Wedding Photography Restrictions In Church

Wedding photography restrictions in church

Reviewing this weekends wedding, so sad, not a single shot of the ceremony thanks to a grumpy vicar, the most impt (sic.) part of the day and no record…


I’ve made a change to this afternoon’s blog schedule today to address something topical that is taking up a huge amount of my Twitter feed this morning; it relates to the issue of wedding photographers not being allowed to take photographs of the ceremony in church.

Over the past two and a half years since I have been engaged in the process of liaising with photographers and couples into producing ‘real wedding’ features for you all to enjoy here on Love My Dress, I have lost count the number of times I have heard stories of how the Vicar, Priest or Clergyman refused to let the photographer shoot in the church.

Image Source, Love My Dress Wedding Blog – Photography Copyright (c) 2011, Brosnan Photographic

The stories range from the Vicar, Priest or Clergyman limiting the number of photographs allowed (usually 1 or 2 max, certainly rarely more than that) and limiting the location from which they can actually shoot (some churches won’t let photographers on the altar and others insist they can only stand behind the last row of people, or shoot only from the balcony, rending the shot not only difficult to take but lacking in value to the couple), to flash photography being banned (not helpful in dimly lit environments), to point blank refusing to let photographers to take any pictures at all.

“Every clergyman has the power to impose or relax these restrictions. The rules may be outdated, or obsolete. If you make a strong enough case, you may be able to persuade the vicar to lift some (or all) of the restrictions.” (Ref)



Modern Photographic

It gets worse.  Sometimes, it would transpire, that the couple have been warned about these limitations, often it would appear, they have not. Not until the day of the wedding at least.

Then I hear crazy stories of some vicars charging for photographs, and others saying that the service is copyrighted and photography of the service would represent a breach of this copyright.

Can you imagine that? One of the most important days of your life, you’ve paid anything from several hundred to several thousand pounds to have the whole day captured on camera, only for possibly the most meaningful and emotional part to be disallowed by a representative of the church…???

I’m not saying this happens all the time, there are some GREAT Vicars, Priests and Clergymen who are flexible and open to working with photographs in their Church.  No doubt about it. But this does happen.  A lot.  Every week in fact, I see the same complaints on my Twitter and Facebook feeds.


Seriously, why?


Andrew J R Squires

In my enthusiasm to understand the Church and Clergyman’s point of view, I undertook some research this morning and stumbled across this feature, on the website:-

“Have you ever been to a church wedding and been taken aback by how visible and inappropriate the wedding photographer is – such as being in very close proximity to the bride and groom and taking pictures indiscriminately as if the end of the world is coming and he’s trying to get in as many shots as possible?

Alas, this kind of scenario has been repeated so often that many churches now have strict rules and limitations for wedding photography. Why has this happened? Because amateur photographers have proliferated in the wedding photography business and their lack of experience and awareness has ruined things for the rest of us professionals.”  {Reference}

I also found this

“The wedding officials at the church where you plan on getting married may have had some previous bad experiences with a wedding photographer Cambridge. Perhaps one or two were too pushy and did not respect the spiritual nature of the ceremony. Sometimes that’s all it takes for a policy to be set firmly in stone.” {Reference}

And this…

“There are a number of logical as well as religious reasons why clergymen keep certain restrictions in place. It can be both disrespectful and distracting to both congregation and couple for a cameraman to be the centre of attention. Ultimately the wedding is about the couple and not the photographer, something that may become apparent when a photographer is circling the couple like a vulture. It is important for you to understand the restrictions that your church has in place.” {Ref}

…’circling the couple like a vulture’.  Hmm.

So what this means is, because of some apparent thoughtless behaviour by a small number {presumably} of photographers in the past, some representatives of the Church are drawing up policies that penalise all couples, and photographers, in the future.



Laura McCluskey

Sanctity and Sacrilege versus Sensibility

The last thing I want to do in sharing this feature is appear like a thoughtless idiot wading into a matter I don’t fully understand and to come across as having little respect for the Church and the reasons for their wedding photography restrictions policies.

I fully understand and respect the sanctity of the wedding ceremony.  I understand that the Church is a sacred environment, and that the exchange of wedding vows is a very beautiful, precious, emotional moment and it would be awful to have anything distract from that beautiful, precious moment, including an indiscreet photographer who is all over the place trying to get that shot, with little disregard for the sanctity and meaning of that moment. But really, how often must the comedy buffoon of a photographer with scant if any regard for discretion really make a show of themselves?

And is it just me, or does the issue of heavily restricting and sometimes banning photography in church seem entirely, well, mean-spirited? {not the type of attitude  you’d expect from a representative of God, surely?}.  And the matter of whether you believe in God or not really holds no bearing on this debate.

“The integration of the traditional church environment and the modern age of photography hasn’t been an entirely smooth transition….” {Reference}

If the reason these often times very strict photography limitations and restrictions are enforced is because of former bad experiences, then that not only makes me angry, it makes me sad; why should every couple have to miss out because of the bad behaviour of some others – that’s not a fair deal, is it?  I’m not alone in my thoughts, am I? Am I missing something here?

The Irony

I don’t know if this applies in all cases, but in most cases that have been brought to my attention, when strict wedding photography restrictions are enforced by the Vicar or Priest, guests are freely allowed to ‘snap’ away on their mobile digital devices or cameras.

How much more distracting to the smooth running of a wedding ceremony could this be? click, flash, arms held up to get the shot, faces focused on devices in hand to post to Facebook or edit in Instagram or just safe the file safely?

Which photographs do you think the couple would prefer, the paid-for professional images that will serve them a lifetime of memories – imagery that will in most cases cost them a lot of money and that they own and have control of, or the Instagram and Facebook images taken by non-professional photographers and shared on social networks, often before they’ve had a chance to review and appreciate them?


Jay Rowden

Avoiding Disappointment

Any decent photographer worth their salt will point this out to you anyway, but it is in your own best interest to ask questions if you are due to marry in a church, so to avoid any unwelcome surprises and disappointment on the day.

Make direct contact with your Church at the very first stages of enquiry, to ascertain if photography can be taken during our ceremony and if so, do any restrictions apply. Ask about restrictions when they do apply – obtain the specifics, ask precisely what the Church policy is, ie, where the photographer can stand to shoot the images, how many images he/she can take etc, can they get to the alter to photograph during ring exchange etc?


Devlin Photos

If there are strict restrictions in place, make sure you speak with your photographer about capturing intimate moments on camera elsewhere during the day – make sure the time to do this is factored in to your schedule on the day too.

You might also want to check out these links:-

*  Dealing with Church Photography Restrictions at a Wedding

*  Understanding Church Restrictions

*  Wedding Photography and Church Restrictions

*  The Wedding Photojournalist Association recommends that you “talk to your wedding official” as “hey usually have the power to bend the rules” – but don’t bank on it….

“My advice to the Bride and Groom; Make sure you take the wedding photography into account when selecting your place of worship. Ask your Priest or Minister about any limitations. If the pictures of the ceremony are important to you, don’t assume anything because you may be shocked on the wedding day to find out there are significant restrictions that may hamstring your photographer’s ability to effectively capture your ceremony. {Ref}

“If patient explanation gets you nowhere, one last resort is to involve the bride in the negotiation process. When the bride insists the photographer is granted access or permission, it tends to work better.”  {Ref}”

Image SourceLove My Dress Wedding Blog – Photography Copyright (c) 2012, S6 photography


S6 photography

I’d like to open this one up to my readers and ask;

Photographers – what are your experiences and what have you learned from them? What advice would you give to new couples on this issue?

Brides and grooms – how important is photography during the ceremony to you? Would you consider changing your venue plans if strict photography restrictions were in place?

Brides/Photographers, have any of you had to negotiate any kind of photography level access for your wedding day and how did it go? What tips would you pass on to others?

Which view point are you more in support of, and why?  Is it potential sacrilege to allow the wedding photographer a free run during the ceremony, or is it mean-spirited to deny a couple the opportunity of photographing the most meaningful part of one of the most meaningful days of their lives?

I’m going to make efforts to invite representatives of the Church and Clergyman reading this, to contribute and provide some feedback as I would genuinely appreciate hearing their point of view.

In the meantime, let’s generate some healthy discussion and debate.

Over to you guys.


Annabel View all Annabel's articles

Founder of Love My Dress. Passionate Podcaster and Editor. Annabel lives in rural North Yorkshire with her husband and business partner Philip, their two daughters and menagerie of furry hounds. She loves photography, meditation, walking, being outdoors and star gazing. She is fierce when it comes to championing talent within the wedding industry and when she's not working on Love My Dress, she supports her husband Philip in the running of the family's sustainable flower farm and floral design business, Moonwind Flowers. In 2013, she became a published author.