Wedding Photography – The Ceremony

black and white focusing on the sides of the pews with the bride and groom kneeling at the end of the aisle

What I need to know about your ceremony to get you the best photos!

I’m not gonna lie here – the wedding ceremony isn’t the most creative part of the day from a photography stand point. But it IS the whole point of the wedding so you should have plenty of photographs of it.

Now don’t get me wrong – I love a lot of ceremony photos. It’s the part of the day emotions are running the highest and those emotions are what you’re going to feel all over again when you look back at your images.

I feel like ceremonies have really evolved over the last few decades and it seems nothing is out of the box anymore. I’m not going to get into the do’s and don’ts of choosing your ceremony style, just the things you should be aware of due to your choice. No wrong answers here! This is just how I approach ceremonies.

Let’s start with the classic indoor wedding, typically a church but not necessarily. Some churches are gorgeous but that doesn’t mean they have gorgeous light. Honestly though, if you’re getting married in a church it’s probably because it’s your church, so the light is not your concern. That’s mine! There are some things I need to know ahead of time to get the best shots possible. Here we go!

Indoor Ceremony

  • Rules of the Church/Officiant – Some churches don’t allow flash At All. The only time I use flash unless it’s a very extreme situation is during the processional and recessional, but it’s good to know if it’s even allowed then.
  • Movement – I haven’t encountered this yet in my own shooting, but I’ve been in weddings where the officiant strictly prohibits the photographer from moving around during the ceremony. Obviously this extremely limits the variety of angles that can even be captured. And if I don’t know about it ahead of time, I might not have a full range of lenses right on me to capture everything I could. I gotta know the rules before the ceremony!
  • Wardrobe requirements – Most people are going to know how to dress appropriately for a church wedding, but some churches have very strict rules regarding dress lengths, sleeves and shoes. If sleeveless shirts aren’t allowed, I would really like to know. Your guests should probably be gently made aware of that as well.
  • Off limit areas – If your venue has a balcony I want to get up there for a few wide shots. If that balcony is closed for any reason I should probably know that.
  • Cry rooms – this is more for your videographer and guests but it affects you in the end. If your church has a room for parents to take their little ones when they are upset, have your officiant kindly announce that at the beginning of your ceremony. When one of your guests has a very upset child, it’s good they know there’s a place they can excuse themselves to. Otherwise no one around is going to hear you say your vows and you might not hear them on video either. That would just stink.

Outdoor Ceremony

Then there are the outdoor weddings which we all love. You probably have more freedom with this setup but that does mean more decisions on your part. I want to know some of those things ahead of time.

  • #1 is the backup plan for rain. I HAVE to know that.
  • Rules again – Of course I need to know any rules. Blah.
  • Will there be enough seating for all the guests or should I expect that some will be standing? I want to be prepared for physical obstacles when shooting, though most times I can very nicely ask someone to scoot a bit.
  • When will the ceremony be all set up and decorated? I try to get a shot of the ceremony location without guests there yet.

All Wedding Ceremonies

And just a few more things to think about that affect any wedding –

  • The Processional – How are your couples walking down the aisle, together the whole way, meeting halfway, groomsmen staying at the front? How is the bride walking down – escorted by dad, someone else, alone? Is there anyone else being specifically escorted to their seat, mother of the bride, groom’s parents, kids, grandparents? I don’t want to miss those either. And please tell me if you are dancing down the aisle. Please.
  • The Officiant’s location of choice – Sometimes the officiant decides to stand between the couple and the guests. I get it. That way you two are looking toward your guests during the ceremony. Makes sense, but it makes my photographer soul wince just a little. You don’t really have control over this though. Just know that if this is the case, any photos of the two of you from the angle straight down the aisle are going to have someone’s head right in the middle. Expect more photos focusing on either the bride or the groom from a side angle.
  • The Order of Events – It helps so much to have a program for me! If you’re not printing one out for all your guests I think that’s fine. But just writing it down for me with a little note of the expected time each would take helps me plan out my lenses and get the shots!
  • The Recessional/Receiving Line – I like to have a heads up if you’re going to hang around and greet all your guests as they leave the ceremony. If your bridal party is supposed to stay and greet people as well they need to know that. Personally, I find this unnecessary from a bridal party member perspective. Just because your best friend is getting married why should you stand there and greet her third cousin on her mother’s side you’ve never seen before in your life. Anywho…
  • Family Formal Organizer! – Beware, those few minutes while you’re in the receiving line is a high risk time for losing the people who are supposed to be in family formals. Have a member designated with the list of who we all need to make sure those people stick around. Someone always thinks there’s time to run somewhere “real quick” like the bar, or the gas station, or to check into their hotel. Really Uncle Stan, really?

Ceremonies are great for the emotion of the couple. I also love when I can capture the emotions of the people dearest to you, usually the bridal party and the first two rows or so of your guests. When you have an hour, I can get a lot more of that. If your ceremony is short and sweet, then there’s time for more guest candids later. I really do want you to have the ceremony just the way you want it. I just want to know what that means for you.

Looking for more wedding photography info? Check out these recent posts.

Wedding Details Photos

Wedding Day Timeline – How it affects photos.

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