*This article has been updated with additional information on filming and permit requirements as well as updated pricing for 2020.

All across America, churches are known for their beautiful architecture, colorful stained-glass windows, detailed stone and wood carvings, as well as many other beautiful features. With the vast amount of time, energy, and resources going into these beautiful spaces, churches often hold a great deal of history within their walls making them ideal venues for a multitude of events.

The price for renting a church will vary depending on size and grandeur; are you looking for a smaller chapel or a historic Cathedral? Location, size, capacity, and duration of rental time are all factors to be considered in pricing when considering renting a church.

Why do people rent a church for a day?

While most people associate churches with wedding ceremonies and religious events like baptisms there are a number of other reasons to rent a church for a day. Churches make excellent venues for film and photoshoots. Their beautiful architecture and stained-glass windows are excellent backdrops for wedding photos, music videos, film shoots, or any other creative project.

In addition to their beauty churches also make for excellent venues where you may need to host a large group of people. Whether for a speaking event, workshop, or company gathering, churches generally have enough space to host 100’s of people.

What are the different types of churches?

Although the word “church” is often used to describe any place of worship there are actually some clear distinctions when describing the physical locations. A Cathedral is generally a very large space, oftentimes described as grandiose. Tall acoustic ceilings, large multiple stained glass windows, grand entrances, and detailed or ornate architectural features. On the opposite end of the spectrum is a chapel. A chapel is usually relatively small; sometimes it is only a room inside a larger space like a hospital or airport.

Don’t assume all churches have altars or rows of pews. Some are simply a place for gathering and don’t have the general trappings you’d expect from a more traditional church setup. Churches vary in the number of rooms they have as well. Some will only have a central gathering room and a restroom. While others may have additional rooms that are traditionally used for Sunday School. Larger churches may have a full kitchen setup while others include a more modest “break-room” which includes a refrigerator or sink.

Because of these variations in physical size, capacity, features, amenities, historic significance, and location the cost to rent a church can be hard to figure out.

Church for filming Los Angeles, CA

What features should I look for when renting a church?

Parking – Where will cast and crew park? Is it free? If no parking is available at the medical location, are there options nearby? Most churches have large parking lots for at least 50 cars. If you have very large trucks or honey wagons, be sure to scope the area out ahead of time as street parking can cause unwanted frustration and interference from neighboring businesses.

Bathrooms – Almost all churches listed on Giggster provide adequate indoor bathrooms, however there are some remote desert chapels and abbeys which do not have adequate facilities on-site. In these rare cases, you will need to find viable options that are close-by or look into providing temporary options.

Power/Electricity – This cost is usually baked into the rental cost, but be sure to talk to the property manager to make sure you have access to working electrical lines and ask to be shown the breaker box if a location host or manager won’t be on set.

Food – If you’re not providing it, are there reasonable food options near your location? Most churches have large kitchen facilities and dining areas to help facilitate easy catering.

Air conditioning/Heat – Are you shooting in New York City in February or Los Angeles in August? Ask the property manager about the churches insulation and find out if your shooting area is temperature controlled. If not, you will want to weigh the aesthetic value against the challenges of inclement shooting conditions.

Accessibility (for personnel and equipment) - Most churches will have multiple large exits, but you'll still want to make sure your team and equipment can access these entrance points.

When do I need a film permit?

In short, if your production is a commercial one, intended for profit and sale – whether it is stills, motion or digital, for print, TV, theatres or even the Internet, you are required to obtain a permit prior to beginning shooting.

In many cases, even if your project is for non-profit or educational filming, you may still require a film permit – although this depends on the city you want to shoot in. For example, the City of Santa Monica requires you to have a permit even for non-profit filming, so does the City of Orange. I'd advise you to check on this with the local government for the city you want to shoot in.

If your project has no commercial value – it's something that you're shooting for your own (and friends') enjoyment without any large, professional equipment, you probably don't need a permit.

How much do film permits costs?

The cost of film permits is going to depend on what exactly you need to shoot. The only way to determine what you need is by contacting the local office that handles film permits in your area (these people are almost always a part of an official Film Office or the local Parks & Recreation Department).  

Permits in a city like Los Angeles or New York will cost more than a smaller city that’s less inundated with filming requests. One of the reasons permits can get expensive is add-on fees. Los Angeles, for example, lists more than 100 possible fees it can apply to any given production. Most of these fees won’t apply to you, but you still need to talk with someone in their film office to get permission. If you’re in LA, estimate permit costs by emailing the LA film office with details of your shoot and your planned locations. You can email them at info@filmlainc.com and they aim to reply with fairly accurate estimates within 24 hours.

If you're filming in Los Angeles, New York, or Atlanta, you can advantage of Giggster's permit coordination service. A stress free permit experience! Our team has pulled thousands of permits and we know how to do it right. For a small coordination fee we will handle the permit application and coordination with the permit office, and will keep your production updated on challenges, unique conditions, and projected costs.

Fremont Abbey Seattle, WA

Do I need production insurance?

Some companies specialize in photography and videography insurance, but other insurance providers may be able to offer you a tailored solution. When you speak with an agent, ask them about a few of your most relevant options. Such as,

  • General Liability Insurance
  • Business Owner Insurance
  • Professional Liability (Errors & Omissions) Insurance
  • Workers Comp Insurance

The differences between these insurance policies can get confusing, so don’t hold back any questions when you talk to a specialist. You want to be sure you’re covering all your liabilities.

For example, “General Liability Insurance” will cover most damages that can occur to the warehouse while you’re filming and it will cover harm/injury to people on set who are not working on the film. “Errors & Omissions Insurance” can cover you in the case of a dissatisfied client taking you to court over the final product.

The only way to ensure that you’re adequately covered is by speaking with an agent and being clear about your needs.  

How to rent a church for a day?

Most people can spend hours searching online to find the perfect church that fits all of their needs. Not every website will have ample photos of the church, and many don’t have public calendars listing their available dates or times. After hours of digging through various websites that don’t provide all the necessary information, giving up sounds like an excellent idea.

Instead, you can save time by using Giggster to search for the perfect church for your project or event. With Giggster you can search for a church and filter by price, location, and style. Giggster has made searching for any rental location a breeze.

Additionally, all locations on Giggster include ample high-quality photos of every property they offer. You can even find actual reviews from previous renters who can give you more insight into the properties. It is also tremendously easy to contact the host, where they can answer any additional questions you may have about the property.

How much does it cost to rent a church for a day?

The price to rent a church or other religious facility varies significantly. The average day rate for a church on Giggster is $1,887 for motion shoots, and $1,408 for still photography. However, there is a significant range between high and low-end options with rentals starting at $125 per hour.

The price to rent a church by the hour for filming or events can also vary by the size of the location.  To give an accurate average we are going to give the average hourly price in a mid-size city with a minimum rental time of 3-5 hours.

If you were to rent a small chapel, that could accommodate around 100 people, you would need to budget around $200-$400 per hour.

A mid-size church, holding as many as 200-250 guests, you could expect to spend between $600 - $800 per hour.

And the largest churches, typically cathedrals, which can accommodate 300 to 400 guests could cost as much as $3,000 for three to five hours of rental time; sometimes more.

However, generally speaking, a budget of $2,000 per day will allow you a healthy range of religious themed rental options and good leverage in booking your top choice.

While you're welcome to try negotiating with owners to get an extra sweet deal, since churches are a high-demand low supply category, you're not going to have very much leverage. In almost all cases you should expect to pay the minimum listed rates on Giggster, and potentially 10-20% more if you have a crew larger than 40 people.

Here are some examples of churches available for rent:

Church ideal for filming in Los Angeles, CA
Beautiful Modern Church in Long Beach, CA
1914 Fremont Abbey in Seattle, WA
Spacious Church and community center in Los Angeles, CA
Colorful Spanish Church in Los Angeles, CA
Abandoned Venice Horror Church + Modern Office in Los Angeles, CA

Sample budget

To give you a better sense of how much you're going to spend to rent a church location. Let’s walk through how to budget locations for a $12,000 fictional project. The first thing we’re going to want to do is break down the project down into thirds:

Pre-Production Costs: $3000
Production Costs: $6000
Post Production Costs: $3000

If we follow a standard industry breakdown of spending 30% of your total budget on locations that would give us around $4,000 to spend on this $10,000 video. $4k might seems like a ton of money for a church, but keep in mind location rentals have additional costs beyond just the property rental.

Update: Check out our Film Permits Explained article on the Giggster Blog for more guidance on the film permitting process in Los Angeles.


Approximate Budget Breakdown

Project: Indie Artist Music Video (Night Shoot at a Church)
Budget: $12,000
Crew: 10-25 people
Location: Colorful Spanish Church (pictured above)
Location size: 2,200 sq. ft.
Shoot duration: 2 days
Location booking cost: ~ $1,500
Church permit cost: $650
Location Scouting Cost: None (booked on Giggster)

In this scenario, by booking a location on Giggster (avoiding costly scouting fees) and dealing directly with the location representative Ella, you would be able to source a very affordable high-quality church for well under the 30%/$4,000 location budget range.

This is a good thing, because you now have a $900 location discretionary fund to be spent on additional props or unforeseen costs such as parking tickets, or location damages.

For reference, below is an actual music video shot at this church location:

Find a Church on Giggster