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Working with the Church Coordinator | Business

Hi there!  This is a post specifically for vendors… and kind of geared towards photographers and videographers.  We’ve all encountered the ‘church lady.’  The one who tells us where we can or can’t go during the ceremony.  The one everyone loves to hate.

We’ll call her the church coordinator from here on out.  And I’m going to say her because 99.9% of the time it’s a woman.  Typically, a sweet older lady who is just trying to do her job.

But let’s take a step back today and really explore that.  Why is there a church coordinator to begin with?  Because someone has to keep the rules and let everyone else know what those rules are.  That person typically doesn’t make the rules, they just carry them out.  And her goal?  To make sure the wedding runs smoothly and the focus is on the ceremony.  She likes to keep distractions at a minimum.

She has no idea whether I’m the kind of photographer who hangs back and uses a long lens, or if I’m the kind that stands on the altar snapping 3,000 ceremony photos like a mad man.  So being a good church coordinator, she usually tends to err on the side of being more strict.  I mean, hey, it’s her job!  If there’s a rogue photographer on the altar, everyone’s going to look at her like, “Control your people!”

Now, I love to take amazing breathtaking photos like anyone else, but the truth is, it’s my job to find a way to take those no matter what.  Most of that is preparation and the other part is creativity.  Going into last weekends wedding, I knew I was only allowed in the balcony during the ceremony.

Let’s stop for a minute and think about that.  The bride chose a church where the rule was the photographer stays in the balcony.  That lets me know a few things:

1) The church is VERY important to the bride.  More important than close up photos of her face during the ceremony.

2) I’m going to need to be a little extra creative on other things.

3) I have a very easy job during the ceremony.  There are only so many pictures and angles that can be taken from the balcony, so there is a lot less pressure!

So instead of fighting the church coordinator and trying to convince her to let me sit in a pew or be off to the side or something, I looked around.  Where else could I get the key photos I wanted?  There wasn’t much I could do about the actual ceremony, but there was an epic hallway that the bride would be walking down on her way to the sanctuary.  So that hallway is where I camped out for the processional.  It was dark, but there was a large door that opened to the outside that I asked them to keep open until she walked down the aisle.

And you know what?  The photos were way better than if I had taken them of her walking down the main aisle.  If I had pushed and pushed to be in the sanctuary, I would have missed this awesome one of the bride and her dad.

After the processional I went up to the balcony, got all the necessary shots from there, then went back downstairs for the first kiss.  I wasn’t sure if the church coordinator would open the door for me to get the first kiss, so I asked my second shooter (who was still in the balcony) to make sure she got it.  At first the church coordinator said the doors wouldn’t be open by that point, so I went to find a solution.  The only way to see in the church was through these old, muddled windows where everything looked distorted.  Beautiful, but fuzzy.  I went for it, and ended up with this.

Now, it’s not the image they’ll hang above their mantle, but it’s a neat, creative aspect of their ceremony that I wouldn’t have gotten if I had been able to be up closer for every photo.  I was all prepared for this to be my first kiss picture, but then seconds before the first kiss they opened up a side door and I sprinted over to catch a better view!

The thing about the church coordinator is she has a job to do, too.  And she has learned through the years that not every photographer is alike.  Some will try to buck her system, and it makes her very guarded.  But if you just stop and listen, figure out what the root of the concerns are, and follow the rules, you’d be surprised at what you come up with!  Seriously… just listen and hear her out.  Let her tell you every rule she has on her mind, and every request she has.  You can’t accommodate or beg for changes unless you know what the actual rules are and why they exist.  And… the more we respect the church coordinator, the more she respects (and trusts) us!

I know it’s hard.  Sometimes the church coordinator is the sweetest person in the world and sometimes she’s super bossy and downright mean.  But I promise the nicer and more accommodating you are, the nicer and more relaxed she’ll be for you.

Smile.  Breathe.  Listen.  It’ll brighten the whole wedding day!

  1. Maria says:

    I love this perspective! Trying to get along with those who we’re with – rather than be combative – will make the wedding smoother and more memorable for everyone.

    • scusan13 says:

      Yes! Maria I know you’re always awesome to work with and put a smile on everyone’s face!

  2. Katie says:

    As someone who has served as both a church coordinator and a private one, I confess that my hackles were immediately raised when I saw the title of this post.

    Normally, I AM the bad guy because I have to tell the photographer that they can’t (I’m dead serious) hang off the staircase to get the perfect shot. I know it would be cool! It would also be cool if they didn’t accidentally slip and fall into the crowd. And I have to be the bad guy because the church spent a lot of money buying new furniture and for the photographer to climb up on an upholstered arm chair is beyond my reasoning.

    Thank you for being one of the good guys! Not only are your shots fabulous, you’re willing to work as a team within the constraints of the venue to get the best result for the bride. I’d love to be able to work with you in the future!

    • scusan13 says:

      Katie you’re so right! Everyone has to work together to make the wedding day amazing for the bride and family. When vendors get along well, the family sees it, appreciates it, and loves us all even more for it!