Tips for Planning & Photographing a Catholic Wedding

Catholic wedding ceremonies require a few special considerations to take note of. The most important one is that if you are celebrating Mass, your ceremony will be both longer and earlier. The most commonly requested scenario is a one-hour ceremony beginning around 1:00 PM or 2:00 PM. Most parishes cannot start any later due to evening confession before Mass. Because of your ceremony start and end time, there is often a significant gap between your ceremony and reception. Lots of couples have questions and concerns about this, but we’re here to help!  Here are a few tips that will help you navigate your day and ensure your wedding is both meaningful and effortless!

catholic wedding ceremony

Talk to your officiant about photography

JWP brides choose me as their photographer because they view their wedding day photos as a top priority. While my goal is to tell the story of your day cohesively and completely, I am not obtrusive or disruptive during your ceremony. I never ever EVER go in front of pews, guests, or step on the altar area of a church.  We are a two photography team, and we are as discreet as possible and respect the fact that your wedding ceremony is also a religious ceremony.

Many parishes have rules that relegate photographers to the back pew or even outside the sanctuary, often because previous photographers have been tacky or disrespectful of the religious ceremony.  That is 100% NOT us. With rules such as these, it means we will be unable to effectively capture your ceremony as photographers.  If your parish has rules of this sort, PLEASE communicate with me in advance.  We are always respectful of  the altar area and do not step foot in that area during the ceremony.

Family Photos Before & Bridal Party After

When you are planning a timeline for a Catholic wedding, I highly recommend completing all of your family portraits BEFORE your ceremony.  Do these photos immediately after a brief first look,  if possible. It is far easier to gather family before almost any wedding ceremony for those important portraits than it is to track people down after.  People disperse quickly!  Save your bridal party portraits and the vast majority of couples portraits for the gap after your ceremony so we can go to a unique location and take advantage of that time together.  You’ll still have time on your party bus too!

Find out Tips for family photos here.

bride and groom standing at the altar for a catholic wedding ceremony

Sit Facing the Congregation

Unless you have a more modern open sanctuary, I highly encourage you to take a seat facing your guests during the homily or message during your wedding ceremony.  You’ll likely have seats just a bit off to the side.  Some churches may have you kneel the entire time, and it can be a great photo, but you’ll actually probably get tired of this position pretty quickly!  Ask if you can save that for another portion of your ceremony.  I also don’t recommend listening to the homily seated in the center aisle with your backs facing the congregation either.

catholic wedding ceremony in cascade iowa

Your First Kiss

Most Catholic ceremonies have a passing of the peace or greeting time.  If you plan to share your first kiss at this point, please tell me!  Better yet, plan ahead and talk with your officiant so we are all on the same page.  We don’t want to miss it!  It’s also just important to clarify IF your officiant will be saying the classic “You may kiss the bride” line, because many do not.  Discuss all of this ahead of time if this moment is important to you and you don’t want any awkwardness!

Sienna Caleb pella wedding

Have a Plan for the Post-Ceremony Gap

Since your ceremony is earlier in the afternoon, you’ll have what we affectionally call “the Catholic gap.”  As photographers, we love this because your day isn’t quite so compressed and you can take your time both have the photographs you want, and enjoying your bridal party and time with friends.

Just make sure you also take your guests’ needs into consideration.  Communicate the timing of your reception, including the start time of cocktail hour.  Out of town guests may head straight to your reception, while others may want to stop by and check-in to their hotel.

Want to learn more about thoughts on cocktail hour?  Check out this post.

We’ve seen some wonderful creative ideas to fill this time, including snacks, music, games, or entertainment.  We LOVED this ice cream truck as a post-ceremony treat that greeted guests as they exited the church.  In case you’re wondering, it’s not unusual for the gap between the end of the ceremony and start of the reception to be 2 full hours or more.  

When you’re planning a Catholic wedding ceremony, all of these special considerations will help ensure your day runs smoothly and is enjoyable for both you and your guests.  We also know that these tips will result in beautiful and well-timed photographs as well.  We hope you found this helpful!

For more tips and suggestions make sure you visit our series of tips for brides that we post each Wednesday.  You can find them all here: Wedding Wednesday.




Hey there, and welcome to the JWP blog!  We are a photography team based in Iowa and we’re glad you’re here!  We hope you’ll enjoy viewing our most recent weddings, tips brides, and business and educational resources for photographers.  


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