Church Weddings

A large stained glass window at a cathedral.

What to Know About Churches and Places of Worship

With the popularity of outdoor weddings, I frequently find myself photographing in the greater outdoors more often than inside a building for church weddings.

However, this last week, I made a site visit to a Lutheran church in anticipation for an upcoming summer wedding.

The opportunity to meet the officiant and the couple and talk through the policies (no flash and restricted areas around the altar) helped us better define our vision for the day and keep things in a reverent mode.

If you’re planning on a traditional church wedding, here are a few things you need to ask about and know.

Timing of Church Weddings

A baptismal fountain in a cathedral.
Ask your church management if additional events take place on your event day such as baptisms, funerals, or weekly services that will conflict with any post-service family photos.

When interviewing your church, ask about timing and accessibility. Find out what events take place before and after your ceremony to determine your arrival/departure and time for family formals.

Can you obtain early access and finish getting ready/change there? How much time is available after the ceremony before the next group arrives?

Get a clear understanding of any additional events and restrictions those events place on your day.

This also includes the lighting schedule (some churches turn off lights immediately after the ceremony to conserve on energy costs) and the sprinkler/watering timing to ensure your guests stay dry during any outdoor formals.

Sacred Spaces

A newly married couple poses on the steps of the LDS temple after their church wedding.
This wedding couple poses on the steps of the LDS Temple in downtown Salt Lake City following their ceremony indoors.

Many churches consider specific areas off-limits to photographers. Often, these involve sacred areas or spaces reserved for the officiant. In extreme cases, church weddings may relegate photographers to shoot from an area in the back, rather than roaming freely in the aisles.

You may need to adjust your expectations accordingly for photos. For example, if the service requires you looking forward and your photographer’s restrictions mean no access ahead of you, he or she may only capture your side view or even the back of your head.

If the church contains a balcony, ask about availability. In some cases, churches only permit the organist or other musical members in this area. Or, they may allow the photographer in that space, but in one specific spot. Get the policy details in advance to determine the possibility of overhead shots.

Finally, some places of worship completely prohibit photography during the ceremony. LDS temples, for example, forbid wedding photography inside the building proper. Following the ceremony, however, each wedding couple may pose in front of the temple for family photographs for a prescribed number of minutes.

Overall, you and your photographer must respect the wishes of the church out of courtesy and consideration. Just as a reception venue lists policies, your church makes known its expectations during your wedding. Sometimes, this means compromising a little on some of the angles and scenes captured in your photographs.

Flash Policy at Church Weddings

An outside view of stained glass at a church.
Flash policies vary from church to church. Some may allow you to only capture the processional with flash to help freeze the motion before switching to natural light for the remainder of the ceremony.

Churches often consider additional lighting, such as flash, a distraction to the wedding service. For this reason, places of worship frequently prohibit flash photography during the ceremony. Before and after the ceremony, however, church weddings typically allow flash, particularly during family formals. In any case, double check the information packet from your church or send an email to your officiant to verify the policy.

Crying Room

Check on the availability of a crying room to ensure your church wedding audio records properly.

Hiring a videographer?

He or she may ask about the availability of a separate contained room for babies or children. When recording video, sometimes the audio picks up the sounds of crying which drowns out other speech. The option of a room where parents and children may go until things settle down helps with the overall quality of your recording and also removes the distraction from the congregation.

Quote of the Week

"Together" Marlene & Ryan.

“Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”

—Emily Brönte

All content ©2019 Anne Stephenson, All Rights Reserved.