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 2022-23 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 since the recent refurbishment.
I have photographed 73 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…
Are You Planning Your Wedding at Chelsea Old Town Hall?
I photograph discretely and unobtrusively to capture all the very best moments, leaving you to enjoy your day.
With me as your wedding photographer, your memories will be in safe hands, so please get in touch any time to discuss…
Whoever thought about the colour scheme and finer refurbishment points seems to have seriously considered wedding photography.
The colour palette was 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 halfway down the long King’s Road, running between Sloane Square and Fulham in the west. It is in Chelsea’s vibrant beating heart.
The registry office area is mainly urban, but a stone’s throw away is the splendid St Luke’s Church and gardens that are great for portraits after the ceremony (see the bottom of page).
Chelsea Town Hall weddings are not only extremely fun but convenient too!
The Waiting Area and Stairs
On arrival, staff show guests the waiting area at the back, a throughway with the grand stairs and landing window – a fantastic opportunity for some stunning portrait shots.
Sometimes, the couple joins 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.
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. Nevertheless, 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 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 is only aable to accommodate up to 12 guests.
The Harrington Room: The smallest room has limited availability, 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. So 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 with my moving around during the ceremony, although I try to observe the occasion discreetly. The Kensington & Chelsea 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 accommodating throughout the couple’s short time getting married, treating every wedding with the care and attention that the occasion deserves.
Signing the Chelsea Marriage Schedule
As of May 2021, everything changed regarding the signing of the wedding register as it moved online. The signing of a marriage schedule has now replaced the traditional register. Gone too is the marriage certificate, which will be posted to couples after the day. I have mixed feelings about these changes.
The Kensington and Chelsea registrars have always allowed photography of the register, whereas many boroughs outside Central London did not. So in that respect, nothing has changed with regards to the signing.
I shall miss the presentation of the wedding certificate, though. The certificate was something tangible that the couple could take away with them on the day. Chelsea Old Town Hall made a show of handing it to the couple, a beautiful wedding photo moment again.
Hiring Chelsea Pensioners to Witness Your Signing
Occasionally couples ask me to provide their witnesses. I’m very happy to witness and will try to provide a friend to be a second witness, but at Chelsea, there’s a better option:
The close proximity of the Royal Hospital Chelsea means that there’s a tradition of booking two Chelsea Pensioners as witnesses for your small wedding ceremony. This will add a new dimension to your wedding and add vibrant colour – the red uniforms are iconic and striking.
You can book your Chelsea Pensioner witnesses through the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea website (link at the top).
How Chelsea Old Town Hall Deals with COVID-19 Restrictions
In 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic hit the wedding industry hard. 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.
Since restrictions were eased in July 2021, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea were quick to follow suit and have relaxed all the rules surrounding Covid-19. This doesn’t surprise me and sits well with their ethic of giving the bride and groom the best day to remember!
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. So 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. Of course, time constraints can limit this, particularly on a Saturday, but I feel it’s important not to rush everyone… First, 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, including 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).
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:
I took the below group shot at a different wedding, but it’s not the exact location (the giveaways are the missing confetti and flower arrangements).
Chelsea Old Town Hall also houses Chelsea Library, 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 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, allowing movement throughout the ceremony.
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 bit of bounce flash, there is no problem with the light as far as photography is concerned.
Q. CAN WE BOOK CHELSEA PENSIONERS TO WITNESS AT OUR SMALL WEDDING?
A. Yes, you can! To book two Chelsea Pensioners, contact the register office at Chelsea Old Town Hall directly.
Chelsea Pensioners will add a different dimension to your wedding photos – their distinctive red uniforms look great and you’ll have a number of photographs taken with them.
LGBTQ/Same-sex Weddings at Chelsea Old Town Hall
If you have 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. Of course, that shouldn’t need pointing out in this day and age, but I think it’s reassuring for LGBTQ wedding couples to know.
Moving On to the Next Location: Posed Shots Nearby & at St Luke’s Church
The posed shots are usually the last photographs I take before moving to the reception venue.
If the couple has booked me for 2 hours or longer, there is often time for a walk to take some more couples posed photos locally. There is no more suitable 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.
There are also many other photogenic locations within walking distance, including the Albert Bridge and the now-famous pink ‘Love Door‘:
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.
The Ivy has 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,