Photographing Arrivals and Greetings at the Wedding Ceremony Venue
Travelling to the Wedding Ceremony Venue
I try to leave the preparations a while before the bridal party. This allows me time to arrive at the ceremony venue (whether a church, register office or other location) about twenty minutes before the bride is due to arrive. I then have a chance to take some establishing shots of the details, venue and the groom and his party – particularly any nerves that may be apparent from his side!
Personally I choose not to drive between the venues and often travel with guests who are going or a booked taxi. Very occasionally I travel with the bride and her father as below.
Photographing the Groom’s Nerves…
Bride’s often ask me how the groom was after I’ve seen him at the venue. They are frequently surprised when I tell them how nervous the groom appeared. I can only put this down to the huge magnitude of the wedding day and the importance placed on it. It can reduce the most composed and usually relaxed person to a nervous wreck. I love to photograph this if I can. The bride will not normally see this side of her groom and it’s lovely if I can take a photograph of her apprehensive fiancé.
What the Bride will Not See…
There are many other goings-on happening as guests arrive that the bride will miss out on. It is your photographer’s job to ensure that these are documented. If there are any particularly important shots that you would like them to capture, be sure to tell them. Do bear in mind that every wedding is different, so some shots may not be possible.
The arrivals time will be the first time that many of the guests will see each other and it is a great time for your photographer to take some meet and greet shots. Your wedding photographer should always be on the lookout for some scene setting shots that will act as a link in your book or just a memory of your day.
I like to have at least 20 minutes to photograph the groom and guests prior to the bride’s arrival.
Photographing the Arrival of the Bride
A must-have shot is the bride’s arrival. I try to take a sequence of shots depicting this event and continue to shoot whilst she and her party compose themselves at the entrance and eventually walk down the aisle. Methods of transport vary greatly from London taxi cabs to limousines, family cars to Rolls-Royces as at the wedding at Brompton Oratory below.
Small Breaks from Convention
These days many couples choose to break from convention and that’s a good thing. It’s your day, so do what suits you and that includes how you arrive at your ceremony venue.
Traditionally, the bride arrives last and walks down the aisle to join her waiting groom. But nowadays, many couples choose to arrive together with little fanfare, particularly at small register office weddings.
Sometimes the preparations and ceremony are in the same building which is very handy for the photographer as it means they can photograph guest arrivals and also the bride leaving her preparations and making her way to the ceremony.
Who Will Accompany You to the Venue?
This is covered more in-depth in the next chapter (more specifically walking down the aisle) but there’s a slight overlap:
It’s the bride’s father that normally travels with the bride to the venue and walks her down the aisle, but there are occasions where this is not possible.
I once had a bride tell me they didn’t think he would want to accompany her. It wasn’t that they weren’t close, just that she didn’t want to put any undue stress on him and wanted him to enjoy the day with no pressure. I encouraged her to at least ask which she did in the end. He was over the moon and it ended up being a very special moment. If you’re unsure, ask him!
Sadly some fathers have passed on or may have health issues to prevent them from carrying out their fatherly duties. In this case, do ask another close family member or best friend. Brothers/sisters, grandparents, uncles/aunts, school friends and even sons or daughters are all OK to ask. There’s really no restriction on the relationship to you or sex of the person if your dad can’t be by your side.
But if you do want to arrive and/or walk down the aisle on your own, that’s fine too. Many brides choose to do that these days (see photos above and below).
Potential for Posed Portraits Before Your Wedding
Whether you arrive together, separately, in a bridal party or with your parents or groomsmen, they is usually time for some posed portraits outside your venue. I try to keep this short and low-key so you can enjoy the build up, but some couples like to have a few formal shots on arrival and before the day really gets going.
I have a whole chapter on Posed Wedding Photography for more hints and tips. It covers the subject in-depth.
Candid Photos as the Guests Assemble at the Ceremony
In the ceremony room, I try to take photos of groups of people that are together. These could be of couples or families and sometimes individuals. Usually the guests are seated in rows which can make it a bit tricky to take attractive photos as the near person can seem larger than those at the other end. To counteract this I may ask some guests to lean forwards or backwards slightly.
The Bride at the Venue Before the Ceremony
After the bride has finally arrived at the ceremony venue, there is usually time to photograph her with the bridal party and alone. This is all part of my photographic storytelling of the day. I feel it’s important to document the bride as she makes her way through the venue and towards her marriage ceremony.
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