Picture Perfect 2 ~ The Ceremony

Approximate time:
30-60 minutes

The ceremony can sometimes be the part of the wedding you have the least control over, oddly enough. Even though it's the centerpiece of the day, it's also the part with the greatest difficulties when it comes to photography.

Both officiants (Pastor, Priest, Justice, etc) and venues (Church, Chapel, Courtroom, etc) can come with their own set of constraints. This is something you should be aware of ahead of time; especially if you have something special in mind that may, or may not, be possible. Here are a few of the situations that can make ceremony photography difficult:

1) The Rules: 

I'm putting this first because it can be the trickiest and the most surprising. Couples often don't realize that an officiant or a venue can actually have some pretty stringent rules in places regarding how the ceremony plays out, including the photography. These can vary greatly, but can include such things as:

-No flash photography during the ceremony, or during certain portions of the ceremony (I generally don't use flash during ceremonies anyway, as I find it to be distracting). 

-No photography at all during the ceremony, or during certain parts of the ceremony. 

-Photographer is not allowed beyond the front pew of the church.

-Photographer is not allowed beyond the back pew of the church. 

Inquiring ahead of time could save you some last minute stresses!

2) The light: 

An old church can often be a beautiful backdrop for a wedding. It can also be a terribly lit location. That ambiance can often come at the cost of good photographic lighting.  Here are some lighting issues you might encounter:

Very low light: this is pretty common, although usually not immediately apparent. Churches often rely heavily on natural light, and that light sometimes comes through in pretty small doses. This can result in slightly grainy pictures, and/or not being able to capture fast motion (if the groom faints half way through, you'll want some good light to capture the fall in all its glory).

What can you do? These locations often have stage lighting equipment that they don't think to turn on, or don't plan on having someone present to activate for your wedding. It's a question you can ask in advance to make things work out better in the end. But that can also lead us to the next issue:

Bad light: If the venue does have lighting, it's not necessarily going to be good. They might turn the house lights up for the first time just before the ceremony and some of them are greenish while others are yellow, and others are blue. Suddenly half the people on stage look sickly. And the other half ghostly. It happens. The stage lighting could also be poorly aligned. The lights could be pointing too far up, too far down, or not where the couple are standing at all, resulting in part, or all, of the couple being in shadow.

What can you do? During the rehearsal, make sure all the lights are on that will be on during the ceremony, and have a look at the stage. Maybe even have someone stand in for you and see how they are lit. Then you can either change the lighting or change where you're standing for best effect. It's easy to just take the rehearsal as a chance to figure out where everyone is standing, but it's also a chance to make sure your lights and sound are going to be working the way you want them to on your day.

3) The crowd: 

Let's face it: there will probably be a lot of people at your wedding.  I know, I know, you said it was going to be a small ceremony, but - yeah, I remember how that went ;)

Picture this:  the officiant says "You may kiss the bride." All of a sudden, your aunt Jackie stands to her feet, steps into the aisle in front of the photographer, and using her excellent volleyball blocking skills, two hands in the air, gets the only picture of your kiss on her 2006 Blackberry Pearl. Believe me, this actually happens. Often the photographer will be fast enough to dodge around them, but if we have two or three Jackies in the crowd (my apologies to any Aunt Jackies out there), things can go from difficult to impossible. Here are the issues to consider:

Amateur family photographers: Like our beloved aunt Jackie, many of your family members will want to capture the moment for themselves, and often on some pretty terrible cameras. They could be wandering about the room,  sometimes even ending up on the stage, or even behind you in the ceremony photos. Yes, as hard as that is to believe, I have seen this happen.

Professional family photographers: Time to introduce Aunt Mary. She has a huge expensive camera rig, a powerful flash, and she can't wait to show you the great pictures she's going to take at your wedding! The only problem is, when her flash goes off at the same time your photographer takes a picture, the photo is ruined. She's also pretty overzealous, taking thousands of photos during your ceremony in a constant barrage of clicking and flashing that is only adding to the amount of distraction created by the photographer you paid to be there.

What can you do? Often just putting a note in the ceremony handout you're giving everyone will be enough. Let them know that they will enjoy the ceremony more if they're not behind a phone or camera, and that you'll have lots of photos available for them to see not long after that day, and that you're looking forward to sharing them with them. Also, odds are you already know which people are going to potentially be an issue before the day even begins, so just putting in a word with them beforehand (and/or with their significant other) will be enough to avoid any future headaches.

Lastly, it's becoming increasingly common to have "Unplugged" weddings, where everyone attending is encouraged to put away their digital devices for the entirety of the ceremony. They can be assured that not only will there still be lots of photos to be seen from the photographer, but they will have better memories of the day in the end.

A few little things can keep you from having big headaches.