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Chapter 5

Ultimate Guide to

Wedding Schedule Signing Photography

Photographing the Signing of the Marriage Schedule


Couple signing register at Old Marylebone Town Hall

During the traditional signing of the register, the focus is purely on the job at hand. The register has now been replaced by an A4 piece of paper called the marriage schedule.

From 4th May 2021, everything changed regarding the registration part of the marriage ceremony.  The traditional register has now been moved online, and a tradition dating back to 1837 has been replaced.

What this means for couples is that there will still be a signing, but the signing of an A4 piece of paper called the ‘Marriage Schedule‘, with all information to be entered online later.  No marriage certificate is now issued on the day, with couples either receiving it through the post or picking it up in person.

As a wedding photographer, I have mixed feelings about this…

Bride signs the marriage schedule whilst groom and masked registrar watch on at Castell Coch, Cardiff

My very first wedding with a marriage schedule: Previously, the Cardiff registrars didn’t allow photography of the signing. Now, there are no data protection issues.

Gone are any Photographic Restrictions!

The signing of the schedule usually follows shortly after the vows. This may be slightly different in a church wedding depending on the order of service.

I love natural photography – it’s what I do and why people book me!  Apart from any required posed shots, I try to take natural photographs all day.

Groom poses for dummy wedding register signing at LGBT marriage

Mateusz does a very good job at pretending to sign at his same-sex marriage to Matthew at Bromley Civic Centre. The charade of pretending to sign the ‘dummy’ register is happily behind us.

I used to be restricted by rules around the signing of the register.  Happily, this is now largely a thing of the past.  Most register offices outside Central London used to cite data protection as a reason not to allow photography of the signing, instead opting for a ‘dummy’ register.  But now, with the introduction of the Marriage Schedule, I can photograph throughout this part of the ceremony.

Please bear in mind that this is still at the registrar’s discretion, and some may still prefer this not to be photographed to avoid distraction.

Bride signing register with groom looking on

An overview of the signing: Old Marylebone Town Hall has never had an issue with photography during this time, but many register offices didn’t allow it.

Couple at Westminster Register Office Looking at Register Whilst Guests and Videographer Watch

Tray and Dan’s wedding was small, with just them and the witnesses. Being given the freedom to move freely is much more preferable.  I went wide to photograph everyone in the room, including the videographer.

Groom Signing Register with Large Bay Windows

For the sake of balance, here’s a posed shot taken at De Courceys Manor near Cardiff that I actually quite like:  Rory and Liz felt slightly awkward with the posed signing shots. My favourite one was when they looked away from the camera at each other to share a reassuring smile.

The Dummy Register is Dead:  No More Pretend Signing

It used to be that at many register offices and civil marriage venues, the registrar politely requested that I stop shooting until the signing was complete.  I had to respect the rules of the house, so I turned my camera on to the guests until the signing was completed.  The registrar then provided a blank ‘dummy’ register and let me pose the couple pretending to sign the register.

Now, I can still take posed photos with the pen and paper schedule, but because I will have already taken photos of the signing, the need to have the couple pretend to sign is diminished.

Wind photo of couple signing register taken from back of room

I was a bit sneaky during this signing at Stoke Newington Town Hall. Had the registrar spotted me, she may have said nothing. I was too far back to either be a distraction or capture any data.

And Church Wedding Signings?

The signing has changed for religious ceremonies too…  They are the same as for civil partnership ceremonies, but, again, it’s up to the individual member of the clergy to set out their preferred rules.  Historically, vicars and priests have been more relaxed around the signing, and I see no reason why this should change.

Groom signing wedding register in church wedding with vicar, bride and guest watching

A lovely church signing shot: As well as showing everyone watching, it is also a good impression of what the venue was like.

Bride signing register in church in Crystal Palace

Exactly the same place as for the groom above. But changing my shooting angle and going wider shows off amazing architecture not previously apparent.

Groom signing register at Camden Town Hall

Getting the registrar in the shot adds a new element that is not usually in a posed register photo. This was a wedding at Camden Town Hall.

Goodbye Certificate Presentation

The major negative for me is that the couple don’t now get their marriage certificate on the day, so there is no presentation and photo opportunity.  I’ve always found that to be the definitive shot showing that the couple is officially married.  Some registrars made a big presentation of it, and it is a shame that this part of the day is gone…  Still, I suppose it prevents them from losing it on the way home!

The Westminster registrar hands over the wedding certificate to the newly-weds at Fitzrovia Chapel

Presenting the marriage certificate: A part of the day that is sadly no more.

Group photo of family members at Caerphilly Castle wedding

Sometimes, the place of signing is so attractive that it’s good to take some small family group shots there, too. I took this in the Great Hall at a gay wedding in Caerphilly Castle.

Where to Have the Schedule Signing for Photographic Aesthetics

As with all photography, it’s all about the light. Most wedding venues have a dedicated signing area, but if you get a choice of where to sign, choose somewhere with good directional light, such as facing or adjacent to a window.  Having the window behind you is not ideal, though, as it could cause glare and hazy images. A good photographer should be able to deal with this, though.

Groom signing dummy register with Bride - both grinning broadly

Finally, I include my all-time favourite ‘dummy’ register signing photo. Sam and Mark were so enjoying the occasion that this didn’t phase them at all. It’s also enhanced by the fact that Sam isn’t posing – she’s spotted some friends to make eye contact with instead. This gives a more natural appeal to the photo. I rather think that Mark saw the funny side, too…

Chapter 6: Presenting Mr & Mrs – Confetti & Congratulations – Next>>>>

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Bride at Old Marylebone Town Hall Signing the Register

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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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