Wedding Photography at Chelsea Old Town Hall/Register Office
**Taking bookings for weddings at this venue for 2020-21 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 in which I love photographing weddings and civil ceremonies, even more so since the recent refurbishment. I have shot there numerous times (28 at the last count!). Read on for some great info and tips to get the most out of your wedding photography at Chelsea…
Whoever thought about the colour scheme and finer refurbishment points seems to have seriously considered the wedding photographer. Many venues feature unsightly signage and fire points in the most beautiful doorways and locations. Not so here… Of course, important health and safety law has been considered, but seemingly with very strong thoughts on aesthetics. Most signs that remain are easily edited out.
The colour palette has been very well thought out too. 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 the vibrant heart of Chelsea. The area surrounding the registry office 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, guests are shown into the waiting area at the back. This is also a through way with the splendid 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 spends time here with the guests, whilst the bride arrives a little later via the side door on Chelsea Manor Street.
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Chelsea Register Office Confetti & Congratulations
After they are married, the couple wait in the ceremony room as the guests assemble on the steps. I like to arrange everyone into a tunnel which the couple can walk through when they exit the venue under showers of confetti.
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 for the reason that it could be regarded as litter. But the registrars at Kensington and Chelsea have no such issue and many great shots have been taken on the steps as the happy couple leave in a confetti shower.
Post-confetti, wedding parties naturally start congratulating the couple with hugs, kisses and warm good wishes. This is an ideal time to capture some of the wedding day’s most emotive shots. Time constraints can limit this, particularly on a Saturday, but I feel it’s important not to rush everyone… However the posed shots need to be taken before the next wedding group exit…
After Ceremony Portraits on the Iconic Steps
I supply a questionnaire when couples book me for their photography. This includes a section for any posed shots that 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).
Chelsea Group Portrait Photography Tip
The above and below photographs perfectly illustrate what to do in the event that 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. 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. There are people frequently coming and going, but this can be worked around 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 fairly 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 yet to photograph in this room and feel that not many photographers have.
Kensington Town Hall Wedding Photography Rooms
The Committee Room: This room seats up to 38 guests and lies on the first floor of Kensington Town Hall. With wood panelling, it is tastefully decorated in blue and yellow.
The Mayor’s Parlour: Only available on Fridays and 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 it’s Iconic Status
Over the years many notable people have been married at Chelsea Old Town Hall including Judy Garland and Wallis Simpson which makes it one’s of London’s most iconic small wedding venues. An appearance at number 16 in The Independent’s list of 50 Best Wedding Locations in 2011 was for good reason. In fact, The Independent 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 deal with. The staff and registrars are all very helpful and approachable and it’s obviously 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 do try to be discrete and observe the occasion.. The Kensington registrars do seem very keen that I take all the required shots to present to the couple later on. This makes the job of wedding photographer so much easier. They are also very happy to allow photographing of the actual signing of the register which so many wedding venues do not.
Chelsea Old Town Hall FAQ’s
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. Big names throughout the 20th Century have wed there: Judy Garland, Pierce Brosnan and glam rock icon Marc Bolan all had their nuptials 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 the 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. The 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 is set up and 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. This makes the rooms darker than they otherwise would be. However the bright decor helps to remedy this and with a little bounce flash there is no problem with the light as far as photography is concerned.
LGBT+/Gay Weddings at Chelsea Old Town Hall
If you are having your small same-sex wedding in London, then look no further than Chelsea Old town Hall. The registrars are very open and accommodating and the venue is truly gay friendly. In this day and age, that shouldn’t need to be pointed out, but I think it’s reassuring to know for gay wedding couples.
Moving On to the Next Location: Posed Shots at St Luke’s Church
The posed shots are normal the last photographs I take before moving on to the next venue. If the couple have booked me for 2 hours or longer, there is time for a walk to take some more couples posed photos locally. There is no more a suitable location than St Luke’s Church – a five minute walk away. With it’s 19th century Gothic Revival architecture, magnificent doorway and arches, it provides superb directional light – fantastic for wedding photography portraits as the two photos below show…
Local Pubs & Restaurants
Newly-weds travel elsewhere for their reception where there is further scope for more candid shots. The renowned Bluebird Restaurant is a five minute walk away 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. As well as a plethora of other pubs and restaurants such as The Phene (below).
Kensington & Chelsea Register Office,
Chelsea Old Town Hall,
Kensington Town Hall,