Timeline Tips: Scheduling your Reception + Sunset Photos
Welcome back to our series on Timeline Tips and scheduling your wedding photography coverage! Today we’re diving right into your reception coverage. If you missed the first few you can check them out here:
Previous Timeline Series Posts:
01. Getting Ready to Get Ready
02. 5 Ways The First Look Can Change your Day
03. How to Ace Your Family Formals
You’ve finally made it through the complicated, schedule specific part of the day! Now it’s time to paaaartaay! YAY!
It’s time to dive into the most fun part of the day. Where you get to finally hug all your sweet guests, get that well deserved signature drink, and party down with your wedding party!
I like to call all the happenings during the reception “activities”.
There’s the newlywed entrance, the cake cutting, the father-daughter dance, and so on and so forth! And there are special, unique activities too. Like an anniversary dance, a Grand March, or a special tribute to your parents. A surprise dance or surprise speech. You get the picture!
All these activities, while very important to your day, don’t necessarily have to be scheduled! In fact on our timelines that we craft for our couples, I often don’t even put a time next to them!
From our perspective, the reception is when we go from being hands on to being a fly on the wall. We no longer need to everyone on track, pose groups, or be timeline sticklers. The reception for us means it’s time to seek out and capture those candids, so we let things happen as they naturally do!
The main (/only) thing you need to figure out is the order in which your activities will commence. We’ve seen it every way you can think! For example, we’ve witnessed:
Newlywed entrance, straight into the first dance, dinner served, toasts, father-daughter and mother-son dance, cake cutting, anniversary dance, open dancing, bouquet toss, send off.
But we’ve also witnessed:
Newlywed entrance, straight into the first dance, father-daughter and mother-son dance, cake cutting, dinner served, toasts, bouquet toss, open dancing, send off.
See what I mean? There are so many ways you can order these activities to really make it your own!
The best advice I can give is to consider the first half of your day and how your guests will be feeling. It’s also very hard to give specific advice about your reception, because depending on how the beginning of your day went, every wedding will be at a different point come reception time.
For example: Imagine the difference between a couple having a first look and knocking out all photos pre-ceremony. They can jump right into the reception! But a couple having an aisle reveal will need to schedule in photo time before the reception can kick off.
Another example: Let’s say you have an earlier sunset time (winter/fall weddings!) so your ceremony ends around 5pm. Then, you might want to stack all your activities right after your entrance (like my second example) so you can be on the dance floor longer!
But, if your ceremony ends at 6:30pm, you might want to jump straight into dinner so your guests don’t go hungry! Unless you’re planning on a cocktail hour where hors d’oeuvres are served!
See what I mean??
There are so many ways your wedding day can end up. In order to plan your reception you’ve got to just keep in mind how you want things to flow.
I will leave you with two pointers!
First, I’m just going to give it to you straight. Even if you and your guests are definitely partying all night long (heck yeah!), you do not need more than 1-1.5 hours of open dancing photography coverage.
Within the first 5-10 songs, a guest list that needs coaxing will already be all the dance floor. We’ll be able to get a photo of each guest dancing within that next hour or hour and half. And then after that…let’s just say the photos can tend to get less flattering! 🙂 🙂
And I promise you, that these photos are not the ones you’re going to put up on your wall or even put in your album.
Just trust me. One to one and a half hours of open dancing is enough.
(P.S. – this might be confusing, but next week I’ll let you in on our biggest secret on how to make this work!!!)
Second, please make sure you carve out 10-20 minutes for additional portrait time for you and your new spouse!!
This portrait time should take place between the 2 hours before sunset.
Even if you have decided on a first look, and we definitely have a long portrait time for you two, this is so important. And like I just said, it’s brief! And I promise your guests won’t question where you’ve run off to. Let me explain.
Logistically, this sunset portrait time is simply a failsafe. If hair and make-up runs too long in the morning, or getting the dress on takes a little too long, or the groom forgot his tie (or all of the above, like we’ve witnessed before…!) It’s such a relief to know that the five minutes we were given for bride and groom portraits earlier in the day will be supplemented with 20 more minutes in the evening.
On our side of things, the light is so beautiful at the start or during the reception, and we have to nab it!! It’s the same reason we plan our engagement sessions for either sunrise or sunset. Golden hour ensures that your photos will be dreamy and beautiful!
That said – an important note is that depending on the time of year, these sunset portraits may be before the reception starts or during it (usually at a down time like dinner or open dancing!)
Now, symbolically, you cannot skimp on this portrait time. Just like how the first look is a moment to breathe before the chaos that is a wedding day, sunset portraits are the time to breathe after. Even if you opt for a traditional aisle reveal, it’s a moment you’ll be thankful you had years from now.
Because it’s a moment for just the two of you. It’s time away from everyone, to soak in this moment as husband and wife.
Personally, I can tell the difference between a pre-ceremony couple portrait, and a post-ceremony portrait. And it’s not just the light! 🙂
So let’s recap scheduling your reception:
First, decide the order of “activities” based what time the ceremony ends and whether or not you had a first look.
Second, make sure that you’re aware of your sunset time, so you can make sure to schedule your sunset portraits within the 2 hours before that then. They should only take 10-20 minutes.
Photography coverage wise, you should allocate 2-4 of your coverage time to the reception.
It might help to think about your 8 hours being split approximately in half. With your ceremony being the divider!
And remember, no more than one to one and a half hours of open dancing needs to be covered! 🙂
You might be wondering what comes next…! The end of your coverage time is just as important as the beginning.
Stay tuned because next week we’re revealing our biggest secret to maximizing your photography coverage, from start to finish!
If you missed the first weeks of timeline tips, you can check them out here:
- Start with: Getting Ready
- Next Up: The First Look
- Then: Family Portraits
- Now: Reception Planning