"interview" a church
You can "interview" a
church just like you'd interview a photographer,
caterer or DJ. High quality churches are happy to
answer your interview questions.
What is the
church's FEE for hosting a
Issues regarding the
1. A wedding causes some
actual costs to a church: Paying a
janitor, air conditioning or heating, lighting;
paying a staff employee to have the keys and lock
up the building afterwards. In some areas churches
may need to pay an actual security guard or
building engineer, due to high-value professional
sound equipment and other assets that need to be
protected using paid employees.
2. Sound man, minister,
janitor and wedding coordinators who provide hours
of service to the public eventually need to be paid
- either through donations or fees. Some churches
have staff dedicated enough to provide these
services anyway, whether paid or not. But staff who
are rarely paid will eventually burn out.
3. Smaller churches
often have very reasonable fees to host a
4. Large and
architecturally beautiful churches tend to have
high fees to host a wedding. Sometimes too high,
Historically marriage has been a ministry of the
church, like baptisms or Bible teaching. Churches
wouldn't dream of charging high fees for those
Weddings are the rare occasion when a church has
the opportunity to "show off" its good points to
the public. Treat guests right and many of them
will happily come back later to be ministered to.
Isn't that why a church exists in the first place?
People who are successfully ministered to
eventually join a church and start contributing
money to it. Hitting brides with high fees is
different for members compared to
Many churches charge less
for brides who already attend their church.
Consider attending or joining the church and save
the money, if it's a good church to begin
Some churches have a fee
schedule that covers specific items --- janitor,
sound man, security guard, etc. --- and the rest of
the "fee" is a matter of voluntary donations.
Sometimes the donation amount is "suggested" (such
as an honorarium for the pastor or wedding
I find a church with lower
Smaller-size local churches have lower fees
because they are supported by regular donations
from their members, don't have weddings that often,
and don't see weddings as a source of income.
Some large churches (including "Calvary
Chapel" which is actually a denomination
name) keep their fees low as a ministry
commitment. Calvary Chapels tend to be built in
office or industrial areas instead of on prime real
estate, and avoid expensive architecture, to keep
their overhead costs lower.
will the church be available to you on the wedding
On the wedding day, can
you arrive at the church early to get dressed and
set up? (If you get dressed at the church,
the bride and her assistants should be allowed to
arrive 2 hours early.)
Can you come and decorate
the church, or the aisles, or a reception
area? This may not be practical at some
churches if more than one wedding or event is
scheduled for the same day.
On the wedding day, can
you remain at the church long enough to complete
formal portraits after the ceremony, without
getting run out early before the pictures are
completed? (My rule of thumb estimate
is: you need two hours after the scheduled
start time of the wedding.)
What other events or weddings
are scheduled the same day as your
If churches have another wedding happening
before and/or after yours, it is critically
important to know that fact, and to be told what
their schedules are.
Catholic churches will perform a wedding
every two hours during popular
seasons. Oddly your priest who performs wedding #2
may not be aware of weddings #1 or #3, because #1
and #3 had been set up by different staff
Also the Catholic staff doesn't think to tell
you about the late Saturday afternoon Mass which
may directly affect your photography schedule.
Since they have Saturday afternoon Mass every
Saturday it doesn't occur to them to tell you about
The reason it's important to know about other
events, is so the photographer or wedding planner
can work with you on a Plan B for group portraits
in case you're suddenly tossed out of the church
while you thought you had been cleared to shoot
To avoid that unpleasant surprise I recommend a
three pronged approach:
Plan your wedding day schedule with your
photographer and/or with a very experienced wedding
Absolutely start your
ceremony when you plan to start it.
I recommend 10 minutes after the scheduled
If you start the ceremony even a few minutes
later than that for no good reason, you will
mess up the day's scheduling of your limousine, the
portrait photography, the chef, the ceremony venue,
the reception venue, the disc jockey ---
Ask what other events are scheduled before and
after yours, but don't rely on them 100% to tell
you the truth. (Not because they're lying. They're
just not coordinated between the various staff
members and volunteers who make schedule
Some churches have tight
schedules, but not all churches are like that
Many popular Catholic churches schedule weddings
at 2-hour intervals. Here's the explanation. As a
matter of policy, they are NOT trying to
satisfy your photo needs. Their priority is
to satisfy their denominational need to
accomplish a specific Catholic sacrament. The
Catholic marriage ceremony, which they call a
sacrament, is one of several specific life
milestones they provide for their members. And
their priority is to utilizes their
buildings efficiently while performing
If their priority is different from yours, be
aware so you can plan appropriately --- either by
choosing a less popular date to get married on, or
by choosing a less popular church location, or a
different denomination. Smaller, less elegant
church buildings have less demand upon their
I have only encountered two-hour church
scheduling problems in Catholic churches.
Non-Catholic churches have less aggressive
scheduling. (Non-Catholic denominations include
Lutheran, Baptist, Calvary Chapel, Presbyterian,
Foursquare, Church of the Nazarene, Assemblies of
God, and all "independent" or so-called
WEDDING PLANNERS: By the way
I do like the concept of hiring a
professional, independent wedding planner. Her fee
might be $2,000 but she will save you the
entire cost of her fee by avoiding waste.
An experienced planner/coordinator will keep
your schedule on track, reduce your stress, and
give you better memories of a relaxed and terrific
A wedding planner who works for a hotel or
country club is probably very competent but
won't have the INDEPENDENCE to save you money in
certain areas. An in-house planner is required to
favor services offered through that venue and its
A wedding coordinator who works for a
church (probably on a volunteer basis) can be
very helpful too. But a volunteer often lacks the
broad experience of someone who has done this
professionally at many locations over many years.
And as a volunteer they will not have numerous
hours to devote to your specific needs. A
volunteer has outside time commitments too --
family, outside job, etc.
permitted at the church, if you're having your
Churches divide into three
camps for dancing.
Scenario 1: A couple's
First Dance is fine but no open dancing at the
Scenario 2: Dancing is
fine for everyone at the reception, but no dirty
dancing, keep it discreet, and no dance music which
has edgy lyrics. Warning! Discuss the music play
list in advance with your disk jockey! (To avoid
embarrassing dance music, a DJ's play list is a
great idea no matter where your reception is going
to be located.)
Scenario 3: Some churches
want no dancing at the church at all, in which case
you may prefer an off-site venue for your
Here's the logic. Dancing
is never mentioned in the Bible as a sin. But
churches want to avoid offensive language (in
music) or embarrassing behaviors on their church
conservative churches, such as LDS churches,
encourage dancing on their church grounds
because they want single folks to mingle, have a
good time, meet each other & end up married
too. Of course they'll expect guests
& DJ's to behave with some dignity. I'm
not LDS but they nailed it correctly on this
AIR CONDITIONING or heating in the
If it's a summer wedding,
will you be able to keep the church's air
conditioning turned on at a comfortable
temperature? Important: Will
they let you keep the air conditioning turned on
until all photo portraits have been completed
after the ceremony? (If you're
dripping with perspiration because they shut off
the air conditioner while you're taking formal
pictures, it's a bad thing, even if the church
might save $10 on electricity.) Achieve an
understanding in advance.
Another gimmick is, some
churches lock their thermostat to a
money-saving worthless setting where everyone is
miserable. I've never understood the reasoning of a
church that would charge you $400 to use the
facility, then makes you & your guests
miserable to save $4 worth of electricity.
If you agree to pay the
church a fee to host your ceremony, I strongly
recommend you negotiate an additional $10 to have
the thermostat kept at a comfortable level --
during the ceremony and also during group
portrait photography after the ceremony.
If they're unwilling to
cooperate, maybe find a better church. Thousands of
fine churches exist to actually serve their
constituents and would be happy to meet
What is the
PHOTOGRAPHY POLICY inside the
Our policy is to use
flash photography ONLY during the
PROCESSIONAL and recessional parts of a
wedding. This is acceptable to 95% of churches
Why is camera flash needed
during the processional? Because when
people are walking up an aisle, their MOTION
will cause the pictures to be blurred. Electronic
flash solves the problem. Flash freezes motion.
See example below of what happens when flash
isn't used during the processional.
Caption: Photo above is
from a recent wedding in England.
Once upon a time, a photographer used lots of
flash during a ceremony and it distracated the
minister. So churches came up with
a "no flash during the
ceremony" rule. Here is what that actually means
translated into English:
really means: No flash once the
pastor starts speaking.
a bride walks up the aisle before the pastor starts
the speaking portion of the ceremony.
Many volunteer church
wedding coordinators are poorly trained and have
no idea of what their own church's
photography rule is all about. In her zeal the
coordinator physically stops the photographer from
taking pictures which the bride had expected
him to take. Like a photo of the bride walking up
the aisle. So it's a good idea to clarify that rule
before the wedding day.
A photographer really
does want to take every picture the bride
expects him to take. He doesn't want to explain
later to an angry bride why he didn't take a
picture of her walking up the church aisle!
poorly informed church wedding coordinator gives a
bad name to her church
and damages her pastor's ministry
It discourages brides & photographers from ever
wanting to attend that church later.
I'm not speaking
theoretically -- this problem has confronted me a
number of times during my photo career. And other
photographers have shared the same sad story when
they learned I'm a Christian. Church staff,
if you care anything about the testimony of your
church, take heed. A photographer who has
encountered this never forgets.
permitted if you are having a reception at the
The majority of American
churches don't want alcohol on their property.
European churches are more
relaxed about alcohol, realizing the chemical is
only a chemical. The real issue is how individual
people choose to behave.
There is an exception.
Catholic churches are generally okay with alcohol.
Large Catholic churches have reception halls on
their grounds in which members hold wedding
receptions, complete with music, dancing, and
When churches don't allow
alcohol use, it's generally because the founders
of their denomination saw families destroyed by
various addictions, and would hope to avoid it. The
Bible itself speaks against misuse of
alcohol but not against the substance.
We always cooperate 100% with your
videographer, whether amateurs or professional.
Video is a great thing to have. There are about
four specific questions I suggest discussing
with videographers before you hire one. These are
covered on my "video" page, click
We do not perform videography ourselves. Early
in his career Doug shot video, but concluded he
needed to concentrate on still photography
Does a church
require pre-marital counseling? Is
Doug's perspective: I
believe this is the best part of wedding planning.
Because if a marriage
eventually fails, all those fancy wedding details
you worked on become worthless.
helps an engaged couple to get their expectations
out on the table for their future spouse to see.
Whatever those expectations are, smart or goofy, do
the two of you actually agree on
Smart or goofy isn't the
issue. Agreement is. If you agree on things you'll
probably stay married.
marry a person so you can change them later --- it
If you don't believe me, just ask any
counselor or divorce attorney how often they've
seen that be successful !!!
Answer the following
two questions accurately before a wedding and
you'll probably stay married...
you REALLY agree on expectations, or does your
potential spouse say "sure" and then plans to
blind side you later?
you expect monogamy but are marrying into a
sub-culture that promotes affairs? -- and expects
the other spouse to just put up with
it? Even though vows include a monogamy
promise, you'll want to find out beforehand if your
potential spouse actually
statistically speaking, you're likely to end up
alone again... and with several children to
Asking the following questions
also help to assure a marriage that will
3. Does your
potential spouse plan to be married to
you or to their previous
pressure occurs, will your spouse honor YOU, or
throw you to the wolves to appease the family they
4. Does your
potential spouse have anger issues or
achieve victory over these issues, but need to be
highly motivated. Counselors say that people are on
their best behavior during dating. If anger,
violence or addictions are showing up while dating,
they could be expected to grow worse after
5. If your
potential spouse's family had a history of child
abuse, how would you handle visits of your
future children to
experts say it's common for an abusive older parent
to guilt-trip their adult children, to gain
unsupervised access to the new grandchildren.The
purpose is so they can continue abuse into the new
generation also. Suggestion: Discuss with your
fiance what level of access you'd agree to permit.
Decide whether your priority is to "forgive"
abusers or to protect the next generation.
If any doubts
why not consider a legally binding pre-nup about
how much access shall be permitted for potentially
dangerous grandparents. Clearly state those reasons
in the document. I'm not generally a fan of
pre-nup's, but protecting children is a fundamental
6. Do you agree
on religious views?
There are four
reasons for this question. First, behaviors like
monogamy and honesty tend to be associated with
religious values. Second, general agreement on
"stuff" makes for a marriage that is pleasant.
Third, religion might not seem important to you
today, but it often becomes important to a
couple once children start being born. Fourth, the
Christian Bible teaches a believer should only
marry another believer.
If your religious
background was unpleasant, there's no law
that says you have to continue attending the same
obnoxious denomination. This is America. A
different church across town could be a breath of
wedding photographer's perspective - Here's what I
learned behind the scenes about churches
I EVALUATE A CHURCH'S QUALITY I look at three
First, is the
behavior of that church's staff consistent
with what they claim to believe. Are they honest,
helpful, approachable. Or not.
Second, are their
beliefs "normal" or weird. I prefer churches
which believe the Bible (not all churches
Third, how are the
ordinary people who attend that
church --- honest, trustworthy,
helpful? Or snooty, ill
I am not overly picky
about which denomination a church is -- as long as
it succeeds on these three characteristics.
There's absolutely no need
in America to be stuck attending a creepy church.
When getting married why not pick one you're
Churches are like
photographing weddings over 25 years and I saw
churches behind the scenes, I made an
You can have two
churches of the same denomination (fill in
the blank for which denomination) where one
church is horrible and the other
"identical" church across town is very
So if a person had bad
experiences at Church XYZ, it is simply not true
that every church is just like them.
That principle is true
whether one is rating churches or restaurants.
Logically, people who have
been "turned off to church" should consider
trying a better church across town. Hey - did you
give up food because you used to eat at a bad
restaurant? No - You stop eating at that bad
restaurant and find a normal one!
Please seek out a normal
church -- even if that disappoints your dear
sainted Aunt Hilda.
will be good or bad for the same reasons as
restaurants. It is a function of the character
of their leaders and staff. The leaders and staff
determine the quality of food they will feed you.
Bad food means there are bad leaders.
Feel free to
reproduce this page, I would appreciate credit
If you would like to find a high quality church
in our area, please e-mail or call me. I'm familiar
with most of them, either by reputation or by
personal experience there. I'll tell you which
churches I know are good and which ones I'd
avoid. I'm not on anyone's payroll to push a
If you want to know what are the differences
between denominations, excellent paperback books
are available on this subject at any Christian
bookstore --- a well known paperback is titled "So
What's The Difference?" by Fritz Riedenour.
Good local bookstores include Berean Christian
Store, Family Christian Stores, or Majesty Bible
You can also look this information up for free
online at www.equip.org