Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wedding Etiquette

It is interesting to ponder which bits of weddings are legal and which are cultural. Chatting to the photographer yesterday I discovered that one of my colleagues (who I like very much) is a stickler for rules about cameras and videos. He specifies when photos can be taken and where from and is generally disliked by the wedding photographers' community. They are local rules not official ones. Photographing during a service is not illegal.

I was taught weddings by a minister who had quite a lot of rules but then I worked at a church where we had weddings every hour on a Saturday and the only important rule was to be finished in time for the next one. Not much space for innovation there.

These days I ask people not to throw confetti so it will blow into the church, and to turn their mobile phones off. I don't ask for money in a collection and I say nothing about cameras. Yesterday people were snapping away throughout the service, making their own videos of the bride's arrival and it was fine. In fact it was fun. It is the way the world works these days. Whilst I don't do it personally, preferring to paint a word picture, I observe that people seem more engaged in making a recording of their experience than experiencing it.

At REM on Monday night two girls were hoisted onto boyfriend's shoulders to get a better view. Instead of photographing the band they snapped themselves.

So the bride and groom become famous by being paparazzied (another perfectly good noun press-ganged into service as a verb, as the late Brian Redhead would say) by their friends. They loved it. Why on earth should they not?

People respected the formal bits (although I heard a brief giggle when I said 'sexual union') and the contrast between vows and entrance made the vows all the more powerful.

I think, fellow clergy, that we need to allow people to have more fun at their own weddings.

Recently someone paid me the enormous compliment of telling me I was normal. I fear that those aspiring to be ministers of God need take that to heart. To stand out from the crowd as a church minister you only have to be normal. The bar's pretty low.

Comments from clergy especially welcome on these latest two posts.


Mr Gnome said...


Am not clergy (God's sense of humour only goes so far) but have to say I appreciate this sensible, common-sense approach. Hurrah!

Anecdote. Big church. baptism during Pentecost Sunday service. Locum minister (retired gent) in charge. 2007.

Big family gathered around font. Not regular attenders. Nothing has been said regarding photos. All proceeding smoothly.

Pause. Then booming voice of minister: 'No! No! No! The is dreadful. You do not take photographs of this. Stop at once.'

Woman in baptismal group creeps away to back of church. Embarrassed pause and service resumes.

I wonder if that women will ever go to a church again...

I was so mortified and upset that I could not remain in church - and slunk away duirng the next hymn.

Anonymous said...

Church not far from here.
in middle of sermon vicar shouts,"Will someone please take that child out." (Child being noisy.)
Woman and child lieft. Never to return?
Thankfully that was a long time ago.
The church needs to be welcoming not condeming.

Kathryn said...

Hospitality means making people feel at home, no? So I always start weddings and baptisms by telling the congregation that in God's house they are all at home as his beloved children...and that the one thing I don't want to hear is people saying "Shh" etc.
That said, I also try and speak to photographers before a wedding, saying that I want bride and groom to be able to concentrate on what they are saying to each other without feeling self would they mind practising discretion. That seems to work...It becomes an art form - getting the shots you want without any disruption. I have a similar line with baptisms...but the major objective is to enable people to feel comfortable in the church.
A point of info - one video photographer told me that it was against the law to video the couple signing the registers...Does this have /any/ foundation in fact?? It's the sort of thing the parish admin wonder worker dealt with in my past these decisions are up to me but if there ARE any legalities to be observed, I guess I ought to know about them!

Andy said...

Steve, I was very interested in your last point about being normal.

I am training for the priesthood and whilst on placement in my local hospital, shadowing the chaplain, this kept cropping up.

Everyone got on so well with him because he was 'normal' and not like the clergy they were used to. We had many discussions about the role which his collar and shirt colour played in this. He usually wore light blue and only worn his collar on formal visits.

This was in contrast to the RC clergy who came to the hospital wearing black shirts or even a cassock. These were seen as barriers to communication especially with the hospital staff.

St said...


I have never heard it is illegal to film a signing. I think I prefer not to know.

flying bishop said...

a bit slow off the mark with this one, but I'm with you on both points. I'm a military chaplain, and most of the youngsters I come across are uber-unchurched. A huge part of the ministry is just to be a normal guy who can have a normal conversation about things that matter to them - however "appropriate" or not that might be - and for them not to feel you're part of a different world, or that there are subjects they can't raise in your presence AND at the same time to have a living faith in Jesus (who was surprisingly normal, but with a bit of something different!) For the same reason I seldom wear a dog-collar.

Likewise with weddings, etc - let them enjoy their day. And as for collections - I attended an awful wedding where the vicar stood up before the service began and talked for 5 minutes about the financial situation of the church and could we all please be generous! We have SO many negative stereotypes to break down - from people's experience and from the media (when did you last see a positive cleric character on the TV?)

Rant over - but we do need to find that way of being normal without losing that sense of connection to a God who's alive and not domesticated.