What’s it like working with a wedding celebrant?

A garden wedding in Essex.
The Groom watches as his Bride walks down the aisle, my wife beside him grinning as usual.

So what’s it like working with a wedding celebrant?

More to the point, what’s it like working with your wife when she happens to be the wedding celebrant. This is a question we both get asked on a regular basis, especially when couples are looking at booking us both, so I will attempt to answer that question by way of a real life example.


The Meeting: The Bride and Groom had noticed my details on Michelle’s website and, though they had arranged to meet with another photographer, asked if I could come along as well. They had a good look through lots of slideshows on my iPad and looked at several sample wedding albums I had brought with me.

They said they loved my work but, as they had already arranged to meet another photographer and thought it would be rude to cancel that appointment, said they would let me know in due course. About a week later and after they had met with the other photographer, they emailed me to let me know they thought I would be perfect for their day.


The Planning: As is always the case I took a great deal of interest in the planning of the whole day and gave helpful advice when necessary. When I work with Michelle, I am able to get a really detailed knowledge of what is going to happen during the ceremony.

With each ceremony being unique and designed with the couple so as to reflect their own personalities, this detailed knowledge is very valuable as it allows me to plan exactly where to be at the right time to get wonderful photos.

When working with a wedding celebrant I am able to attend the practice and really see first hand how things are going to flow on the day. I can work out where to stand to get great photos without getting too close or in the way and spoiling everyone’s enjoyment of the ceremony. When working with Michelle, I also have some input on where she should stand to get the best photos of the happy couple!

Most couples have an idea of the type of photography they would like for their day. This will often include some “formal” photos of themselves and their guests together with a lot of informal or “reportage” style photos. We will work out a plan A (for good weather) and a plan B (for wet weather) and identify locations in advance for the group and couple photos so that no time is wasted on the wedding day.

But I also want my couples to have something more than the photos “everyone has”, something different from the “norm”. To that end, I always encourage couples to also think a bit “outside the box” and perhaps have some photos that are taken “just for fun”. In fact, I have a dedicated gallery on my website called “just for fun”. These are the photos that usually raise the biggest smiles both during and after the big day.

A garden wedding in Essex.
A “Just for Fun” photo of the Bride and Groom with their friends.

The wedding day was upon us and I arrived early as usual. This meant I had time for a bacon butty and cup of tea whilst chatting with the bridal party and the Bride’s parents. I often find a good chat over a cup of tea helps put everyone at ease before I start clicking the shutter button.

Then I set about my work. The Bride & Groom will have spent a lot of time and effort, not to mention money, arranging not just the big things, but also the little details that go to make their special day exactly how they want it to be. The pictures I take now will help them remember all those little details for years to come. Everything from the seating plan to the strategically placed signs, from the Wedding Cake to the wine for the wedding breakfast, from the Bridesmaid’s dresses to the Groom’s “button hole”. All will have been carefully selected to form a small but important part of this most special of days.

Then there’s The Dress, The Shoes, The Perfume, The Jewellery, The Old, New, Borrowed and Blue. All to be recorded for posterity. The atmosphere as the Bridal party share a bedroom as hair and make-up are perfected. Then, when everything is just right, a few portrait photos of the Bride looking amazing!

The Groom and his party are not to be forgotten. It’s his day too, so some photos of him, his Best Man and friends when they are all done up to the 9s and looking their best.

The guests start to arrive. Some casual photos of them chatting, maybe catching up with old friends they haven’t seen in an age, and then making their way to their seats. Not forgetting some photos of the Groom with his Best Man as they wait patiently, and perhaps nervously, for the bride to arrive.

Then the wedding celebrant, my wife Michelle, calls all to order. She gives her introduction before leading on to the moment they have all been waiting for. All stand for the entrance of The Bride!

Photos are taken as the pretty flower girl leads the way scattering petals down the aisle. She is followed by the Bridesmaids all looking beautiful then, finally, The Bride looking amazing. I then turn to get a photo of the Groom as he sees her for the first time in her wedding dress. The look on his face says it all!

The ceremony goes brilliantly. Just the right blend of “the serious” with “the fun”. Big smiles and lots of laughter from everyone, including the celebrant. Exactly what a celebration of love should be.

As for me, I’m keeping out of the way so that I don’t distract anyone, but I’m getting lots of photos of smiling faces! Capturing those important little moments like the rings being placed on the fingers, the vows being exchanged, the first kiss and those knowing little glances the couple give each other. I can’t help but smile all the way through it all.

Wedding photography in Essex
One of those “knowing little glances” from the Bride and Groom as Michelle tells their story.

When the ceremony ends, it’s time for the confetti. I get the guests organised and tell them how confetti should be thrown. Then it’s time to get them organised for the group photos. It really comes in handy being married to the celebrant as she now sets about helping me get everyone organised.

Wedding photography for Essex
The Confetti flies!!

The big group photo with everyone in it is usually the first. The part of the wedding that the guests dread the most. We need natural smiles, not cheesy forced ones, so it’s “Three cheers for the Bride and Groom”. That usually works. Everyone comes alive, lots of cheering and lots of natural smiles. After the photo is taken, those guests that do not “appear” in any more photos can be released to make their way to the drinks and canapés.

During the planning stage the Bride and Groom had, at my request, provided a list of the group photos they wanted. At the rehearsal we had worked out the best order in which to take the photos so that guests are not standing around for ages waiting to have their photo taken. After all, who wants to stand around waiting for photos when there’s food and drink calling out to them! About 15 minutes later, we’re done.

Now it’s on to the “fun” photos with the bride, Groom and their parties. And they really had come up with some fun ideas for these photos! Michelle joins in as my “voice activated light stand”, another advantage of being married to the celebrant (though I suspect she doesn’t quite see it that way).

Wedding photography in Essex
Boys will be boys. Another “just for the fun of it” photo.

Then I took the Bride and Groom off for a little walk to take some “romantic” and some casual photos of just the two of them enjoying each other’s company, and a few “formal” ones which they had wanted for “display on the mantle piece”. The Best Man and Chief Bridesmaid comes in handy here. There’s drinks and canapés to be carried, not to mention a long dress to be looked after.

Wedding photography in Essex
The Bride and Groom on their own.

Then it’s back to the guests to “mingle” and enjoy themselves. An opportunity for me to get some casual photos of them all generally just having a good time before all the guests are called to their seats ready for the Wedding Breakfast.

Some photos as the Bride and Groom are announced (usually by my wife Michelle) and make their entrance, then, when they are seated, I disappear to let everyone enjoy their meal without fear of having a camera pointed in their direction.

Then it’s time for the speeches! I take a few photos of each of the speech makers in turn but mostly photograph the reactions of the guests and top table as they are often laughing hysterically at what is said.

Wedding photography in Essex
The Best Man making his speech.

When the speeches draw to a close it’s usually time for me to prepare for the “First Dance”. I set up any additional lighting that I think is necessary so that I am ready when they are.

The arrival of the evening guests presents me with another opportunity for some casual photos of the Bride and Groom with their guests. Then, at some point, it’s time to photograph the cutting of the Wedding Cake before moving on to that special First Dance, both of which are often announced by Michelle.

Wedding photography in Essex
The First Dance.

As soon as the First Dance is finished the guests invade the dance floor and the evening party gets underway. A few photos of them enjoying themselves on the dance floor. Maybe they have asked for a particular photo that they really want me to get.

Wedding photography in Essex
The fireworks say it all. A photo they had asked for and which was important to them.

I check with the Bride and Groom that they have finished with Michelle and I before packing my equipment away at the end of what has been a truly fantastic day.

So what’s it like working with your wife, the wedding celebrant? Absolutely brilliant. I love the ceremonies my wife conducts. Every one is different and they are always full of fun and laughter. And let’s not forget, I get a free “voice activated light stand” thrown into the bargain!!

Wedding Celebrants – What are they then?

 

Wedding Celebrants, or to give them their full name, Independent Wedding and Family Celebrants. What do they do and what are they like for photographers to work with?

A Celebrant is an independently trained person, not affiliated to any church or faith and not necessarily humanists (the two are often confused). They just believe people should have the right to celebrate their special day in a unique way. They offer an alternative to the ceremonies performed by Registrars and in Churches and I have seen them describe what they offer as a real alternative to the run of the mill and the mundane.

Every ceremony is bespoke, unique and designed around the couple involved incorporating their beliefs and their personalities. They can be held almost anywhere and I have photographed Celebrant led Weddings in bluebell woods, on farms, in back gardens, beside a lake at sunset, in a zoo, on a boat and other various venues.

Personally I love photographing Celebrant led Weddings because they are all different and the couples involved, because they want something different from the norm and something that reflects their personalities, always seem to be up for a lot of fun with a capital F when it comes to their photography.

Most celebrants will hold a rehearsal before the wedding day. To all photographers reading this, I strongly recommend you attend the rehearsal. It will give you a chance to “break the ice” with the celebrant and you will be able to see what type of ceremony the couple are having. Like I said earlier, they are all different incorporating many different rituals, and you will want to know where to be and when to be there for the best shots.

Celebrants tend to stand to one side when they are conducting a ceremony and they often have the couple facing their guests. Some will have important parts to play during the ceremony and sometimes there is a “ring warming” where the wedding rings are passed around the guests. Little things that make the guests feel part of the ceremony rather than just mere observers.

Wedding celebrants tend to be great to work with. They are normally less formal than other officiants and quite relaxed about how the photographer works and the level of “freedom” they will grant you. I have yet to receive the “stand there and do not move” instruction that many of us wedding photographers will be familiar with. In my experience they will work with you to give you the best possible chance to get some really good images for your clients but be sensible and don’t try to “take advantage” of their easy going nature or you could find yourself feeling rather embarrassed.

Celebrant led wedding.
The look on the Celebrant’s face says it all.

I recently attended a Celebrant led Wedding as a guest. I took my camera along as old habits die hard! I could not believe the antics of the wedding photographer. Leaping around like a woman possessed, the ceremony had to be stopped three times because the photographer was physically standing in the way!! A word of warning, she hadn’t attended the rehearsal the day before and didn’t have a clue as to what was going on. Needless to say, she ended up feeling very embarrassed embedded in the balloons. Please, don’t be one of those “professional” photographers. You give us all a bad name.

Celebrant led wedding.
Guests come forward to untangle the embarrassed photographer.