Downtown Charleston wedding with a reception at the historic Francis Marion Hotel

I love going to the historic downtown Charleston area for weddings. The city atmosphere gives me an opportunity for a different style of photography from my typical garden, golf course, and beach weddings. This winter wedding with Sarah & Alec on February 10th was so much fun, with perfect weather for pictures. The ceremony was held at the Saint John the Baptist Cathedral, and the reception was at the historic Francis Marion Hotel. We also went to Chalmers Street in downtown Charleston to use the cobblestone road for fun pictures with the bridal party.

Ceremony at the Saint John the Baptist Cathedral

I briefly met Sarah and Alec at the hotel before heading to Saint John’s Cathedral with the groomsmen. Sarah was putting on her dress at the cathedral, so we took most of the getting-ready pictures there. There is some beautiful classic architecture in the cathedral, so I made sure to take lots of photos before any guests arrived.

As is usual with church weddings, I was limited in where I was allowed to take pictures. When the wedding party and the bride and her father walked down the aisle, I had to be behind the last row of guests. Because the guests sat so far back, I had to use my wide-angle lens and take pictures from over to the side. On the one hand, it limited the images I could take of everyone walking in, but I got some beautiful photos from the back as everyone walked down the aisle. I especially loved the one of the flower girl and ringbearer walking down the aisle toward the ceremony.

I also had to stay in the back during the ceremony, but I’m always prepared for that. I’m primarily a prime lens shooter, but I have a telephoto zoom lens for this exact situation. I could zoom in from the back of the cathedral and get some great shots of the vows and exchanging of the rings. There is also a little winding stairway that goes up to the balcony. I quickly made my way up the steps to the balcony several times to get some beautiful overhead shots. I especially liked the wide-angle shot of everyone standing at the altar that I converted to black and white.

Wedding pictures after the ceremony on Chalmers Street and the Francis Marion Hotel

After signing the marriage license, Sarah and Alec made a grand exit from the cathedral, surrounded by their family and friends. Someone said it looked like a royal wedding with her classic gown and the cathedral’s architecture. We took a few wedding party pictures on the steps and at the next-door courtyard, then headed to Chalmers Street for pictures. Chalmers Street is a popular location in downtown Charleston for wedding pictures because of the classic homes and cobblestones. We had to avoid a few cars, but otherwise, it was very calm around the area.

The wedding party was a lot of fun, and they even had a few ideas they wanted to try, which I’m always happy about. Because of the cars and distractions in the background, I opened my 85mm lens all the way up to its maximum aperture of f1.4 for closeups of the bride and groom. This gives the maximum blur to the out-of-focus background of a picture. I usually wouldn’t shoot this wide open because I’m used to the old days when I had to shoot at a smaller aperture, like f2, to get sharp images. With these modern lenses on a Sony camera body with eye tracking, it’s amazing how sharp the pictures are wide open. Check out the dreamy look of some of the closeup pictures with the blurry background bokeh and the eyes still being perfectly sharp.

After dropping off the wedding party, we planned to go to The Battery for more pictures. However, with the traffic in downtown Charleston, we realized we were running out of time. So, instead, we just went to Marion Square across the street from the hotel. For some reason, many white tents were set up in the park, but we found a nice brick path between the trees and out of view of the tents. Again, I used my prime lens wide open to blur out any unwanted details in the background and get the dreamy look of a path going off into the distance. Sarah forgot her flowers, and I got a cute shot of Alec coming to the rescue, walking across the street with the bouquet. After a few more pictures on the street in front of the Francis Marion Hotel, we headed in for the reception.

Fun dancing at the historic Francis Marion Hotel in Charleston

This wedding reception was the first I’ve photographed at the Francis Marion Hotel. It has a classic ballroom with hanging chandeliers, many windows, and warm lighting. The interior was stunning, so I made sure to take a lot of pictures. After introductions and toasts, I followed Sarah and Alec to the tables as they hugged and talked to the guests. This is always a great time to get pictures with friends and family that were not in the formal pictures earlier in the day. After dinner, they turned down the lights, and the party started. This was also my first time working with the Bunn DJ Company, and he did a great job getting everyone on the dance floor.

I hope you enjoy the pictures. If you are planning a wedding in downtown Charleston, I never mind the drive and am happy to travel. Please let me know so I can share more pictures and information with you.

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