August 10, 2019 /

Hey, officiators! Not all wedding photographers are morons!

Why you need to get clear with your officiant about what I can and can't photograph during your ceremony. Here's a little bit of info on how you might go about asking your officiants if weddin...

Why you need to get clear with your officiant about what I can and can’t photograph during your ceremony.

Here’s a little bit of info on how you might go about asking your officiants if wedding photography is allowed during your ceremony. This seriously isn’t a dig at all ceremony officiants. 99% are wonderful and let me do my job just fine. It’s more of a rant at those photographers who’ve annoyed some officials so much in their quest to get a ceremony shot at all costs that those officials now tar me, and my fellow respectful law-abiding togs, with the same lice-infested brush. It’s also an insight into my experience of how some officials can make it impossible for me to do the job my couples have paid me to do, in case you get given the 1%.

Bride and groom kissing after their ceremony at Nancarrow Farm in Cornwall

You’d think wouldn’t you that as the ceremony is the most important part of your day that all religious ministers, officials, and registrars would acknowledge that maybe you’d like a picture or two. I mean like dah you’re actually getting married then. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. In fact, some officials talk to me as though I have the intellect of a single cell amoeba.

I understand and respect that this is a legal and sacred part of the day. And I get why some officials can become a little miffed when the photographer rocks up because previously they’ve encountered that photographer! The one who breaks the rules, get in the faces of everyone, makes a noise, climbs on chairs, lies down in the aisle, is a general nuisance, just to get the shots they want.

couple getting married in an orchard shot through apple trees

I’m pretty fucked off at those photographers too because they have made some officials hate me and all the other good guy photographers who photograph discreetly and abide by the rules. The wedding ceremony is potentially the most beautiful and emotive, although the speeches can often be a bit of a tear jerker too, opportunity to get totally feeling pictures. All those smiling faces, the happy tears, all that awesome emotion captured for prosperity, these are all part of the story of your day. So get clear with your officiant about what I can and can’t photograph during your ceremony.

emotional groom hugging bride at the start of the ceremony at the west mill in Derby

Still, they might change their mind on the day or tell you one thing and me another. I’ve had couples who’ve been told it’s ok for me to take photos during the ceremony by their officiant and then that officiant pulls me to one side and requests that I take only the pictures they suggest and that I stand exactly where they say. On the rare occasion this does happen it means I can’t get the shots you wish for because I have to respect their rules but I get the best I can.

One couple told me their minster was lovely, she was a family friend whose church they had attended for years. They said she was happy for me to take pictures. Turns out this minster thought I was part of the anti-Christ’s throng. She saw me walk towards her in the church then very obviously turned her back on me. I spoke to her 2 or 3 times with her deliberately ignoring me until she turned around and scowled at me. Before I could speak any further she said sternly, ‘you will stand there,’ (the choir stalls behind the pulpit) ‘and you will not move.’

bride and groom listening to and watching a guest give a reading during their wedding ceremony at the turner contemporary art gallery in Margate

The couple had asked me to photograph two guests, who were giving readings from the pulpit, so I needed to lean slightly out of the choir stalls in order to get them in shot, and even then it was just part of their back. The vicar, who was mic’d up, tutted at me before shouting ‘get back.’ Everyone in the church heard her telling me off. I got hardly any decent ceremony pictures. Yet their friend the vicar had beforehand told them ‘yeah sure, photography is fine.’

bride and groom at the night yard in Kent marrying in a wooden chapel while their guests are seated under a balloon canopy

One vicar even pushed my camera into my face because he told me I could take one picture only of the bride and dad walking up the aisle. He’d heard my near silent shutter, pre silent shutter days, go off more than once as it was set to rapid fire.

I’ve been asked to stand in places where it is impossible to get a picture of the couple. Or told if my camera is heard I’ll be asked to leave. Do not use flash! I don’t bloody need to or to be told not to! Professional cameras can be set to shoot in silence and in near darkness and still get great shots, when the photographer knows what they’re doing of course.

During religious ceremonies, it is at the discretion of the minster as to whether or not the photographer is even allowed in the church never mind allowed to photograph it. I’ve only once in 14 years had one wedding close to that though. The couple knew beforehand and accepted the fact that I was only allowed to take pictures of them except entering and leaving the church.

bride and groom smiling and holding hands during their orchard wedding ceremony

This is why it’s important to chat with your ceremony officials about what you’d like from your wedding ceremony photography within their rules. Let them know that I as your photographer always respect their rules, use a silent camera and no flash unless you are marrying in a dungeon, and yes I know you cannot photograph the register. If they set tough restrictions we have to respect them sadly.

I once hit a registrar on the head with my camera. By accident, of course!!

I was photographing a wedding in a tiny country house where the ceremony took place more or less in a bay window. The ceremony officiant told me that the week before the photographer had hit the registrar on the head with his camera as he leaned in to get an exchange of rings shot so she asked me to be careful is such a tight space.

In this tiny bay window, the couple had organised for two beautiful but fuck off floral displays on pedestals to be placed either side of the bay so the space was even more restricted. A number of times I had to grab the pedestal I was closest to as I almost knocked it over.

Leaning in for a shot I too hit the registrar on the head with my camera. She didn’t say anything, just looked like she was seeing stars and tiny birds tweeting, while I apologized. She was one of the good guys so I felt a tad on the mortified side. Mind you, being the big facetious kid I am, it didn’t stop me sniggering in my car on the way home that evening.

On the upside, the majority of officiants are lovely and let me get on with my job. Humanists celebrants rock. Oh, and friends officiating your wedding do too! Those awesome humans love letting me do my job! You just need to be aware that as a wedding photographer it is not always possible to get the pictures I would love to get for you when a minority of officials make the rules. This is why it is important that you chat with whoever is conducting your wedding ceremony about your wedding photography and find out what their rules are. In all likelihood, they will be free and easy awesome folks who know what it means to you to get the images you’d love during the most important part of your wedding day. Even some who have been wound up by the sort of wedding photographer who will do anything to get a shot understand that not all wedding photographers are morons and they let us do our job too.

All celebrants featured in this post were wonderful. Thanks to them all for making my job so easy and for allowing my couples to have the pictures they wanted of their wedding ceremonies. You’re legends.

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