What it’s like for a wedding photographer waiting for the bride to arrive at church

Vicar, groomsmen and bridesmaids waiting outside the church for the bride

Camera countdown

“The car’s coming!” I shout to myself in my head as I see something white on the horizon.

“Nope, false alarm.” I realise it’s a white van and my shoulders relax again. A temporary reprieve but I’m on tenterhooks.

It’s just me, the Vicar and the bridesmaids, standing at the roadside. We’re all feeling anxious for different reasons, making small talk about the weather and traffic, and playing a silent game of ‘who’s going to spot the wedding car first?’ Or maybe it’s just me playing that.

I squint my eyes. “Is this it?” I ask quietly but out loud this time. My eyes are firmly fixed on a white blur that’s obscured by a delivery lorry in front.

“She’s here!” I excitedly advise.

Cue my camera and my heart beating faster …

“Pleeeease, don’t stop and make a delivery along here” I will the lorry. “That wouldn’t make a pretty shot!” The photography Gods leap into action! And the driver of the wedding car knowingly slows down, letting the lorry get ahead, leaving me a big enough gap to get a nice clean shot of the car arriving. Pweh! Thanks, Universe.

A wedding car arriving at church

Waiting outside the church ready to capture the bride arriving is truly humbling.

It’s a moment that very few others see. So it’s an honour to witness it let alone photograph it. All the guests are seated inside (except one, there’s always one!) waiting for their first glimpse of the bride. And there’s me with the huge privilege of being one of the first to see her. I feel all the feelings for that. Excited for my bride who’s about to walk down the aisle. And so so proud to be trusted with capturing such an important, and rarely seen, moment.

Two late wedding guests running past the bride as she arrives at church

But it fills me with nerves too!

I can never be sure exactly what time the bride will arrive. It’s usually late but I can’t rely on that because I’ve known some brides to be early! So I’m generally ready for it around 10 minutes before the ceremony is due to start.

Bridesmaids and bride's mum waiting for the bride to arrive

If there are bridesmaids and/or little ones I’ll take some discreet shots of them. But apart from that, there’s nothing to do except watch and wait for the wedding car to appear in the distance. I can’t wander off for fear of missing the moment. I find it hard to think of all the photos I could be taking while I’m waiting. But FOMO is definitely acceptable in this situation! The bride arriving is a big moment and not to be missed!

The bride and her dad in the wedding car as they arrive at church

It’s the most fleeting part of the day.

There’s often less than a minute from the car pulling up to the bride walking into the church. Which means there’s no time to think anything through once it’s happening.

So I rely on my experience and intuition to visualise the shots I’m going to take. While taking pictures of the guests arriving, I work out what I’ll do as the bride arrives. So by the time she makes that journey, I’ve already taken photos of it in my head. It’s a flowing plan though, anything could happen! Especially if there are multiple paths and doors!

A bride getting out of the wedding car

As the bride gets out of the car, adjusts her outfit and walks up the church path, all I have to do (she says as if it’s not much at all) is keep up with the action and get inside the church before the bridal party. Without missing a shot. Without getting in anyone’s way. Without letting anyone see the bride as I squeeze through the door. And, bearing in mind all eyes are on that door, without tripping on the hidden step into the church … darn that step!

A bride walking down the church path with a bagpiper

It’s a huge adrenaline rush! By the time the bride reaches the altar I’ve got the shakes! So I’m incredibly glad there’s always a hymn at the start of the ceremony and feel especially grateful when it’s a long one*. That’s my chance to take a deep breath, straighten my now dishevelled dress and calm the heck back down!

*The full version of All Things Bright and Beautiful would make a great choice, BTW.

A bride and her dad arriving at church in the rain