Wedding Photography at Bristol Register Office/Old Council House
Grade II listed, the Old Council House is home to Bristol Register Office. Located on the corner of Corn Street in the city’s historic heart, over 1000 weddings and civil partnerships occur at Bristol Register Office every year. It’s not difficult to see why.
A few minutes away from Bristol Temple Meads train station and close to the Shopping Quarter, it is the perfect venue for your wedding ceremony. There are numerous city-centre pubs, restaurants and hotels close by, for couples who have arranged a reception meal or drinks afterwards.
With its neoclassical facade and grand, sweeping staircase, the venue is a photographer’s dream, and there’s always something new to discover on each visit.
First constructed in the 1820s, its expansion continued until 1899, when Queen Victoria opened the Grand Council Chamber.
Prices for Wedding Photography at Bristol Register Office
1 Hour Coverage:
1.5 Hours Coverage:
2 Hours Coverage:
Extra time = £65/half hour.
The price includes all photographic coverage + beautifully edited photos uploaded in a mixture of colour and black and white JPEGS.
Includes some arrivals shots, the ceremony, congratulations/confetti and posed shots in the local vicinity (early reception if time permits).
For More Details, Including Full-Day Packages: Click here for my Prices for Wedding Photography.
Bristol Register Office Wedding Photography Rooms
The Mayoral Room: Seating for up to 50 guests. With red painted walls, the main feature is the ornate fireplace. Portraits of former Bristol mayors hang on the walls.
The Statutory Room: With limited availability (Mon-Tues only), this room is for simple ceremonies with no music or readings, and only 4 guests are allowed in. If all four guests are present, the photographer cannot attend due to fire regulations. However, I have politely asked to come in and was allowed. There is no guarantee, though, and I have recently been advised that they are now more strict about this.
The Lantern Room: The most striking ceremony room but not the largest. The Lantern Room is decorated in a regency style and has a glass dome providing natural light. Portraits of King George II and Queen Caroline look down on the proceedings.
The Grand Council Chamber: With a capacity of 120 seated guests and 30 standing, the Grand Council Chamber is the largest wedding ceremony room in the Old Council House. Queen Victoria inaugurated the room. Huge windows along one side provide natural light, ensuring the venue is fantastic for photography. In addition, there are giant portraits depicting events in Bristol’s history adorning the other walls to complete the grandeur.
Room prices vary depending on the day and include the use of the space and two registrars.
Prices for Civil Partnership Conversion and Renewal of Vows are slightly lower than for Civil Marriages.
Build Your Own>> Bespoke Wedding Photography Package
Bristol Register Office for Your Wedding Photographer
The Old Council House caters for weddings of most sizes. So whether it’s just you and your witnesses or you invite up to 150 guests, there is room to suit you and your needs.
The registrars are pretty relaxed about wedding photography with few rules. Some request that the use of flash is limited which isn’t much of a problem as the rooms are reasonably light. Most modern cameras can cope well in low light situations these days.
Below is a sequence of a few ‘must-have’ shots that your photographer should try to take during your wedding ceremony:
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Signing the Schedule – Bristol Registrar Rules
Since May 2021, the wedding register’s signing has been consigned to history, replaced by signing a marriage schedule. Gone too is the marriage certificate, as everything has is now online. I have mixed feelings about these changes.
At Bristol Register Office, photographers’ were never allowed to photograph the signing, instead opting for a ‘dummy’ register for a photo opp afterwards – a bugbear of mine. I’m not sorry to see the back of this silly ritual.
There are no data protection issues with the marriage schedule and, therefore, no restriction on photography. I’m allowed to photograph discreetly throughout, although at the discretion of the presiding registrar.
I shall miss the presentation of the wedding certificate, though. The certificate was something tangible that the couple could take away on the day. Many register offices made a show of handing it to the couple, which was a lovely wedding photo moment.
I still often take a few of the couple at the signing table afterwards, and I usually get the witnesses in the photo. It’s also a time for some possible congratulations shots as they speak with the guests for the first time. Some guests with cameras can come forward and take photographs of their own too, and the registrars encourage this.
Wedding Bookings at The Old Council House
Useful to Know When Booking Your Wedding:
- Weddings at Bristol Register Office are bookable up to 2 years in advance.
- Venue viewings are arranged by calling the Ceremonies Team on 0117 922 2800 or emailing email@example.com.
- The booking fee includes the room, two registrars, a marriage certificate and your choice of music and personal vows (except for basic Statutory Room weddings).
- Other venues are available to hire in the city, including Bristol Museum.
- Twenty minutes is allowed for the ceremony, with a few minutes afterwards for portraits.
- Some days may be busier, especially Saturdays, so there may be less time for portraits on the stairs and outside. But there are plenty of other scenic spots in the locality (see below).
The Old Council House staff are accommodating and happy for couples to look around the venue. Arrange a tour before booking to check out the best room for your wedding ceremony.
Read More>> Having a Short or Micro-Wedding Day?
Wedding Confetti, Congratulations and Group Shots
The Confetti Sequence
Bristol Register Office allows biodegradable confetti on the outside steps as the couple leave the venue. They sell confetti cones and trays from a display cabinet in reception (£2/cone or £40/tray of 25 – see photo below). Handy!
As the guests file out, I keep the newlyweds inside and organise the guests into a ‘corridor’ down the steps. I ask the assembled friends and family to throw the confetti up and high over the couple as the couple walks through.
Emotive Congratulations Shots
After the confetti, your guests will naturally want to congratulate you – a time when your photographer tries to be in all places at once to get a series of dynamic shots of you and your nearest and dearest hugging and kissing and laughing together. This is a special time, and the Bristol Register Office with Corn Street outside provides the perfect backdrop.
Posed Group Shots
I like to know about most of the required family group shots before the day and include a section for it in my wedding questionnaire, which gives me a clue as to how long this should take.
It’s always worth checking with Bristol Register Office to determine when the next wedding follows yours. Then your photographer will know how long they have to take your required photographs. I work quickly to save restless guests and ensure that there is enough time before being moved on.
Options for Before or After Your Wedding Ceremony?
These days, weddings don’t have to be approached in the traditional manner of days gone by. When attending short weddings, my photography coverage typically starts at 2 hours, giving time for an hour to cover the ceremony with arrivals, confetti and posed shots on the steps. The second hour is perfect to use for some portraits of the couple and guests in the local area around Corn Street (or early reception if you’re having that locally).
There are many local restaurants and hotels within walking distance to have your reception, and I’m happy to document the early part of that or longer if needed.
Think about sending your guests off to the venue if you’re eating locally. Then you can have some portraits taken together in the many lanes and markets surrounding Bristol’s Old Council House and Register Office…
Bristol Register Office Wedding FAQs
Q. WHY GET MARRIED AT BRISTOL’S OLD COUNCIL HOUSE/REGISTER OFFICE?
A. Bristol Register Office is very central with easy access and is a beautiful building in the historic Old City. It caters for small to medium weddings of up to 150 guests and is a friendly venue with important historical significance.
Q. HOW LONG BEFORE OUR WEDDING CEREMONY CAN WE GAIN ACCESS TO THE ROOM FOR PHOTOGRAPHY?
A. Usually around 15 minutes. A staff member or the registrar will show your guests to your ceremony room whilst you go for your interviews. You can then join them for a short while before the ceremony starts. However, it is more common for the groom to join the guests and the bride to be announced and make an entrance. There are no rules about this, and it is generally up to you how you approach it.
Q. IS PHOTOGRAPHY ALLOWED OF OUR WEDDING CEREMONY AND VOWS?
A. Generally, yes… The only room where there may be a problem is the Statutory Room, where, due to fire regulations, only the couple and 4 guests are allowed. A way around this is to have 3 guests and the photographer.
Q. IS CONFETTI ALLOWED AFTERWARDS FOR A NICE SEQUENCE OF PHOTOS?
A. Biodegradable confetti is available to buy and allowed on the steps outside the building. The venue allows a few minutes for this set-up and posed shots afterwards.
Q. WHAT IS THE LIGHT LIKE FOR PHOTOGRAPHY INSIDE THE VENUE?
A. Lighting varies within all the rooms at Bristol Register Office. The rooms have windows, although the Lantern Room is darker than most, with the only natural light coming from the dome. A good photographer can cope with any lighting situation regardless of natural or artificial light.
I have had had an issue where a registrar won’t allow the use of bounce flash. In most rooms, this is no problem, but in the Lantern Room, it may be. However, most of the registrars are okay with it.
Bristol Register Office,
The Old Council House,
Bristol BS1 1JG.