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A wedding officiant made a couple visibly stunned when he scolded their photographer, saying ”This is not about the photography, this is about God.”

Categories: Beliefs

Sarah Pulliam Bailey

Sarah Pulliam Bailey

Sarah Pulliam Bailey is a national correspondent for RNS, covering how faith intersects with politics, culture and other news. She previously served as online editor for Christianity Today where she remains an editor-at-large.

37 Comments

  1. I’ve done this myself. In my case, a family member got up in the middle of the wedding, crept down the side aisle, went across the chancel and stood right at my shoulder, snapping pictures. I told him the wedding would resume when he left – it took him about 30 seconds to realize I meant it – and the family thanked me afterwards. I’d just about guarantee the officiant had already spoken to the photographers to tell them where they could (and could not) be…. and taking photos over my shoulder is one of the “don’t go there” rules. Photographers act as if the wedding is theirs to manipulate and sometimes you have to be pretty forceful to get them to back down. I give the photog talk in front of the bride and groom at the rehearsal, so they’ll know the ceremony is about them and God, not the photographer’s photos.

    • I wouldn’t make the assumption he warned them prior, much less a guarantee based on 41 seconds of video and no context. That’s simply an odd conclusion to jump to.

      That being said, both the pastor and the photographer are in the wrong.

      • Actually, one of the people who were in the ceremony posted the following as a comment on the YouTube piece:
        “Kathy Hannon
        The minister [...] told the photographers he didn’t want them in the aisle or anywhere up front. Setting up all the way in the back or off to the sides was OK.”

        • Don’t hold your breath for Patrick to get it, but he is wrong. I have been a minister for 29 years and I been bullied by photographers at weddings. I always tell the photographers in the presence of the bridge and groom exactly where they can and can not be, and what will happen if they end up where they should not be. I don’t see anything that this minister did that was wrong.

          • Well that’s another oddly condescending remark to come from a minister of 29 years then, to assume I won’t “get it.” No I understand why he did as he did, especially considering Silke’s post. As evident by the facial expressions of the bride and groom, however, it was obviously a very awkward and uncomfortable moment for them, their day, and for him to basically hold the ceremony hostage seems disrespectful to them.

            Of course, it was only brought on by a disrespectful photographer in the first place, so yes, in my mind, both are in the wrong.

      • Patrick.
        The Pastor is in the right- it is a service about what God is doing in the life of the couple- photos can always be staged after the ceremony and worship have concluded. I would not stand for photos being taken anywhere near the front. Think people have forgotten what a wedding service is- if they want photos and not God in their life- go elsewhere.

        • It’s not an either/or situation. You’re being far too dramatic, I don’t think God cares about something so trivial. If anything I would think He would be just dandy with them capturing the moment, but far be it from me to make an assumption on God’s policies on wedding ceremonies.

          • “I don’t think God cares about something so trivial.” I agree, but no one here has suggested otherwise. When the minister said “It’s about God,” he presumably was saying that our actions reflect what *we* think about *God*. What *God* thinks about *us* never entered into the discussion.

      • Patrick, unless you have been in the position of the pastor you do not have a clue. Pastors deal with this issue regularly and most have very clear policies and plans created through training and experience. I always speak with the photographers before the rehearsal if possible and if not certainly before the service. Most often it has been covered with the bride and groom months earlier. Most photographers are professionals and expect those standards and policies. The problems, generally, occur with amateur friends or those new to the business who have not apprenticed with someone. In the video it is clear the video had already distracted the couple from what they were to be about in the moment. That is why one doesn’t allow what was happening to even have the possibility of happening.

    • Perhaps what they’ll remember is someone who took their marriage vows seriously. Something, especially the groom, should have been considering, as he began to ham it up for the photographer. Why else do you think the minister even clued in that a photographer had moved in behind him?

  2. I am in training for church ministry but I am also a photographer.
    I have yet to see a photo training manual that says it’s okay to shoot from anywhere you like. Photographers and videographers like the one here give the industry a bad name

    • Actually, Peter, I always make it clear to the couple when they ask me to do their wedding that it IS MY WEDDING. I design it with them, I plan it with them, I help them to make sure that EVERYTHING in it is reflective of their values and priorities…but I’m in charge. I have never had had a couple argue with me.

      • The problem is that it’s not YOUR wedding or THEIR wedding at all Dave. I 100% respect you as a Pastor but again I think the point is being missed, it’s about GOD! Marriage is meant to reflect Christ’s love for the church! His UNCONDITIONAL love. It has nothing to do with our own values and priorities … it’s all about what God wants. This pastor’s behavior baffles me, there is nothing loving in his tone or demeanor. He was downright rude. I understand that it’s God’s house and his temple but it wasn’t as though the photographer/videographer was using God’s house to turn a profit. YES, they happened to be filming/capturing a moment IN God’s house but they in now way used it for profit. It’s not as though they were handing out business cards in the middle of the ceremony! In fact, I would say they were serving God by using their talents! Again, marriage is meant to reflect Christ’s love for the church! Aren’t photos and videos a beautiful way to capture and witness to that love?

        Additionally, that pastor really should have taken that moment to think about how his actions would seem to someone who is a non-believer. I’m simply saying that Christ has a way of dealing with things in love. Nothing about his interaction seemed loving. I’d say that it’s likely he made a whole lot of people feel uncomfortable, and not because they were hearing the truth but because of the manner in which the message was delivered.

    • The pastor sounded like an arrogant jerk by interrupting the service and making threats to stop the ceremony….the couple looked shocked! If he officiated my wedding, I would escort him to the door after a tongue lashing!

    • In many cultures and countries, photography IS an activity that requires permission in public and in private.

      The art of photography is not just the shot, or print. Professional photographers know that.

  3. In my thirty years of ministry I have always given clear instructions to the photographer in the presence of the couple and have never had to interrupt a service. The photographers I have worked with over the years have been very cooperative and professional. However, if one ever came up behind me and started snapping… I would stop, and read him/her the riot act on the spot. I am no more qualified than anyone else to say what God thinks about the issue, but my job is to lead God’s people in worship. If someone tries to turn that into a circus I will stop them in their track

  4. Bravo! Absolutely right thing to do when something sacred is about to be commodified by the photographer. Don’t care if it is a wedding of Atheists, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, or anyone else. Some acts are sacred and we need to be in the moment experiencing it, not trying to freeze the moment for future consumption.

      • I won’t tell his name, but I know him well. He is a wonderful man, a great priest, loving father and husband and an incredible organist. He is very popular in our diocese and in his parish. I don’t know what brought this out of him and (as a priest) I wouldn’t have done it. I note above that he had told the photographer in advance what the rules are, as I always do. I’ve never had this happen. For us clergy, this is a deeply solemn moment of commitment before God and the congregation. If everyone is looking at the photographer, it is spoiled. I am saddened that this good priest is being made to look like a buffoon, for he is not.

  5. Well done Pastor in reminding everyone the purpose of a wedding/marriage. Its about God that’s what makes it special not the dress, the food, the cake, the video or the photos.

    • Palleze, if it really were about God we would not have a 50% divorce rate…God is always welcome at the wedding, but we certainly and conveneiently leave him at the church and never invite him to show up at the marriage!

      • Because people abandon their commitment before God does not change the fact that they made the commitment before God. The divorce rate just shows how little people hold to their integrity and commitments.

    • I agree that marriage is 100% about God. However, I believe the issue at hand for me is the delivery of the message. I think the pastor did more harm than good. I have a hard time believing that the Holy Spirit would work in such a way. I’d say, undoubtedly, that the pastor probably turned quite a few people away.

      • Well God has sues people in many different ways, even rude and offensive people. I would not have chosen to make the point in this way but the point made is valid, is a wake up call and has got us discussing the issue.

        If people were turned away by this they have bigger heart issues and do not understand that faith is not about faith in people or institutions but Jesus.

  6. I’m a photographer and have done a number of weddings in the last few years, and without trying to sound like a smarty-pants or be funny, I blame Pinterest for some of the conflicts that occur between clergy and photographers and those planning the event. The modern bride amasses a huge collection of “pins” – ideas for decorations and flowers and signage AND wedding photos. For example, I recently sat down with a woman to discuss her wedding next April, and within five minutes of meeting her, she whipped out an iPad, pulled up her Pinterest account, and began showing me her “Wedding Photos I LOVE” board. I got her “slowed down” and brought the focus back to how her wedding might intersect with my work, but as I showed her my wedding portfolio, she kept going back to her Pinterest page to compare my work to different photos she’d pinned.

    At one point she showed me a photo of the ceremony in progress, taken from behind and a number of feet above the minister. It was stunning – the wedding party, the guests, the flowers, the massiveness of the cathedral… Being familiar with the church where her wedding is to take place and the minister doing the service, I had to suppress laughter.

    I explained that the photo had been taken in an huge cathedral, which likely had a balcony or loft with stairway access outside the sanctuary and that there was absolutely no way to get a photo like that.

    Her response? “Well, we could bring in a ladder…”

    I still have that date open in April.

  7. The way I look at it, is that this is the couples wedding. They pay a large amount of money for photography and video to be done at their wedding. And if they are cool with the photographers roaming around capturing their special moment, I don’t see why anyone should have a problem with that. The minister does absolutely have a right to be irked by the photographers behind him, but does he have a right to interrupt the wedding? Creating discomfort for the couple?
    Now instead of some great photo’s that the couple could look back on for years, they will be watching this video. If the photographers walking around was a “circus”, this this little halt the clergy orchestrated is complete chaos. If God is the most important, then maybe these photographers shouldn’t even matter. Should they have been so invasive? of course not, but should this have turned into a circus? no, and the minister is to blame I say. A real man of God can show restraint and a humble attitude towards things that may not be 100% right or fair. Maybe this was the minister flexing his muscles and flashing his authority, in the name of God. God cares about hearts and souls, not rituals and cameras.

  8. Capturing that “special moment” has little to do with marriage that should last a lifetime together.

    Too much focus on the wedding (pun intended) says a lot about what a couple believe a marriage is, will be, or can be.

    Zoom and telephoto were invented for a purpose and most photographers, professional or amateur, know why.

  9. And the couple lived happily ever after…without ever going to church again.

    Maybe, and I think that’s a big maybe, the minister was right about the photographer(s), but the way that he went about disrupting the service was not right. And if he did end the ceremony, where would that leave the couple on what was supposed to be their happy day? Would he really punish them for the actions of the photographer? We have to pick our battles in life. As a minister myself, I realize that their are many much BIGGER things that we need to take a stand for in life such as truth and righteousness…not pesky photographers. Stop majoring in the minor or we will lose souls in the process. Personally, I’m willing to put up with a thousand cameras if it means that one soul is saved.

  10. Before you completely crucify the photographer and videographer, look where the wedding is being held. We have no idea what is behind the minister (other than the camera personnel). This could be a golf course, and they were standing beside the cart path.
    When the wedding is in a church, it is more evident where the “no go” areas are.
    A marriage is a sacrament, God joins the two together. The minister is only an official witness to their vows. This is a joyous occasion for both the church and the couple, and especially God. Most wedding photographers know this, and try their utmost to respect the sacredness of the ceremony. They also have an obligation to document the ceremony their best ability.
    To all you ministers, please remember the photographer is hired by the couple. Most are professionals just trying provide the best images possible so they can continue to feed their families. Work with them, don’t just tell them to “go stand in the back corner, and if you move from there I will stop the ceremony and kick you out” Knowing what type of shots they are needing will help. Please keep in mind the photographer that ticked you off at the previous wedding was probably uncle Joe, or aunt Susie with their just purchased kit camera, and not the hired professional.

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