Nadine & Kevin ceremony at Basilica Of St Mary Minneapolis Wedding

When you mention a famous architecture to gather families in the Twin Cities and Minnesota, your first idea is probably a Richardson Romanesque style building (such as Nina’s cafe in St Paul building). Your imagination brings you into the F. Scott Fitzgerald story, such as Gatsby the magnificent. Well, despite the fact that it has been built during the prohibition period; today that’s a diametrically opposite style (and the other side of the coin) that have chosen Nadine and Kevin for their religious union, by deciding on the Basilica of St Mary in Minneapolis.

So if you are wondering if you want to celebrate your ceremony in this church, and wonder why you can find only a few good image of wedding celebration in the basilica of saint Mary available on the internet, this article should give you a clue.

Basilica of Saint Mary

A sumptuous architecture to officialize a couple’s relationship

Built between 1908 and 1927, the Basilica of St Mary features a Beaux-Art Architecture. In other words, it’s a mix of Baroque and classical influence, designed by the Franco-American architect Emmanuel Louis Masqueray (who also designed the St Paul Cathedral). All made of granite and marble, this over-dimensioned monument is the first basilica built in the USA.

Humbleness, discretion and modesty are two adjectives that can definitely not apply to such construction, whom the goal is clearly to make you (simple human) feel small and intimidate in front of something huge and superior.

Interior of basilica of St Mary, MN
Interior of the basilica MN

Experience Transcendence through the architecture, the light and the sounds

With its oversize dimension, this basilica’s feature a special sound cherished by musicians, which make any speech sounds like historic.
You might also notice an ingenious use of lightening. Most of the church is kept in a very low light atmosphere (too low to allow catching good images without flashes), which enhance the reflection of gold leaf sculpture, cooper, and contrast with the lightened sanctuary. That’s also a subtile way to control and direct the viewer attention undo luxurious artistic and religious representations, icons and other objects.

As you can easily guess, such as construction, involving synesthetic is the guarantee of marriage that sounds nothing like special. Indeed, during several centuries (in our western civilization), art was allowed only for religious purpose. Also, all the smarter artists develop sophisticated technic to generate transcendence, to enhance people faith. All those technic gather in a basilica.

Furthermore, such basilica is pretty photogenic and could play a good background for photographs. Nevertheless, as you will see, having a beautiful backdrop is not the only condition required to take a good picture; photographers also need the authorization to do so.

Another Catholic church that love photographer vendors (when they stay far away)

After praising the beauty of this monument, I want to share the limit of taking good pictures in it.
As a French wedding photographer, I have passed almost one third of my last Saturdays (for 14 years), covering wedding in Catholic church where priest is usually pretty relaxed. They are happy that the bride and the groom cherish this moment, and that they want to keep a memory of it through photographs. They consider that wedding photographers help to keep people faith alive capturing valuable and intense moments forever.

Good Photographers Work With Discretion, and Obey Photography Restriction

Of course, overseas also, we are also asked by priest to work with discretion in order to respect people’s faith. As they say, a wedding is not a Hollywood show, nor a circus. People must focus on the ceremony and not on the photographer.
That’s why we remain quiet and we avoid using flash when it’s not needed (and especially during prayer).

Before the ritual, we always share a few words with the priest to know his limits and requirements. Even the more conservative one is welcoming.

Bride Frustration and Deception

Most people are not used to church rules. Especially the ones regarding the marriage celebration!
Also my client (the bride), was very frustrated when she discovers the photographer restriction. She told me she hired me precisely because she wanted a good picture of this ritual.

Now, let’s say that I have also been surprised (and frustrated) to witnesses in MN, a large diversity of attitude from a Catholic officiant, whereas it is a priest or ,  in a church, or in a basilica.

When Restriction is used as a polite way to say NO

If you grew up in the State of the North, you have heard about Minnesota Nice. A polite and hypocrite behavior, to say no, without going into conflict.
As you will see, some church apply some photo restriction that could be qualified nothing but absurd.
There is a big difference between asking professional to do everything then can to respect the prayer and the religious time, and not allowing professional photographer taking good photos.
Let’s remind those catholics and religious people that couples want pictures precisely because they value their religion and that this moment is important for them! They want to remind it forever!

Group pictures in front of the Basilica of saint Mary

Despite the beauty of the historic building would probably have been a great background for group pictures, we were not allowed to take advantage of it. Also we used the exterior of the basilica (which was anyway probably the best option in terms of lightning).

Another option for people getting married in the Twin Cities at the basilica of saint mary could be to use the adjacent Loring Park. Indeed, the Loring park spread on 33 acres and offers multiple photography spots that guarantee beautiful backgrounds for clients photos.
Keep in mind that this place works great for engagement sessions and family sessions.

Bridal Suite or Meeting Room?

Then the bridal party went to the bridal suite, to eat a sandwich to retouch the makeup. Despite there were no windows and thus natural light (which is needed to do good makeup), the Bridal Suite looked like a meeting room, with a big table in the middle, some chairs, some trash and a white board.

A Priest That Doesn’t Salute Photographers

The officiant (whom I was the award was not photographer friendly), came to have the witnesses signing the marriage certificate before the ritual. He politely salute each member of the bridal party, but I keep a sour memory of the moment I tried to salute him and he just ignored me. One of the best men looked at me and laughed, expressing a sign of emotional support regarding the situation.
Can you believe that in the”house of God,” who allegedly welcome everyone, who is supposed to be only love for each other, the priest snob photographers and don’t answer direct salutations?

Pictures on the allowed only at the very back of the church

I was allowed to take pictures (using flash) of people entering the church and walking down the aisle, but only if I stayed on the very back of the church. Unfortunately, I missed all the best part. When the groom look at his wife to be walking down to him escorted by her father. Whereas, she laughs or cry, this is usually a real emotional situation to capture, which means powerful and beautiful portraits.

I have to admit that this was unfortunately not the first time I was facing such situation with Catholics.

Very low light environment

I was also glad to have an extremely great camera sensor that allows me to catch a picture of a very low light environment (while other professional camera would have produced disgusting images with a lot of noise).

The photographer’s spot

I had to stay on the side, on the side of the congregation and was not allowed to come closer than 100 feet from the bride and the groom. Luckily, I had some big zoom lens and converter (that multiply the zoom by two).

I was not allowed to move around the altar (which is pretty high above the floor level, so people would have not even noticed me).

Next Part: Cocktail and Party at Nicollet Pavilion!

After walking down the aisle for their religious ceremony, they gathered their families another sumptuous venue (not the Villa Bellezza award for a destination wedding), but the authentic Nicollet Pavilion, located on Nicollet Island, Minneapolis, MN.
I invite you to read the the last story of this special day event, with lot of fun, some creative photos.

Wedding a Nicollet Island
Wedding a Nicollet Island
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Born and raised in Paris, I am now a proud Wedding Photographer in Rochester, MN. 
I don’t only capture emotions in candid pictures, I also create timeless images and artful photographs.

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