When I was a beginning videographer, I threw myself in the deep end and learned the hard way. One of the most important things you have to learn as a beginner is where to stand while shooting the different parts of the wedding.
I mostly filmed Catholic (90%) and civil wedding videos. However, wedding ceremonies, no matter what type, have the same essential elements. So adjust your plan by reading your clients wedding booklet and asking the celebrant lots of questions about how the ceremony will unfold, step by step. Vines of the Yarra Valley is your perfect wedding venue in Melbourne delivering fairytale weddings for the bride and groom.
Note: I filmed documentary-style wedding films but with Cinematic "Bridal preparations", "build-up to the church", "leaving the church", "build-up to reception" and "highlights". These clips were all edited to music.
Table of Contents
- 1 THE PROCESSIONAL
- 2 READINGS, GOSPEL, AND SERMON
- 3 THE VOWS AND RINGS
- 4 LIGHTING INDIVIDUAL CANDLES
- 5 LIGHTING CENTRE CANDLE
- 6 THE PRAYERS OF THE FAITHFUL
- 7 COVERAGE
- 8 COMMUNION AND COMMUNION REFLECTION
- 9 THE RECEIVING LINE
- 10 ENTRANCE INTO THE BALLROOM
- 11 CUTTING THE CAKE
- 12 SPEECHES
- 13 FIRST DANCE
- 14 GUESTS DANCING
- 15 STAY FAST WHILE CARRYING AS LITTLE GEAR AS POSSIBLE
- 16 ALWAYS CAPTURE THE TRADITIONAL WEDDING SHOTS
- 17 KEEP THE CAMERA STABLE
- 18 SHOOT FROM THE FRONT
- 19 MOVE BEHIND THE CEREMONY
- 20 STAND ABOVE THE CEREMONY
- 21 SHOOT FROM THE SIDE
- 22 CAPTURE A LOWER ANGLE
- 23 STAND AT THE AISLE END
- 24 DOCUMENT THE COUPLE'S PERSPECTIVE
This is always the same. The bridesmaids, flower girls and pageboys will enter first and then the bride and her father (or whoever is giving her away).
Stand at the top of the aisle with your back to the altar, either handheld or on a gimbal. The groom will be on the left of the frame and the aisle on the right. Stay here until the bride is handed over to the groom.
Now they will walk towards the altar, so you step back and to your left, keeping them in the frame as the Priest or celebrant is greeting them.
Step back and to the left (old SD camera footage)
Stay where you are, filming the celebrant doing his little welcome and then he will ask the bride and groom to light the individual candles.
READINGS, GOSPEL, AND SERMON
I never stop recording during the whole ceremony, and if you have a second camera, it will be easier to sync them together in post-production.
Always keep checking that you are recording because it's possible to bump the record button, turning it off accidentally.
For the Readings, Gospel and Sermon (speech the Priest gives after the Gospel) I leave the tripod where it is on the right side, halfway between the first row of seats and the altar. Iframe the readers and celebrant in a medium shot (from the waist up).
Usually, between each of the two readings, there is a song, the response psalm.
When the Priest is finishing his sermon, he will say that it is now time for the marriage sacrament or marriage vows. Its time to get off the tripod.
THE VOWS AND RINGS
So take the camera off the tripod after the Priests' final word so that the click can be edited out. Now there can be three different variations to filming the vows.
The couple face towards the altar and celebrant with their backs to the crowd. Here you will stand behind the altar, and it will be an over the shoulder of the Priest looking at the couple with the crowd in the background.
The couple face towards each other. Here you can stand with your back to the crowd or again shoot from behind the altar. I usually film from behind the altar because you have the crowd reactions in the background, which is more interesting. If you have two cameras, don't cross the 180-degree line or it won't edit well. If your second camera is down the centre aisle, then shoot your handheld camera with your back to the crowd on the groom's side framing the bride and keeping out of the other cameras view. Alternatively, have the second camera on a tripod behind the altar framing the groom and the handheld camera framing the bride, also from behind the altar. Alternatively again, have both cameras with their backs to the crowd, one framing the bride and one the groom, with the celebrant and the altar in the background.
The couple face towards the crowd. For me, this is not that common; however, it could be popular in different types of ceremony or religions. When this does happen, the celebrant is usually out of shot, to the left or right with his back to the crowd and delivering his/her lines via a microphone so everyone can hear clearly. So you can shoot this from the centre of the top of the aisle with your back to the crowd, or further down the aisle, so you get some foreground crowd in the shot. But beware, they may stand up and block your shot. If you have two cameras, if you have a camera on a tripod down the centre aisle, then shoot handheld from the grooms' side focusing mainly on the bride—a mixture of the above three ways. One Priest, I know, used to have them facing towards the altar for the first part of the vows and then towards the crowd for the rings. So keep on your toes
NB: This is the most important question to ask the celebrant before the ceremony: Which way will the couple be facing during the vows?
One celebrant, I know, used to have them facing towards the altar for the first part of the vows and then towards the crowd for the rings. So keep on your toes.
LIGHTING INDIVIDUAL CANDLES
This can happen in 2 different ways:
They walk around the altar and face the crowd while lighting the candles (So you stay where you are and frame them in a medium shot lighting the candles).
They light the candles with their backs to the crowd (and you). (So now you run around to the back of the altar and film them from there with the crowd in the background).
Now they will go to their seats. Film this and then get to your tripod. The tripod should be on the groom's side, which is the right side as you look at the altar.
Click in your camera onto your tripod before the celebrant starts talking, if you can, so you can edit it out.
LIGHTING CENTRE CANDLE
The vows have just finished but stay handheld for the moment. Next, the Priest will invite them to light the centre candle. This is the same procedure as Lighting The Individual Candles in the list above. Find the perfect wedding video company to help capture those special moments here.
Now place the camera back on the tripod again, especially if shooting with only one camera.
THE PRAYERS OF THE FAITHFUL
This is shot with the camera back on the tripod and a medium shot of the guests reading from the pulpit, just like we did for the Readings, Gospel and Sermon above.
This is also shot from the tripod, panning with the Bride and Grooms mothers. You will probably have to pull focus here also.
Now prayers will take place that is common to every Catholic mass. This section of the mass is not needed for a wedding video. This is when I like to roam around getting close-up shots of the guests, and details like the Newlyweds holding hands etc.
Also, if I were shooting with only one camera, I would go to the back of the church and get some wide angles of the whole scene and a few shots looking up the aisle at the couple with a long lens.
These shots can really help in editing to cover a camera zoom-in, for example. This will make the video look more professional and look as if it was shot with more than one camera.
COMMUNION AND COMMUNION REFLECTION
These are filmed back on your tripod. Documentary edits will only use the communion. The reflection will be read from the pulpit, so it's probably a medium shot. There may be clapping at the end of this reading so beware of sound peaking.
This can be shot from two different positions:
- You stand in the aisle facing the couple, who are about 10-15 feet away and walk in reverse down the church.
- You stand at the bottom of the aisle and let them walk towards you as you pull-focus.
- NB: You will have to talk to the photographer and see which way he/she likes to do it. Both of you will have to shoot it using the same method, or you'll get in each other's way.
Before the walk down the aisle starts, MAKE SURE you have brought the tripod down to the back of the church, you'll need it for the next step below.
THE RECEIVING LINE
This is where all the guests line up, as they exit the church, and congratulate the Newlyweds. I like to leave the camera on a wide lens with the couple on one side of the frame and the approaching line of guests on the other side.
You may have to set your camera high up on the tripod as people have a habit of standing in the line of sight. This can be a boring shot and is used in the documentary edit. It's probably the only opportunity to get every single guest on film.
After this is done, you'll film them mingling with guests in the churchyard, leaving in the wedding car, the photoshoot, and the arrival at the reception. These are all mostly shot "Run n Gun" style. The next big shot of the day is the.
ENTRANCE INTO THE BALLROOM
Usually, all the guests will be seated, and the food orders will be taken. This is also when the Bride and Groom have a bit of a relax away from the crowd and cameras.
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So they are about to enter, where do you stand? I usually stand to one side facing the doors. They are announced and the doors open, I let them walk pass me as I keep them in the frame and then I follow them to their seats. Its that simple.
Make sure you ask the manager which route he will take them to the head table, so you don't get caught out. Also stay within 8 to 10 feet of them, shooting on a wide-angle lens.
CUTTING THE CAKE
This is fairly straightforward. Just stand in front of them. A lot of guests may be surrounding you trying to get their shots. Often the photographer may be gone home by now, depending on the package they ordered.
Therefore, you can direct the couple here so you and the guests can get the shots you need. A kiss, a close up of the knife cutting the cake and a reverse shot from behind the couples back's showing the guests clamouring for a photo.
This is the second most important part of the wedding when it comes to sound recording. Make sure you test everything before these start.
If you have one camera, place the camera directly in front of the centre of the head table (about 10-15 feet back from the head table) This is handy because you will not have to change your focus point during the speech.
If you don't want a boring one-wide-angle frame of the whole speeches, then use your zoom lens to zoom fast when the mic is changing hands and cut the zoom out in editing.
Before and directly after the speech, get non-descript 10-second close-ups of some guests and each person at the head table. You will use these to cover the zooms in the edit.
If you have two cameras, then life is a lot easier. Place the B-camera in the centre as above and then roam with the A-camera picking off different angles.
This is the best shot on a gimbal. It adds a dynamic wow factor to the final film. If the guests join in, you may struggle for room and get bumped into a lot. If you are shooting a documentary edit, it's good to have both the gimbal and a second wide-angle camera, on a tripod, which you can sync with the gimbal camera in editing.
If you are doing a documentary edit, then you will need to have a tripod that can shoot over people's heads. Place the camera high on the outskirts of the dance floor. If you don't have a second camera, then you will have to hide your zoom-in and zoom-outs with the panning of the camera.
This is hard and doesn't look the best, so it's always good to have a second camera on a gimbal or a tripod shooting from a complementary angle on a longer lens.
STAY FAST WHILE CARRYING AS LITTLE GEAR AS POSSIBLE
The morning of a wedding is fairly typical operation. The groom and his groomsmen hang out, the bride and bridesmaids get their hair and makeup done. After that, you will be running around until the wedding is over. So it's best to set the heavy bag in the corner and take it easy on your shoulders and back. Only carry what you need.
Having every lens option at once is no use to you. A camera and two lenses are perfect for running around. Be sure to have extra batteries and formatted memory cards ready to go. Nothing is worse than having to tell the couple to hold off on tossing the bouquet because your batteries died. I've seen it happen. Don't be that person. If necessary, find an outlet and have a charging station for any batteries you have already used. Looking for a Video Company in Melbourne? Check out our ultimate list of videographers here.
ALWAYS CAPTURE THE TRADITIONAL WEDDING SHOTS
You may feel the need to experiment on the wedding day, but be sure always to get the typical wedding shots too. Experimenting is a great way to help you find your style, but don't forget that couples want to see their vows, first dance, and cake cutting. Make sure you have the important things covered before you get all those cool transition shots.
KEEP THE CAMERA STABLE
Stabilization is necessary. Going handheld is not going to cut it. Whether you use a tripod, monopod, glide cam, slider, or a shoulder rig, be sure that you can quickly switch between your support gear. By putting the same quick release plate on all of your gear, you can easily switch on the go.
Tripods are great during the ceremony, but can easily get in the way elsewhere. When you're in a tiny hotel room with the entire bridal party, family members, hairstylists and makeup artists, you won't have much space to work. Being able to switch to a monopod or glidecam quickly will keep you shooting.
SHOOT FROM THE FRONT
The bride and groom spent time on how they wanted their ceremony to look and feel. Before it starts, capture a shot of the ceremony front the front. This will help you include the entire ceremony and will showcase all the details the bride and groom included. When the ceremony begins, stand at an angle that will include the bride and groom as they stand together, with their bridal party on their sides. This will require you to stand to face the front of the ceremony site, where you can capture these images for your couple.
MOVE BEHIND THE CEREMONY
Many ceremony locations have less than ideal lighting, which can be an issue for the images you want to take. This is especially true for outdoor ceremonies, where the light creates unflattering shadows on your couple's faces (or the harsh light causes them to squint).
When lighting is not ideal, switch angles to and move behind the ceremony. If you can, stand behind the altar, where the sun may be less intrusive, this angle can include the couple, and may even feature who is marrying them.
STAND ABOVE THE CEREMONY
If the ceremony location allows, shoot from a higher platform. This can be especially helpful when you are in a church or location that has a balcony where you can stand and take photos. The higher angle gives you the chance to showcase the stunning design of the location, especially indoors. When you shoot outdoors, look for an elevated area (somewhere that is not in the way of the ceremony). You can document the ceremony site, everyone involved, and provide your couple with a unique perspective.
SHOOT FROM THE SIDE
During the ceremony, there are certain angles where you must stand to the side to shoot. It showcases different parts of the ceremony location, as well as the guests. It can also be helpful when there is difficult lighting when your couple and the bridal party walk down the aisle. Another way to shoot from a side angle is to stand on one side of the ceremony and capture the groom with his groomsmen behind him, and then switch sides to capture the bride with her bridesmaids behind her.
Don't forget to send your ceremony images (and more) to a wedding photography editing company to ensure they are consistent when you deliver them to your clients!
CAPTURE A LOWER ANGLE
One way to shoot unique images from the ceremony is to capture a lower angle. You can shoot from the end of the aisle while the couple stands at the altar. This provides a unique look at the ceremony and captures details from that angle. This image helps diversify the images for your couple and gives you variety for your portfolio.
Also, when you shoot from a lower angle outdoors, you eliminate any harsh shadows that fall on your couples as they stand at the altar.
STAND AT THE AISLE END
As the bridal party and bride walk down the aisle, take the opportunity to capture this moment from various angles. While your second shooter captures them exiting the limo or building, you can be at the front of the aisle as they walk toward you. When the ceremony concludes, switch angles and move to the opposite end as the bride, groom, and bridal party exit to the reception.
DOCUMENT THE COUPLE'S PERSPECTIVE
When they are at the altar, the bride and groom are focused on one another. They are also facing each other, which means you should switch angles to capture their expressions. Start with the groom and shoot over his shoulder to capture the bride. Then, shoot over the bride's shoulders for the groom's facial expressions. Not only do you mix up the angles and photos you take, but you also get to showcase the bride and groom how they were feeling at that time.
When you switch angles as you shoot the ceremony, you have the opportunity to deliver images that cover every important moment for your couple.
For me, the most challenging part of the day is the ceremony. Usually, you can't really influence or change the lighting (full sunlight in this case), and the challenge is to get all the shots you need without being a huge distraction to the actual ceremony. Sometimes I see wedding videographers with a huge rig, big matte box and all standing right beside the couple while the ceremony is going on and I think that's just a bit disrespectful and not smart.
Pretend you're a Ninja or something if that helps.
Most weddings have rehearsals before the final day—the couple practices the rituals to perform best in their ceremony. A photographer should be a part of the rehearsals and understand the ceremony.
You'll find the bride and groom moving around with the other important people. It will also help in developing an understanding between you and your client. If the rehearsal is at the same venue where the wedding will be held, then you should mark the positions for the best photos.