Sunday, 8 February 2009

Liaising with vicars and registrars

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I just received the following question: Ever had any hassle from registrars or vicars?

The short answer is, unfortunately, yes. I'm sure all wedding photographers have. No matter how polite and diplomatic one is, occasional misunderstandings occur. One problem is that guidelines tend to be rather vague and open to interpretation. The following, for example, is from A Kentish Ceremony:

Can people take photographs during the ceremony?

If you wish, photos and videos can be taken at any point before, during and after the ceremony provided that they do not interrupt the ceremony. Please advise your photographer-videographer to speak to the celebrant on the day to agree where they should stand.

The problem here is what counts as an interruption? For me a verbal command would be an obvious interruption. But what about movement? Should we be rooted to the spot for the entire ceremony? Often you need to move in response to the movement of the registrar. If the registrar, holding their folder with the ceremony notes, moves closer to the couple this means you have to move in closer to get a clear shot of the couple. Some registrars can be bothered by this but others aren't. Some are completely laissez-faire. I'm often reassuringly told "Do what you need to do!".

My advice is to always speak to registrars before the ceremony to try and establish the rules of engagement. Inevitably, minor misunderstandings will occur, but most registrars want what is best for the couple and are a pleasure to work with.

Now on to vicars. They tend to be less flexible as, not unreasonably, they feel a great sense of ownership or dominion over the ceremony and church. For a minority of them though, what the couple wants is not even on their agenda, despite the fact that the couple are paying for the use of the church. I would say that 20% are very flexible (do what you need to do, but remain quiet, move discreetly etc), 70% are reasonably flexible (an agreement can be reached about what the rules are before the ceremony and they're willing to listen to your requests) and 10% are inflexible (stand at the back, do not move). I even have a wedding booked in June 2009 where the couple have been told that photography is forbidden during the ceremony! I have to say I find this very mean-spirited, particularly since royal weddings presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury are televised.

I look forward to your comments and tales!

Check out my photography here: wedding photographer Kent


Wedding Photographer Yorkshire said...


Well at least if wedding photography is forbidden you will know where you stand!
I have had problems with vicars several times, but so far, touch wood, I have never had any run-ins with registrars. They are a much more relaxed breed.
We are considering buying a decent point and shoot camera, which as they don't have loud shutters, may let us get a few descrete shots in forbidden situations.
All the best

David said...

Good idea about using a compact. I have a Canon G9 - I'll take it along with me.

Or else a good book to read!



Peter Starvis said...

Is the objection to having a 'person' hanging around or the photography itself. How about setting up the camera in frame and shooting remotely - better than nothing.

David said...

That's an excellent idea Peter. I've got an IR remote control for my camera.



Peter Starvis said...

Canon also make a time-lapse programmable remote shutter.

Or you could place a large mirror near by and take reflected images :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that David. I asked the question in the first place. I have been shouted out by the vicar during the vows "Will You Stop Moving Around?!" when all I did was slightly lean to my right to whisper to a colleague.

One wedding I was told not to take any photos during the ceremony. I know 99 times out of 100 you can get away with taking some shots if you are discreet. We all know that we are paid by the bride and groom, not by the Vicar. To miss some of the best shots of the day for a Vicar who wants to dominate everyone is wrong (in my opinion). A brides wedding is the best day of her life. So I took a couple of shots with the camera around my neck (flash OFF of course) – during the hymns so as not to disturb anyone at all, in any shape or form. The vicar noticed (him of course being the only one who did) and chucked me out of the ceremony. Luckily I had my assistant separate from me who managed to get some shots without the Vicar noticing. :o) After the ceremony the Vicar then allowed me back in to capture the signing of the register. The bride and groom could not believe what happened and vowed never to return to the church again. The bride said after ‘Don’t worry about him – we don’t like him anyway!’

No wonder people don’t want to go to church these days when you have people like that running the service!

James Wedding Photography said...

We often find it to be a stumbling block. Also whilst moving around the room during the ceremony I often feel very self-conscious that I may be bothering the guests.

Our advantage is that we take two photographers to a wedding. My dad has been a wedding photographer for years and now that i'm out of education I have started learning the ropes, and going along, using his old D200. I often stand at the back of the ceremony and try to get nice wide-angled shots of the scene, as my dad sweet talks his way to the front to get the best possible shots of the B&G.

This also works as he attempts to get group shots together and I try to get as many natural looking shots as possible to go into the albums.

Cheers, James

David said...

I obviously need an assistant!

Thanks for your comments.