One of the most important part of your wedding day is where you and your other half are actually married. We want to make sure we capture those precious moments so you’ll be able to look back at your ceremony and remember the bond between the two of you as you pledged your love and devotion to one another. We also want to make sure you get all the “real” moments, like when the flower girl diverts the wrong way down the aisle, the groom’s expression when he sees the bride and cries, and when one of the groomsmen gives a bridesmaid some sultry eyebrow arches. Here are some things to think about as you choose a ceremony location and plan out the details of your marriage (or vow renewal) ceremony.
Does the venue allow photography? We’ve had clergy ask that photographers do not take photos within the rectory, with photography being allowed only from the end of the aisles or from a specific area. If this is the case, we’ll do whatever we can to get as many of the iconic photos (the processional, vows, kiss, recessional) as we can, but we not be able to capture these in the same level of detail as we would if we were able to be in the center aisle, walk up to the altar, or be able to slip behind the altar in one of the back rooms that have side doors leading to the altar.
Does your venue allow the use of a flash? We typically only use flash for the processional and recessional, and remove the flash during the ceremony itself, but if there is a rule about flash, please let us know so we don’t get yelled at (yes, it may have happened once or twice before, and getting told off by a priest isn’t too fun).
Super Important: We recommend an “unplugged” ceremony. More and more, guests are using their own technology to capture all aspects of the ceremony. We’ve taken hundreds of photos where there is at least one phone, tablet, or other type of camera taking photos or recording the processional, ceremony, and recessional. Often, our photographers have to compete to get around the outstretched arms, especially when well-intentioned guests stretch or step into the aisle to get the perfect photo. Let us worry about getting the perfect photo, and let the videographers film the ceremony. The guests are there to witness and support your marriage. We recommend noting this on your invitations, and possibly using a sign at the entrance to the aisle/venue that says something like “Lend us your hearts, love, and prayers as you witness our union; please turn off your cell phones to be present with us.” We once had a really sweet moment between a bride and her father obstructed by a massive iPad that a family member stuck directly between us and the bride and her father as they walked down the aisle, and it was a moment that we couldn’t re-capture.
Does the venue have bright colors on the walls or carpet? Some older Catholic churches sometimes have dark blue or dark red carpets, which may appear saturated in the edited photos.
Is there a center aisle? In fall 2019, we photographed a ceremony had a fountain in the middle of the center aisle, which led the photographers and videographers to stand in the pews, and the fountain was in some of the photos. Another ceremony we photographed was in a pretty cozy restaurant, where the processional route was next to the counter of the bar, and left no space for our photographers to stand, as the “aisle” ended on the edge of the arbor, which would have put a photographer directly in their way to the altar. We ended up having one photographer sit on the bar, which was one side of the aisle, and the other photographer standing in one of the seating rows to be able to capture the processional and ceremony. The other photographer remained in the chairs to be able to shoot the ceremony straight-on, which did obstruct the view of some of the guests.
Are there large windows/sources of sunlight around the altar? This question is time-of-day specific. If there are huge stained glass or translucent windows that allow sunlight to hit the altar, you may have shadows and sunspots/streaks on whoever is on the altar. Although stained glass windows are gorgeous, direct sun through the windows can tint colors onto the altar, which, although very creative and artistic, is difficult to edit in color (think green streak on part of your face, hair, or dress). If this occurs, we may end up delivering those photos to you in black and white. A couple we photographed in 2018 were wed outdoors on a beautiful lake under a slated and vined trellis. Between the slats of the trellis above the couple, the florals, and the grown vines around and above them, the noon ceremony sunlight created some interesting shadows and sun spots on the couple. If you’re worried about this, we recommend using a light canopy for the couple to stand under for the ceremony, which can be decorated with florals and vines to provide unwavering shade and more balanced light.
Is temperature going to be an issue? Particularly in New England, we’re really good at preserving history, but not adding temperature control in some of the older buildings. If you’re having a summer wedding, ask about if/how the venue will be cooled for you and your guests, especially if you’re having a full mass. Some churches add fans at the altar, which may appear in your photos. Also, those fans often do not cool your guests. We once photographed a church wedding (full mass about 1 hour long) in a very poorly ventilated church built in the late 1800s (and probably not renovated since then, as every step we took as we moved around to take photos had the floorboards groaning and creaking loudly, which resulted in a lot of scooting down pews on our rear-ends). By the start of the ceremony, every guest (including us) was sweating profusely and fanning themselves with their programs and anything else they could find, as the August heat, combined with the sun coming through the windows, baked the church. We estimate it was probably 80-85 degrees for the duration of the ceremony. The bride was worried about sweating in her dress, and groom told us after that he was worried he’d sweat through is suit jacket!
How many people do you plan to include at the altar? Depending on the type of ceremony you’re planning, some venues may only allow a certain number of people to stand at the altar with the couple. Other venues allow as many as you’d like, but if you have 10 wedding party members on both sides, it may be difficult to fit them all into onto platforms or under canopies. We always recommend wedding parties getting close to one another, and turning their shoulders slightly out towards the guests – they can still watch the ceremony, but be closer to one another without shoving bouquets into each other’s backs, or getting uncomfortably close. Think – my left shoulder will be tucked behind the person’s right shoulder in front of me. If the group still doesn’t fit, try to create an arch, tucking everyone even closer together. If all else fails, create two rows!
Give us an extra second! We always encourage our couples to take a few extra seconds performing the major moments of the ceremony. Put each other’s rings on slowly so our photographers have time to capture images farther back, and close ups of your hands intertwined. Linger on the kiss, and then break away slowly, laughing or smiling afterwards, so we can capture the kiss in all its glory! Take a moment after the ceremony to let yourself be applauded before you walk down the aisle. Throw your fist/bouquet in the air to let everyone know you scored this touchdown in your relationship! Kiss a second time as you walk back down the aisle as a newly married couple and let everyone cheer for you – these are epic, iconic photos that couples often rush through or completely cut out because they’re anxious to speed walk down the aisle and get to formals. Although we’d love to get started on formals, we’d much rather you walk slowly down the aisle, cheering and smiling to us and your guests, so we can really capture your joy.
Are you planning on doing a receiving line after the ceremony? If so, please let your photographers know. We don’t see receiving lines at ceremony locations often, as couples usually chose to do guest recognition/hugs and thank you kisses at the reception. We do need to make sure we plan time to wait for the newlyweds to complete the receiving line, and plan for where to have the wedding party wait/head to while the receiving line takes place. Receiving lines typically take 15-25 minutes, depending on the size of the wedding.
How are you planning to get from your ceremony to the next location? If you’re heading to a photography location, do all the people you want in the formal photos know where to go, how to get there, and where to park/meet once they get there? If you haven’t planned this out, or something changes last minute, the ceremony is the last spot you can communicate this to all participants to make sure no one is left out of the photo party. One of my brides brought pre-printed (homemade) reminders that included the photography location address and an address for where to park that one of her bridesmaids handed out to the wedding party, friends, and family that she invited to join for formal photos (this was pretty critical, as everyone was using their own cars to get from location to location, and they were doing photos at a park that had 2 entrances and several small parking lots). Most of my couples send this info out virtually before the wedding by email. If you have a wedding coordinator, this is something they can also help with.
If you have any questions about planning your ceremony, or any other details, please don’t hesitate to ask! Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out other blog articles!