Have I mentioned that Ben and I have four children? That’s right, four. No, we aren’t crazy. Yes, we actually planned for this.
Okay, maybe we’re a little crazy.
Many weekends you can find us in the middle of a spontaneous dance party, breaking it down on the family room rug. Ben’s record player spins tunes, usually something vintage like The Beatles. The little ones twirl and jump in all manner of un-choreographed chaos.
Sometimes I pause and watch, taking in their pure happiness. I love that they are learning how to celebrate life. Celebration is such an important part of our humanity. My hope is that our little ones learn to dance to any music life brings their way.
A wedding celebration should be full of every joy, welcoming the journey of marriage. We pop champagne, serve the best dinner, and dance the night away.
Those details you painstakingly chose? I love taking an editorial approach to your details, such as flowers, centerpieces, food. They will be captured in all their glory.
I take a photo-journalistic approach to the events of the reception. I want to capture the sentimental smile, the tearful happiness, and your flower girl sneaking an extra piece of cake.
Here are ways to make your reception images shine.
As the sun sets and your reception begins, lighting is very important for the aesthetic of your reception. Lighting has come a long way with fabulous up-lighting, café lights, and chandelier rentals. I highly recommend investing in quality ambient lighting. It will make a huge difference in the atmosphere of your celebration and the aesthetic and your images.
Warning - Any colored lighting will cast that color on your skin. Flash will help off-set this, but the prettiest lighting is always a neutral color.
A fabulous DJ or band can really make your reception the one of your dreams. They sway a lot of party power with getting guests on the dance floor and moving the night along. Occasionally, a DJ’s special affect lighting can be difficult to work with. If your DJ is using laser spot lighting (they look like tiny polka dots), that is the most challenging to work with. Flash will not offset the dots all over skin. Not typically an attractive look. Just have a conversation with your DJ about the lighting set-up so that there aren’t any surprises.
This is when the band or DJ announces your entrance into the reception area.
Traditionally, each bridesmaid and groomsman pairing enters together to some fun music. The bridal party enters beginning with the same order that the bridesmaids walked down the aisle, ending with the Maid of Honor and Best Man. Then, you are announced in, as the newlyweds.
Tip: If you want an amazing entrance picture. Stop once you’ve just entered the dance floor for a kiss. This will help freeze the movement and allow for a prettier entrance image.
Typically the bride and groom then sit down or go into the first dance.
The benefit of going right into the first dance is that you have the attention of all of your guests. It’s a very natural transition. It also helps if you are on a tight timeline with your photography coverage.
The first dance is one of those special moments where you hold each other close and breathe in the moment of the day. Everything slows down for whispers, quiet laughter, maybe even a tear of joy.
If you have anything special choreographed, definitely let me know in advance. It’s helpful to be prepared for any unique elements to the reception.
Ahh, I’m a sucker for the father/daughter dance (you maaay find me wiping a tear in between shots). This is another sweet time to spend a few moments with important people in your life.
These dances do not have to be stuffy and traditional. One bride and her father broke it down to “I Don’t Need Anyone But You”, such a joyful moment.
You also don’t have to make it Father/Daughter and Mother/Son dancing. If a parent is absent or not playing that traditional role in your life, you can get creative. Include grandparents, or make it a “family dance”, bringing up parents and siblings. Modern weddings welcome new celebratory memories.
That Filet Mignon is going to sound pretty amazing about now. Take the time to sit down and enjoy your meal. There will be time to make your rounds with guests once you are finished.
The worst time of the day for pictures is during dinnertime.
When I was a new photographer, I would shoot and shoot and shoot all through dinner. Guess what? Not one image ever turned out. Ever. Instead, I would get the “evil eye” from guests who instinctively knew their best look is not while stuffing a bite of salad into their mouth.
Artist & Vendor Team
This is also an ideal time for your vendor team to eat as well. That way we are free to keep working once you complete your meal.
It may seem strange that your vendor team requires dinner. Speaking as a photographer, I can say how important this dinner break really is. I promise, it’s not a diva request.
Our day is filled with non-stop action from the moment we step foot into your day. It can be a long day of hustle with no food or drink breaks. This dinner break is important to maintaining momentum for the evening work.
Sometimes, I am asked what the ideal scenario is. Really, I welcome any break that involves a little refreshment. My requirement is that dinner is provided or that a one hour break given so that I can go grab dinner.
The perfect set-up is a quiet, simple, little table in the corner of the reception room. This is a table, just for the vendors, so that we can jump up and work, as needed. When I am off in a vendor room (while a lovely break) I do get nervous that something may happen in my absence.
Oh that time of the night when everyone hears your embarrassing childhood antics. This is my favorite time for reaction shots, as parents laugh and as guests tear up over the sweet words and stories.
If toasts happen during dinnertime, just give your vendor team a heads up (especially if we’re in a vendor room) so that we are prompt when they begin.
A reception schedule is super helpful for the photographer to have, this way we are ready for all the action.
Those moments, just before sunset are absolutely breathtaking. Your skin radiates a warm glow, the colors are soft and romantic.
I love sneaking the bride and groom away for a quick 10 minutes of beautiful sunset portraits. The results will make you forever grateful.
Special Friend or Family Portrait
Your reception is a perfect time for pictures with any special friend groupings or family groupings. There is usually more time and everyone is more relaxed about jumping in for a picture.
Simply list these groupings in your prep form so that I can remind you to gather them during this time.
A photo booth is a perfect way to capture your guests in a fun way. Most guests love jumping into a photo booth with their significant other or group of friends. Just as much as they do not like gathering for that awkward “table shot”.
I highly recommend investing in this as a part of your wedding day.
If you aren’t able to, the best time for your photographer to get candid images is over cocktail hour. This means, hiring as second shooter to ensure candid images are taken during that portion of the day.
Bouquet & Garter Toss
Whenever there is fast movement with low lighting, even the best camera equipment can struggle a bit. This is why I usually recommend that my couples “fake throw” first to make sure I get that image. That way I can focus my energy on “the catch”.
Time to put those gorgeous stilettos to work on the dance floor.
Okay, more realistically, it's a great idea to use those bridal flip-flops.
My wide angle lens will get right in the action. I shoot fast and furious. Then, I back away for a bit. Repeat. I want to give guests their space while still documenting all the fun.
Tip: to look amazing in dancing pictures, grab a friend, pause and smile mid-move. A little love to the camera goes a long way towards making your dance moves look super fab.
It is now time for your great escape. While it is sad that your celebration has come to an end, the marriage journey is just beginning. That is worth some serious honeymoon celebration.
Once again, any time there is fast movement and low lighting, that camera equipment is working extra hard. Whatever type of exit you are making, take time to pause for a kiss, maybe even two. Those images are always the prettiest.
Each photographer has a different post-wedding workflow. Be sure to chat about that before your exit so that you know when you can expect your sneak peek.
You can read all about my post-wedding workflow, right here.
On a wedding day, something is bound to go wrong. Keep moving forward, dancing to the music. It is all about embracing your day and any unexpected surprises. It's all good practice for the marriage journey ahead.
Make spontaneous dancing a part of your newlywed life. The best is barefoot on the family room floor.
Then, if your dance party multiplies, embrace every un-choreographed moment.