Wedding Photography at Chelsea Old Town Hall/Register Office
The Borough of Kensington and Chelsea now feature me on their Favourite Suppliers Page. See how here:
**I’m taking bookings for weddings at this venue for 2021-22 now!**
A Tasteful Refurbishment, Ideal for Photography
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Register Office (often mistakenly called ‘Registry Office’) is located within Chelsea Old Town Hall in London SW3.
It is a venue where I love photographing weddings and civil ceremonies, even more so since the recent refurbishment.
I have photographed 39 weddings at Chelsea Old Town Hall (and counting!)
So, read on for some great info and tips to get the most out of your wedding photographer at Chelsea…
Whoever thought about the colour scheme and finer refurbishment points seems to have seriously considered the wedding photography.
The colour palette has been very well thought out. The shades are very subtle and work well with photography and artificial lighting if required.
A Great Location on the Trendy King’s Road, London
Chelsea Old Town Hall is situated halfway down the long King’s Road, in Chelsea’s vibrant heart.
The registry office area is mainly urban, but a stone’s throw away is the splendid St Luke’s Church and gardens which is great for portraits after the ceremony (see bottom of page).
The Waiting Area and Stairs
On arrival, staff show guests into the waiting area at the back, which is a throughway with the grand stairs and landing window – a fantastic opportunity for some stunning portrait shots.
Sometimes the couple both join the guests here and wait for their pre-wedding interview slots. Other couples prefer to remain separate as is tradition. In this case, the groom generally waits with the guests, whilst the bride arrives a little later via Chelsea Manor Street’s side door.
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Chelsea Register Office Confetti & Congratulations
After they are married, the couple waits in the ceremony room as their guests assemble on the steps. I like to arrange everyone into a tunnel that the couple can walk through when they exit the venue under confetti showers.
It’s another plus point that confetti is allowed for Chelsea Old Town Hall wedding photography purposes.
Often, venues in Central London don’t allow confetti because it could be regarded as litter. But the registrars at Kensington and Chelsea have no such issue. How many wonderful wedding photographs have been taken on the steps as the happy couple leave in a shower of confetti.
Post-confetti, wedding parties naturally start congratulating the couple with hugs, kisses and warm good wishes – an ideal time to capture some of the wedding day’s most dynamic shots. Time constraints can limit this, particularly on a Saturday, but I feel it’s important not to rush everyone… However, I need to take the posed photos before the next wedding group exit…
After Ceremony Portraits on the Iconic Steps
I supply a questionnaire when couples book me for their Chelsea Old Town Hall wedding photography which includes a section for any posed shots they need. It makes things run more efficiently to have a point of reference when taking the posed wedding portraits.
So, after everyone has given the couple their best wishes, we go straight into taking the posed group shots. I work through this as quickly as possible. If another wedding does back up behind us (it doesn’t often happen but can do), I have a clever dodge to get the shots whilst alleviating congestion (see below).
The Efficiency of the Kensington & Chelsea Registrars
As their borough is one of the most popular for weddings in the country, the registrars and staff at Chelsea Old Town Hall are exceptionally well-versed in running a busy wedding Saturday in summer. Couples often ask me what happens if their wedding runs late or things don’t go according to plan.
The short answer is: They don’t! – usually… And in the rare case when things do overrun (checking the paperwork can sometimes hold things up), you will be well looked after and kept informed.
As long as you’re on time and ready, then things will go smoothly for you.
Saturdays are usually busy, and occasionally you may be asked to speed things up on the steps outside, but I know an excellent dodge if this happens – see my ‘Tip‘ below.
Chelsea Group Portrait Photography Tip
The above and below photographs perfectly illustrate what to do when another wedding party starts to exit if we are still photographing on the steps:
After the above photo, we had to move on to allow the following wedding to exit. I took the below group shot only a couple of minutes later, but it’s not the same location (the giveaways are the missing confetti and flower arrangements).
Chelsea Old Town Hall also houses Chelsea Library which has a different entrance with an identical facade. Apart from there being no flowers outside, you wouldn’t know that it was a different location. People are frequently coming and going, but I can work around this to capture any remaining shots.
Chelsea Old Town Hall Wedding Photography Rooms
The Brydon Room: The beautifully elegant Brydon Room has an interior tastefully decorated in yellow and seats 38 guests. It features a reasonably long aisle for you as a couple or the bride alone to walk down (if you choose to uphold this tradition).
The Rossetti Room: Equally elegant but for a smaller guest list. The Rossetti Room is the more popular room but only able to accommodate up to 12 guests.
The Harrington Room: The smallest room has limited availability, being available just three times a week. It accommodates up to 8 guests. I have photographed one wedding in this room and feel that most couples booking it don’t require a photographer.
Kensington Town Hall Wedding Photography Rooms
The Committee Room: This room seats up to 38 guests and lies on Kensington Town Hall’s first floor. With wood panelling, it is tastefully decorated in blue and yellow.
The Mayor’s Parlour: Only available on Saturdays, the Mayor’s Parlour seats up to 68 guests. Modern in design, it has wood panelling and is well lit.
Illustrious Marriages: Reasons for the Iconic Status
Over the years many notable people have been married at Chelsea Old Town Hall including Judy Garland and Wallis Simpson, making it one of London’s most iconic small wedding venues. An appearance at number 16 in The Independent’s list of 50 Best Wedding Locations is for good reason. The newspaper calls it, ‘still one of the hippest places to get married‘.
Also Consider>> Camden Town Hall for Your Civil Marriage.
The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Registrars
If you are having your wedding at Chelsea Old Town Hall, you’ll find the venue and staff so easy to work with. The staff and registrars are all accommodating and approachable, and it’s important to them that you get the most from your day.
The same goes for your photography.
There are no issues about my moving around during the ceremony, although I try to be discreet and observe the occasion. The Kensington registrars seem keen that I take all the required shots to present to the couple later on, making the wedding photographer’s job so much easier.
They are also pleased to allow photography of the register’s actual signing, which so many wedding venues do not (particularly outside Central London).
How Chelsea Old Town Hall Deals with COVID-19 Restrictions
In 2020, everything changed with the Coronavirus pandemic and associated restrictions. Weddings have been cancelled and rescheduled like never before, but Chelsea Old Town Hall is keen to carry on providing couples with the best possible civil marriage service and a day to remember.
Governmental restrictions regarding numbers bind Chelsea, but beyond that, most venues have their ways to minimise contact and maintain safety. Amongst these are:
- A one-way system through the building to avoid wedding parties passing each other.
- The registrars’ requirement is for all guests and the photographer to wear masks at all time whilst inside the venue. Happily, this does not apply to the bride and groom.
- Smaller wedding parties in the venue rooms – chairs are more spaced out.
- You must include your photographer as one of your guests.
- Perspex screens on the tables separate the registrars and couple.
- They disinfect the signing pen between each use.
- The front doors are closed after the wedding party has left.
Chelsea Old Town Hall FAQs
Q. WHY GET MARRIED AT CHELSEA OLD TOWN HALL?
A. The Victorian neoclassical building on the King’s Road is arguably London’s most iconic register office. If you marry at the venue, then you’re in good company. As well as being a beautiful venue, the building has a rich history of famous weddings. Throughout the 20th Century, big names have wed there: Judy Garland, Pierce Brosnan and glam rock icon Marc Bolan all had their weddings there. Richard Burton and Hugh Grant are two other big names to tie the knot at Chelsea.
Aside from this, the registrars are amongst the most helpful and friendly in London. They are keen for everything to go without a hitch and are exceptionally photographer-friendly too, ensuring that you will have a set of photos to treasure of your wedding day for years to come.
Q. HOW LONG BEFORE OUR WEDDING CEREMONY CAN WE GAIN ACCESS TO THE ROOM FOR PHOTOGRAPHY?
A. On arrival at the venue, guests are shown into a waiting area until the room becomes free. The couple or just the groom may wait here as well, depending on if you’re staying separate until the ceremony or not. Then a registrar will show everyone into the ceremony room. There will be a gap of about 5-10 minutes whilst you are both interviewed before the ceremony commences.
Q. IS PHOTOGRAPHY ALLOWED OF OUR WEDDING CEREMONY AND VOWS?
A. Absolutely, yes. The venue welcomes photographers with no restrictions as long as they aren’t too intrusive. They even allow photography of the register signing which many register offices do not.
Q. IS CONFETTI ALLOWED AFTERWARDS FOR A NICE SEQUENCE OF PHOTOS?
A. Biodegradable confetti is allowed and encouraged on the steps outside the front doors. The registrars are instrumental in setting this up by holding the couple inside until the photographer sets up outside and is ready to go.
Q. WHAT IS THE LIGHT LIKE FOR PHOTOGRAPHY INSIDE THE VENUE?
A. Chelsea Old Town Hall lies on the shaded south side of the King’s Road, making the rooms darker than they otherwise would be. However, the bright decor helps remedy this, and with a little bounce flash, there is no problem with the light as far as photography is concerned.
LGBTQ/Same-sex Weddings at Chelsea Old Town Hall
If you are having your small same-sex wedding in London, look no further than Chelsea Old town Hall. The registrars are very open and accommodating, and the venue is gay friendly. In this day and age, that shouldn’t need pointing out, but I think it’s reassuring to know for LGBTQ wedding couples.
Moving On to the Next Location: Posed Shots at St Luke’s Church
The posed shots are usually the last photographs I take before moving on to the reception venue.
If the couple has booked me for 2 hours or longer, there is often the time for a walk to take some more couples posed photos locally. There is no more suitable a location than St Luke’s Church – a five-minute walk away.
Its 19th century Gothic Revival architecture, magnificent doorway and arches, provides great directional light – fantastic for wedding photography portraits as the two photos below show…
Local Pubs & Restaurants
Newly-weds often hold their reception locally to Chelsea Old Town Hall, where there is further scope for more candid shots.
The renowned Bluebird Restaurant is a few minutes walk, and proves a popular choice for couples who require an intimate meal after their nuptials.
There is also The Ivy with magnificent floral displays outside which is even closer and a plethora of other pubs and restaurants such as The Phene (below).
Kensington & Chelsea Register Office,
Chelsea Old Town Hall,
Kensington Town Hall,