I wanted to talk a bit about reception photos and what to expect. I received an inquiry recently asking about them. A lot of my blog posts don't have a TON of reception photos, maybe a few of the bride and groom dancing or the grand exit if there was one, but majority of what I share are the bride and groom shots. Whenever possible, I recommend a first look followed by wedding party and family photos before the ceremony. It eases the timeline for the day a little bit and helps things flow nicely. I totally understand when a couple wants their true first look to be walking down the aisle, and I respect that, so we would then do all of your photos during cocktail hour. But for the sake of this post, we are going to assume you did majority of your photos before the ceremony and are now leading into cocktail hour.
During this time, we will usually shoot any family photos we haven't got to do yet. Your guests will likely be guided to a designated cocktail hour area for drinks and appetizers and we will finish up signing your marriage certificate and family photos. If you have added a second shooter to your package, the second shooter will be capturing guests at cocktail hour. I usually direct my second shooter to get a mix of both candid and group shots, as well as any fun decorations, games, or details that have been included. If time allows and we finish up family photos, you will join in on cocktail hour. I love following around my bride and groom during this time getting candid reactions from guests as well as photos of you with your friends and family who have come to see you. At any point during the night, I encourage you to grab me or my second shooter for a photos of you and specific guests if you'd like to. I also sneak away during this time to shoot details of your reception while it is empty. Most couples either go right into their first dance upon entering or they will eat and then their first dance will be shortly after that.
After the first dance, most commonly you'd follow with traditional parent dances and then open the dance floor. Once the dance floor is opened, most of your more critical photos are finished. It's time to relax and let loose! By this point, guests have been fed and fueled for some dancing and energy is back up. I usually float around with my camera capturing in action shots, playing with lights and capturing candids. A lot of things can affect how your dancing photos will turn out. First and foremost is venue- are there windows, lights, how big of a space it, how high are the ceilings, time of day, etc. Secondly, DJ lighting. If there are a ton of funky colors flying around I can't help that, if you are worried about too crazy of lighting I recommend asking your DJ to hold off on those lights for 45 minutes in order to get some dancing shots without them. For most of my packages, there is only about an hour or so of these photos which is plenty of action captured.
As the night reaches the end of your wedding, you'll need to decide whether or not you need this covered by a photographer. 80% of the time this is just a continuation of the above photos. The biggest reason you would want this time captured is if you're planning a grand exit and want this captured. The last few songs of dancing are usually pretty wild, final call is usually made at the bar and people are feeling loose. I usually spend this time making sure I haven't missed anyone, I love to get a final shot of the bride and groom dancing together. If you have fun string lights, I will play around with some drag in the photos for a few fun and creative shots that add movement and help tell the story of what's happening.
If you are planning a grand exit, you're going to want to talk to me ahead of time. The best grand exits involve a well thought out plan ahead of time as well as a sober wedding planner who can help make sure this happens. I LOVE a good sparkler exit, but I've seen so many of them go wrong when it wasn't properly planned. At this point in the night, guests are having so much fun that it gets hard to line up guests in order to create a clear and safe pathway for both you guys and myself. A few things I've seen that really help these go off flawless are lining the pathway with tea lights (the wedding planner(s) will then light these just before you guys make your exit and guests will light their sparklers from these tea lights. It made a really clear line of where guests are supposed to stand and the sparklers were not lit too early. Keep your grand exit in a straight line and take is SLOW (walk way slower than you think you need to, try to take it all in!) Lastly, I always suggest stopping for a final kiss, dip and hug in the middle or at the end of your tunnel, giving everyone one last opportunity to cheer and celebrate you guys (and me a few opportunities for these shots!)
If these photos are extremely important to you, make sure to talk with me before hand. We want to talk about things like lighting set up as well as timeline flow of the night. Whenever possible, hang some string lights. Don't be afraid to dance for me, or grab a few of your friends and dance near me so I can see it! If you're doing a grand exit, be sure to chat with me, your venue, and planner on what is allowed and how to go about it. And last but not least, HAVE FUN! This is the party of your life, I promise! Enjoy it, dance, laugh, drink, eat and be so full of love!