Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wedding Tip #21 - Knowing and negotiating the "rules"

I know, you might be thinking...rules? What rules? Who would make rules for MY wedding! Unfortunately, in most cases you will be bound by the rules of the ceremony or reception site. It's best for you, and your photographer, to know them as soon as possible. This way you'll be able to ask for exceptions if necessary or plan alternatives. You'll also want to prepare your vendors who may need to alter their usual plans.

To view sample church guidelines (somewhat strict) click the images below
Ceremony PhotoGuidlines2Ceremony Photo Guidlines1

Common restrictions:

• No flash photography
Some officiants just won't budge! In this case I usually ask if I can shoot with flash for at least the processional and recessional. Then I will shoot with a tripod and no flash for the ceremony - but it's a good idea to have some post-ceremony time scheduled in the church so we can re-pose a few shots.

• No aisle runners or flower petals
Our church wouldn't let us have an aisle runner because it was an insurance liability. We couldn't use real flower petals as a runner because they might stain the carpet. Our answer? Ordering fake petals. You can find them (and the real ones) here: www.petalgarden.com

• No candles or sparklers
A fun outdoor photo opp can be to have guest hold sparklers. However, most parks and many estates won't allow this. Before ordering a huge supply check to see if it's OK. Also, many indoor locations won't let you use candles unless you you then in a glass container that is taller than the height of the flame. Looking for candles & votives? Check this site out: www.candle4less.com They already have great prices, but if you type coupon code "Katie" you'll get another 15% off!

• Other Decoration limitations
Just ask your ceremony site where they do (and do not) permit you to add decorations. Also keep in mind that it is proper church etiquette to leave behind at least some of the floral arrangements for the parishioners to enjoy at Sunday mass.

• Throwing Rice/Birdseed
Rice is bad for the birds! They eat it and then it expands in their little tummies. So even if it's allowed I wouldn't recommend it! Some locations just don't like the mess created, in this case bubbles are a great alternative. I got mine here: www.orientaltrading.com

• Wedding Planners/ Coordinators
Many churches and reception sites have their own coordinators. In this case if you've hired a planner they will need to defer to the site planner. The best way to make this run smoothly is to have them in contact before the wedding.

• Restricted Areas
Many times photographers aren't allowed in the sanctuary/alter. I like to be unobtrusive so I never go that close. My favorite places to shoot from are kneeling down in the center aisle, from the back of the church or balcony, and from either side aisle. I do not walk in from of seated guests - instead I go around the back to get to the different aisle.

This weekend I had an outdoor wedding wedding where the Rabbi asked that I stay at the back of the chairs. I was not permitted to come down the aisles or sides! I thought this was a bit extreme, but it is most importantly what my bride & groom want. And they do not want me arguing with their Rabbi! Luckily I had a long lens and was able to shoot from my designated area. After the ceremony the Rabbi thanked for for being so respectful.

Stonehurst Wedding
(Too bad my favorite angle would have been this!)

Stonehurst Wedding 2
(What I ended up with was nice too - if I do say so myself. However, I would have liked to be given the freedom to capture both angles during the ceremony. The light from the front was beautiful!)

This is by no means a full list, if you have a question, ask! The saying that's "it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission" isn't worth the risk on your wedding day!

WHY all the rules?

There are several reasons these rules exist. Some are just due to insurance liability. Other rules are because a past couple (or vendor) pushed too hard and caused a problem or damage. Most of the rules in a religious ceremony are in place to keep the focus on the couple and the religious sacrament rather than have guests distracted. I do have to say though, I feel that sometimes officiants take this too far. It's too bad that sometimes the focus is so much on the rules that the couple can't get what the really want. If a couple feels the same away about me not moving I'll do what they want - they're the boss! ;) My advice? Be sure you know all the rules before you choose locations and officiants!

UPDATE: After writing this post my friend Abby learned that the church she & Chris planned on using DIDN'T ALLOW PHOTOGRAPHY! "Photography is prohibited without express permission from the officiant." However, the church hasn't provided an officiant meeting yet! Here's the deal. Churches, Temples, and any location are well within their rights to make their own rules. However, I believe they should be up front about them, not tell the couple that can "do whatever they want" and then put things like no photos in the fine print. Read your contracts thoroughly!

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