So thankful for my brides who trust not only the process. I also want to acknowledge the fact that they are amazing at rolling with whatever the day may bring!
With this wedding I want to try a little different blog style. This wedding I shot solo without a second shooter, it was a full mass, the weather went from full sun to storm to full overcast... So I want to talk to my fellow photographers about the chaos wedding days can ensue! Hoping to encourage you all that no matter what you are capable of creating that amazing wedding album despite it all!
Enter a Catholic Wedding mass
So I wanted to share my tips and tricks here for shooting a Catholic Wedding, simply because they are all very similar but also always a tad bit different. I've had a good relationship with a lot of the churches in our area and I always hear similar feedback from the Priests and coordinators after the wedding.
The first tip: Meet the owners of the house!
It never ceases to amaze me when I find the Priest and their reaction is shock that I'm seeking them out. There's multiple reasons for this. Mainly, I want to emphasize that in an established religion such as Christianity, Catholics believe in honor and respect. When you seek out the priest to introduce yourself before the ceremony, this allows you to thank them for allowing you to be apart of this extremely sacred sacrament.
You can also ask all of the questions you could think of. I've found the main questions I tend to ask are where is the barrier of entry for me as a photography. Most of the time there are pews, chairs, or pillars that mark how far in the front of the cathedral you are allowed to go during the ceremony. My other main question is, do you allow flash. A LOT of Catholic and more traditional churches DO NOT allow flash during the ceremony itself or during communion. There are certain times they will allow you to pull that handy tool out and its typically during the precessional and after the announcement of the bride and groom.
Owners... yes, I said that plural. There are usually coordinators whom are that specific church facility's directors. Meeting them can tell you so much, from flow of things to expectations the Priest may not verbalize. They're also great gems for hidden spots or stairways you are allowed to access. They also tend to know where the signing of the marriage certificate will be. A helpful note for some details that sometimes are overlooked.
Second tip: Map your route and know when to move.
This is huge. I cannot stress this point enough. The last thing you want during a full mass is to miss an aunt, cousin, or sibling reading a passage of scripture because you are frozen in position where a pillar is blocking you. Knowing the areas of the church where everything is taking place will help you move less and ultimately capture more. My starting point is typically the front left side (bride's side) of the aisle. From there I'll get the processional and any sweet moments from those giving the bride away, as well as the best shot of the groom's expression. I'll counter to the far left and swiftly make my way to the back to grab that full bridal party shot as well as the welcome. I stay left and move up and down majority of the scripture readings and blessings. Once the actual service has begun and everyone seated to hear the message, I grab a few detail shots of the church itself or guests but mostly stay out of sight and mind. There are typically a few special moments after the message such as communion, flowers for the Mother Mary, the rings, and finally the blessing. For these I'll shift to the right side (groom's side), and then back to the center aisle for the end processional.
Thirdly: Sometimes they don't kiss...
Ok so maybe I should've added this to the questions to ask the Priest, but for some churches, a kiss is deemed a public display of affection and inappropriate for a church service. Wild I know. But in that case, sometimes the couple will sneak a kiss after the pronouncement of husband and wife (typically if the priest has okayed this and turns away). Other Catholic services will be all for that holy kiss. Whatever the case, be prepared. You should always know the expectations of your couple along with any and all restrictions from their place of worship.
Finally: Don't be nervous, and just enjoy the time. Look for ways to commemorate the details of the building, the people, and their day. Anything you wouldn't want to miss on your day is probably going to be the same for them. Relax and don't feel the pressure to overshoot. Remember, the more specific you can be at capturing details and moments that you know you'll edit and won't get scrapped during the culling, the quicker post processing will be for you.
wedding party drama?.. BAD WEATHER?... No Problem!
When it rains on a wedding day, it's considered good luck... well for everyone except for the photographer. It can be stressful when there is no back up plan in motion or when an outdoor location falls through. Or what's worse than weather? Large wedding parties who just want to get to the party. My biggest advise... FOCUS ON THE CANDIDS. These are your memory makers. Truth be told, I don't think I have a single wedding party photo framed in my house. It's not because I don't love those who stood by my side on my special day, but because the memories I cherish the most and love looking back an are seeing everyone have a good time. When it's hard to get through the 1000x pictures of the day, stop stressing and start seizing the moments around you.
For bad weather, ALWAYS keep that radar up in a background app on your phone. Try to find a moment during the reception where you can steal the couple away. I also love to carry an umbrella or two in my car in case of the worst case scenario and it doesn't let up. If it continues to rain, get creative. Find spaces inside the venue you can get creative with your flash. the filmy-dreamy look is in right now, so use it to your advantage!
Have fun! The bridal party along with the couple who hired you will be able to see and often feed off of your stress. Most couples just want to relax and enjoy the day. Your job is to be there to help them celebrate stress free! If something unexpected happens, religious restrictions feel overwhelming, drama ensues, or it just becomes chaos... you're there to roll with the punches. Above all keep in close contact with your bride every step of the day. She is going to be the one who cares the most about your images. She's going to be the one who most likely has put the most effort into planning and executing the day. Make sure she get's the magic to relive every time she sees her precious album.