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Questions to ask when choosing a church for your ceremony.

By April 29, 2019 No Comments

Let’s talk wedding day logistics- specifically wedding ceremonies!

Let’s face it, putting together wedding day timeline is one of the things about planning a wedding that probably stresses most brides out. Those of us who’ve been in the wedding industry for a while have been around the block or two when it comes to putting together a list of things you should find out BEFORE your wedding day so that you don’t have any unsuspected surprises ……or disappointments. I know most of my brides value photography so finding out a few days before your ceremony that your officiant doesn’t allow photographs during the sacred ceremony can be….well… disappointing when you were under the impression that it wasn’t a problem.

I have 50% of Brides hold their ceremonies in their childhood churches knowing full well all the rules/regulations so this may not apply to you since you are familiar with your space. The other half chooses a church based on logistics of where the family lives, where their reception is behind held,  maybe they are converting religions or it’s their Fiances families place of worship… and I’ve had some clients who have chosen their ceremony space based on how “pretty” it is…..this is the group that may not be as familiar with what to ask. You will benefit most from this blog post!

Churches and places of worship have rules…often times for very good reasons. Maybe they were taken advantage of by inexperienced photographers who wanted to climb all over the pews or on the alter to “get their shot” (they ruin it for all of us) or perhaps it’s just simply frowned upon for certain places of worship to have photos taken during specific parts of the ceremony….OR, let’s face it, sometimes the officiant wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and isn’t the “nicest” person that day. TRUST ME, I’ve witnessed it all! Regardless of the reason, us photographers are bound by the rules of the church and out of respect must obey by them.


Questions to ask when choosing a church for your ceremony:

Here are a few bullet points to think of when securing your ceremony- specifically churches. Keep in mind, even though you may not be having your ceremony in a place of worship, some of these may be good for you to know regardless.

  • Do they allow photographs during the ceremony?
    – This may seem like a silly question, but there are places of worship that won’t allow you to photograph certain aspects of the ceremony. Each religion has their own ways of doing the ceremony and in some specific religions photographing those rituals, etc. are frowned upon. Knowing this upfront months in advance can save a lot of panic instead of finding out a few weeks before. I’m all about realistic expectations-photographers can only provide you with what they are allowed to photograph.
  • Are there restrictions on where the photographer stand?
    – I have found over the years that-for whatever reason- churches located in the city tend to be the biggest sticklers for this. Perhaps it’s just a geographical coincidence but I haven’t found this to be the case too often in smaller town churches. Some churches have rules that you can only stand two pews behind the last seated guest. What does this mean? If you don’t have someone telling your guests to move towards the front and sit in a closer pew, we have to stay 2 pews behind them. If they are seated in the last row, that means all of your photos, despite shooting with a long lens, may be from further away.Any good photographer will come with an arsenal of lenses which will include a long telephoto lens and in some cases it isn’t even a problem when the church is small. However with the big historical churches that have hundreds of pews, it can really cause us to be limited.Some churches won’t allow us to walk around on the sides, some prohibit us from standing anywhere in the aisle.There is one particular church that makes us stay seated the ENTIRE time. Some don’t allow you to stand in the front for the pro-sessional…..each one has their own rule. Check with your officiant to see what they are before hand.Brides may see Pinterest images of a certain angles and want the same thing….except your church doesn’t allow the photographer to stand there. One that comes to mind is the photographer photographing the bride and groom with the guests behind them…this is almost impossible to do in most cases. The alter is seen as a sacred place and having a photographer up there can be distracting but also disrespectful.
  • Is it a officiant you personally know?
    -You know that saying “it’s all in who you know?”…..well, yes in some cases this does apply. For example, is this your family church, did you grow up with this pastor/priest, etc,. do they know you personally because sometimes that alters what “rules” you have. Did you pick your church for aesthetic reasons or perhaps you’re from out of town and have never attended the church and have no relationship with your officiant….you may have a different set of rules.
  • How long do you have in the church afterwards for family photos? 
    -Traditionally family photographs are taken in the church directly after a ceremony. And typically you know how long your ceremony will last ahead of time….BUT….they don’t always last that long. Ceremonies do run over. Officiants can talk longer than anticipated and a 30 minute ceremony turns into a 45 minute or an hour ceremony. Not a huge deal right….RIGHT. When you are on a timeline in order to keep everything running smoothly, that 15 minutes can mean a lot of stress if there is something scheduled right after your wedding. A service where people are waiting to get in….it leaves us photographers to have rush to get things done. In some cases, this means that we don’t have as much time as we had anticipated and perhaps we have to forgo some of your group shots at the church in order to get out of there in time. We might have to squeeze them in at the reception.
  • Are there any weddings directly after yours that would make you feel rushed?
    -Just like I mentioned above not only can it make you feel rushed. I’ve had it happen lots of times where family members of the next wedding were literally lined up out the door waiting to get in and sit. Large churches tend to do this…they can do anywhere from 2-4 weddings (sometimes more) in any given Saturday. Again if your service runs over they literally boot you out. Those church ladies don’t mess around! haha!
  • Does the church have a “church lady” or a Coordinator?
    – If you didn’t hire a wedding coordinator or day of coordinator from an outside company, be sure to ask  if there will be someone there to tell you and your bridesmaids when to walk down, when to start music, seat guests, etc. No, your photographer can not do this because we would miss many of the shots you are paying a lot of money for us to capture. I have been to several weddings where this is something that wasn’t figured out ahead of time and bridesmaids and parents ended up walking down to the wrong music, guests got seated in the wrong areas, music didn’t start on time or at all, candles never got lit, ceremonies started late…..and the lists goes on. I’m going to write a book some day.
  • Does your church allow decorations/flowers?
    -Some churches don’t allow fake flowers, some churches don’t allow you to drop rose petals because it could stain the carpet, some churches won’t let you light candles in the aisle, hang anything on the pews, have a runner… and some churches won’t allow you to decorate AT ALL.
  • Is there a bridal suite for you to hang out in before the ceremony?
    – Even if you will be getting ready elsewhere, it’s important to find out if there is a space where you and your girls/guys/wedding party in general can hang out in until it’s time to walk down the aisle.  It not only keeps you away from your guests until your grand entrance but it’s a place put some of your belongings in the meantime. I have shot some weddings where there are no rooms to hide in and the bride had to stand outside the side door with her bridesmaids forming a wall around her. If they don’t have a room for you, just beware so that you can arrange to wait in the car while guests are finished being seated and you make your entrance.
  • Does the bridal suite/getting ready room have windows?
    -Ask to see the room to see if it has windows. The difference of having natural light versus those overhead lights can sometimes be all the difference. Does that room have stacked up chairs, Jesus posters or toys scattered everywhere. Be sure to ask to see it ahead of time.
  • Are you allowed to do a send off? If so, what materials are you able to use?
    -Do you want your guests to line up outside to send you off to your reception? Maybe they have ribbons, bubbles bird seed, soap confetti-whatever it may be…is it allowed? Is there time to have one if there is another wedding scheduled? Find out what their rules are.


Past brides..what am I missing? Is there something that you wish you would have known to ask