I shot a wedding in a Catholic church yesterday.
It was at a church in the middle of Delano, California and that church was surrounded by churches of all sorts of denominations. In this town, every street has a church and I can understand why - if you lived in Delano, you'd need religion too.
The lead photographer, our assistant and I arrive at the church and we begin to set up our cameras, getting test shots and figuring out where we can be to get the best shots. In order for us to get the best shots, we have to get right up at the front of the church. Getting the best possible shot of the exchange of rings or the kiss isn't done with a long lens from the back of the church. This is one of the first things we ask the bride and groom about, we want to make sure they're comfortable with us being right next to them during the ceremony because it's their wedding and we want them to be happy with the pictures they get. If they're not keen on us being up there with them, we explain that we can still photograph their wedding but, it will just be a bunch of wide shots with a couple of close-up shots.
This couple wanted us right up there with them, so we went to the front of the church to speak to the priest.
'Hello Father, I'm the photographer and I just wanted to check if there was anywhere you didn't want us to go.'
'Take off your hat.'
'Right, okay - is there anywhere you don't want us to go during the ceremony?'
'You're in a Catholic church, take off your hat.'
The lead photographer wears a hat. He doesn't wear it all the time but, he does wear it when he's working. The hat serves a vital purpose, it keeps him from looking like a big sweaty mess while he's working. It keeps him looking presentable in case he's photographed by a guest, which is a very likely possibility.
The priest wouldn't speak to us until the lead photographer took off his hat and the only reason the priest had for this was that it was a Catholic church. So, by his logic, he would ask that a fire fighter remove their helmet before fighting a fire in the church, or that a construction worker remove their hard hat before carrying out building work in the church.
Removing one's hat does not equate to having respect for something. A person may remove their hat because they have respect for something but, the requirement of removing a hat does not engender respect. Out of all of the weddings we've shot, many of them in churches, only two have had a problem with his hat and only this last one acted like a dick about it.
So, from Hat Gate 2008 comes 'The Hat Clause' - it will now be built in to our contract that the hat stays. It's up to the bride and groom to convey this to their officiant and if the officiant doesn't like it, tough. The bride and groom will already have signed the contract and paid a deposit.