How to Shoot a Wedding (Pt. 5): The Ceremony

How to Shoot a Wedding (Pt. 5): The Ceremony

In this blog series, How to Shoot a Wedding, we’ll be exploring, one by one, all of the “must haves” that need to be captured throughout the wedding day to create a well-rounded shoot. We’ll discuss the reasons each is important, examine some common challenges wedding photographers face in these situations (and how to overcome them), and provide a few insider tips for how to shoot like a professional. So grab your camera bag and let’s dive in…


Click here for part four: Portraits

Now that we’ve knocked out some great portraits, it’s time to get the bride hidden away and prepare for the ceremony. This is the part of the day everyone’s come for. Right? Not the booze later on; definitely the ceremony.

J. La Plante Photo | Aspen Wedding Photographer | Aspen Meadows Resort Wedding | Fall Foliage Wedding Ceremony

Either way, the entire wedding day basically boils down to this, so it’s very important to come away with a series of compelling images.

Before we get down to it, I need to mention that there are as many different kinds of wedding ceremonies as there are different kinds of wedding photographers, and your approach is going to vary from ceremony to ceremony. Most notably, shooting a church wedding and shooting an outdoor wedding are two very, very different jobs. We don’t shoot many church weddings here in Colorado (the mountain vistas tend to be quite spiritual in and of themselves), but when we do shoot a church wedding, we start off by talking to the pastor/priest/rabbi/insert religious officiant here to see if he or she has any restrictions for us. This may include not using flash, not standing too close to the stage, not moving about the room during certain portions of the ceremony, etc. The prevailing viewpoint among the clergy is that a wedding is not a photo op, but a religious proceeding. And while I wholeheartedly believe those two things aren’t mutually-exclusive, the last thing I want is for the officiant to stop the ceremony to admonish me in front of the bride and groom. Long story short, I do my best to abide by the rules.

Anticipation

Okay, first thing’s first: anticipation photos. There are tons of great photo ops to be had before the bride even walks down the aisle, so make sure you’re on top of it. Moira usually hangs out with the bride, bridal party and family, while I cruise about the ceremony venue snapping shots of wedding guests mingling and being seated.

J. La Plante Photo | Boulder Wedding Photographer | Sunrise Amphitheater Wedding | Groomsmen Practicing Speeches

J. La Plante Photo | Detroit Wedding Photographer | Catholic Church Wedding | Groom Waiting for Bride

J. La Plante Photo | Boulder Wedding Photographer | Boulder Country Club Wedding | Ring Bearers at Ceremony

J. La Plante Photo | Colorado Wedding Photographer | Twin Lakes Wedding | Bride with Father

Processional

Next comes the processional. I’m usually crouched down somewhere in the aisle while Moira hangs back for an alternate angle. When you have a second shooter, you spend much of the day shooting the same thing, so it’s important to shoot that thing differently from one another. Otherwise, what’s the point in having two photographers? At the same time, you need to deftly maneuver yourselves so that you’re not showing up in each other’s images. The last thing you’re going to want to do is spend extra hours removing yourselves in Photoshop later in the week.

If you’re shooting in a church, the processional is the one part of the ceremony that most officiants are cool with you using flash, so go ahead and light it up if you want to, keeping in mind that you’re probably going to have to switch to ambient once everybody sits down.

J. La Plante Photo | Colorado Wedding Photographer | Golden Wedding | Father Walking Bride Down Aisle

J. La Plante Photo | Kalamazoo Wedding Photographer | Kalamazoo Church Wedding | Father Walking Bride Down Aisle

J. La Plante Photo | Colorado Springs Wedding Photographer | Garden of the Gods Wedding | Father Walking Bride Down Aisle

J. La Plante Photo | Boulder Wedding Photographer | Planet Bluegrass Wedding | Father Hugging Groom

Ceremony

As I mentioned before, depending on what type of wedding this is, any number of things could happen next. We’ve shot Catholic weddings, Jewish weddings, Greek Orthodox weddings, Hindu weddings, non-religious weddings and just about every other kind of wedding you could think of. Heck, we’ve even shot a traditional Mayan wedding. Long story short, the best thing to do is talk to your bride ahead of time to figure out exactly what will be going down during the ceremony; the minutes of the meeting, if you will. This way, you’ll be able to anticipate what’s coming next and put yourself in the best place to capture everything.

J. La Plante Photo | Boulder Wedding Photographer | Boulder Greek Orthodox Wedding | Greek Orthodox Wedding Ceremony

J. La Plante Photo | Aspen Wedding Photographer | Maroon Bells Wedding | Bride and Groom Drinking Champagne

J. La Plante Photo | Evergreen Wedding Photographer | Brook Forest Inn Wedding | Wedding Ceremony Speech

J. La Plante Photo | Colorado Wedding Photographer | Pueblo Convention Center Wedding | Hindu Wedding Ceremony

J. La Plante Photo | Destination Wedding Photographer | Playa del Carmen Wedding | Mayan Wedding Ceremony

One of the most important things to remember here is to get close enough to get good shots while at the same time remaining as anonymous as possible. But when in doubt, I lean towards getting the shot. Yes, the guests’ view of what’s happening is important, but at the same time, the guests are not your clients. The bride and groom are paying you a lot of money for your eye. Remember, these photos aren’t for you. These photos are for the bride and groom and possibly their future children and grandchildren. They’ll be experiencing the wedding again and again through your camera, so if you happen to get in the way of cousin Julie’s plus one, don’t sweat it.

Keeping in mind that every wedding ceremony is different, here are some things Moira and I try to do at every ceremony in order to create a well-rounded shoot:

We shoot close for intimacy and we shoot wide for a sense of place.

J. La Plante Photo | Detroit Wedding Photographer | Fox Theater Wedding | Bride and Groom Laughing During Ceremony

J. La Plante Photo | Estes Park Wedding Photographer | Black Canyon Inn Wedding | Bride Crying During Ceremony

J. La Plante Photo | Boulder Wedding Photographer | Chautauqua Park Wedding | Wedding Ceremony with Flatirons

J. La Plante Photo | Denver Wedding Photographer | Trinity United Methodist Wedding | Cool Church Wedding Ceremony

We make sure to not only shoot what’s happening, but also the spectators’ reactions to what’s happening.

J. La Plante Photo | Denver Wedding Photographer | The Ranch Country Club Wedding | Father of Bride Watching Ceremony

J. La Plante Photo | Irish Hills Wedding Photographer | Whispering Lakes Wedding | Father of Bride Watching Ceremony

J. La Plante Photo | Evergreen Wedding Photographer | Dunafon Castle Wedding | Father of Bride Watching Ceremony

And, most importantly, we’re constantly trying to think about how we can push our photos beyond the ordinary; how we can make something unique that isn’t typical of standard wedding photography.

J. La Plante Photo | Colorado Wedding Photographer | Wiens Ranch Wedding | Groomsmen During Ceremony

J. La Plante Photo | Denver Wedding Photographer | Chatfield Botanic Gardens Wedding | Cool Wedding Ceremony Photo

J. La Plante Photo | Boulder Wedding Photographer | Greenbriar Inn Wedding | Groom Making Funny Face During Ceremony

The Kiss

Now for the rings and “the kiss.” When shooting the kiss, I highly recommend shooting in bursts (continuous mode). It’s going to last no more than a few seconds and if you’re re-focusing for each shot, you’re probably only going to come away with one decent photograph. Shooting in burst mode will allow you to nail the kiss and the little moments before and after as well.

J. La Plante Photo | Denver Wedding Photographer | Hudson Gardens Wedding | The First Kiss

J. La Plante Photo | Evergreen Wedding Photographer | Brook Forest Inn Wedding | The First Kiss

J. La Plante Photo | Kalamazoo Wedding Photographer | Church Wedding | Bride and Groom Leaving Ceremony

Recessional

After the kiss, the bride and groom will recess, which makes for some of my favorite wedding photos. You’ll have to walk backwards up the aisle, making sure to keep pace in front of the bride and groom. It’s important to be cognizant of what’s behind you, lest you tumble backward into a fountain, along with your $10k in camera gear.

J. La Plante Photo | Estes Park Wedding Photographer | Black Canyon Inn Wedding | Bride and Groom Bubble Send Off

J. La Plante Photo | Rocky Mountain Wedding Photographer | Twin Lakes Colorado Wedding | Bride and Groom Seed Send Off

J. La Plante Photo | Estes Park Wedding Photographer | Della Terra Wedding | Aspen Leaf Send Off

J. La Plante Photo | Rocky Mountain Wedding Photographer | Beaver Creek Lodge Wedding | Bride and Groom Leaving Ceremony

Finally, stay with the bride and groom! It might be tempting to stop and catch your breath right about now, but there are some really great photos to be captured after the newlyweds depart their ceremony. They’ve breathed a huge sigh of relief and are one hundred percent relaxed and in the moment at this point, so make sure to capture it on film.

J. La Plante Photo | Ogunquit Wedding Photographer | River Lily Farm Wedding | Intimate Moment Between Bride and Groom

J. La Plante Photo | Evergreen Wedding Photographer | Dunafon Castle Wedding | Intimate Moment Between Bride and Groom

J. La Plante Photo | Boulder Wedding Photographer | Planet Bluegrass Wedding | Wedding Receiving Line

Now that we’ve nailed the reception, it’s time for every wedding photographer’s favorite part of the wedding day: family photos.

Click here for part six: Family Photos

About the author
Jesse La Plante and Moira Kennedy are husband and wife wedding photographers who have been shooting weddings in Colorado since 2008. Located just outside of Boulder in Lafayette, they specialize in vibrant wedding photography for couples getting married in Colorado's most breathtaking venues. The duo works primarily in Denver, Boulder and the Rocky Mountains, but travels all over the country - and abroad - to shoot weddings. Get in touch today to find out if they're available for your wedding!

Comments are closed.