera at the front of the church. The wedding is a sacred service, not a photo opportunity, and I want the couple to be the centre of attention not the photographer. I hope you will feel that is reasonable.’

Full wedding HERE  (Photo by Kat Timmins )


It seems there are many levels of Photography allowed, from: None at all Taking photos from the back of the church only Taking a few staged posed shots after the service, mock ups of the actual ceremony Being allowed to take them from the front or the back Being allowed to go anywhere as long as no flash is used and as long as you don’t get in the way of the ceremony and are very quiet.


Unfortunately it isn’t normally till the day of your wedding that you get to find this out. I post lots of church weddings on the blog and you will see that some have lots of photos of the ceremony, while others will only have a shot of the bride outside the church and then one of her and her husband walking down the aisle once the ceremony is over. There is a huge difference. The first one captures the special moments of the ceremony, the exchange of vowels and rings, the family crying, all those amazing moments that can’t be re-created with a ‘staged’ shot. The other captures nothing!

Full Wedding HERE  (Photo By Babb Photos )


So what can you do to ensure this don’t happen to you? Talk to your priest or vicar before booking the church and finds out exactly what their policy is on photography during the service. Don’t be afraid to ask and if they say they are happy for photographers to go where they want then get this in writing if you can. The same goes for your registrar. If you can try and find out who will be conducting your service and ask them what their photography policy is. If they don’t want photographs during the ceremony then ask for a different one. Find out if your priest or vicar will be the one actually carrying out the ceremony or if it will be someone else. Make sure they aren’t about to leave, or if there is any chance they will be replaced with a different priest who may hold a less liberal view. Ask your photographer to contact the church before to introduce themselves. This can sometimes work, but again as you can see from the letters above, sometimes an introduction can be greeted with only words of caution. If they do say no, have a backup plan. Are you happy to have the Church you want and forfeit your photos, or are you willing to stand up for your photos and choose a different church or registrar? If you are happy tie stick to your guns then the church may step down. After all they are running a business as much as everyone else is.

Full Wedding HERE  (Photo by This and That Photography )

I realise this is a very contentious issue. I am by no means targeting every church as I know there are a lot of really good one out there. I also realise that on some occasions it is the bad photographs who are at fault. Photographers getting in the way, being loud, having noisy equipment and big lighting. However most are discreet, quiet and do their best not to get in the way.

I really do want this to stop happening! I’d hate to be a bride or groom who finds out on the day of the wedding that their lovely church who they have paid good money to won’t allow photos. So I really want this situation to end.


I would LOVE to hear from you if you have any solutions to the problem, as I know we have a long way to go with it.
I’d also love to hear from you if you are a bride who got married in a church, what was your experience good or bad? Or maybe you are a photographer with a story to tell?
I’d also love to hear if you are planning a church wedding, is this something you have considered? Or had experience with already? All views are welcome!





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