December 8, 2015

SERIES: Wedding Planning Guide – A Note To Your Officiant


More and more we see weddings where the officiant is a friend or family member and we couldn’t be more excited by it.  It adds a beautiful, emotional touch that grounds everyone into the moment and makes it even more special.  We’ve also seen incredibly talented professional officiants that make the ceremony flawless and classy because of their wealth of experience of knowing just the right thing to say and the making sure the ceremony goes off without hitch!  Either way, there’s a conversation that we would LOVE all our couples to share with their officiants prior to the wedding so that the intention is set for your guests and housekeeping matters are handled well and without awkwardness.

The first duty, from the photographers perspective, is to clarify to your guests when (if at all) they may use their cell phones, iPads or cameras to document the ceremony (and even other parts of the wedding, although that’s tricky these days).

Here are your options for stating media guidelines:

1) Unplugged Ceremony (the officiant asks that everyone turns off and puts away their cell phones, cameras and mobile devices for the entire ceremony)
We LOVE unplugged ceremonies.  This right of passage needs to be witnessed and respected and we’ve seen all too many times guests being obtrusive, standing in the aisles and walking behind the ceremony space.  Moreover, phones, iPads and cameras cover the faces of the people you want to see the smiles, laughs, tears and share these moments with.  It saddens us to see a row of family members so consumed with documenting the ceremony that you receive photos full of devices versus their faces smiling at you.

If you choose to have an unplugged ceremony,  it’s recommended that you have a sign with your wishes at your guestbook signing and gift table so guests see it upon arrival.  Moreover, right before the ceremony processional starts and the officiant is at the top of the aisle (by themselves), please have them use the phrase below to explain your wishes.

(Officiant) What to SAY:
Thank you for being witness to ‘Couple’s Names’ wedding ceremony. They have been waiting for this moment and wish that you witness this journey with your eyes and hearts and have requested an unplugged ceremony. Please take a moment turn off and store your phones, iPads and cameras.’

More on unplugged ceremonies:

2) Stay In Your Seat/No Flash Ceremony (the officiant asks that everyone is welcome to take photos; however, please do so without flash and in your seat only)
This is also a great option if you don’t want to go with the unplugged ceremony but you don’t want your guests wandering around your ceremony space or potentially interfering with our photography.  One downside to not saying anything to your guests about your wishes is the potential for your guests to step in front of us at the very wrong moment (the kiss, walking down the aisle, the ring exchange).  We’ve seen it all and are quick to anticipate if we can any issue but it helps us do our job the very best we can if we can avoid guests flashes and wandering.

(Officiant) What to SAY:
Thank you for being witness to ‘Couple’s Names’ wedding ceremony. They have been waiting for this moment invite you to take as many photos as you wish; however, they ask that you do so from your seat only and without flash. Please take a moment mute your cell phones and turn your flashes off.

There are also TWO other housekeeping items that we love to discuss with all officiants (although experienced ones handle these automatically):

1) Moving to the side during the kiss shot
We typically mention this before the wedding if there is time to your officiant directly but it’s always helpful if they know this ahead of time from you.  Please ask them to take a large step to one side during the kiss moment.  This gives us a GREAT shot of just the two of you as well as the officiant smiling and clapping with the rest of your wedding in celebration!  If this doesn’t occur, the officiant becomes the outline behind you both and can sometimes lead to an awkward shot (especially if the officiant has a cowboy hat or is wearing bright colors).

What NOT to do:

A great example of the officiant moving to the side and smiling – YES!:


2) Formal group shot post-ceremony announcement
If you would like a BIG group shot of all your guests right after the ceremony (before everyone is excused to the cocktail hour) or if we have additional group formal shots scheduled, it’s helpful for the officiant to announce after the recessional (when the couple, bridal party and family have gone down the aisle) that the ‘couple wishes to take a large group photo of everyone’ OR ‘the couple wishes to invite all immediate and extended family to xxxx location for photos.’  This is a HUGE help and timesaver so that we don’t lose guests to the bar and have to go hunting for them for group shots.  Our goal is to be as efficient as possible and get your guests back to your cocktail hour as quick as possible so they aren’t standing around waiting for Aunt Sue.  Moreover, this time also is sensitive if it is close to sunset or if the ceremony ran late and our time for creative portraits before dinner (which is a hard deadline for us) shrinks.

These three housekeeping items for your officiant help the ceremony flow flawlessly and help us do our job the best we can do!  Thank you for speaking with your officiant ahead of time and including these announcements within your ceremony; we really appreciate it and hope that the images will shine even brighter because of it 🙂