Brisbane Marriage Registry Photography Overview

INTRODUCTION

I have photographed eight weddings at the Brisbane Marriage Registry since 2017, and have many more booked throughout 2019, so I thought it would be helpful for couples to get my perspective on the venue, and what you can typically expect before, during and after the ceremony.

The registry is located on the 32nd floor of the cleverly named '180 Brisbane' building in the heart of the Brisbane CBD at 180 Ann Street. This name seems to be a play on the term ‘180 degree views’, in addition to the actual street number.

This is an incredible building, standing at over 150 metres tall and 34 stories. It has a six star energy rating and was built by a Japanese property developer in 2015. Tenants in the building include Commonwealth Bank (the anchor tenant), Origin Energy (over eight floors), and the Queensland Government (Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages).

REGISTRY COSTS & TIMES

Costs for the registry are subject to change, but currently (as at January 2019) are as follows:

Getting There and Parking

Secure Parking Turbot Street (50 metres)

Secure Parking operates a paid car park right next door at 179 Turbot Street (the back entrance). The building is accessible from both 180 Ann Street and from Turbot Street.

The secret with Secure Parking is to book online and get a pin code to access the car park, so the cost comes down from $70, to just $35 for two hours parking. They call this pre-paid service ‘Secure-A-Spot’.

You can then enter the registry from Turbot street just a few metres past the Turbot Street Secure Parking building at 179 Turbot Street.

Secure Parking (Paid Car Parking) located at 179 Turbot Street. Expensive, but right next door.

Secure Parking (Paid Car Parking) located at 179 Turbot Street. Expensive, but right next door.

King George Square Car Park (250-500 metres)

Another great option is the King George Square car park run by Brisbane city council which is cheaper than Secure Parking, around $25 for up to two hours (and importantly, no booking required online to get this price).

Even better, enter after 4.30PM Monday to Friday and the parking is just $5, and $5 all day Saturday (subject to availability and current offers).

This car park can be confusing to find though, because there are actually two entrances. One is at 87 Roma Street, and the other 115 Adelaide Street.

I would recommend the Adelaide Street entrance during the week, and the Roma Street entrance on the weekend because the Ann Street entrance to the registry is closed on weekends. The entrance in Adelaide Street is hard to spot, but it is just before the Town Hall (as shown on Google Maps below).

Assuming you are getting married during the week, the entrance to the King George Square Car Park is right before the Brisbane City Hall on Adelaide Street. Ignore the sign that says ‘Local Traffic Only’ when you are entering the final section of Adelaide Street and watch out all the buses!

Then simply drive down into the underground car park, getting a ticket first at the boom gate. This is a pay at exit system using a machine, so keep your ticket with you. The ticketing system takes $10+ notes and credit cards.

There is a lift inside the car park which will take you to the ground level of the Town Hall (Brisbane City Hall). This is directly behind the Pig and Whistle bar, and you can then easily walk around to Ann Street and the entrance to the registry during the week (only about 200 metres away).

If you park on Level A (the entrance level) you might be tempted to use these stairs which exit onto Ann Street. I wouldn’t recommend this, because there are about four flights of stairs to the top! Another option is to take the the lift to King George Square and walk around to Ann Street.

Exit To Ann Street if you don’t mind climbing four flights of stairs. Mobile phone photo.

Exit To Ann Street if you don’t mind climbing four flights of stairs. Mobile phone photo.

The only downside to using this car park is having to pay when you get back, whereas with Secure Parking it can be pre-paid meaning a quick exit with a pin code.

Secure Parking 159 Roma Street (400 metres)

Another option for paid parking is located in the Secure Parking facility that used to be called Hotel Jen. Unfortunately, Hotel Jen closed on December 15th 2018. The Secure Parking is however definitely still operating.

Just like the Turbot Street Secure Parking facility, you should pre-book your ticket to save money rather than paying on the day. I would only use this car park to visit the registry as a last resort, it being furtherest distance away. On the weekends however, it may be your only option if the King George Square car park is full. It currently costs about $33 for up to two hours parking, but only if you book online first (otherwise $68).

This car park is particularly confusing because the entrance is the now closed Hotel Jen itself as shown below. The easiest way to turn into this car park is to be on the same side of the road. Otherwise you either have to do a dodgy right hand turn at the lights below, or set your GPS to do a long loop through the back streets.

The main car park is up a ramp. There are two signs with a large blue P to indicate car parks, however one of the entrances has no ‘Secure-A-Spot’ machine. That is the first entrance as you go up the ramp on the left. The actual entrance to the ‘Secure-A-Spot’ car park (the one you pre-pay) is further up the ramp on another level. Please note the address is 159 Roma Street, not 138 as shown on the map below.

Street Parking Options

There is no street parking to speak of close to 180 Ann Street on either Ann Street or Turbot Street, so arrive very early if you intend parking on the street.

The exception to this is on a Saturday, where there are actually parks right outside on Turbot Street. They are almost always occupied though, but you might get lucky!

My recommendation for street parking would be Albert Street, which crosses Turbot Street. That is the street that runs between the back of the Brisbane Transit Centre (Roma Street Station) and Wickham Park.

You can see in the Google Maps Street View below where the parking starts. These are 30 minute parks though (three hours parks are further up the street).

The Brisbane Marriage Registry on the 32nd floor of the tallest building in the background with the Commonwealth Bank logo on the side.

There are often some metered parks on this street (both three hour and 30 minutes zones) — most of the time. If you have enough time, you may want to try and park here first and enter the registry from Turbot Street, before considering paying for off-street parking.

In my experience, the chances of finding a street park on Albert Street at any time of the day is about 65%. Parks are often easier to find as you get further up Albert Street.

Wickham Terrace is also a good option for parks near the back of Wickham Park and Roma Street Parklands. You can then take a pleasant shortcut through King Edward Park to get to Turbot Street.

If all the paid car parks are full (which does happen) then as a last resort, I would recommend parking at Roma Street Parklands and simply walking. The walk will take approximately 10-12 minutes depending on where you park. A park near the main cafe at Roma Street Parklands will be the closest distance, or you can also park in the underground car park. As a last resort, there are always at least some parks available at Roma Street somewhere.

Uber Drop off Points

There is a loading zone that can be used for Uber drop offs about 50 metres from the Turbot Street entrance, but just ask the driver to be on the right hand side of the one way street on approach.

Saturday Weddings

If you are planning a Saturday wedding the registry will generally ask you to enter from Turbot Street. The entrance on my last visit was not through the automatic doors as you might expect, but through an unlocked single glass side door to the left of the revolving doors, about 15m away from the security desk, at the top of the stairs to the left (see the red arrow below).

Update December 2018: On the last Saturday wedding I booked, both doors were actually locked, so be prepared to knock on the door to get the attention of the security at the desk if arriving earlier than your booking time. If the door shown below is not unlocked, try the other door. If that is locked, knock on the door and get the attention of security at the desk!

When booking Saturday weddings, you may not be able to go upstairs until close to the booking time if the registry staff are either not there yet or having a break. You may be told by security to wait in the foyer until about 15 minutes before your actual booking time, and the lifts might be locked down until then.

That is actually a real bummer, because they do not normally have the air conditioning on in the foyer on Saturdays. For this reason, if you are getting married on a Saturday try not arrive too early, but of course don’t be late either ;)

The Turbot Street Entrance to 180 Brisbane (180 Ann Street) on a Saturday. Photo by Chris Jack

The Turbot Street Entrance to 180 Brisbane (180 Ann Street) on a Saturday. Photo by Chris Jack

TIP: Ask the celebrant or registry staff to turn the air conditioning on when you arrive so the large ceremony room has time to cool down.

And bear in mind the Turbot St Secure Parking building next door is closed on a Saturday (the Secure Parking 159 Roma Street facility is open, but is 400 metres away).

Arriving at the Registry

First things first, there is no photography permitted in the foyer (ground level) of the building anytime. This has something to do with it being associated with Commonwealth Bank and their security. That is a shame, because the light in the foyer is very nice.

There is a comfortable waiting area in the foyer of 180 Ann Street (which is at the Turbot Street end) and there are several popular cafes in the building and up the street from Ann Street, mostly frequented by suits during the week. On Saturdays, most of these cafes nearby are closed and the air con is switched off.

Please note that the lift access to the 32nd floor is via the rear lifts, and not the lifts immediately at the front. While you may already know this if you have had a tour of the registry, it would pay to mention this to guests.

Also the lifts are operated by a touch screen, you select the 32nd floor on the touch screen panel (there is no simple lift button). The touch screen then tells you which lift you have been allocated by indicating a letter. If there is no option for the 32nd floor shown on the screen, that means the lifts are locked down. Ask security at the lobby desk if they can open up the lifts if possible.

Mobile Phone Photo of Lift Access

Mobile Phone Photo of Lift Access

General Impression

My overall impression of the Brisbane Marriage Registry facility and the marriage ceremony service they provide is outstanding. This is a world class facility that you wouldn't expect from a government department, that has been mostly well designed and decorated.

Don't believe all the reviews you read online (it only has a 4.2/5 rating on Google Reviews) because many of these are for the Births Deaths and Marriages service itself, and not the ceremony service. And most of those are just venting about how fancy the offices are and why it has to be located in one of the most prestigious buildings in Brisbane (which has nothing to do with the marriage service).

The large windows that face Roma Street train station and the Roma Street Parklands and Mt Coot-Tha in the background are quite spectacular. These are ideal for quick couples portraits both before and after the ceremony, if time permits.

Photographers just need to watch out for flash reflections in these windows, and be aware there is not much ambient light in the waiting area. The light can change very quickly, but there are shades that can be pulled down if required.

There is a convenient place for photographers to place their gear near this window, and there is generally no-one else around. Yes you may be taking photos in a foyer, but it is off limits to the general public who visit the Marriage Registry, so it is very private.

Whether or not the area is 100% free for use depends on whether (a) There is another wedding taking place around the same time (b) Whether those guests also have a photographer who is using the space near the window. In my experience, the space by the window is usually available.

You may also be asked to move if other guests (or a bride and groom) are preparing to enter Ceremony Room 1 for their processional.

Ceremony Room Lighting

Photographers at the registry in Ceremony Room 1 may opt to use the natural light coming from the large floor to ceiling windows, or use flash to balance the interior light with the external light. I personally always use natural light, even at night time which is possible by shooting at higher ISO levels (camera sensitivity) and lenses ideal for lower light situations.

Photo by Chris Jack

Photo by Chris Jack

There is plenty of space to setup light stands or off camera flash if required both inside and outside the ceremony rooms, and this would certainly be allowed in my experience.

Ceremony Rooms

Almost every time I have photographed a wedding here it takes place in Ceremony Room 1. There is a second, smaller Ceremony Room 2 though, but this is rarely used in my experience.

Ceremony Room 1 Guest Entrance. Photo by Chris Jack

Ceremony Room 1 Guest Entrance. Photo by Chris Jack

Makeup and Getting Ready Rooms. Photo by Chris Jack

Makeup and Getting Ready Rooms. Photo by Chris Jack

Brisbane Marriage Ceremony Room 1. Photo by Chris Jack

Brisbane Marriage Ceremony Room 1. Photo by Chris Jack

Ceremony Room 1 seems to be used for both small and larger weddings (even four people!) and also has fantastic city and cityscape views across Brisbane from the 32nd floor.

The large and expansive windows cast good, but somewhat uneven natural light across the whole room. There is substantially more natural light on the left hand side of the room.

Tip for Photographers: If you are shooting at f/2.8 on a fine day you can expect to shoot natural light at about ISO 640, depending on the strength and position of the sun, and still maintain 1/320 second shutter. So any modern full frame camera should have no problem shooting with the natural light only (without flash).

Shooting at night time (yes bookings are possible at times like 6PM) is also possible without flash, but I found this was only possible by shooting at ISO 3200 at f/2.8.

Group shots with more depth of field are a different story, but with a little bounce flash from an on camera flash pointing to the neutral white coloured ceiling, I was able to shoot at f/5.6 at ISO 200 hand held about 1-2 stops under ambient exposure.

If you don’t shoot group shots with a flash and place subjects at the front, they will be underexposed by at least 1.5 stops of light. Compensating for this underexposure in camera (exposure compensation) will fix this problem, but the windows will be blown out and you risk getting halos around subjects. For this reason, I strongly recommend using flash for group photos.

There are down lights near the ceremony area where the bride and groom stand which seem to have a straw/yellow tint rather than tungsten (orange).

Unfortunately, these down lights often end up being behind the couple who are standing at the front. The light bounces off the main wall and softens it considerably which is great, but only if you are shooting from the right angle. If you shoot down the aisle onto the shadow side then you find the wall is overexposed and the bride and groom underexposed!

This also makes all guests photos or videos on their mobile phones look very ordinary as the bride and groom will be likely be too dark. A professional photographer should be able to overexpose for the backlight as required, avoiding this problem.

The black padded walls on the right hand side can also be used as a backdrop, where there is less natural light, for portraits with a neutral black background.

BEFORE THE CEREMONY

Allow 5 minutes for paperwork before the ceremony

Allow 5 minutes for paperwork before the ceremony

Before the ceremony starts and guests are ushered into the ceremony room the celebrant will do some paperwork with the bride and discuss final details. This tends to put a halt to any photography during that time, and takes about five minutes, so please be aware of this.

That will leave about 10 minutes to get couples portraits in the foyer, if you arrive at the designated time (but you can always arrive a few minutes earlier).

Celebrants

I have nothing but praise for the celebrants and staff at the Brisbane Marriage Registry. They have all been warm, friendly and smiled at all the right times for the camera both during and after the ceremony. This may seem like a small thing, but with still photography there is nothing better than having the celebrant looking happy as well.

While there isn't really much time allocated for each wedding, there is no sense that things are rushed before or after.

The Ceremony

On all occasions when shooting at the registry the actual ceremony has started very quickly after guests have entered the ceremony rooms. So quickly in fact that once I barely had time to physically walk over to start taking photography.

I recommend you make your photographer aware if they are shooting there for the first time that they will need to ready from when they arrive to start shooting the actual ceremony (the right lens on the camera, and the right exposure settings for the ceremony room sorted). I can’t stress this enough, because if they take just 20 seconds to change their settings they might miss you walking down the aisle. They should be in place and ready to shoot before you start the ceremony.

You can opt for a processional (being led down the aisle) or simply walk to the front and start the ceremony once guests are seated, and this is normally discussed with the celebrant beforehand. They do have different types of standard processional music, but of course this is best arranged with the registry before the day.

I have seen people using their phones to play processional music off Spotify or Google Music as well, but be sure to check with the registry beforehand.

There is ample room for a photographer to hide their equipment or bags, including behind the wall that is used for the ceremony itself which also very conveniently enables a photographer or videographer to stealthily switch sides during the ceremony.

The ceremonies go very quickly if you use their standard vows. Looking at the camera time stamps at the last Brisbane Registry Wedding revealed that the entire wedding ceremony from walking down the aisle, to the first kiss took exactly 4.5 minutes! That makes it even more challenging for the photographer tasked with capturing everything, and in many cases more difficult than a longer wedding ceremony.

The average ceremony time is somewhere between 6 minutes to 8 minutes in total (minus the signing).

Immediately after the ceremony the couple is ushered to the table and chairs near the window, and sit down to sign the marriage certificates in front of your two designated witnesses.

Natural light when signing the papers

Natural light when signing the papers

Again, this process is very quick so it may pay to slow this down to make sure your photographer has all the photos required and has time to change their exposure.

The lighting here is nice in terms of brightness and diffusion, from the large windows behind (in theory). However, it is actually one of the worst places to take photos as the light bounces onto the green panels near the signing desk. This causes a slight green tint on all signing photos which simply cannot be fixed easily through editing. If you don’t like photos take during signing for this reason, ask your photographer to convert them to black and white (which is what I do as an option as well).

After Signing

If you only have a few guests, it may be possible to receive congratulations and hugs from them and still have time for some group photos inside the ceremony room.

If you have more than 20 guests however, you may be somewhat overwhelmed by this and could run out of time to assemble for family group shots.

Therefore, I recommend limiting group shots at the marriage registry to the essentials and doing these in order of priority, just in case you run out of time. In my experience, you have about 10-15 minutes after the ceremony to take groups shots if you would like these, and if you have less guests you may even want to take some more couples portraits near the windows.

You may even want to consider booking the room for longer than normal, if you have a large wedding party.

The group shots in my opinion are best taken in front of the wall where the ceremony takes place, and there is plenty of room for the photographer to stand back and shoot using a longer lens to make these portraits more flattering. There is room for a maximum of about 12 people across.

There is sometimes not enough time to setup a tripod for the group shots, nor even enough time to setup a light stand to add an umbrella or soft-box. If the photographer has an assistant this might be possible (but unlikely) so otherwise I would suggest relying on the photographer to take any groups shots hand held, and as mentioned before, bounce light off the ceiling which works well.

As with all formal group shots at weddings, it is really useful to have a list of the shots required (who will be in each photo) and someone to usher people (such as the best man or maid of honour). 

If you run out of time, I am sure it would be possible to shoot the remaining family group portraits in the foyer as a backup plan.

The Foyer

After the ceremony is complete and there is no more time to shoot inside the ceremony rooms, there doesn’t seem to be any urgency for guests to leave. There is also a cheesy sign designed for Instagram that the celebrant may offer afterwards if you are into this sort of thing. This one from 2017 was quite cute, but it has since changed to a rectangular shape.

After the ceremony, a photo opportunity in the foyer.

After the ceremony, a photo opportunity in the foyer.

Bear in mind this is shot in the marriage registry ceremony foyer, and not the main Births, Deaths and Marriages foyer, and there may be other guests waiting in the general area for another ceremony.

Try to find 5 minutes after the ceremony for some additional couples portraits and general candid shots. Everyone will be much more relaxed, happy and less tense after the ceremony!

Outside Couples Portraits

The next challenge will be finding suitable locations if you require any couples portraits immediately after the ceremony.

Brisbane Marriage Registry Foyer. Photo by Chris Jack

Brisbane Marriage Registry Foyer. Photo by Chris Jack

Taking these in the main foyer downstairs is not permitted, so that leaves the immediate areas around Ann and Turbot street, as both roads are accessible from the building.

The most obvious location is Roma Street Parklands or the Botanic Gardens downtown, but bear in mind the actual main part of Roma Street parklands is some distance from the registry. The walk to the main area of Roma Street Parklands is about 700m and takes about 10 minutes. That sounds like a short walk, but in hot and humid Brisbane weather, with grandparents or kids in tow, and dressed in formal attire, that is easier said than done!

In terms of the most suitable, closest couples portrait location, the Roma St Parklands would definitely be what I would recommend. Another close location by car would be New Farm Park which never fails to deliver (10 minutes drive).

As with all outdoor photography, the best light is always about one hour before sunset, so if possible book your wedding ceremony to finish about 90 minutes before sunset if you are planning portrait photos at Roma Street Parklands with me, or ask your photographer what they prefer.

There is also Wickham Park and King Edward park across the which are much closer, but as photography locations they are not really that special, although they do provide many shaded areas which provide nice, soft light. These are best used if you have very young children and it is not possible to walk to Roma St Parklands.

The most unusual place for quick couples portraits is directly across the road at the Former Queensland University Dental College steps. Whether or not there will be other people around may depend on the time of the day, but for sheer convenience you can't beat this location.

168 Turbot Street. Photo by Chris Jack

168 Turbot Street. Photo by Chris Jack

If you prefer to chill out in air conditioned comfort with a glass of champers, then there is always the Pullman Hotel, Mercure and Sofitel all within walking distance (check websites for bar opening times, which might be as late as 3pm on weekdays).

The Sofitel has a buffet which is quite popular, and is a nice flat walk from the registry which works well for elderly guests.

There are two small parks very close to the registry Wickham Park and King Edward Park. Wickham Park has some tree foliage and wide paths, but King Edward Park has more features for photography.

King Edward Park Entrance (200m from 180 Brisbane)

King Edward Park Entrance (200m from 180 Brisbane)

An interesting spot for couples portraits, near the entrance to King Edward Park (if vacant).

An interesting spot for couples portraits, near the entrance to King Edward Park (if vacant).

There are interesting features in and around this park, including the many seats which can be used for couples portraits.

Usable backdrops for portrait photos at King Edward Park, although seats are often occupied during lunch time with office workers.

Usable backdrops for portrait photos at King Edward Park, although seats are often occupied during lunch time with office workers.

Located on Wickham Terrace near the Old Windmill Observatory

Located on Wickham Terrace near the Old Windmill Observatory

The Old Windmill seems like a good location for portraits, but the height of the structure makes it very hard to frame within a shot unless shot very wide from far away. I would not really recommend it for portrait photos.

If you don't mind a short walk or can get a lift from your photographer or guest, Roma Street Parklands, New Farm Park or Botanic Gardens are much better options for portraits after a Brisbane Marriage Registry ceremony.

Roma St Parklands in Spring. Photo by Chris Jack

Roma St Parklands in Spring. Photo by Chris Jack

Roma Street Parklands. Photo by Chris Jack

Roma Street Parklands. Photo by Chris Jack

Roma Street Parklands. Photo by Chris Jack

Roma Street Parklands. Photo by Chris Jack

Conclusion

Photography at the Brisbane Wedding Registry is not only permitted, it is highly recommended due to the classy and modern interior design, and breathtaking views. Kids love playing around the windows and getting freaked out by the height, which always make for great photos as well.

Photographers enjoy reasonably good natural light throughout the facility, and can bounce light off the ceilings, meaning no complicated light setups.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this venue for any marriage ceremony, regardless of your budget or guest numbers (maximum 50 guests). The staff are all very friendly and relaxed, while being professional and well presented, making the entire experience very private and enjoyable. Thankfully, you will quickly forget you are in a government department…

PHOTOGRAPHY PACKAGES

I offer two special photography packages exclusively for weddings at the Brisbane Marriage Registry.

Photographing a wedding is a serious affair (even a small wedding). I prepare backup cameras, lenses and batteries before each wedding, and shoot to two memory cards as a continuous backup.

The other thing to bear in mind is that although the ceremony is only allocated 30 minutes, we can shoot before and after the ceremony so it makes sense to shoot for a full hour (at the minimum).

All Chris Jack Brisbane Marriage Registry Photography packages include:

  • Phone consultation beforehand to discuss and determine location and type of couples portraits required, group shots, and answer any questions about the registry and photography service (pre-wedding consultation in person is an extra). These consultations last about 20 minutes

  • Digital files provided at high resolution (3600 pixels) within 7-14 Days (often sooner).

  • Approximately 60-70 photos delivered per hour of coverage.

  • Individual editing of each photo in my signature style, colour graded and corrected, without watermarks.

  • The highest resolution photos available as a digital download within 30 days, once any final edits are made.

  • Parking and travel to the location, and you can set my start time to be anytime before the ceremony if you want to take photos beforehand.

  • Quick couples portraits for my one hour service can be taken inside the registry (in the foyer or ceremony room) using natural light and flash.

  • Couples portraits or reception for the two hour coverage are taken at a location of your choice from Roma St Parklands, Brisbane Botanic Gardens or New Farm Park (for approximately 45 minutes once travel is taken into account).

  • My early arrival to ensure no delays. I always arrive before you get there, so we can start shooting immediately.

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