Wedding Photography at Bristol Register Office/Old Council House
Grade II listed, the Old Council House is home to Bristol Register Office and is located on the corner of Corn Street in the historic heart of the city. Over 1000 weddings and civil partnerships take place at Bristol Register Office every year and it’s not difficult to see why…
Just 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.
The building was first constructed in the 1820s and it’s expansion continued until 1899 when the Grand Council Chamber was opened by Queen Victoria.
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. There is seating for 4 guests only. Due to fire regulations, couples are informed that if all four guests are present, then the photographer cannot attend. However I have politely asked to come in and have been allowed. There is no guarantee though.
The Lantern Room: The most striking of the ceremony rooms 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. The room was inaugurated by Queen Victoria. Huge windows along one side provide natural light ensuring the venue is fantastic for photography. There are huge portraits depicting events in Bristol’s history adorning the other walls to complete the grandeur.
Prices for the rooms vary depending on the day of the week and include the use of the room, two registrars and a marriage certificate.
Prices for Civil Partnership Conversion and Renewal of Vows are very slightly lower than for Civil Marriages.
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Bristol Register Office for Your Wedding Photographer
The Old Council House caters for weddings of most sizes. Whether it’s just you and your witnesses or you invite up to 150 guests, there is a room to suit you and all your needs.
The registrars are pretty relaxed about wedding photography with few rules. Some request that the use of flash be limited. This isn’t much of a problem as the rooms are fairly light and 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 Register – Bristol Registrar Rules
At Bristol Register Office they ask that the register signing not be photographed. This is pretty standard outside London, but they do set up a ‘dummy’ register for posed shots afterwards. Every marriage licensing borough or county have different rules and regulations regarding the signing and photography.
I usually take a few of the couple pretending to sign, then often get the witnesses in the photo too. It’s also a time for some possible congratulations shots as they are able to speak with the guests for the first time. It’s nice for some photo minded guests to be able to come forward and take some 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.
- 20 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 staff at the Old Council House are very helpful and happy for couples to look around the venue. Arrange a tour prior to booking to check out which is the best room for your wedding ceremony.
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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. In fact, they actually sell cones and trays of it 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 couple inside and then organise the guests into a ‘corridor’ down the steps for the couple to walk through. I ask the assembled friends and family to throw the confetti up and high over the couple and not directly into their faces.
Emotive Congratulations Shots
After the confetti, your guests will naturally want to congratulate you…
This is a time when your photographer tries to be in all places at once to get a series of emotive shots of you and your nearest and dearest hugging and kissing and laughing together. This is such a special time and Bristol Register Office with Corn Street outside provide the perfect backdrop for it.
Posed Group Shots
Personally, 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. This gives me a clue as to how long this should take.
It’s always worth checking with Bristol Register Office to find out when the next wedding is following yours. Then your photographer will know how long they have to take your required photographs. I work quickly to do these 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 normally starts from 2 hours. This generally gives 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 going on to that).
There are a multitude of local restaurants and hotels within walking distance in which to have your reception and I’m happy to document the early part of that or longer if needed.
If you’re eating locally, think about sending your guests off to the venue. 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 too. It caters for small to medium weddings of up to 150 guests and is a friendly venue with important historic significance.
Q. HOW LONG BEFORE OUR WEDDING CEREMONY CAN WE GAIN ACCESS TO THE ROOM FOR PHOTOGRAPHY?
A. A member of staff or the registrar will show your guests through to your ceremony room whilst you go for your interviews. You are then able to 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 this.
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. I found that if you have a polite word with a registrar, they might be prepared to bend the rules a little.
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 Statutory room has no natural light whereas the other rooms do have windows. A good photographer is able to cope with any lighting situation regardless of natural or artificial light.
Bristol Register Office,
The Old Council House,
Bristol BS1 1JG.