When The Vicar Says No – Wedding Photography Restrictions In Church

wpid274410 OC Photography Church Ceremony wedding photographs 7

Picture the scene if you will – a newlywed couple who have just received their wedding photographs for the first time, tripping to get to the sofa fast enough to sit down and fumble their way around packaging.  Careful to peel away the wrapping,  they excitedly and ceremoniously unveil a beautifully produced album all shiny and new.    As they begin to finger their way through the photographs, gasps of glee are drawn in with hands clutched closely to hearts.  Giggles and laughter erupt as memory vaults burst open to recall one of the loveliest and most precious days of their lives.  Every perfect little moment of joy and love has been captured for posterity.  Every precious moment that is, except for the actual wedding.

Hang on  – a wedding album with no images of the wedding itself?

There is a strong ripple of discontent amongst the wedding photography community right now.   Many of my photography colleagues are battling to gain permission from Church Vicars to shoot a wedding at all during the actual ceremony, or at least to be able to shoot from a position and location in the Church that will render quality imagery of the couple exchanging vows.  Because isn’t the ceremony itself the most important element of the wedding day?  If you are paying a wedding photographer  to capture your day in images, wouldn’t you want those images to include the moment you both say, ‘I do’?

I’ve observed a definite rise in the number of people complaining about this issue over the past 4 years, and this is not the first time I’ve chosen to tackle the subject.

I wonder, do Vicars have a right to say no to wedding photography in Church?  Is a Church Ceremony sacrosanct enough to warrant a ban on all digital devices during the exchanging of vows?  Or is it all a fuss over nothing?  What about why Vicars are placing restrictions on wedding photographers who are just trying to do their job?

I was approached recently by two different photographers each with a different opinion on this subject.  Each of them have kindly agreed to share their views and experiences today in the hope we can encourage a healthy level of debate and maybe understand this issue a little better.  Photographers Charis WarrellLucy Stendall and myself would like to encourage you to leave a comment at the end of this feature with your own views.


Charis WarrellCharis Warrell is one half of the award winning O&C Photography – the other half being her husband Owen.  The couple reside in Wales and have been shooting weddings together for several years.  

Charis believes that Vicars should lift restrictions on wedding photographers in Church.

You can find Charis on Twitter,  Facebook and Google+

Recently we have noticed a significant number of vicars requesting that no photographs be taken during a wedding ceremony.   As photographers who try wholeheartedly to be respectful and non intrusive, we have been upset that this is something that is the case. When one of our couples talks to us about their day we always mention to them about photos during their ceremony and ask them if this is something that they would like, especially when getting married in a church setting.

On more than one occasion we have had couples who are very keen to have photos of their ceremony because for them the ceremony in front of God is of significant importance. To be told during the ceremony or just as its about to begin that no photos are allowed is often very upsetting and sad for couples to whom this is so special.

O&C Photography

As photographers we love to capture the true emotion of anyone’s wedding day and the ceremony for us is such an important part of the day. The moment when a couple become Mr & Mrs, the emotions are often incredibly real, incredibly exciting and to be able to capture some of this is amazing. So many couples look at our portfolio and comment on the real, natural and joyful images we have captured during this part of the wedding day and request that this is captured where and when possible.

O&C Photography

We want any photos we capture to be a true representation of a wedding day and the couple who have booked us. To have a huge part of the day missing because a vicar is unhappy makes us sad. We understand that there will always be photographers who push buttons and step over boundaries, but when a vicar stops photos being taken because they feel that photos are intrusive, inappropriate and take away from the sanctity of the wedding ceremony I have to disagree.

Surely having photos of a wedding ceremony actually adds to the true celebration of such a significant and special time by capturing something of the true joy that people feel at the very start of the married life together. A chance to capture love between two people. A precious moment that has been thought about, planned and dreamt of by the couple. The moment they say “I do” in front of family and friends. I find it desperately sad that this cant be captured for the couple to have as a cherished moment and memory, especially thinking back to how quickly the wedding day itself goes by. Photographs are there when the day is over and the memories are fading.

O&C Photography

Also from a religious point of view, the importance of marriage is talked about in the Bible and the story of the wedding which Jesus attended is often shared by vicars during the ceremony. Jesus attended weddings and I reckon he would have been happy for photos to be taken. Its hard for me to comprehend that some vicars choose to stop photos being taken and take the decision away from a couple, using an air of authority that unfortunately means a couple cant fight their corner. Who wants to have a row on their wedding day?

O&C Photography

As I write this I am however very aware and grateful to the many church leaders who are gracious and accepting of photography during a wedding day, but sadly Im hearing too many a situation where this hasn’t been the case. I know in writing this Im opening up for discussion and negativity about church rules, where I actually think this is unfortunately down to individual vicars and not the way all church leaders think. If I could say one thing to the vicars that have made these decisions it would be “Please think about the importance of the wedding ceremony and how important it actually is. You often preach this in your wedding talk. With this is mind, please do consider that the couples you are marrying actually do want photos of their marriage ceremony, because they are indeed excited about getting married, want to look back at their day and see the moment they said “I do”, in front of God, their family and friends. Photographers are not out to make it harder for you in carrying out such an important formality, they indeed are excited about their couples decision to get married and want to capture that special moment, because its so very important”.

For all those photographers who have not made it easy for vicars, because they’ve tried to direct and guide, turning the moment into a photo shoot…. that’s not right either peeps! Unfortunately you’ve paved a way for other photographers and have sadly tarnished the air for photographers who are respectful and genuinely want to work for their clients.

O&C Photography

O&C Photography

I’m not certain I know what the best thing to do is, because as with every wedding, every church, every couple, every situation is different. I would love to see a bit more grace from both vicars and photographers in the situation, so that across the board there is harmony and little more understanding. We attend every wedding with a clear focus that this is not our photo shoot, but our couples wedding day and we want to get the best for them, capturing every aspect of what happens. For me, being able to capture the moment a couple say their vows and get married is a very important, if not the most important part of a wedding day.


Lucy StendallLucy Stendall is talented wedding and portrait photographer based  in the countryside near Nottingham but working nationwide and abroad.  Established in 2010 after a long love affair with her camera, Lucy specialises in taking photographs of good old fashioned sweet love.  

Lucy believes that it’s not all about the Church wedding photographs.

You can find Lucy on Twitter and Facebook.
(Image of Lucy by Victoria Phipps)

It’s not all about the photographs. There have been other photographers before me at other weddings, who have made that vicar’s job difficult. Most photographers look perfectly normal and trustworthy, but then in the moment some will break their promise not to move from the spot/use flash/act weird, because they know the vicar probably won’t stop the ceremony and publicly humiliate them.

Lucy Stendall Photography

Maybe they’ll commando crawl up the aisle or stand on pews for a better position (alarmingly these are both true stories). Maybe worse. Their lack of discretion and respect, presumably preceded by the promise that they won’t get in the way or be a distraction, have made the clergy wary of us. I know it doesn’t say in the bible that ceremonies shouldn’t be photographed. And I’m guessing if Jesus was here now he’d be into social media. That’s not really the point though, is it? Vicars don’t ban photography to be awkward (although I’m sure there are some rogues out there) they just want their couples to have a ceremony which is not remembered because of the photographer.

Lucy Stendall Photography

I don’t suggest that there should be a blanket ban, I like the fact that some vicars say yes. But in church, vicars are performing a religious act before God. Their job is not to make sure you have pretty photos.  If making life changing promises to each other in front of the maker of the universe isn’t big or serious enough to justify me putting down the camera, or for you to go without a few photos, then I don’t know what that says about us. It’s not a case of agreeing or disagreeing with their rationale when it’s something you have voluntarily agreed to do on their territory.

Lucy Stendall Photography

If you’re worried, my advice is to talk about it to people. Have a frank discussion with your vicar and ask why. Speak to your parents and grandparents about their wedding photographs. Find out how they feel about their ceremony photographs now that their wedding is in the past. Where once there were a handful of photos, today we risk being spoilt for choice. Have we become a little greedy?

Think about how much the photographs matter to you overall. For someone who loves photography, it didn’t bother me too much not to have photographs of our whole ceremony. If it had, I suppose we might have looked for a different church or vicar but if we’d done that, we could have come up against the same issue or worse, perhaps even on the day itself. At least we knew where we stood.

Photographs are no substitute for living and experiencing the day. You will still have your memories and photographs of other parts of the day to remind you of the vows you made. When I think about my wedding 4 years ago, the ceremony was by far my favourite bit. I don’t feel cheated for not having photographs of all of it. My memories will fade, chop and change, becoming imperfect, rose tinted even. Is that a bad thing?

Lucy Stendall Photography

In an ideal world where every photographer was professional, we wouldn’t be having this debate. I have often wondered what the answer is. I know it’s possible to photograph a ceremony in a way that a vicar wants because thats what I do at every wedding. I am always humbled by the subsequent thanks from vicars and registrars who have said they hardly knew I was there. I have joked that I should get them to write me a reference for future weddings, but I’m not sure it really works like that.


We’d love to encourage some lively debate on this subject – are you a wedding photographer who has experienced difficulty shooting during Church ceremonies? Or are you a bride or groom who has been disappointed that your ceremony couldn’t be photographed during the service?  Are photographs during the service important to you?  Or do you have other views?

Huge thanks to Charis and Lucy for their contribution to this feature.

Annabel x


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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, getting in the sea, 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.

64 thoughts on “When The Vicar Says No – Wedding Photography Restrictions In Church

  1. Hmm, I’m somewhere in the middle. I do think we should be able to do our jobs by being subtle about it, and only capturing the very important moments, but we also need to stand back and make it not all about us. Imagine the most moving vows are being exchanged and the photographer is machine gunning it from behind the vicar? Photographers in the past have done a fair amount of damage to the industry.

    I’ve been lucky and not had too many difficult vicars, and usually I can sweet talk them into letting me stand a little further back with a long lens and my ‘silent shutter’ mode turned on in my camera. In fact, two of my recent weddings were officiated by Westminster council and they both made a big effort to tell me that they are very relaxed and to shoot away, even to shoot the ACTUAL signing of the register.

    1. Ah the old signing of the register ban. That is really the most ridiculous rule ever. As if we can read the detail on the certificate from where we stand. But also, it’s a public record, anyone can see it if they want to. Rage.

      I should have said but I ran out of word limit but registrars can be as bad if not worse than vicars. I’ve definitely had the more restrictions in civil ceremonies than church ones.

      1. We always did a register shot, we just turned over to a blank page. And yes, in my experience, the details can be clearly read from a photograph. However, that was back in the day when there were a few well known and trusted studios taking the pictures, not just anyone with a camera. We were out every weekend and built relationships with the churches and officials we were working with, we had to maintain the trust to get the shots the couples wanted.

  2. As a Humanist Celebrant I think it is up to the couple to decide what they want and so far I think all of my ceremonies have been photographed by professionals, the only time I have had problems is when a guest has walked down the aisle mid vows and stood in front of the videographers camera blocking the view whilst filming the ring exchange on his Ipad! In fairness to the photographers I have been lucky enough to have had capturing images of the ceremony it is rare if ever that I even notice them as I am too busy concentrating on the ceremony words and the couple and as a professional myself slight distractions can always be expected and something we should be able to deal with. If a photographer was intrusive so as to deflect the focus of attention from the couple and the words I would pause for a second and look at them in hope that would be sufficient to make them realise but if the couple want a photographer in the thick of things I will work around whatever they want as it is about them and not about me (oh and now I know you can get silent shutters is may be something I discuss with the brides and groom at the consultation! – Karen King – King’s Celebrant Services.

    1. Only certain cameras come with them, sadly 😉 And when they call it ‘silent shutter mode’, they’re actually about half as loud as a normal pro camera shutter sound.

      1. I do think couples should expect more flexibility from civil weddings, although sadly couples dont always know who their celebrant will be in advance (I know it is different with humanists) so they don’t have the opportunity to discuss in detail before like couples do in church. As an aside, I have always had very positive experiences with humanist ceremonies.

  3. ooooh, juicy topic! I don’t take stills but film instead so have the same problem. What I hate the oat os the lack of consistency. Some vicars are amazing and allow you to go where you need and get the footage you want (we are always discreet anyway and don’t move around) while others don’t even say hello, just bark at you that you mustn’t cross a line at the back of the church or they’ll stop the ceremony…joy. It’s such a shame that it isn’t allowed discreetly and it has happened on more than one occasion when the couple thought all was fine until the vicar announces at the start of the ceremony that there will be no photography.
    I find it interesting that when you film religious ceremonies of other faiths, say Hindu or Jewish, you are encouraged to get the best shots and footage as they know how important it is for the couple. Maybe the Uk churches need to follow suit a bit more if they are to encourage more people to get married in their churches and build new, hopefully happy and long-lived relationships with their couples.

      1. yes, from what I’ve experienced it is like that. Obviously I’m sure there are some grumpy Jewish and Hindu Priest and Rabbis….but I do feel it can be a cultural thing and the very old fashioned, English vicars can be quite unapproachable and serious.

        1. I only have limited experience photographing a Hindu wedding and I found it so intrusive it spoiled the ceremony for me. There were 4 videographers with massive equipment and 2 photographers and they were all on top of the couple completely spoiling the view for the couple and their guests. I understand from speaking to other photographers that this is commonplace, which I find really sad. Then again, if that is what a client wants and asks for by booking 6 people to record their day, I think we should put aside our personal thoughts and do the job!

          1. Yes, I’ve heard the same thing too, though not seen it personally. I just think it’s a shame when the couple want the pictures/film but the vicar won’t allow it. He or she is the only one objecting…and it’s not like you can re-enact it somewhere else…and it is a wedding! The ceremony is the core bit to a “wedding”…be it humanist, catholic, muslim…otherwise it’s just a party (which actually is pretty cool too!)

  4. I’ve been in this situation so many times, with my own wedding also! I agree that it’s often a disrespectful photographer who has overstepped the mark, resulting in the vicar banning all photography. I’ve been asked to not take photographs because its ‘disruptive’ before, but then after chatting to the vicar for a couple of minutes and ensuring them of my professionalism, managed to negotiate my way to the front of the church.

    Unfortunately, it’s not always down the the vicar feeling it will be disruptive. Some seem to think they are above everyone and seemingly want to ban photography to make themselves feel more important, this makes me very sad!

    The wildly different rules regarding signing of the register baffle me also. The Data Protection Act (often used as an excuse) was confirmed by the General Register Office as not being a legitimate reason. It’s a public document when all said and done. Plus as Lucy Stendall mentioned, it’s not like we’re zooming in on the document itself!

    I had a vicar recently announce to the entire congregation, that if ANYONE took a photograph during the signing of the official register, it was a £2,000 fine and possible imprisonment!! The guests laughed, thinking this was a joke, and she stood perfectly seriously and confirmed that it was infact true.

    A week later at a different wedding, I was told no photographs at all during a ceremony, but that I could take as many photographs as I please of the register signing.

    Where do they get these rules from!?

    1. Some vicars or vergers tell me it’s illegal to photograph the signing of the register. One up from the old data protection rubbish. When I tell them I’m a qualified lawyer and reassure them there is no law against it, I’m often allowed to photograph it. I think most of them have just heard it on the grapevine without looking into it.

      Having said that, if they ask me not to photograph it so as not to put them off filling it out correctly, I don’t mind. That’s just polite. It is an important document after all, no squiggles wanted.

      1. Yeah, I’ve been told that before and agree I think it’s just something they’ve heard.

        I suppose its not easy for a vicar to determine within 2 minutes of meeting you, if you’re respectful and can manage to document the ceremony unobtrusively, or whether you’re the kind to shoot from 6 inches away, at 10fps, with flash.

      1. Me too @amy_wass:disqus 🙁 unfortunately so many people still ask for it, and vicars often announce its going to happen even if the couple have said they don’t want it. Sigh. If it’s not the real thing, it just doesn’t work for me.

  5. Although I appreciate that most people want to have a set of beautiful photographs to remember their wedding by, the wedding itself is the experience and if photography is getting in the way of that, then I think the Vicar/Registrar/Bride/Groom is perfectly within their right to say: ‘step back, stop snapping and let us get down to business.’ I guess it depends on the photographer, the couple and the situation.

  6. I don’t have a problem if the vicars say no photography, as long as they are upfront with the couple about it. Vicars are just people though, some are polite and friendly and some are sneaky and deceitful. Fortunately I meet more of the former

  7. Also I think friends posing as ‘professional’ photographers do us a lot of damage in this area. A simple request to have copies of professional insurances would help

  8. Hmm, as a wedding photographer I find it sad and a little frustrating when I get the ‘no’, mainly because I worry I will disappoint the bride & groom. But I get that it is a marriage, not a photo shoot, and a marriage before God as well. And as annoyed as I have been in the past at Vicars being unfriendly towards me – (this happens so often, even though as far as I understand it *everyone* should be welcome in God’s house) – I can see what they have begun to react in that way when faced with over-zealous photographers trying to do a ‘good job’.

    I ask couple to check about photos with their vicar at the earliest convenience, so we all know where we are, and so they can think about how important those shots are to them. But it is a solemn religious ocassion and a time for prayer and thoughtfulness, even if you are just getting married in a church for aesthetic reasons; so I have no problem at all putting down the camera and singing Jerusalem at the back.

    Edit: this should also apply to everyone! Its really hard when the vicar says no to you, and yes to a congregation full of guests with SLR’s…

    So yes, Team Lucy on this occasion 🙂

    1. Certainly agree with you 100% this is not a photoshoot, but a wedding. Just sad that photos of such an important moment are often not allowed to be captured. I think God wouldnt mind about photos being taken. I reckon hes celebrating too whenever a couple tie the knot. It feels that vicars on many occasion seem to actually use this power in a controlling and at times pompus manner. The other day we had a vicar who didnt mention God once, but talked about himself for the whole service. 😀 x

      1. Haha, maybe a tad power hungry there, Vicar! ?

        No, I totally get your point, I just don’t think Vicars have time to assess the goodies from the baddies, so have to rule on the side of making the service distraction-free. Which is sad, indeed.

    2. I may be in the minority but I don’t allow the congregation members to take photographs during baptisms, weddings or funerals (yes, I have even had someone stick a video camera 3 inches from my face during a funeral).
      Why? Because it is a church service not a photo-shoot. If the couple has booked a professional photographer (who is working not worshipping) then I will give permission for them to take photos, subject to a discussion about how to work without disrupting the worship. Guests with cameras and mobile phones cannot possibly be fully present in the service.

  9. Ah this is always such a frustrating situation. In our early days we once turned up to shoot a church wedding and the vicar said no photography, and he hadn’t actually expressed this to the couple. The bride was very upset to say the least. I tried to reason with him, explained that we are respectful and never use flash etc etc but he was having none of it. We got some lovely shots of them in the church after, but it’s not the same is it? It’s not like they can look at a shot and say ‘yes that was the moment we said our vows’ for example. I have tried to explain to a vicar this is why the photography is important, and sometimes it has got us a few shots and sometimes nowhere. Occasionally we have persuaded them to let us take the odd shot during the hymns from the back, or sometimes if it is really special venue, take the odd shot from the back using live view mode. But only sometimes! Now when we meet couples and they say they are having a church ceremony, we tell them to have a conversation about photography with whoever is marrying them before the day. What is more frustrating is when the vicar says no to the pro but then lets the congregation take them. We once had a guest with a 1D mk III who left his focus beep on the whole time!

    We have shot weddings at prestigious venues such as St Paul’s Cathedral, Kings College Cambridge, and Ely Cathedral and they allowed the entrance, hymns, signing and exit which seems the compromise in some religious places.

    I have to say the signing issue doesn’t bother us at all, it’s such a fake shot anyway, we don’t even ask couples to pose with the pen, it’s just an opportunity to get a nice portrait with that rosey flush in their cheeks that they have done it, and they just happen to have a blank book in front of them. I don’t think I have ever met a couple who really cared for it.

  10. I think it’s really sad when the vicars say no 🙁 the ceremony pictures are my favourite photos of our day; it’s the bit that most people say you forget because it goes so fast, but those photos ring all of the memories back. However, this was one of our main reasons for having a civil ceremony; because we were passionate about capturing those special moments. So in that way I think it is down to each couple to ask their vicar if photos are ok, and choose a different venue if they’re not (if they really want photos of those moments that is) . X

  11. It is such a shame when this happens. I ensure that the couple check with their minister/celebrant at our first meeting so they are absolutely sure on this issue. I even have a sentence in my contract recommending that they do.

  12. It is a shame when the minister/celebrant will not allow it – they generally seem to have had bad experiences from non-professional photographers in their past. I ensure that couples check well beforehand, and have a sentence in my contract recommending that they do make sure they are aware of the minister’s policy.

  13. I’m somewhere in the middle as well. I understand why vicars (and priests and now some registrars – Marylebone for example does not allow photographs any more I hear) are reluctant to allow photos. I’ve spoken to several who have many horror stories about photographers standing on pews, kneeling between the couple and photographing upwards, crossing inbetween the vicar and the couple during important parts… it makes me cringe. I think that’s rude, whoever they are, whatever job they have to do. When you’re photographing a ceremony you respect what is taking place, you aim to be as unobtrusive as possible – if it is possible for me to move without getting in anyone’s way I will only do so during a hymn or some other distraction like that. It just seems like common sense to me. I ask my couples to check before they book a church, to make sure photos are allowed. When I arrive I will immediately introduce myself and smile, reassure them that I am always respectful of them and the couple, don’t use flash or move around, will not stand in the aisle or cross the altar. I have managed to persuade most to allow photography, if not from the front but from the back of the aisle. I always make sure I say thank you at the end. It’s about building trust and making it a pleasant experience for everyone. If photographers could just start realising that it’s not us against them, but us all working together to be respectful and experience an amazing moment, then slowly we could help change the way the rules are starting to go.

  14. Before our wedding last year I talked to my vicar about photography during the service and she was very nervous. It became clear why after she told me countless stories of ‘professional’ photographers bad behaviour- the worst of which involved a bride being encouraged to lay across the ALTER for photos, during the service!! I was so shocked but managed to convince her that our photographer was wonderful and professional and that she really needn’t worry. I’m so glad she agreed because the photos from the service are my absolute favourites. There was zero disruption, total discretion actually (I never noticed photos being taken) but they are so perfect and mean the world to me…
    I actually think that stopping guests from taking pictures/videos during the service is much more important! We did this and we (and our photographer and vicar) were so glad of it- no ‘Uncle Bob’, no random flashes, no sea of iPhones… Bliss!

    1. So glad you got those photos. They are obviously so special to you and this is my point. It makes me sad that people who genuinely want these photos miss out. I have no issues if people dont want them though.
      Brides lying across the alter, now thats a whole different type of photography! 😛 x

  15. I stop people talking photos in my shop not to be bloody awkward but to encourage brides to live ‘in the moment’ and remember what their eyes and hearts tell them not what their friends camera phone tells them. I suspect Vicars, Priests, Rabbis & Imams feel a bit the same. I would also ‘unplug’ the ceremony from iPhones and Uncle Bob’s and their Box Brownies. If you are getting married in a religious ceremony in a place of worship it is not the place of a couple or the photographer to question the decision of the officiant. In much the same way Vicars of pretty churches wouldn’t marry couples out of the parish I suspect that religious leaders would rather the vows aren’t a photo opportunity. There are a million ways to marry where the couple and the photographer are in complete control. Not accepting the discipline & rules applied by a religious place of worship suggest you are in the wrong place. I can remember minute details of standing at the alter; the rest of my wedding ‘memories’ have become the photos or is it vice versa. The camera can sometimes be an unreliable witness.

    1. yes to this. If you’re getting married in a church the vows are between the two of you and God: startlingly and life-changingly intimate. In the same way I love sex but don’t feel the need to photograph it, they are deeply meaningful and emotionally significant – they’re for feeling, not for looking pretty during!

    2. I totally agree with you. If photos are important to you and you aren’t allowed to have them in a place of worship maybe it’s better to consider somewhere else. However, I do think vicars/priests need to be clear on where they stand on this subject up front while also being understanding that most brides and grooms will want photos of the vows.

      I think it’s important to have a professional photographer capture the important moments but no one else should be allowed to take photos during the ceremony. For one thing, you have invited guests there to share you getting married, not watch it through a smartphone screen, and secondly, who wants a load of photos from your proper photographer with a load of people holding up phones/iPads taking pics in the background?

      1. It upsets me when I see a sea of mobile phones for the processional. Who wants to turn around at such a joyous moment and not even be looked in the eye by your guests? I’ve got so many photos of parents looking through the photos they got during the vows

  16. I always feel it is such a privilege to stand at the front and actually see the faces of the bride and groom at the most important part of their wedding day. While everyone else may catch a whisper of a vow and the backs of their heads, I get to see all the real, raw emotion of the moment, the eyes meeting down the aisle, the little sideways glances, the giggles, the sly tear. Its only when they get their photos that the couple and their friends and family see it too. So I don’t get how vicars can stand there up the front and see these moments week in week out, but not see the value in those photographs.

    So I’m not annoyed for me, the photos are not for me, its for my couple (our couple!) Quite honestly if I am not allowed to shoot the ceremony at least I get a nice sit down. 🙂

    Maybe we need a code of conduct that photographers can sign up to and stand by which would explain what working unobtrusively and respectfully means, and can help couples to engage with their celebrant and reassure them that their photographer is not going to be an idiot.

  17. I always feel it is such a privilege to stand at the front and actually see the faces of the bride and groom at the most important part of their wedding day. While everyone else may catch a whisper of a vow and the backs of their heads, I get to see all the real, raw emotion of the moment, the eyes meeting down the aisle, the little sideways glances, the giggles, the sly tear. Its only when they get their photos that the couple and their friends and family see it too. So I don’t get how vicars can stand there up the front and see these moments week in week out, but not see the value in those photographs.

    So I’m not annoyed for me, the photos are not for me, its for my couple (our couple!) Quite honestly if I am not allowed to shoot the ceremony at least I get a nice sit down. 🙂

    Maybe we need a code of conduct that photographers can sign up to and stand by which would explain what working unobtrusively and respectfully means, and can help couples to engage with their celebrant and reassure them that their photographer is not going to be an idiot.

    1. love your view on this Amy! Totally echo your point on what photographers actually have the honour of seeing. That raw emotion is so beautiful. It saddens me that vicars dont think this worthy of capturing. Its so beautiful and truly precious and something that the bride and groom dont often appreciate while doing their vows, but when they look back it just adds to the amazing and very special moment when they became one.

  18. Beautifully written Charis and Lucy. I tend to think since the start of the digital era, is when all the problems started. For the 20 years I have been photographing weddings, I have only been told twice that I cannot take any photos. The first time I had a chat with the vicar and discovered that the previous week, the photographer was like a headless chicken, running around and flash everywhere. He soon warmed to me and let me take the photos. The second, well he was just power crazy. So much that he would not let me take anything till the ceremony was over. But was happy for the whole ceremony to be staged so they could have some photos. I believe times have changed and if you are a true professional, I think you need to make a point of contact with who ever is conducting the ceremony and have a polite conversation, even show an album to reassure them. This will also filter out the cowboys who ruin it for everyone.

  19. I got married last year and was fortunate to have both an amazing photographer and a thoroughly lovely vicar! We married in very tiny, incredibly beautiful village church with only one aisle and minimal room for the photographer to move around, therefore the vicar suggested in advance that our photographer shoot from the small balcony at the back of the church. Neither my husband nor I found this restrictive as we felt that the ceremony was a sacred moment in which our focus should be on our vows. We also had confidence in the skill of our photographer, who did capture stunning images of the ceremony from his perch in the rooftop! My feeling is that a truly excellent photographer will find a way to capture magic even if there are certain restrictions, like bad weather or limitations on photography during the ceremony. We were lucky enough to find such a person.

  20. I have to admit the copious amounts of restrictions when choosing a church wedding made it a simple choice not to get married in one. When in the house of God of course there must be respect and certain etiquettes followed. But some of these rules have nothing to do with religion and come across as pedantic especially when it’s different rules at different parishes. Some churches rules with wedding photography (and live music) are extreme and unnecessary. Also uninviting. I am not still not sure whether this sporadic ban on wedding (and christening) photography is egotistical , power, control or a distraction to the vicar.

    Some vicars ask that guests don’t take photography during the ceremony and just absorb the ceremony and just allow the pro photographer to take them which I think is great.

    The restrictions on wedding photography and song choices in churches made it very easy for us to decide to have a ceremony of our choosing elsewhere. We then asked a friend, who is also a vicar to perform a religious blessing for us at the end of our ceremony. It was personal, no restrictions so we had the best of both worlds and the lords seal of approval for being rogue and not getting married in church . Lol. 🙂 xx Nova

  21. I think it should be up to the couple to decide whether they want photographs. Not the photographer, vicar or registrar. It is a shame when vicars/registrars are so dogmatic, as the ceremony is such a special time and images can be taken very unobtrusively these days.

    1. Actually, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that we all want the couple to have the best experience possible of their wedding. It is the role and responsibility of the vicar to ensure that everything that happens in the church, whether during a time of worship (and that includes weddings) or otherwise is done reverently and in good order. If the majority of photographers were unobtrusive then it wouldn’t be an issue.

  22. I can understand why some vicars will not allow photography during the ceremony.If you set foot in church you have to understand that it is holy ground, you cannot do as you please. Perhaps photographers need to meet with Vicars, show them respect and ask them for permission to photograph during the ceremony.

    1. I definitely think there is a call for a discussion between the two parties, for Vicars and the Clergy to give the photography community a fresh chance (after their reputations have been damaged by photographers in the past). Don’t you? I think many of the photographers I know already do ask to meet before the ceremony but are told outright ‘no’ anyway x

  23. We’ve photographed weddings since 1997. Back then most vicars and registrars were happy for the photographer to take photographs,with certain provisos. We were shooting on film and had to make every shot count.

    As we photographed at more churches and venues regularly, they recognised us and knew we could be “trusted”. That situation has changed as more and more wannabe amatuer and Saturday shooters have come along, and with unlimited shots in the magazine have taken a scattergun approach to photography . Instead of one or two discreetly taken shots capturing intimate moments, we hear of of paparazzi style continuos shooting throughout the ceremony. We have heard of photographers asking the bride and groom to “hold it there” in mid vow, and we have all seen on TV photographers walking backwards up the aisle as the bride enters the church, snapping away at 6fps. These people claim to be unobtrusive, and reportage photographers. We get the same blanket ban imposed as a result of the cowboys. Sadly it’s the brides whose suffer because they don’t have those moments caught on camera.

  24. We very recently had an experience where the vicar would not budge on the photography restrictions. We even made an appointment prior to the wedding day to alleviate any concerns they might have. We tried to assure the vicar that we would be unobtrusive, that we are sparing in the number of photos we take (you don’t need loads of photos of the service, but key moments are so important), we decided with them where we could stand etc. but after a 40 minute meeting which included showing them how loud the camera was, we only managed to negotiate 3 shots (bride’s entrance, 1 shot during the first hymn, signing of the register).

    The vicar was very polite with us but made it clear that if we ever wanted to photograph there again in the future, we would respect the rules. What was particularly frustrating was that they told us that they were sure guests would capture photos anyway, so we shouldn’t worry! Very disappointing but at least we were able to make our clients aware of the restrictions so they would know what to expect in advance. When I look back over the photos I’m disappointed for our clients – the most important part of their day is missing.

    We also had a wedding where the vicar was strict initially, then halfway through the service told me to come in closer!

    It’s not all bad, we recently had a priest commend us for being so discreet – it’s just a shame that there are times we’re not even given a chance.

  25. I am coming across this frequently this season. Last year my first year, was mostly outdoor humanist ceremonies and they were fine with togs taking photos so I assumed it was only priests etc however this season even non religious ceremonies are requesting no photos and I am on the fence on one hand it is nice and romantic to just have the memory ‘in your head’ it feels like it makes it more intimate and personal but on the other hand I feel like I am not allowed to do my job properly. I do think it is the fault of obtrusive photographers…We were recently at a cousins wedding and the photographer there physically walked up to the bride during the ceremony and started straightening her veil and dress so he could take a photo of it all looking neat and pretty. I sat horrified whispering to my boy “Is this actually happening?!!” As photographers I think it’s perhaps our job to help these vicars etc regain our trust. Personally I would want ceremony images, that is the part of the day where most tears are spent, nerves are soothed, smiles are dealt and a new chapter begins.

  26. I’m a minister and so is my fiancé and we are getting married in a church ceremony in Oxfordshire this August so currently I feel very much on both sides of the conversation. I would suggest that a key part of this conversation needs to be that we provide you with a wedding service but we are not a service provider – what we are doing when we are taking a wedding is nothing like.your crockery hire or your wedding decor. What we are doing is, yes, partly the legal bit, and yes the church might be pretty and yes it might keep your granny happy that it is traditional – But the emphasis in our view is that we are offering to lead worship for you, a special and important worship service which will be remembered for the whole of your life – for better or for worse! You can opt to have a non religious ceremony if this is not what you want, but this is what we think we are doing. Most of us love doing weddings and happily try to accommodate your wishes, but we’ve met these situations hundreds of times before and we have indeed been put off by Nazi photographers who were meant to be discreet. Your wedding is not a photo shoot, it’s the commitment in front of God and in front of all those whom you love that you will commit to this one person for the rest of your life.

  27. I’ve posted a lot of replies on the previous article becasue it is a real issue and one that I’m thinking about a lot. I *want* to welcome everyone including photographers, but so many are disrespectful and unprofessional in their behaviour and that spoils it for everyone. It’s a service of Divine Worship, not a ‘Hello’ shoot and I’d rather the bride and groom focussed on each other and their vows before God than be distracted by the lens hanging over my shoulder.

    But one more thing, “I have joked that I should get them to write me a reference for future weddings, but I’m not sure it really works like that” Yes, it does from now on – at least with me, and believe me, clergy *do* talk to each other.

    I’m now actively recording notes about each wedding photographer and whether or not they respect our agreements. The latitude that I give in future will depend entirely on how you behaved last time. So if you find yourself at the back of the church, you and your customers will know in advance that it is because you stuck a zoom lens up my nose and disrupted the service last time we worked together.

    Ask your couple to check with the vicar how you behaved last time; it
    would be quite reassuring to a couple know that their chosen
    photographer can work with clergy and they will get the best shots if they use you.

    To reiterate, many professional photographers are a joy to work with, and I’m happy to pass on their details to prospective wedding couples. The future is in your hands, and I look forward to many more happy weddings with beautiful photographic memories.

  28. As photographers it happened to us twice in the last year that right before the bride’s arrival to the church we were told that we were not allowed to photograph. I still talk to my brides and the only thing they remember from their wedding day is the fact the priest made it all about himself and did not inform them in advance about the restrictions or agreed for photography to change the rules last minute. Since then we make sure the bride and groom know all the rules and restrictions in advance, and so do we in that case. On numerous occasions we also made the effort to meet the priest weeks before the wedding and it always helped to find a solution so both sides were happy with the arrangement. Personally I believe in the spiritual aspect of the wedding ceremony and that it is important to respect the church and its rules. But for the bride and groom those moments and the reactions and feelings surfacing at that time are priceless and that’s what the wedding photography is all about to make that special moments last. -Daria

  29. I’m a vicar and have worked with many wonderfully professional photographers at weddings. We talk with couples about photography well in advance and ask them to invite their photographer to the rehearsal, when lots of things can be ironed out. Most photographers don’t attend, which is a shame, as improvising during the service is when problems are likely to occur. Nevertheless, with a friendly conversation before the ceremony, I’m usually able to say yes to most things that photographers want and I find on the whole they keep to their promises.
    In many years of conducting marriages I’ve only had difficulties with a handful of professionals (mostly videographers rather than photographers) but the bad ones are truly awful and ruin the occasion.
    We have a growing problem with lots of amateur photographers – everything from guests holding up iPads that obscure the view of dozens in the congregation to people who get up and circle around like some predator. Sadly, in a wedding recently for the first time I had to stop the ceremony and firmly ask a photographer (not the professional) to move. He found himself a great spot with a tripod in the pew on the front row into which the bride was about to sit, completely blocking half of the congregation. This is what tempts us to write policies!
    By contrast, the bride and groom at the last wedding I took asked all their guests to enjoy the moment and to allow the professional to do her work. It was wonderfully refreshing to look out on a congregation of smiling people, rather than mobile phones.
    Please know that vicars like me really do want couples to have fabulous memories of their wedding, including the amazing photographs that gifted photographers capture. We’ve built a relationship with the couple and are feeling excited (and a bit nervous!) too. We feel the pressure to make the whole ceremony as special as it can be. We want to work with you, so please talk with us about what you’re trying to achieve and understand what it’s like for us.

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