Photographing The Signing Of The Register

There are a few outdated practices where weddings are concerned that as a documentary wedding photographer I’d prefer to do away with. The setting up of the ‘fake’ signing of the register is high up on my list.

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Usually, it’s in civil ceremonies where the officiant tells me that I am not allowed to photograph the ‘actual’ signing of the register, but then they will set up a fake one where the couple is asked to pretend to sign – usually with a horrific feather pen or some such.

Erm, what the actual…? Urgh, I mean why? I actually want to know why people think this a great moment that you will want to remember for the rest of your life – the moment when you FAKED signing the register…

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Unfortunately, the majority of officiants I come across in civil ceremonies think that this is still the must have shot. No, thanks. I will tell you to put down the pen, move aside the register with the page that is so obviously blank and just be with each other. Look at each other & just take a moment to reflect what has just happened.

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I have always wondered why we can’t take photographs of the signing of the register. So I did a little research. There is actually no legal reason why we can’t photograph the signing of the register, it has zero to do with data protection (as all certificates are in the public domain) but actually comes down to the ruling of each individual officiant / area. It’s not the photographing of the register book that’s illegal but the copying of the information that is.

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Believe it or not, I’m not zooming in on the details on the registry *all of which can be obtained by anyone that pays enough money to see them by the way* but I am photographing the moment – the moment you put pen to paper, often from an angle that doesn’t even allow me to see what’s on the page. It’s the people, the emotions & the real moments that I’m looking for – not the details on the page. So it’s a real shame that some officiants still make it very clear they are not going to allow it under any circumstances.

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Surprisingly, churches tend to allow me more access & flexibility when photographing the signing of the register than officiants at civil ceremonies – you can see my church wedding policies *here*, so once you have read that you might be surprised at this statement!

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Wedding officiants tend to give me a funny look when I ask them to take away the pen & the book, but I’m never bothered by that – what matters to me as a wedding photographer is getting the most natural shots & wonderful shots out of a potentially awkward moment.

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