Welcome back to your course, Weddings 101: The Road to “I Do”! This monthly series will provide you with a whole lot of clarity, destroy myths about how you’re “supposed to” plan a wedding and all the things you should know before your wedding day. I’m so glad you’re back. If this is the first lesson of the course you’ve read, I’ve linked parts 1 through 3 below so you can access those & get caught up!
Today, we’ll be talking about the Reception and what happens (or should happen) when your wedding is over. This post is so FULL of information, so grab a notebook and settle in because this info is RICH!
determining the best time for sunset photos
From my eyes, this is SO crucial! The best time for sunset photos can be determined based on the time of year you’re getting married as well as small considerations based on your venue and its placement. For example, if your wedding takes place in the Fall or Winter, your sunset session will take place much earlier than a wedding in the Summer months.
As a rule of thumb, I google the exact sunset time for the wedding date – let’s say it’s today (July 27th in San Francisco), so sunset isn’t until 8:22pm. Can I get a hallelujah for these long Summer days? California is such a dream! In this instance I’d try to schedule a 20-30 minute photo session with just my couple about 30-60 minutes before the sun sets to get that golden hour light. So for today I’d start sunset photos at about 7:45pm.
Another thing to consider is your particular venue. If you’re getting married at a venue that’s tucked behind a large mountain range or in a more wooded area, you should consider doing your “sunset” photos earlier just in case the sun dips behind that mountain range before the true sunset time.
Lighting at your reception may be something you haven’t yet considered, but it can truly make a big difference in your images. If your reception is going to take place outdoors, a)You’re my favorite, because natural light will always win in my eyes (and the camera’s) and b)all you need to really consider is having minimal light when it gets dark such as candles on the tables and string lights on the dance floor.
If your reception is indoors, in my opinion, you can’t go wrong with candlelight! It’s one of my favorite lighting looks because it’s super warm and gives off a very romantic feeling. The more, the better, just make sure you know your venue’s rules in regards to fire regulations.
Other options to consider are uplights or fixtures. Uplighting adds a warm, subtle glow to the space, making sure there’s no bright spots. Read this article HERE for some great do’s and don’ts when it comes to uplighting. Your reception space may also already be equipped with lighting fixtures such as chandeliers and wall sconces that can usually be brightened or dimmed based on your preference.
Lastly, make sure there is at least SOME light on your dance floor! This is a common misconception because couples often like that dark, clubby feel on the dance floor, but it’s not ideal for photos. With no light in the room, our cameras have no spots to sample from and it makes focusing really difficult, resulting in terrible, blurry photos.
toasts & table visits
We’ve all been to that wedding where the best man had one too many tequila shots before his toast and starts rambling on about the groom for 20 minutes. Inapprops! Try to prepare your toasters by asking them to stick to about 2-5 minutes so that the rest of your guests can enjoy the evening & get on the dance floor.
It’s always nice when the couple visits each table after finishing their meal (while everyone else is finishing) so you get to say Hi and welcome each guest personally. It’s great for hugs too. However, this is typically not an important time to have your photographer with you & it actually the best time during the reception for us to take a break and eat dinner ourselves!
to toss or not to toss (and other traditions)
The tradition of the bouquet toss and the garter toss goes way back. But ya know what? If you don’t wanna do it, just don’t! It’s your wedding and you don’t have to! In fact, I’d suggest only doing it if you have A LOT of single friends who will be totally down (and not shy) to come to the dance floor to compete. There’s nothing more awkward than 4 single and ashamed girls on the dance floor pretending to be interested in catching your flowers!
This goes for other traditions as well, like cake cutting or parent dances – I give you a no rules policy! Do what feels right 🙂
the grand exit
If you plan on orchestrating a grand exit from your reception, there’s a few things to keep in mind. On camera, things like glow sticks don’t tend to read very well, but balloons, bubbles and sparklers are great! Sparklers definitely look stunning on camera, so here are a couple pointers. 1) Purchase the extra long ones so you get plenty of burn time. The short ones run out SO fast! 2) Make sure the venue has a WIDE passage for you to go through. Remember: you are literally handing fire to over 100 intoxicated people. You do not want that aisle to be super tight to cram through – might cause a fiery fiasco!
now, hear about the reception from a wedding planner!
As usual, I have my dear friend Kellyne of Hand & Heart Events here with me to help you babes understand every aspect from a planner’s point of view in addition to mine. She details everything that you probably haven’t even thought about yet!
flow of events
The flow of the events at your reception can make or break the guest experience. Your wedding coordinator will work with you and your vendors to create a detailed timeline that will be used as guide throughout the entire day. Specifically for my clients, I make sure there is time allotted to all those important reception events – wedding party entrance, toasts, first dance, cake cutting, and everything else in between.
The last thing you want is to burden your maid of honor or family friend to feel like they’re working the reception rather than enjoying it. For that reason, your planner is there on site to cue your DJ, communicate with photographers/videographers (so they don’t miss a shot!), make sure your dad has his dancing shoes on, and that you and your boo have a full glass of champagne for toasts!
I also keep an eye on all the little details as the night progresses. I make sure lights are dimmed, candles stay lit, and flowers are moved or repurposed to get the maximum enjoyment of those blooms. My team and I set up dessert, make sure the cake is set with utensils and plates for cake cutting, and replenish any sweet treats so the dessert table never looks bare. This whole time, you & all of your guests stay worry free (and likely on the dance floor)!
Throughout the evening, a coordinator is responsible for packing up personal items, gifts/cards, guestbook, etc. to make sure they’re stored in a safe place for you to take home or pick up the next day. As the evening winds down, we make sure rentals and decor are broken down and packed up, final payments and tips are distributed to vendors, and we ensure that the venue is left it tip-top condition!
Although the wedding may be over, a coordinator’s job is still going! At Hand & Heart, we love to check in with couples after the wedding to make sure all loose ends are tied up and to touch base about any final details. I am always available to you after the wedding, should you need anything (that includes a post-wedding glass of wine, too)!!
You Made It!
Cheers Babes from Jess & Kellyne! You made it through Weddings 101! Tune in next month for a HUGE SURPRISE (coming Labor Day weekend)!!! Xx
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Welcome back to your course, Weddings 101: The Road to “I Do”! This monthly series will provide you with a whole lot of clarity, destroy myths about how you’re “supposed to” plan a wedding and all the things you should know before your wedding day. I’m so glad you’re back. If this is the first lesson of the course you’ve read, I’ve linked parts 1 & 2 below so you can access those & get caught up!
Today, we’ll be diving into the ceremony & talking about some wedding industry lingo that you may not know that can make or break the most important part of your wedding day – you know the part where you get married!!
Having an Unplugged Ceremony
You may or may not have heard of an unplugged ceremony. It’s a term coined by wedding planners, but has now been adopted by couples everywhere! Essentially what does it mean to have an unplugged ceremony? It’s a kind & gentle way to ask your guests to refrain from using their phones during there ceremony – for texts, calls, but especially for photos & videos.
As a wedding guest, it’s super tempting to think about how great a pretty wedding would look on your instagram story — however, in reality, you’re disrupting the clean look of your friend’s professional wedding photos. See — people taking phone pics & videos (and iPad ones – ugh, the worst!), even using their own digital cameras, aren’t paying any attention to anything besides what their eye sees on their screen. That means, they lean into the aisle, stand up in their seats and end up blocking the professional photographer’s beautiful image of whomever is walking down the aisle.
Another bummer about guests using their devices during the ceremony is that they are not fully participating as your witnesses of your marriage … which is kinda the point! Am I right? If you want your guests to be present and your professional photos to come out spectacular, I highly recommend opting for an unplugged ceremony & having your officiant announce it before it begins.
The First Kiss
Now, we all know what the first kiss is at a wedding ceremony. However, one little fact about this tradition is not widely known or practiced. It involves your officiant, the person marrying you – no, I promise this is not about to get weird! Bear with me.
When I have the time to, I speak with the officiant before the ceremony and direct them to take one step to the side during the first kiss (left or right, either works). Otherwise, the photo of the moment you’re about to kiss and even the moment your lips touch, can look pretty weird if there’s another person’s face right at the same height! By stepping to the side, this allows for a clean backdrop for the kiss shot!
Next Time at Weddings 101
Next month we’ll be chatting about what to expect and look out for at your reception and what happens when the big shebang is all over. Stay tuned!
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Welcome to Lesson II of Weddings 101 with Cheers Babe & Hand and Heart Events! If you missed Part I, be sure to read and gather some great insight about how weddings are coordinated and what your expectations of your coordinator can and should be. In today’s lesson we are diving into all things Pre-Ceremony. I’m talking the day of your wedding, & all that time before the big sha-bang where you and your bridal party are getting ready.
Lesson 2: Pre-Ceremony
First we’ll chat from my perspective – your photographer. There are a couple crucial things to keep in mind for your pre-ceremony time that will profoundly affect how your photos during this time will turn out.
- Choosing your getting ready location is EVERYTHING.
- Look for a room or even airbnb (or a family member’s home) with great light. This is THE single most important thing that will determine how great your images will turn out. Specifically, try to find a wide, open room with a huge window or windows! It becomes limiting to me, your photographer, if you choose to get ready in a dark and cramped hotel room and leaves me with few options for detail photos and even candids of you and your bridal party. Consider a room with great light for the groom too! Many times I’ve had a bride with a wonderfully lit room to get ready in and the groom is across the hall on the “dark side of the hotel”. You can always (and should) request rooms that have the most natural light.
- Also keep in mind the cleanliness of your getting ready space. Often times I have to take time away from photographing the bride & her details to move water bottles, tissues, bridesmaids luggage (girls. have. so. much. stuff.), and things of that nature out of the photo’s frame. Pro tip would be to designate a side room for everyone’s personal belongings and keep food and beverages off of tables in the main space.
- Be sure to have the following items in the room so your photographer doesn’t miss a detail! Read this in-depth post for more details on why each of these are important and their nuances.
- The invitation suite and any/all other paper goods
- Your dress, veil & a photogenic hanger
- Rings — engagement + both bands
- Any other jewelry you’ll be wearing
- Your shoes
- Bridesmaid gifts and gift from the groom
- Bridesmaid dresses + a spot to hang them
- Your Bouquet + a few extra loose sprigs and buds from your florist for styling
- Something bubbly to toast the bride!
- For the groom, his jacket, tie, cufflinks, shoes, watch, & any other accessories
So, those are the main concerns I have as your photographer about your getting ready space. Now, let’s hear from expert Kellyne of Hand & Heart Events on the coordinator’s perspective for all things pre-ceremony!
Hi Cheers Babe Brides, I’m Kellyne – your coordinator extraordinaire. Below I’ve broken down all the services that I provide to my brides during their preparation time – keep reading to take a massive burden off your shoulders on your wedding day.
- Prior to the day of your wedding, I will have shared a very detailed timeline with ALL of your vendors. This timeline will typically include:
- WHERE everyone will be getting ready (including hotel room numbers, addresses, gate codes etc.). I will be the point of contact for all vendors and will deal with any last minute timing issues (traffic jams, questionable directions, etc.).
- WHEN certain things should be happening (starting hair+makeup, finishing touches, zipping into dress, groomsmen putting on suits/tying ties). This ensures that your photographer and videographer will be present to capture all those special moments throughout your day. I will also be in contact with your florist to make sure your bouquets are delivered to your room in time for pre-ceremony photos/first look and will know where to go to pin bouts on the guys!
- When you choose to hire a coordinator, you do not have to worry about answering phone calls, text messages, giving directions, or managing time! You get to enjoy getting ready, sipping champagne, and relax before all the excitement begins!
- Coordinating Lunch + Beverages
- As coordinators, our goal is to make your day as relaxing and stress free as possible. If that means having bottles of champagne on ice, fresh fruit cut, or healthy lunch items delivered to your room, your coordinator will make sure that happens! We want to make sure that you’re hydrated and well-fed on your wedding day.
- Set Up!
- So you’ve spent the last year collecting decor, making DIY projects, coming up with the perfect guestbook alternative, scouring the internet for the ideal table numbers … who is going to set it all up? While it seems like easy enough tasks to hand off to your bridesmaids and family members, remember that this is a big day for them, too! They’re watching their best friend/sister/daughter/niece/etc. marry the love of her life and they deserve to be just as present. Leave these tasks to your coordinator! We will make sure that all the votives are put on tables, the guestbook has the correct pens and signage to go with it, the table numbers are on their respective tables, ceremony rows are roped off and reserved for family members, and all the other tiny details that you’ve poured your heart into over the past months (or year) are executed flawlessly. We relish those moments to bring your vision to life and see it all come together!
That’s it from me! I’ll be back next month to share some more knowledge with you!
Stay tuned for the following installments of Weddings 101 – next month we’ll be chatting about how to prepare for all things ceremony & I cannot wait to share the goods with you!