While I never set out to target church weddings, over the years I have ended up photographing a lot of them - especially Catholic wedding ceremonies! From working in multiple churches and different buildings I have seen what works best and what is not ideal for the ceremony - both from a picture standpoint and from the perspective of the bride. Here are my top 5 tips if you're getting married in a church, whether in Hampton Roads or beyond!
1) Make sure there is plenty of natural light at your ceremony time. Even if flash can be used, natural light ceremonies usually make for the prettiest pictures and allow us to be as unobtrusive as possible by not keeping our flashes on or setting up a flash during the ceremony. In addition, this allows your photographer to move around as much as they are able rather than being restricted by certain places where the flash will or will not light it.
2) Find out any photography restrictions in advance. Some churches have no restrictions, and other churches do not even let a photographer move! The most common restriction is that there is no flash allowed during the ceremony. Most of the time this is no problem (especially if you've paid attention to #1!) but not being able to move is a difficulty that is hard to overcome. While it's still possible to get good pictures, the chances of missing an important moment or not having a good vantage point are greatly increased. As a side note, if there is no flash allowed be sure none of your guests bring a camera with a flash either.
3) Choose an unplugged wedding. At almost every church wedding we photograph, I am dodging smart phones held in the center aisle while the bride is walking towards her groom. This both breaks my heart (guests should be enjoying the moment, not watching the moment through a phone) and is extremely difficult. If a guest pops a phone right out in front of my camera at the first kiss or when the bride is coming, it is very likely I will end up taking a picture of that instead of what's most important. Give your guests and yourself the gift of a FOCUSED wedding and choose an unplugged ceremony.
4) Consider the aisle. While many church buildings have a center aisle, there are a number that do not. This does not have to be a deal breaker, but think about where your bridesmaids, groomsmen, and you as the bride will walk towards the altar. Make sure to communicate this information to your photographer and anyone who is not at the rehearsal dinner so we don't miss the shot!
5) Scout out the perimeter for portrait locations or choose an alternative. Depending on your schedule, you may end up taking some of your portraits at the church. If there is an area nearby with open shade, pretty buildings, or a beautiful location, then great! If the church is in a neighborhood or only has a parking lot, this will not make for great pictures. The reception venue can often be a great place for portraits, but keep this - and travel time - in mind as you plan.
I hope that was helpful to you as you plan your church wedding! If you can think of any other tips, leave a comment below.