Making the Most of your Ceremony Photos

Making the Most of your Ceremony Photos

Making the most of your ceremony photos is high-priority as the wedding ceremony is the most important part of the day. It’s what it’s all about. It’s why you’re bringing everyone together to celebrate. It’s also extremely brief. Ceremonies can last anywhere from 20 minutes for a registry office wedding to an hour for a celebrant led ceremony with all the trimmings. However long it lasts, I can guarantee it will fly by, and you’ll not remember a lot of it. Excitement and nerves will join forces and do battle with your ability to make memories. Your photos will help you to remember all the precious details of one of the most important moments of your life.


The set up of your ceremony space can have a massive effect on the outcome of your photos and the experience of your guests. Often venues will have a standard set up for their ceremonies that can’t be changed. But if you do have any say in the way the space is arranged here’s some things to think about.


How much variety you get from your ceremony photos will directly be affected by how much space there is for the photographer to move around. I’ve shot weddings in really small rooms where I’ve been pressed into a corner unable to move. This resulted in all the pictures being taken from the same angle. I’m not suggesting that you have to book a massive venue just to make your photographer’s life easier, but if you have a choice of rooms within a venue then the larger space will result in a more diverse range of images, and keep your guests more comfortable too. Task one of your squad with the job of making sure there is plenty of room between where you’ll be standing and the first row of seats.

Bride and groom in kilt stand with registrar during ceremony at Hargate Hall, Peak District
Arches & Backdrops

Arches and backdrops are a great way to draw the focus towards you during the ceremony. I’ve been to weddings where they’ve been homemade, bought or hired. You can drape with fabric or add flowers. If you have the budget I definitely recommend having a chat with your stylist, your florist, or your crafty mate, to see what can be done. And usually they can be moved during the day to make a great photobooth style backdrop for people to take photos during the reception, or behind the top table during the meal. If the size of your venue allows, try to leave space behind your backdrop for your photographer to get across. Images shot through backdrops can allow for the flowers or fabric to be in soft focus in the foreground which looks great.

Groom saying vows to bride during ceremony at The West Mill Derby

Standing in front of a window often seems like a good idea as it acts as a natural frame. But any time you put the light behind the thing you are looking at, it will create a silhouette. This is true for your guests’ view as well as your photographer’s. I definitely recommend avoiding this if you can, or covering the window with a fine white gauze curtain which will diffuse the light without making the room dark. If it can’t be avoided, don’t worry, it is up to your photographer to make sure you still get the shots, but they might be even more fabulous somewhere else.

Wedding ceremony with Salvation Army vicar at Tutbury Castle


Get creative

Your entrance into the ceremony room is called the processional and there are lots of traditions in England about how this should be done. However, more and more people are getting creative and doing their aisle-walk their own way. You could walk in together, get pets involved, do a flashmob dance entrance, or have you heard of flower dudes? If not, Google it! Whatever you’re planning, make sure you let your photographer know so they can be in the best place to capture it.

Bride and groom walk together down the aisle for wedding entrance at Makeney Hall Hotel
Organise your entourage

Some of the traditions are worth observing if you want the entrance to run smoothly and to get some great photos. Firstly, your entourage should come in before you. This gives them time to get themselves organised and seated so there’s no distractions or delays between your entrance and the start of the ceremony. If they are carrying bouquets these should be held in both hands at hip height. A bouquet is not going to hide anyone’s double chin, no matter how high they hold it.

Space out the entrance of each person walking down the aisle. Your photographer will be waiting at the top of the aisle to capture each entrance. If you all pile in straight after each other then you get one picture of a queue of people. Each person should have their moment on the aisle without anyone blocking them. Especially you!

Bridal party being organised for the processional at Grangefields
Taking an arm

If you are planning on taking someone’s arm to walk you down the aisle, please make sure you both know how to do this. It sounds obvious but I have seen so many awkward tangles of arms, which draws attention and ruins the photo. Traditionally the person giving you away stands on your left and makes a crook of their right arm. You loop your left arm through theirs. If taking someone’s arm feels awkward, you don’t have to do it! Be yourself, hold their hand, take their waist. You’ll feel and look much better if you’re comfortable. If you are a stickler for tradition, Google a royal wedding, whether you’re patriotic or not, you can absolutely guarantee that they wont have done it wrong!

Bride being walked down the aisle at Derby Museum & Art Gallery


Ignore your photographer

This is definitely the moment when the last thing you should be worrying about is your photos. Now is the time to forget about it and let the professional do their job. Your photographer will spend the entire ceremony with their camera to their eye. Whatever happens they’ll capture it. They’ve also done this a lot more times than you, they will predict what’s going to happen next and position themselves for the best shot. You need to focus on the reason you’re there – the person standing beside you. My tips for the best ceremony photos are to relax and go with the flow. Laugh if you want to, cry if you want to. Just be present. If you’re concerned about making sure your photographer captures a particular moment then let them know in your pre-wedding catch up so you can forget about it on the day.

Bride and groom laughing during ceremony at Kedleston Country House Hotel
The Kiss

Having told you to forget about your photographer, I do have one small request (and it doesn’t matter if you forget in the moment) but please hold that kiss for just a few seconds more. Or even go back for a second one. Give your photographer time to get a few shots rather than scrambling to get just one.

Also, if you want the perfect kiss shot, speak to your officiant before the ceremony and ask if they’d mind stepping aside during this moment so they’re not hovering in the background like a weird third wheel.

Newlywed couple kissing during their elopement ceremony at The Coach House, Derby
Signing the register

Not once have I ever been asked by the couple to get a shot of them signing the register. But never-the-less if you are having a civil or religious ceremony I feel I need to prepare you for this moment because you’re going to get this photo whether you want it or not. Your photographer will have spent the whole ceremony working their ass off getting you natural, candid, romantic images; but your registrar cares not for these things. What do they care about? LEGALLY BINDING DOCUMENTS. Most registrars and vicars will ask that no photos are taken during the official signing of the register in order to protect the personal data that goes onto the paperwork. So they will bring along a fake certificate which you will pretend to sign afterwards so the photo can be taken. Will it feel awkward? Yes. Will it be staged and cringey and everything you hate? Yes. Will you have to do it anyway. Yes. See you there, I’ll be the one trying to make it less cringey.

Bride and groom sign the register after their ceremony at The River Mill Derby


Your walk back down the aisle after the ceremony is called the recessional. Now I’ve blathered on for way longer than I intended to with this blog so I’m going to give you some quick simple instructions. When the ceremony is over, turn and face your guests, they will be clapping, stand there for a few moments and take the applause. Then start to walk down the aisle. Take you time. Interact with your guests, smile, talk to them, shake hands, give out some kisses and hugs. Stop mid aisle before you leave and kiss each other, your guests and your photographer will love you for it. And you’ve done it. You’re married and you’ve got some great photos. Now go and enjoy the party!

Bride dip kisses the groom in aisle after their ceremony at Grangefields

If you’ve got questions about making the most of your ceremony photos, feel free to drop me a line, I’m always happy to share my experiences. I’ve got some good stories, all completely anonymous of course!

Find more wedding photography advice on the blog

Wedding photographer Emma Duder sits on the steps near the cathedral in her home town of Derby holding her camera


Emma Duder

Emma Duder is a reluctant blogger but a willing photographer. She has been photographing weddings in the Derbyshire, Peak District and wider Midlands area since 2016. She's seen her fair share of weddings and shares her experience and advice in her blog "I Shoot People: The Secret Diary of a Wedding Photographer".