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Chapter 3

Ultimate Guide to

Wedding Day Arrivals Photography

Photographing Arrivals and Greetings at the Wedding Ceremony Venue


Bride and bridesmaid wait in car on arrival at wedding ceremony

Bride Gloria’s face is a picture of anticipation: She takes a while to sit in the car on arrival to compose herself and take everything in. It gave me a unique chance to take a fantastic sequence of emotive wedding photographs.

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.

Bride and Father in London Black Taxi on way to wedding

I caught a black London taxi cab with bride Lindsay and her father – don’t worry, they were on time…  This was a fantastic photo opportunity as I ended up with dynamic story-telling shots such as this.  Gold dust for any wedding photographer.

Groomsman straightening groom's collar as groom looks nervous - London Wedding Photography

Kolbe isn’t really the sort of person to be nervous, but in this photograph taken at Porchester Hall in London, he certainly looks it. Maybe I just shot him in a thoughtful moment – either way, his bride loved it.

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.

Groom having button hole attached at Cardiff wedding

Dale was clearly nervous throughout this waiting time before his bride arrived. I caught several intense shots such as this where his button hole gets attached. As an aside – it’s bride Helen’s brother attaching it which makes the shot even more special.

Man in suit handing out wedding button-holes and guests putting them on

A few moments after the previous shot shows more button-hole action. I often go wide to get a more environmental overview.

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.

To male guests shake hands with woman in middle

Throughout the arrivals time, there is lots of guest greetings and meetings that the bride won’t be privy to. It’s my job to capture some of these to give her a full picture of her day.

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.

Two men smiling with each other at pub wedding in london

A more up-close shot shows some wedding happiness with the step-father of the bride and best man in the pub.  The pub is a popular place for the groom and guests to meet up.

Groomsmen and wedding guests in pub before wedding

Another pub shot shown more of the bar and guests relaxing with a drink before the ceremony.

Vicar giving out order of service to guest at a wedding

For religious wedding ceremonies, guests normally meet at the church. Here the vicar hands out the order of service as friends and family arrive. These are great scene-setting shots.

Male guest hugs boy at wedding in London

Discretion is key when trying to photograph some natural shots of the wedding greetings. Shooting from behind something (in this case a row of guests) works a treat!

Two children having fun sitting down at the front of Fitzrovia Chapel

This is a favourite photo: Children are always good fun to photograph and this pair made for a beautiful portrait as they played at the front of the Fitzrovia Chapel.

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.

Blue and silver Rolls Royce outside Brompton Oratory for wedding

The Bridal car pulls up at the venue whilst bridesmaids and close family look on.  Notice the crowd of tourists gathered at the gates.

Bride being helped from car at Brompton Oratory wedding

Seconds later she steps out aided by a bridesmaid. These three photos were part of a sequence of 15.

Bride's Arrival at Castell Coch, Cardiff in grey hatchback

Wedding arrivals aren’t all Rolls-Royce’s and Vintage Cars: Laura arrived in her father’s family hatchback and the occasion was no less special for it…

Bride leaving taxi in rain outside Chelsea Old Town Hall with father holding unbrella

I love the bride Debbie’s expression in this photo of her arrival in the rain. You can tell her eagerness to get into the dry!

Bride looking worried as she arrives for Asia House Wedding

Tanya was very late for her wedding at Asia House in London. Her face on this emotive photograph says it all!

Back of bride and bridesmaid entering Somerset house for wedding

Paloma left her preparations a little late and had to dash to nearby King’s College Chapel for her wedding ceremony. It kept me on my toes trying to keep up whilst also recording the short journey.

Small Breaks from Convention

Arriving Together

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.

Bride and Groom Arriving at Southwark Register Office Wedding

Isha and Alexandros arrived together for their ceremony in Southwark. It’s as special for me to capture as the traditional way of the bride arriving with her father.

Bride descending downstairs at wedding with string quartet playing

Rena chose to descend the sweeping staircase at Plas Glansevin in Carmarthenshire alone. The string quartet adds interest to the right of the photo.

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).

The bride enters the yellow ceremony room at Plas Glansevin in South Wales

As she starts her walk down the aisle, she only has eyes for her soon-to-be husband.

Bride and grandfather enter St Martin's Church in Caerphilly

Sometimes a key family member has sadly passed on. Emma chose her grandfather to arrive with at her church wedding.

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.

Couple standing inside doors of Cardiff City Hall after arriving for their wedding ceremony

As they arrived together, I took this portrait of Rebecca and Carl standing inside the ornate doorway of Cardiff City Hall.

Grandma and other family members with groom inside Chelsea Old Town Hall waiting room

The groom with his grandma, sister and mum and dad. This was easy to shoot and very informal.

Three wedding guests sitting on short sofa before wedding

I captured these guests in the waiting area of Chelsea Old Town Hall. They were chatting, but posed beautifully when they saw me photographing them.

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.

Grandfather and grandson posing for photo at Cardiff City Hall

Two generations apart: I love this photo taken at a Cardiff City Hall wedding of a grandfather and his grandson.

The groom holds his smiling grandma at a Cardiff wedding

Priceless: The groom and his happy grandmother in an embrace, shortly before his marriage.

Grooms standing with seated guests at Old Marylebone Town Hall Wedding

An overview shot such as this gives a sense of occasion. The groom looking nervous is a bonus.

Three seated guests laughing before wedding ceremony

It’s often not obvious to people what I’m shooting. The lady on the left thinks I’m just photographing the couple. Little does she know!

Groom sitting down on phone at register office in London

Sometimes there is a lot of waiting. Before Jess’s arrival, Harry plays with his phone as the registrars relax awhile.

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.

Bride by gate looking into garden with 'Think and Thank' sign on gate - Winchester House Wedding Photography

Helen didn’t seem nervous at all until she arrived outside Winchester House, her wedding venue. I love this candid shot of her as she peers through the gate into the garden. ‘Think and Thank’ indeed!

Bride leaning on bonnet of vintage Vauxhall with father watching

In a more frivolous shot, Melissa is happy to ham it up whilst her father looks on outside the church in Crystal Palace, South London.

Bride walking up staircase at Porchester Hall

Many wedding venues have the most beautiful entrance halls and staircases. Rebecca’s face says it all as she climbs the stairs of Porchester Hall.

Bride with dad looking thoughtful before wedding ceremony

In a serious shot, I photograph a moment of reflection as Lindsay takes a minute or two outside the ceremony room.

Bride surprised as guests photographs her on phone at Camden Town Hall.

This is a fun shot: At this Camden Town Hall wedding, a cheeky guest takes the opportunity to photograph bride Jess a short while before she is married.  A bugbear of mine is fire exit signs and extinguishers is inconvenient place….   Argh!

father of bride shaking groom by the hand at Stoke Newington Town Hall wedding

A firm handshake from the father of the bride to the groom marks the beginning of their wedding ceremony…

Chapter 4: The Ceremony – & Photography Etiquette – Next>>>>

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Groom's mum knocks glasses off his face when trying to hug him

And finally… Some guests are a little too enthusiastic. David’s mum goes to hug him as he turns away and nearly knocks the glasses off his face. Funny shots at the wedding arrivals are always good to capture…

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Wedding Photographer in London, Bristol & Cardiff

Guy Milnes Photography is based between London and Cardiff, covering South Wales, Bristol, London and the home counties.
He has been a professional photographer since 2008 and loves to capture the wedding day's atmosphere as it unfolds naturally.


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