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What to ask the Vicar – the differences between church and venue weddings!

You may well be sat there saying that a church wedding is basically the same as a venue wedding.  Let me tell you now, unfortunately you’re wrong, and this is why this article exists.

A religious ceremony is, by its nature, a lot more regimented than a civil ceremony.  Therefore there are a lot more rules in place, and a lot more things to take account of as a professional wedding photographer.  This is why you need to speak to your vicar early, and interface him with your photographer.

Most importantly of all, some churches will not allow ANY photographs, even those taken by a booked professional.  I remember with dread one wedding rehearsal I attended with my bride and groom and asked to speak to the vicar about what I could and couldn’t do.  “We don’t allow any photographs in church, and the couple know this” was the reply.  Well, they might have signed the paperwork to say they did, but they honestly believed this didn’t apply to me.  Cue panic stations.

Firstly, it is important to state not only does every church have different rules, each Vicar has different rules as well.  It is not unknown for different Vicar’s that officiate at the same church to have completely different thinking and guidelines for their services.

While some church Wedding Services are therefore as laid back, and in some cases more so than venue weddings, you will find other Church wedding services are severely restrictive.  I have personally, in the same church, had one wedding where nothing was too much to ask and another shortly after where photography was prohibited as soon as the bride had entered the naïve.

Church Weddings – and Vicars
YFFUK Phil Endicott Tarry St Marys Church Orlingbury Northamptonshire bride holds her flowers high above her leaving church newly married

Therefore, at the very first instance you should ask the church which Vicar will be officiating, but more so what their rules are.  In simple terms the Church is “their” house, and therefore it is not fair to either incite or ask your photographer to break those rules.  Also consider asking the Vicar if they would be prepared to meet your photographer face to face in advance:  I have attended numerous wedding rehearsals and private meetings with Vicar’s in order to gain their trust and also help their understanding of what I would like to achieve with their help.

 

You may be asking why Churches are more restrictive.  My insight that follows is drawn from years of conversations with Vicar’s all of which have different policies.  In simple terms a Church Wedding Service is treated by the church as a solemn and reflective ceremony.  Many vicars do not wish for a photographer to interrupt this reflection and contemplation with clicks, squeaking shoes and excessive movement.

Church Weddings – and Vicars
Church Weddings – and Vicars

My personal approach is to make sure I speak with the Vicar well in advance of the Wedding Service.  I often take my cameras with me to this meeting to show them the silent shutter function, and how this means there is no audible clicking during the ceremony.  I also often wear very soft soled shoes for a church wedding so I can be quiet.  I also ask to be seated in the choral pews so that I can clearly see the bride and groom but I am largely invisible to the guests and the congregation.  To this end, I have several Vicar’s in my local area that have started off with a blanket ban now allowing me full freedom to do as I please given they know I respect them and the service.

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Ask the Vicar Early!

There is no point is getting to the ceremony day, for your photographer to come up to you with a panicked look on their face.  The more you can help your photographer and Vicar to work together the better!