Church Photography Restrictions

Whenever I meet a couple who are getting married at a church, one of the questions I always encourage them to ask their officiant "What are the church photography restrictions?". Most brides and grooms are very surprised when I explain that it is very common to have specific rules and those rules can vary wildly. I've been to some churches who say "Do what you like as long as you get great photos" to "No photography at all full stop."

The reason I encourage couple's to ask early on is so they can factor these rules into their wedding plans. So there are no nasty surprises on the day of their wedding. That we're all on the same page and I won't get an upset phone call from the newlyweds asking why there are no photographs of their wedding ceremony.

Common restrictions which us wedding photographer's must adhere to are:

  • No flash photography
  • No moving around once the ceremony has started
  • Stay at the front at all times behind the vicar/priest
  • Stay at the back at all times
  • No photography at any time

So what can you do if you are imagining you will get photos of the full ceremony but your officiant refuses? Once the ceremony starts, the vicar or priest is in charge and he/she can stop the ceremony at any time. As a professional wedding photographer we simply are not able to ignore the rules we are given and it would be unfair to ask us to do so.

The best time to deal with these restrictions is well before the wedding. My tips would be to firstly ask the official when you are booking the church. If you don't like those rules, you can speak with them at this time to see if you can come to an agreement. Churches often introduce these draconian rules as a result of bad experiences with previous photographers.

Indeed I've heard some terrible stories of photographers who have run around the church distracting from the solemn occasion. Or they've machine gunned their way through the ceremony firing their flash a million times turning the church into a nightclub experience.

What I suspect has happened a lot in the past is that couples have asked a friend with a camera (FWC) to photograph their wedding. He/she has no idea of how to behave. Since the church officials cannot easily tell a professional from a FWC, they enforce draconian rules on everyone. The loser is ultimately the bride & groom of course who lose out on precious memories. It also seems incredibly strange to me that I would be prevented from photographing not just an important part of the day....but THE most important part of the day. The whole reason we're all there!

If you can agree a compromise with your vicar/priest/official then it's always a good idea to follow up in an email or get it written into your contract so you have proof. I've had weddings before where the couple have discussed it, reassured me that I can move around and do whatever I need. Then on the day I'm told I must stand right at the back and not to move.

Having photographed lots of church weddings in the Nottingham & Derby area. By far the most common is simply no flash and don't run around. Again, this is where hiring an experienced wedding photographer will be crucial since they will have the right gear that will enable them to shoot in low light situations.


If you've tried your best to persuade them and they refuse to budge then your options are unfortunately going to be limited. Here are pretty much your options.

  1. Accept you won't have photographs of the ceremony itself.
  2. Change the church to another. Due to family reasons this may not always be appropriate
  3. Build some time into your schedule to recreate the key moments after the real ceremony. So ask your vicar/priest and photographer to mock up the main parts such as the exchange of rings and kiss once the legal ceremony is over.

If you are not getting married in a church then in general things are a bit simpler. Typically civil ceremony rules are slightly more relaxed (although not always). It is common for the registrar to ban flash and moving around but it's almost unheard of to ban photography. Otherwise the principles are very similar to church. Thankfully I've noticed a definite improvement over the last couple of years. It seems the registrar's within the Derby and Nottingham area's are fairly relaxed when it comes to photography. And rightfully so.

Hopefully the tips above will help you either clarify what restrictions will be in place during your wedding ceremony. With the above tips, I hope you can find a workaround any church photography restrictions which the vicar/priest has put in place so you can get the best possible photographs of your wedding day.

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