There are lots and lots of things I think about going into a wedding day – lighting, timelines, making sure I photograph the details/people/moments that have been specifically mentioned to me as being important. Going into a wedding as a photographer involves a lot of planning, mentally, for the day ahead. We need strategies and game plans for the day to make sure we execute our job to the absolute best of our abilities.
One thing I’ve thought about a lot after many weddings is the ceremony.
A situation that I’m often faced with is the couple getting married in a church and finding out right before the bride is set to walk down the aisle that the photographers must stay at the back of the church, cannot walk down the aisles, no flash is allowed, etc. This is not an ideal situation. The bride loses focus – she’s no longer thinking about seeing her man waiting for her. She’s panicking and wondering how we’re going to be able to do our jobs with such strict stipulations.
Maybe you think this doesn’t happen, but it does.
My advice to you, couples, is to make sure you are very specific when you meet with your ceremony coordinators to ask the following questions:
What are your rules for our photographers and videographers? Do they have to stay in a static place during the entire ceremony?
Are they only allowed to shoot from the balcony?
Can they walk down the aisles?
Is flash photography allowed?
Are they allowed to photograph the ceremony? (In one instance, I was only allowed to take two photographs of the entire ceremony – the entrance of the bride and groom and the first kiss. That was it.)
What will the lighting look like during the ceremony?
Sometimes the lights are dimmed to set the mood. Is that something you want for your wedding day? Having no light makes it very difficult to capture expressions and make sure photos are sharp and in focus.
Ask if you can visit the church during the time of day you’ll be getting married.
See what the natural light looks like flowing in through the windows (hopefully there are some!) when you’ll be walking down the aisle. Sunset times change throughout the year, so it’s ideal if you can visit at approximately the same time of year you’ll be getting married as well. This is a great idea, too, for couples getting married at outdoor venues. Talk to your photographer and/or coordinator about the ceremony timing so you’re not getting married in full sun or pitch black. I use a website, Time and Date, for every single photography session I book to determine when sunset happens and also look this information up for clients to educate them about their wedding day and ideal lighting conditions (because the weather can always affect things, of course).
Churches are not the only ceremony locations that have strict rules. Sometimes, the officiant or pastor at an outdoor ceremony will have rules and regulations, too. Movement and clicking shutters can be a distraction for them. I’ve been given specific rules many times for outdoor ceremonies – no walking beyond a certain point, standing in specific areas, etc.. Ask your officiant/pastor/friend — whomever is marrying you — about their guidelines for ceremonies.
I, personally, will try my very best to stay quiet and work without drawing the attention and focus away from the bride and groom. I am oh-so-thankful for the silent shooting mode Canon added to their newest 5D Mark III cameras. I do my best to keep my distance and not be a distraction.
Choosing a ceremony site that has meaning to you is of utmost importance (I, too, got married in a church so I understand how much this means to my couples). Take the time to educate yourselves (and your photographers/videographers) on the guidelines your venue or officiant has set. Once my couples pass along the information to me about what I can and cannot do, a conversation is sure to follow that involves us discussing a plan of action and what they can expect from their ceremony photographs.
Photographers: if you have any other advice about questions couples should ask when booking their wedding ceremony venues, please feel free to comment! I’d love your input!