The Ultimate Guide To Your Reception



Now that you’ve said your vows, it’s time to party! Loosen your tie or bustle your dress and put on your dancing shoes! When it comes to the wedding reception, we’ve seen it all and we’re here to share some of our favorite tips with you. After shooting weddings and even putting on one as well, here are all the things we wish we knew for our wedding and what we’ve learned over the years of shooting them!


As you do the walk through of our venue, make sure to really get a feel for how the lighting will be set up. If your reception will be outdoors, check to see if there is adequate amounts of cafe or string lights that will create a warm atmosphere. If you will be partying indoors, make sure that the light are not overpowering or way too dark. If they are, a few string or cafe lights will do wonders to liven up the look of the space.

Many DJ’s have additional lighting that can be rented through them as well as party rental companies. There are so many options out there now for fun lighting like colored uplights or Gobo that can create wording or patterns on walls or floors.




I was an unbeliever for the longest time but now I understand how important it is to have a day of coordinator. Even if you decide to plan everything yourself and skip a wedding planner, we strongly recommend making room in the budget for a day of coordinator- they are invaluable. We’ve been to a lot of weddings and I can say with absolute certainty that every single one of those weddings ran behind schedule or something went wrong somewhere. It is just a fact about weddings. But with a coordinator, they are able to troubleshoot the day and if anything comes up (something always does), they are on hand to deal with it, leaving you to enjoy your wedding. Even if nothing goes wrong and runs on time, a day of coordinator is still there for peace of mind and can keep everything as smooth as possible. And while it is tempting to ask a friend or relative, we caution against it. Pick someone with experience that can keep anything stressful from every reaching the bride and groom.




When used effectively, table shots are an amazing way to keep a reception moving along. By table shots, I don’t mean shots of alcohol but photos of your guests at each table. One of our favorite ways to use table shots is by having the bride and groom come with us to each table and pose for a group shot, after which the Bride and groom dismiss that table to the buffet line. If you chose to have a served meal, this can still work because the bride and groom have the chance to greet all of their guests and get a group shot with them so no one feels left out or forgotten. Since the bride and groom are needed to keep moving to each table, you won’t get stopped at one table too long.

Their 1st dance
Their 1st dance


As a bride or groom, it is super important that you sit down and have a bit to eat. We recommend either before or while your guests are eating. If you have a day of coordinator, have them keep an eye on guests that want to chat while you’re sitting down to your meal and whisk them away if you need a moment to have a bite to eat.

While everyone is eating dinner, it is also the best time to feed your vendors. Since almost everyone would agree that they do not want photos of themselves chowing down, give your vendors a few minutes to recharge, especially if they will be at your event for more than five hours. We highly recommend giving your vendors a seat at one of the tables or close by so that they can be there if a moment for a photo arises or the next song needs to be played, etc.  Almost all catering companies provide a discounted meal for vendors or a different meal at a lowered cost. Feeding your vendors insures that they are performing at their best so they can make sure your wedding is everything you want and more!




If you plan on having your speeches anywhere other than near the head table, let your photographer know so that the speech photos are appropriately lit. If you speeches will be in a different spot, we also suggest having the DJ or coordinator put out two chairs for the bride and groom near the speech giver so that you can savor the speech and also so your reactions can be captured in the photographs with the person giving the speech. And of course, have a glass of bubbly ready to toast with!




Time to break out those dancing shoes! One of the biggest mistakes that we see, is couples trying to dance to a song that is 2-4 minutes long. A good rule of thumb for your special dances (1st Dance, Father/ Daughter, Mother/son or any others) is to keep it at about 90 seconds maximum. Even two minutes can seem like an eternity with the crowd staring at you. Make it short and sweet. If you decide you want to do the full length of the song, make sure that the DJ knows a secret signal to cut it short if you change your mind halfway through the dance. If you have an elaborate choreographed dance, give your photographer a heads up and even a video of the two of you dancing it ahead of time so they know the moments that really pop and make sure to snap the shutter at the right moment.

Check in with your DJ as well and make sure that they will not turn on any funky disco lights during one of the special dances- unless that’s what’s you’re going for. Save the colorful lights for the rest of the party and keep your special dances well lit and different from the rest of the night.




Yum, it’s time for the cake cutting! Time to eat some delicious cake or smash it in your partner’s face. Whatever you decide to do, we suggest standing on the opposite side of the table as your guests, so that everyone can watch and so your photographers will have a clear shot of the moment.

To cut the cake together, have the bride stand in front of the groom (or mix it up and do the reverse!) and with each of your right hands, grasp the cake cutting knife and cut together. You then do the same with the serving knife. Have your day of coordinator set out a plate, two forks and two glasses of champagne beside the cake as well. Once you and your partner have cut the cake, make sure that your DJ knows to call for a round of applause and announce more dancing and get everyone out onto the dance floor. This will keep the energy up and keep things going rather than having guests stand around, awkwardly, not knowing what to do. While everyone is on the dance floor, the caterers can take care of cutting the rest of the cake or set out any other treats or desserts.




If you choose to do a bouquet and garter toss, have your photographer help you pick the spot because they will find the spot with the best lighting. Once you have a spot selected, your DJ should announce everyone to get into place.

Before throwing the garter or bouquet, do a fake toss pose as if you are about to throw it so your photographer has a chance to get it. There are no do overs, so make sure to get a fake one first before doing the real one. Afterwards, don’t forget to get a picture with the two people that caught the bouquet and garter.




Whether it’s sparklers, a big group hug, petals or a cheering crowd, grand exits are a ton of fun. If you choose to do something like sparklers, check that you are in a safe area that won’t start a fire and that there is a bucket of water on hand to drop the used sparklers into. And don’t forget the matches! Have your Day of coordinator or DJ help everyone get into position with whatever you choose to do. Have a ride ready and waiting so that you can leave on a high note and finish the night off with a bang.



Got more questions about your reception or any part of your wedding? We’d love to hear them! Let us know what burning questions you have an we’ll tell you all our tips and tricks! And don’t forget to check out our other Ultimate Guides to Your Wedding Day:


How to have the best engagement session ever

The Getting Ready Room

What’s In Our Emergency Kit

The Best Ceremony Ever

The Guide to Your Family & Romantic Formals

The Benefits of A First Look