Cocktail Hour Wedding Photography Tips

When Ben and I started dating, we had a very different approach to the relationship.  I felt like we needed to read every relationship book, talk about expectations, and set boundaries.  Ben would just laugh it off.  It’s not that he didn’t care about the relationship, he just didn’t care about following a rule book. 

Picture of a nightstand with books and a mug, propped up against a lamp.  The mug has hand lettering on it that says, "Hot Stuff". | Debra Eby Photography Co.

While Ben is a man of tremendous integrity, he’s not one for following the rules for rules sake.  I, on the other hand, am a "people pleaser" and avoid trouble, even if it means following silly rules. 

This is why Ben is so good for me.  He lightens me up, and I make him read books and follow silly rules every once in awhile.  This is one of the many ways that our opposites attract. 

Just like Ben, modern weddings are breaking silly rules like crazy.  Personally, I love it. 

If you don’t care for a stuffy reception of caviar and champagne, then break out the giant Jenga or pastel darts.  Fill the day with custom fun. 

This new style of entertaining guests helps with mingling.  It also avoids the awkward conversations with strangers around the bar. 

How to plan your Cocktail Hour Wedding Photography.  How to break rules to create fun for your guests.  | Debra Eby Photography Co.

Immediately following the ceremony, your guests transition to cocktail hour.  This is a time of mingling, refreshments, and sometimes even entertainment. 

During the first 20 minutes, family will be taking a few portraits.  As long as everyone is present and ready, this shouldn’t take up too much valuable time. 

If you had a “first look”, you are free to go enjoy time with your guests, or sneak away for a private time of refreshment.  If you opt out of a “first look”, then your bridal party and you will continue on with portraits for the duration of cocktail hour. 

Something to be aware of, if there is no second shooter and there is no “first look”, there will not be any cocktail hour coverage. 



Image of cocktail hour wedding hors d'oeuvre platter at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Florida | Debra Eby Photography Co.



Cocktail hours, as with most parts of a wedding, have evolved greatly.  Lounge areas are now popular, with cozy seating areas.  Pinterest is brimming with ideas from other weddings. 

I love capturing a wide angle look of your cocktail hour set-up, then I go in for close ups of each detail you carefully put into your day.  I capture any signature cocktails, even trays of food circulating. 



Candid Images


Once I have the overall look of your cocktail hour, I find natural groupings of guests and request to take a picture.  I find this works much better than rapid-fire candids where guests have awkward posture and chewing shrimp.  Everyone feels better when given a chance to pose a little. 

If you are mingling, feel free to grab a few friends and family for spontaneous portraits. 

Guest portraits on a wedding day with a bride at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Florida. | Debra Eby Photography Co.





If there is live music, guests playing games (like cornhole), or any other form of activity going on, I will be sure to capture this as well. 

  • Research interactive wedding games on Pinterest and then customize the playing pieces for your wedding brand.  
  • Live music is another way to create a beautiful guest experience.  
  • Create guestbook fun with polaroids or other creative custom signing options.
  • Bring in an artist to paint the setting or a caricature artist for a more interactive experience.
  • Make food fun with a popcorn or donut bar.

All of these pieces of your day tell the story of your couple brand. 

Wedding Day Cornhole Game, customized couple logo.  TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Florida. | Debra Eby Photography Co.

Be a wedding rule breaker.  Find ways to customize your wedding day, filling it with all you love best.  

Now, onward to the reception celebration.


xoxo Lovelies